Skip to main content

The 10 best old-school metal albums, as chosen by Haken

Metallica
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A classic is a classic. Some metal albums are just so good that their legacy will last forever, inspiring bands for countless generations due to their innovation, songwriting and emotion. Or just the ability to write a Godzilla-sized chorus. 

London progressive metallers Haken know a thing or two about some of metal's longstanding masterpieces, so we asked guitarist Charlie Griffiths to pick his ten favourite old-school metal albums. Some of which have proved quite influential on Haken's latest album Vector.

Let's take a loot...

Metallica – Ride The Lightning

"The first four Metallica albums were all regularly chewed up in my Sony Walkman on walks to school back in the day, but I’ll choose this one as it was the first one I heard, and I think Fade To Black would’ve been the first guitar solo I ever learnt to play. I think about how Kirk made all his solos catchy and melodic and were never there for the sake of it. On [Haken's new album] Vector there are very few ‘solo’ spots for this reason; if the song doesn’t ask for it, then we won’t try to force it in."

King Diamond – Them

"I love the perfect marriage of music and lyrics on this album. The music is obviously some of the greatest metal ever written, but the narrative storytelling in songs like Welcome Home really put you in the scene. For example, we don’t need to know they’re planning to repaint the front door, but details like that definitely paint a picture in my mind. I thought I’d try that kind of ‘rock opera’ lyric style in [Vector's] opening track The Good Doctor and that came directly from King Diamond."

Megadeth – Rust In Peace

"This is the perfect metal album. Everything about it is magical; from the riffs to the lyrics, to the production, and of course Marty Friedman who brought an exotic flavour to the solos. Realising that everything doesn’t have to be ‘minor’ and ‘dark’ for it to sound badass was a huge influence on me. In Haken we’re always exploring different modes and exotic scales to try to inspire different moods, and I believe Marty Friedman opened that door for metal music."

Pantera – Cowboys From Hell

"How can anyone not love Pantera? Even people who don’t like metal should love them! It blows my mind that Derek Shulman, the singer of my favourite '70s prog band, discovered them and put them together with Terry Date who produced this album. I love that those two seemingly unrelated worlds are connected like that; that sums up Haken’s approach to writing too, we’ll take inspiration from completely different worlds and combine them in the same song."

Van Halen – 1984

"I guess I’m pushing the rules here as this it isn’t exactly what I’d call a metal album, but Eddie Van Halen is the source of what all modern metal guitar players rely on – from technique to tone, and we’re no exception! In Haken we love the more '80s sound and we enjoy incorporating those classic analogue synths, which are most prominent on our track The Good Doctor, but still present on the rest of the album; we talked a lot about the Vangelis Bladerunner soundtrack too. This is also good proof that albums don’t need to be long and fill up all the available space for the sake of it – this one is perfect and is only 33 minutes!"

Fear Factory – Demanufacture

"The synchronisation between band members on this album is insane. As soon as I got this album I bought a 7-string Ibanez and learnt every song; incidentally I later sold that guitar to Herman Li from Dragonforce, which is a fun fact. The songwriting is so strong on this album too. I love how Burton C. Bell creates simple, catchy phrases and repeats them to drive the point home. I definitely strive to be as succinct as that with my lyric writing. Riff-wise our instrumental track Nil By Mouth has a few Fear Factory moments, which are a lot of fun to play!"

Queensrÿche – Operation: Mindcrime

"Every song on this album is a banger! Eyes Of A Stranger and I Don’t Believe In Love give me chills to this day. They had a really different approach to riff writing. Instead of always using low power chords, there were cool-sounding chords with tension and colour within them; almost a more progressive sound. I definitely thought ‘what would (Queensrÿche guitarist) Chris Degarmo do?’ during the choruses of our track Veil. Our album also featured a tormented character stuck in hospital bed, which is of course an unapologetic homage to this masterpiece."

Death – Human

"All the Death albums are absolute works of genius, but I’ll pick this one because it was such a cool blend of fusion musicianship and metal aggression. It was as if Allan Holdsworth was jamming with Morbid Angel, but Chuck Schuldiner managed to make everything sound so elegant. I had the pleasure of meeting him after the London Astoria show and he gave me his guitar pick, which I treasure to this day and actually used on the second verse of Puzzle Box. The riff there is a huge tip of the hat to Chuck!"

Carcass – Heartwork

"It was hard to pick between this one and Necroticism, but I’ll lean towards Heartwork because of the the guitar tone, which is possibly my favourite recorded guitar sound. As it turned out, Nolly who mixed our album had an original Peavey 5150 amp, which as soon as I heard it I said 'Heartwork!'. Also No Love Lost has one of the catchiest riffs ever!"

Yngwie Malmsteen – Marching Out

"Again, it’s difficult to pick one Malmsteen album as there are so many good ones, but this is the album that brought us I’ll See The Light Tonight and I Am A Viking. As far as shredding on the guitar goes, nobody does it with more passion and sincerity than The Maestro! On Vector we have an epic track named Veil which has lots of different movements. One part is an extended Bach unison between the guitar and keyboards; we have to thank Yngwie and Jens Johansson for showing us that it was even possible to play like that!"

Haken's new album Vector is out 26 October and available to pre-order now.

Luke Morton
Faux Northerner. Online Editor for Metal Hammer. Host and Producer of the Metal Hammer Podcast. A bigger Simpsons fan than you.