7 essential non-metal albums all metalheads need in their lives

A photograph of Little Simz on stage
(Image credit: Joseph Okpako/Getty Images)

We know how hard it can be to be a metalhead in these times. Picking out a different band T-shirt every single day, trying desperately to make sure it matches up with your single pair of black skinny jeans, scheduling in enough time to sew those new patches onto your battle jacket, and constantly having to remember to remove the Taylor Swift tiny desk concert from your YouTube history. 

So how about we shake things up a little? Here's a list of some of the greatest non-metal that metalheads are sure to love, if only to get that 2021 Spotify wrapped looking a little more interesting this year. Just don’t @ us when your Havergal Brian T-shirt doesn’t go with your combat boots.

Metal Hammer line break

Arca - Kick i (2020)

Arca is responsible for some of the most out there, brutal electronic/hyperpop music heard in the last few years; an artist pushing boundaries of both genre and gender. Their live shows are reportedly as wild as their music, which features collaborations with everyone from Bjork to SOPHIE. Their latest album, KICK i, has earned them a Grammy nomination, and a spot on countless end-of-year lists. If you enjoy groovy metal for dancing to, such as Gojira or Lamb Of God, give Arca a spin.

Liars - They Were Wrong, So We Drowned (2004)

Literally crafted in a rural farmhouse in the middle of nowhere in New Jersey, They Were Wrong... is a concept album about the hunting and execution of witches – a description which alone should be enough to convince you that you need to check this out. It was a far enough departure from their post-punk revival debut album that they alienated most of their fanbase and gathered a whole new one in one fell swoop. They Were Wrong... is weird, witchy and distressing, and should appeal to fans of the noise metal subgenre. Also, a strong candidate for best album name of all time? Genuinely chilling.

House Of Waters - House Of Waters (2016)

Max ZT of House Of Waters has been dubbed by NPR as "the Jimi Hendrix of the hammered dulcimer". What's a hammered dulcimer, you ask? It's the big wooden thing that Max is playing in this instrumental folk-meets-neo-soul band, which shreds about as hard as Dragonforce. Bonus points must be given for Moto Fukushima’s prodigal turn on the six stringed bass and Ignacio Rivas Bixio’s killer drums. Excellence all round. 

Glenn Branca - The Ascension (1981)

Approach with caution. The pinnacle of the brief no wave movement was reached with this Pitchfork 10/10 rated album, which drags you through hell and back again with its primal drumming and discordant, hellish soundscape. Lee Ranaldo played guitar on this album, and then went on to join Sonic Youth – the seeds of which can be heard here. It’s a manic album with moments of absolute bliss – don’t miss this oft-overlooked slab of musical history.

Little Simz - Grey Area (2019)

Hip-hop as raw and catchy as Little Simz’ seminal offering doesn’t come along all that often. GREY Area was one of the best releases of any genre of 2019, cementing Simz firmly as one of the most exciting names in rap today. Her lyrics are consistently analytical and honest, reflecting her ease with being uncertain in that fantastic title – this is what it sounds like to live in the grey areas and accept it completely.

Saada Bonaire - Saada Bonaire (2013)

‘80s Arabian art pop duo Saada Bonaire were sadly in the wrong place at the wrong time. Signed to EMI, who didn’t understand the political aims of the band, they were dropped after the label got the bill for their recording sessions, having released just one single. A 2013 reissue of the single brought with it a whole album's worth of material, showcasing new wave, disco, punk and synth pop within the band's sound. Worth exploring by anyone even remotely interested in the history of riot grrrl, and in expanding their taste to include artists outside the Western-centric canon.

Havergal Brian - Gothic Symphony (1919-1927)

This classical symphony is certainly not for the faint of heart. Gothic it truly is, with whole sections dedicated to exploring the architecture of the period through choral arrangements which took years to compose. It uses musical bombast to address the spiritual concerns of humanity, and is so complex that it has been performed only a handful of times. Stick this one on, and settle in for a near two-hour long existential crisis set to awe-inspiring music.