In a perfect world, all albums would be created equally and be showered with an equal amount of love. In this world, bands make great albums, good albums, so-so albums and the occasional turkey.
But there’s another category of albums - those brilliant records that never get the love they deserve. Maybe it's because they're overshadowed by a more famous album by the same band. Maybe they were released long after the band’s glory days. Or maybe they were crucified at the time and history has proved that people were just plain wrong.
We want to rectify that situation and show some love for those albums that deserve way more love than they get. So here are the most underrated records by 20 major metal bands.
Iron Maiden – Piece Of Mind (1983)
The biggest problem with Iron Maiden’s fourth album is that it’s sandwiched between the twin juggernauts that are The Number Of The Beast and Powerslave. But there are few things more exciting than the opening drum fill that kicks off opening track Where Eagles Dare? New boy drummer Nicko McBrain made his presence felt for the first time on Piece Of Mind and with material as strong as The Trooper, Flight Of Icarus, Revelations and Dune-inspired closing epic To Tame A Land, he was given the perfect showcase for his inestimable talents.
Elsewhere, Die With Your Boots On is a peerless rabble-rouser, Still Life is a slice of dark, brooding brilliance and Sun And Steel is an irresistible buckling of the swash. If you ignore the daft lyrics to Quest For Fire, Piece Of Mind is more or less flawless.
Metallica – St Anger (2003)
Metallica’s eighth album is held by many to be the most disappointing metal album of the 21st century (until Lulu came along) due to its serrated edges, bloated songs, lack of guitar solos and a snare drum that sounds like an empty tin of Miniature Heroes. But on the back of the band’s most tumultuous period, awkwardly captured on the Some Kind Of Monster film, the tension, frustration and drama that unfolded behind the scenes courses through St Anger’s veins, rearing its ugly head through every frenzied barrage and guttural riff. No, it’ll never be Master Of Puppets II, but maybe it’s time for you to reassess this most scorned of albums.
Motorhead – Orgasmatron (1986)
Motörhead had been in existence for more than 10 years by the time Orgasmatron was released. By then many rockers had been rendered stone deaf from the impact of Motör-albums such as Overkill, Ace Of Spades and No Sleep Til Hammersmith, so the niceties of Orgasmatron passed many people by.
But it was actually the first time Motörhead managed to sound halfway decent on record. Lemmy’s voice is inhuman, guitarists Phil Campbell and Würzel roar like uncaged beasts. If an orgasmatron is a sex toy, then here its the size of a bloody moon rocket.
Slayer – World Painted Blood (2009)
In contrast to the mixed response received by 2006’s Christ Illusion, Slayer’s 11th studio album was widely acclaimed, not least because it noisily revisited the raw, vicious vibe of the band’s early works. The likes of Kerry King’s Hate Worldwide and Jeff Hanneman’s Psychopathy Red got the balance between cutting edge oomph and underground filth just right, with then drummer Dave Lombardo powering everything along at a breathless pace.
New lyrical horrors unfurled during the self-explanatorily grim Snuff, while the slithering, sinister Beauty Through Order mirrored the unsettling miasma of its bloody, controversial video. Hanneman’s last full hurrah was a gnarly triumph.
Megadeth – So Far, So Good… So What?
Despite its vexed production and the inclusion of a frankly dismal cover of the Sex Pistols’ Anarchy In The UK, Megadeth’s third album remains a revered classic and a laudable bridge between the nascent brilliance of Peace Sells and the genre-defining mastery of Rust In Peace. Epic and adventurous on In My Darkest Hour and Set The World Afire, brutal and snotty on 502, Liar and Hook In Mouth, So Far, So Good… So What! was an uncompromising statement and it still slays today.
Black Sabbath – Never Say Die (1978)
If ever an album title was proved false, it was this one. Following the sacking of Ozzy Osbourne in 1979, Never Say Die! ended up being the last studio album made by the original Black Sabbath. And with Bill Ward’s absence from the band’s comeback album 13, so it remained until their split.
Having briefly quit Sabbath in 1977, Ozzy was by his own admission “fucked up” during the recording of Never Say Die! But even when carrying their singer, Sabbath still produced flashes of brilliance on the album’s explosive title track, slow-rolling boogie A Hard Road, and the beautiful, jazz-influenced Air Dance, featuring Don Airey (Rainbow/Deep Purple) on piano. Alongside Technical Ecstasy, this is Sabbath’s most underrated album.
Ministry – Dark Side Of The Spoon (1999)
Titled after Ministry mainman Al Jourrgenson’ss heroin addiction, Dark Side Of The Spoon is a continuation of Filth Pig’s evil, self-loathing take on industrial. Tracks like Supermanic Soul and Bad Blood are certified bangers, true, but even the latter features a slide guitar part that remained unused from the still-inaccessible The Land Of Rape And Honey eleven years prior. Dark Side Of The Spoon is a wonderfully confused record; Paul Barker’s brother, Roland, plays saxophone on 10⁄10 and Breaking The Chain has Al crooning like an effigy to Jim Morrison, as Jon Wiederhorn rightfully pointed out. Critics and Al himself might tell you that Dark Side Of The Spoon sucked, but that’s just not the case. It’s dark and it’s uncomfortable, but you could never accuse this record of being anything other than fascinating.
Sepultura – Quadra (2020)
One of the most startling returns to form of any veteran metal act in recent years, Sepultura’s 15th album is not only their best with Green but stands shoulder to shoulder with their 90s classics. Supremely talented drummer Eloy Casagrande delivered his best work on his third album with Sepultura, propelling the razor sharp riffs, tribal grooves, strings and hits from throughout their career into one, memorable whole.
Van Halen – Fair Warning (1981)
The cover illustration – details from Canadian artist William Kurelek’s The Maze, portraying scenes of urban madness and violence – was befitting of the most left-field Van Halen album ever made.
Fair Warning is tough, edgy, dark, and in places plain weird. ZZ Top aside, no other mainstream, multi-platinum hard rock band would have dared to record such bizarre tracks as Dirty Movies (a funky porno satire), Sunday Afternoon In The Park (a sinister, new wave-inspired instrumental), and One Foot Out The Door (a punky, half-finished throwaway).
However, the meat of the album lies in two straight-up rock songs: the bruising Mean Street, and Unchained, featuring Eddie’s chunkiest riff.View Deal
Type O Negative – World Coming Down (1999)
Although dominated by bitter melancholy and bleak, strung-out gloom, World Coming Down manages to advance the songcraft with the irresistible melodic beauty of Everyone I Love Is Dead and Everything Dies, plus the Into-The-Void-and-beyond riffing of Pyretta Blaze and a sludgy Beatles medley. Creepy ambient interludes add to the immersive atmospheres, and the tongue-in-cheek humour and libidinous braggadocio are cast aside for this heavily solemn and sombre Drab Four experience.