10 classic metal albums celebrating major anniversaries in 2024

Four classic metal albums
(Image credit: EMI, Elektra, Epic, Roadrunner)

Across endless pages of heavy metal history, album anniversaries aren't just dates; they're seismic markers of evolution, chaos and sheer audacity. These albums didn’t merely jostle the foundations of the genre but completely destroyed them. As 2024 kicks into high gear, a vast number of metal’s most pivotal albums will reach critical milestones. So, break out the party hats, throw some candles on the cake and crank the volume to eleven for these ten classics.

Metal Hammer line break

Judas Priest - Rocka Rolla (1974 - 50th Anniversary)

This year, all of heavy metal should celebrate one of the genre’s seminal offerings as it passes the half-century mark. Rocka Rolla emerged from metal’s primordial ooze as a murky and thundering harbinger of bigger things to come, laying the groundwork for what would become the signature twin guitar attack, a ripping sonic ambush that redefined heavy music.

Iron Maiden - Powerslave (1984 - 40th Anniversary)

Released during the Thatcher administration, Powerslave captured the lads at their creative zenith, unleashing this flawless collection with a ferocity that was both literary and lacerating. Stadium-shaking anthems like Aces High, 2 Minutes To Midnight and Rime Of The Ancient Mariner proved that the genre could be as intellectually compelling as it was stridently powerful.

Metallica - Ride The Lightning (1984 - 40th Anniversary)

Celebrating its 40th anniversary, Ride the Lightning’s seismic impact on metal remains undisputed. Today, the album is a cornerstone of heavy metal, transcending its predecessor, Kill 'Em All, with remarkable musical growth. Blending thrash intensity with sophisticated composition, tracks like Fade to Black showcased a new lyrical depth and melodic complexity, influencing generations to follow.

Dio - The Last In Line (1984 - 40th Anniversary)

The Last In Line looms as a monolith in the metal landscape, a testament to the power of myth and melody. Also turning 40 this year, it was a pivotal moment in Dio’s legacy, building on the pomp and glory of Holy Diver and cementing Dio’s band as a bona fide force in their own right. 

Emperor - In The Nightside Eclipse (1994 - 30th Anniversary)

Amidst Norwegian black metal's notorious crime spree, Emperor's debut transcended the genre's raw, lo-fi aesthetics, introducing symphonic grandeur and atmospheric depth. With a blend of ferocious blastbeats, sharp lyrics and evocative keyboards, the album captured the genre's essence while propelling it into uncharted territories of melody and nuance, establishing a lasting influence and a template for future genre experimentation.

Korn - Korn (1994 - 30th Anniversary)

After thirty trips around the sun, the effects of Korn’s debut still ripple throughout the genre. Heralding the rise of post-grunge and alt-metal, Korn unleashed a thrilling fusion of metal, rap and funk influences, with raw, unfiltered lyrics on abuse and alienation. Gutsy and unforgettable, the album launched a new movement, securing Korn’s place in metal’s vanguard.

Machine Head - Burn My Eyes (1994 - 30th Anniversary)

Bridging second-generation Bay Area thrash and the bludgeoning force of bands like Pantera, Machine Head’s full-length debut redrew the genre's boundaries. Anthemic tracks like Davidian showcased a barrage of both intensity and complexity. The album was a genre-shifting powerhouse that expanded the band’s European following, helping to launch Machine Head from support slots to headliner status. 

Mastodon - Leviathan (2004 - 20th Anniversary)

Not quite old enough to buy itself a drink in the US, Mastodon's Leviathan is an absolute behemoth, retelling Herman Melville's Moby Dick with a sludgy, progressive twist. Each track tells a distinct and exhilarating sonic chapter, dense with complex rhythms and mythic themes. Twenty years later, it stands as a paragon of music that is both intellectually profound and heavier than a black hole.

Lamb Of God - Ashes Of The Wake (2004 - 20th Anniversary)

Also marking its 20th anniversary, Ashes Of The Wake reinvigorated the scene with a raw fusion of old school metal power and a pugnacious hardcore ethos. Its eleven utterly marauding tracks blended technical prowess with visceral energy, offering a rallying cry for a new era. This album didn't just fill a void; it redefined metal's power for the 21st century.

Killswitch Engage - The End Of Heartache (2004 - 20th Anniversary)

These beloved sons of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts skillfully fused American metalcore with the melodic depth of European death metal, revitalizing American heavy metal for the new millennium. Its genuine substance over superficial image struck a dynamic balance between melody and aggression. This wasn't just a continuation of their previous work; it was a refinement, showing that heaviness could coexist with melody, and that metal could heal as much as it hurt.

Joe Daly

Hailing from San Diego, California, Joe Daly is an award-winning music journalist with over thirty years experience. Since 2010, Joe has been a regular contributor for Metal Hammer, penning cover features, news stories, album reviews and other content. Joe also writes for Classic Rock, Bass Player, Men’s Health and Outburn magazines. He has served as Music Editor for several online outlets and he has been a contributor for SPIN, the BBC and a frequent guest on several podcasts. When he’s not serenading his neighbours with black metal, Joe enjoys playing hockey, beating on his bass and fawning over his dogs.