68) STRAPPING YOUNG LAD - ALIEN (2005)
BAND PICK: “I just loved how crazy it was and how emotional Alien was. One thing for me that I need in vocalists is to believe that what they are saying is real, and I think Devin does a really great job of giving absolute authenticity to his performance. And I loved that he was able to meld that honesty with such insanity on that album.” - ALISSA WHITE-GLUZ, ARCH ENEMY
What we said: ”A thunderous clash of riffs, melody and the mad genius of Devin Townsend, this could be Strapping Young Lad’s best album yet.”
67) SLAYER - GOD HATES US ALL (2001)
BAND PICK: “That was a big, heavy change for Slayer – when they started doing the drop-tuning, there was a lot more to the guitars, and it was a different pace and sound than what I’m used to for them. And those songs are great songs. To me, that was the new, improved Slayer. The heaviness of Disciple is just awesome. The riff and everything about it stands out.” - CHUCK BILLY, TESTAMENT
What we said: “Ross Robinson was mooted to produce this, but instead of adding breakbeats and string sections, Slayer gave us an album that replicates their live sound.”
66) STEEL PANTHER - FEEL THE STEEL (2009)
While The Darkness blurred the lines between parody and pre-eminence, Panther shamelessly ripped the piss out of their glam-metal heroes while writing an album that outshone anything the originals had put out in decades. Asian Hooker, Fat Girl, Eatin’ Ain’t Cheatin’… PC this most definitely wasn’t, but in terms of pure song power? Feel The Steel remains an iron-cast classic.
What we said: “This is the sort of album that Mötley Crüe dreamt of getting away with in the mid-1980s, with lyrics so explicit they could make Ron Jeremy blush.”
65) FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH - THE WRONG SIDE OF HEAVEN… VOLUME 1 (2013)
READER PICK: “I like everything Five Finger Death Punch have done, but The Wrong Side Of Heaven… is their masterpiece. I like both halves of this album but if I had to choose, I’d pick Volume 1, mainly because it just has bigger songs overall – and you really can’t fuck with Rob Halford, the Metal God! Horns up!” - ROB PARTON, READER
What we said: ”Slightly baffling, totally over the top, but with so much swagger and conviction that you can’t help but be joyously swept along.”
64) CANNIBAL CORPSE - KILL (2006)
Death metal’s biggest band seldom stray far from a path of outright brutality, but Kill was something special. Nastier and much more musically twisted than any of their previous nine albums, songs like Make Them Suffer and Necrosadistic Warning reaffirmed Cannibal Corpse’s legendary status and ongoing relevance.
What we said: “The Cannibals are back prowling, growling and howling with their best album to feature George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher on vocals.”
63) THE DARKNESS - PERMISSION TO LAND (2003)
Was it a joke? Was it legit? Who fucking cares when you can roll out a debut that stands up to most rock legends’ greatest hits albums? The Darkness would ultimately be broken by the weight of their own expectations, but song for song, Permission To Land remains one of the greatest debut albums of all time. Just find a line you don’t know off by heart. Go on.
What we said: “Every influence you hear is a band that has been sneered at for being overblown, but Permission To Land is very nearly a perfect stadium rock album.”
62) THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER - RITUAL (2011)
It remains an enduring mystery as to why The Black Dahlia Murder – surely the 21st century’s greatest melodeath band – aren’t 10 times bigger than they are. In Ritual, they produced a colossal, riff-fuelled goliath that would comfortably go toe-to-toe with any classic from their Gothenburg forefathers.
What we said: “With dual guitars, galloping drums and thunderous bass runs, Ritual is as fine an example of contemporary extremity as you’re likely to hear.”
61) IN FLAMES - COME CLARITY (2006)
BAND PICK: “I first heard this album at school – I remember jamming Take This Life and thinking, ‘This is just next level.’ It’s just melody after melody; it came at a time where Killswitch and As I Lay Dying and those bands were getting massive, and I think In Flames made a conscious decision to go with that. It’s my favourite album by them.” - DANI WINTER-BATES, BURY TOMORROW
What we said: “Whether or not the old In Flames fans will return is immaterial, this is an album to establish the band as a world-class metal act.”
60) NIGHTWISH - DARK PASSION PLAY (2007)
After making international headlines for the rather tumultuous manner in which Tarja Turunen was booted out of the band in 2005, Nightwish’s future looked uncertain. For a band that had started making huge strides into the metal mainstream with 2004 breakthrough Once, making a crucial album without the unmistakable pipes of one of metal’s most unique singers seemed a daunting ask.
“It was the biggest storm in the band’s history,” says keyboardist and band mastermind Tuomas Holopainen today. “But it was also very inspirational.”
If the band were galled at the task ahead of them, it certainly didn’t show, as they attacked it with the kind of fearless ambition that has since become a calling card for the Finns. Nightwish began spreading recording sessions across Europe – including what was said to be a particularly pricey, eight-day stint at London’s Abbey Road studios – bringing in an orchestra, two different choirs and numerous guest musicians for what would become the most expensive Finnish album ever made, clocking in at over 500,000 Euros.
“We definitely took a lot of risks,” Tuomas admits. “It was an exciting time and a phenomenal experience, but the scary thing was that the instrumental parts and the choir were done when we still didn’t have a singer!”
Eventually, the band would bring in Swedish AOR singer Anette Olzon, whose poppier vocals marked a substantial difference to Tarja’s operatic tones, consolidating Dark Passion Play as a massive departure on every level. And then there was the music. From the glorious, cinematic bombast of Master Passion Greed, Sahara and Whoever Brings The Night, to the syrupy glisten of Amaranth and Eva, the ballsy, no-punches-pulled F-U of Bye Bye Beautiful to the gorgeous folky balladry of The Islander, Dark Passion Play was an absolute triumph, anchored by its bold and brilliant opening gambit, 13-minute epic The Poet And The Pendulum – at that point the longest song the band had ever recorded. Almost a decade after it revitalised the band and gave them arguably their finest moment yet, Tuomas remains proud of the album’s legacy.
“I’m still really, really proud of the results,” he confirms. “The whole band was very inspired and we were all really confident about the material. The Poet And The Pendulum, Bye Bye Beautiful and Master Passion Greed were all borne out of the turmoil we’d gone through. It would be an exaggeration to say Dark Passion Play saved my life, but it definitely saved my mental health.”
It also saved the band’s career, and while the Dark Passion Play lineup would only last one further album, it still revitalised one of metal’s biggest bands and produced an absolute classic.
What we said: “Anette doesn’t have the same vocal depth as Tarja but, simply put, Dark Passion Play proved that the latter’s dismissal was definitely a good move.”