I really love finding out how all the different parts of the Rock, Punk and Metal spectrum mix together. I love hearing something like a Pantera song and knowing which part comes from where, and how it would sound totally different without such and such an album.
I also really enjoy reading lists and countdowns of things like The 100 Best Metal Albums Of All Time, 100 Rock Albums You Must Own, The Most Influential Rock Albums In History, 200 Metal Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, The Greatest Heavy Metal Bands Ever, and so on; as well as any Documentary Film or TV Show on or related to the genre, such as Heavy Metal Louder Than Life, The Decline Of Western Civilization, American Hardcore, Such Hawks Such Hounds, Until The Light Takes Us, Global Metal, Metal Evolution, Heavy:The Story Of Metal and so on.
The following is a list of 1000 (Originally 50, 100, 250 and 500 but it kind of snowballed) studio albums from various genres and sub-genres that constantly appear in such lists, countdowns and top-one-hundreds, that a metal fan would arguably need to have heard or at least know about in order to claim to have a full and comprehensive understanding of metal.
Why was that album included?
The majority are either genre-defining albums, genre-starting albums or hugely influential albums that inspired hundreds of other bands. They either developed the artistic or commercial legitimacy of the nebulous meta-world of Metal or are in-part responsible for either its credibility or popularity.
I’ve tried to keep repetition to a minimum, however if an artist has multiple entries on this list there could be a number of reasons; They might display clear influence to disparate groups across each included release, or else all of the included albums by one singular artist may individually feature perpetually covered or copied tracks, or tracks that are often featured on genre compilation cds and radio/music-tv programming…
Or the artists with multiple releases may either showcase exploration into significantly different musical territory across the separate releases that got included or else showcase historically significant line-up changes, technological advances or artistic trends (eg. the albums were important in creation, popularization or revival of things like concept albums, blast beats, synthesizers, lyrical trends or necro-production etc).
Or of course, it could just be the case where the band were on an unstoppable run of brilliant albums, and all of the albums together are considered a must-have period of the band. Sometimes there’s just no arguing with an unstoppable run of classics.
Some of the albums may have you scratching your head as to they they were included here. There are usually one of two reasons for this. Firstly; Metal didn’t just start one day perfectly formed and unarguably Metal. It came together in fits and starts, things hinted at being Metal for years before any band wrote an entire Metal album. Bands would have one metal song, or even just one metal riff, or even simply an attitude that would inspire future metal musicians of one subgenre or another.
Secondly; Metal is a constantly changing and evolving form of music that both takes from other genres to become diverse and gets taken by other genres as well. Some albums by Metal bands sound nothing like traditional Metal and some albums by Punk, Rock, Blues, Pop, Hip-Hop, Electronic or Jazz bands can include a lot of influences from Metal. The more that you hear, the more you understand where the boundaries are and where the boundaries aren’t. The more you hear that isn’t close to a boundary, the more definitively you understand both what the center is like and how that center relates to things that are far out on the borderline of no longer being Metal. Basically, if you listen to every album on this list, you’ll know what you are talking about when it comes to Metal. You’ll know what an artist is doing and where it came from, you’ll understand more clearly how all the different pieces of the puzzle fit together.
I Don’t Like This List…
To be honest, it is literally impossible for one person to ever understand everything about Metal fully, you’d have to hear every album, demo or riff made in a garage by every musician, ever, since the dawn of time. Not all the albums here even are metal, but hearing them will broaden your understanding of what metal in its entirety actually is.
…and before that puts you on the defensive, for clarity I’d like to state this: I’m not saying that if you haven’t listened to all of these that you know nothing about Metal, only that you don’t know everything about Metal. The main gist of the list is that Metal comes in all shapes and sizes.
The composition of the list is roughly as follows:
The Different Types Of Metal – 73%
The Rock Music That Got Us To Metal – 17%
The Punk Music That Got Us To Metal – 8%
The Alternative Music That Changed Metal – 2%
Sure, there’s some Pop Punk and Rap in there to demonstrate how bands like A Day To Remember mix Pop Punk sounds with Metal sounds, or how Black Sabbath and others added Rap in the 90s/00s. Don’t let that “get your back up” but don’t forget there’s over 60 Black Metal related albums and around 90 Death Metal related albums.
If you still wonder why an album is included in this list then listen to it and find out why! You may not enjoy every album that you hear, but you will understand Metal more completely with each one that you do hear, which of course is the reason for the list in the first place. Its an important moment in every Metal fan’s journey when they finally accept that Metal isn’t just the bits of Metal they enjoy and that things aren’t “not Metal” just because you don’t like them or understand them.
If you disagree with a subgenre’s existence (eg. “Classic Rock” or “Hair Metal”), or an artist’s designated sub-genre in this list (Eg. Why is Mortis alongside Black Metal artists?), try not to get too bogged down in that head-space. While some subgenre categorizations are a matter of fact (ie. Nirvana are definitely not Black Metal and Dragonforce are definitely not Hardcore Punk) its important to remember that subgenres are initially awkwardly built around groups of bands who kind of sound a bit alike, live a bit close to eachother or have one non-musical commonality between them and sometimes its not until years later that bands notice a subgenre exists and specifically try to play within that subgenre. For this reason some people disagree over whether Alice In Chains or Pearl Jam are Grunge or not.
Secondly subgenres are a matter of consensus. If enough informed and reasonable people agree upon something then it exists, even if you disagree just because you don’t enjoy it. Maybe it didn’t definitely exist when it first started getting mentioned, but over time enough bands started sounding that way and identifying as that subgenre and suddenly it does exist.
Thirdly, the lines between some subgenres are blurred and often bands are creative and diverse enough to fit into a subgenre on some songs, or parts of songs, but not others. For this reason some people disagree over whether Metal Church and Anvil are Thrash or not. At the end of the day, if more people associate a band with a particular subgenre or scene than don’t, and a lot of their music sounds like that subgenre, then arguing is going to be a waste of time.
If you have a suggestion for an album that this list is missing out on then feel free to send me a comment, I’m always interested in learning more.
Now; With all that explanation out of the way, keep a positive attitude and an open mind, and please enjoy this fan-made and non-for-profit, labour-of-love list of 1,000 albums that will help you understand Metal, or at least serve to give newcomers a starting-point with some recommendations: