MMA superstar Josh ‘The Warmaster’ Barnett: 10 albums that changed my life

(Image credit: Press)

Josh Barnett has had a hell of an impressive career in the world of Mixed Martial Arts. The youngest ever UFC Heavyweight Champion at the age of 24, he boasts an impressive 35 wins from a 43-match career. He’s also a huge metalhead, getting his nickname The Warmaster from the Bolt Thrower song of the same name. We sat down with him to discuss the metal albums that helped turn him into a fighting champion.

Iron Maiden – Piece Of Mind (1982)

“It was a tape copy that someone made for me, I pretty much didn’t own any albums of my own until the early 90’s, I traded other people’s stuff. Things like that were expensive back then, and having your own tape was a big deal, especially Iron Maiden, I always loved them. An older kid was wearing one of their t-shirts and as soon as I saw it, I was like ‘What is that? I need that, whatever it is!’ and he made me a tape of this album. I even copied the artwork and the Iron Maiden font on my little copy to make it look more like a true Maiden release, and, let me tell you, I wore that thing out.” 

Bolt Thrower – For Victory (1994)

“This was the first Bolt Thrower album I bought, again on tape, the song For Victory is something that I listen to every single day before a fight. Bolt Thrower is my entrance music, they are massive to me, but seeing the artwork for this record and for Realm Of Chaos back in the day made me go ‘What is this?’ and it’s that thing again of the artwork around metal really dragging you into the scene and making you want to investigate the world further.”

Megadeth – Rust In Peace (1990)/Slayer – Seasons In The Abyss (1990)

“I’m putting these two together because, when I first got these records, one was on one side of the tape and the other was on the flip side. A friend gave me the tape in high school, and I listened to it from front to back on my Walkman before every football game and every wrestling meet. I remember hearing Rust In Peace and just thinking it was so awesome, so technical, and Seasons In The Abyss was the first time I heard Slayer in the air. Slayer were this band that you couldn’t really hear on the radio or TV, but you knew they were this legendary heavy band, so to actually hear a full album of theirs was exciting for me. It’s kinda one of those perfect albums that you can play all the way through, the pacing is fantastic, and I think it’s got the best Slayer lyrics too. It’s put together so well.”

Slayer – Show No Mercy (1983)

“Such an influential album, because it scared the shit out of me. I remember hearing it and you’d hear them talking about Satan and that actually shocked me, I was like ‘Oh damn! Am I in trouble here? Is this going to come back and get me?’ Having an album come along that actually scared you was a strange idea. These days nothing really reaches any of that anymore, but being a young kid and having this album that felt dangerous to listen to really excited me. It increased my interest and legit scared me.”

Sepultura – Arise (1991)

“I think it’s the best Sepultura album, hands down, bar none, it’s an incredible record. I remember seeing the video for Dead Embryonic Cells and thinking ‘Oh crap! What am I seeing here? This is crazy!’ I loved everything about it, and it helped pushed my deep dive into finding other albums. After getting this album I went back to Beneath The Remains and just tried to find other Sepultura stuff, and other stuff that might sound like Sepultura, I spent a lot of time digging around those CD racks! I keep going back to it, it’s timeless.”

Black Sabbath – Paranoid (1970)

“I remember hearing Iron Man, as that would be the song that was in the air the most, and those crunchy power chords drawing me in. Also, knowing that Black Sabbath had that mythos surrounding them, whilst not really having that handle on the history at such a young age, gave them this awe-inspiring atmosphere, I just wanted to know everything about them. I bought the album because of Iron Man, but then it opened me up to all of these other things that Sabbath did, it was heavy as hell but it wasn’t caustic, it was quite inviting, it feels like a warm blanket still to this day, a reminder of that amazing drug fueled era.”

Danzig – Danzig (1988)

“There was this full-on metal experience, but not how I was used to. When I grew up in the 80’s there was thrash and hair metal, it was either about speed or it was about technicality, there was a lot of outright aggression, but Danzig is smooth like an 80-year-old Scotch, with this heartbeat underneath it that is black as hell. I remember seeing the band and thinking ‘This is what metal bands should look like!’, they were jacked dudes singing about dark, heavy stuff, it was massive to me. Plus, my Dad liked it too, I would play it and he’d be like ‘Who is that muscle guy? He’s pretty cool!’, my Dad was a big blues guy so it wasn’t that much of a stretch, but I do remember being like ‘My Dad likes Danzig! This is pretty cool!’. It was hugely influential to me as a kid as well, no one was looking at this dude and thinking he was a dork!”

Amon Amarth – Fate Of Norns (2004)

“This was the first Amon Amarth CD I ever heard, I was given that and With Oden By Our Side by this MMA fighter Joachim Hansen from Norway. He goes ‘Hey you ever heard this? It’s Viking metal!’ and I hadn’t, but I was pretty sure from that description that I wanted to. The sound was exactly what you would expect, it literally did sound like these Vikings coming down from the mountains to terrorise your village, I loved the idea of melding that Norse Mythology into the metal scene. I borrowed the CD’s from him and listened to them non-stop, and, what’s funny to me is, just from that one chance encounter I ended up being friends with Johann and his wife Marie, and would go on to be in the band's music videos and work with them. It’s a really clear indication that sometimes these paths that you have no intention of opening can come from just a real love of the art. So, they are very special to me.”

Metallica – Master Of Puppets (1986)

“What a great, great album. I’m sure Master Of Puppets finds its way onto many people’s lists, and with good reason – it is incredible. It takes you on a journey, it has these 8-minute-long songs that have this epic nature to them. But, also for me, the shirt that came from that tour, with the back print that says ‘Honesty is my only excuse’ and has all these broken skulls and bones on it, got handed down to me from this older kid that got me into metal in the first place and I was enthralled. I mean, I wore that thing until it was just dust, I just associated it with that time period and this album so much that I never wanted to take it off. I was obsessed.”

Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.