The 50 best metal albums of all time

Meshuggah - Chaosphere (1998)

Chosen by: Carpenter Brut

“For me, this album is the best definition of what metal should be. It’s cerebral, difficult to understand, without compromise, violent in its singing, cold – a ‘tunnel with no lights’. 

“At the time, no other band had released such an implacable and cold album, so massive and rhythmically sick… and crazy. I was in high school when it came out. If you were looking to stand out from the crowd, it was perfect, since few people could understand what was going on musically. 

“Its impact on me was immediate, like a good old-fashioned punch in the face. Meshuggah always influence me, even now, because they’re a measure of what is classy and what isn’t. Obviously, it’s less evident in my music since it’s far from being as surgical as what they do.

Chaosphere turned the metal scene right around because it had a style that had never been heard before. In my opinion, it influenced a whole scene that was much less interesting. Bands put everything into the rhythmics while adding ugly melody parts in order to not just copy/paste Meshuggah’s work, but the soul of this band makes them untouchable. It’s not by imitating Meshuggah that one becomes Meshuggah.”

Buy from Amazon

Deftones - White Pony (2000)

Chosen by: Daniel Tompkins (Tesseract)

“Nu metal has become a bit of a guilty pleasure for a lot of people these days, but Deftones were always much more than just a nu metal band. Certainly by the time of White Pony, they were completely different from Korn and Limp Bizkit and all the other bands they used to get lumped in with.

“It was such a different-sounding album, even for them, and introduced so many different elements to what they were doing. They’d always had the hard edge and a softer edge, but this really blurred the lines. It’s actually a really progressive album when you listen to it – they were doing things that other bands weren’t doing in terms of dynamics and light and shade, while bringing in a DJ full-time.

“For some reason, drummers love to soundcheck to the intro to Digital Bath. As a singer, Chino Moreno was something else for me – his vocals were dark but dreamy, a real mix of emotions. There wasn’t any of the macho stuff you got with other bands at the time, though he could roar when he wanted to. And the duet with Maynard James Keenan on Passenger is amazing.

“Deftones made great albums before and after, of course, but White Pony is the highlight for me.”

Buy from Amazon

Linkin Park - Hybrid Theory (2000)

Chosen by: Aaron Pauley (Of Mice & Men)

Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory is a landmark album, no question about it. It’s so incredibly rare that a heavy album can cross so many genre boundaries in a way that feels honest, yet remain palatable enough to fully permeate mainstream culture.

“From the way the instrumentals weave elements of punk, metal, industrial, hip hop, R&B, and various genres of electronica and dance music into a cohesive vision, to the way the lyrics perfectly relate to a young person’s inability to make sense of both their feelings and a changing societal landscape, Hybrid Theory is my textbook definition of an album perfect for its time and place.

“For a lot of young people at the time, it was their gateway album into heavier music: ‘You like Linkin Park, borrow this Slipknot album, or borrow this Pantera record.’ For a misfit kid, sharing my music with people was a way of connecting and making friends. When we toured with Linkin Park, I made it a point to tell them how personally important that record is to me – a compliment they said never gets old. Love those dudes, and this album.” 

Buy from Amazon

Slipknot - Iowa (2001)

Chosen by: Dani Winter-Bates (Bury Tomorrow)

“This was the album where Slipknot really took the mainstream by storm. On the first album, they were still kind of an enigma: ‘Oh, have you heard about this crazy band?’ But with Iowa, they stepped up massively on every level.

“They really pushed the super-heavy stuff, but they pushed the melody, too – it was really focused around those choruses. And the production was a huge step up – you could pick out everything, which was really unique given everything that was going on. There was a clarity to the madness.

“It was a big influence on me personally. I was at an age where my mum would have told me off for listening to the lyrics on that album – it was so brutally explicit. But it’s as much about Corey Taylor for me – people like him, Chester Bennington and Jacoby Shaddix inspired me to be a frontman.

“It had a huge impact on metal, too –  it showed everybody that you could be heavy and abrasive and obnoxious and still have mainstream success. The charts were full of pop and R&B, and then Slipknot came out like a blunt force. It shocked people into realising that the metal scene was still thriving.” 

Buy from Amazon

At The Drive-In - Relationship Of Command (2001)

Chosen by: Eva Spence (Rolo Tomassi)

Relationship Of Command was such a landmark for me personally because it was unlike anything I’d ever heard at that time. It took a lot of different styles I was starting to get into and mixed them all together in a way I couldn’t comprehend at the time. It was an album that grew for me with every listen.

“I feel like there’s a certain energy that’s captured in the record; when you listen to it, it really packs a punch. The songwriting is incredible; the vocal melodies and riffs are catchy without it being like anything you’ve heard before. They’re one of those bands that I will always come back to for inspiration when writing. I find the vocal arrangements are so amazing to listen to and complement the music perfectly. It’s definitely something I aspire to when writing with Rolo Tomassi. The performance side of At The Drive-In is something I was especially drawn to also.

“The album was really ahead of its time and I think it took most other bands a few years to catch up. The way they were able to capture the energy from their live performances with Ross Robinson’s production gave a perfect snapshot of one of the most exciting bands of the 21st century.”

Buy from Amazon

Incubus - Morning View (2001)

Chosen by: Scott Kennedy (Bleed From Within)

“I was in high school when I first heard Morning View. We had this area in the playground that was surrounded by a fence, where the moshers hung out. I was already listening to Limp Bizkit and Korn, but I felt Incubus were a bit different, and they broadened my horizons because there was a lot of funk fusion in their music.

“The first concert I was supposed to see was Incubus and Jimmy Eat World, but I was too young to go so my parents didn’t allow me. I was in my 20s when I first saw them in Glasgow. In 2011, we were on tour with Suicide Silence. The tour started in Belgium but we met the band at Download because we were sharing a bus, and they parked in London behind the Forum, so that we could have power and wake up early in the morning and get the ferry. Incubus were playing that night, and the venue manager gave us guestlist. After the show, we hung out and had a few beers. That was genuinely one of the most special moments of my life.”

“I feel like Brandon Boyd’s lyrics are quite deep. I’m 31 now, and I go back and listen to a band like Blink-182, and I still love it, but it’s so childish when you think about it. I listen to Morning View all the time, and it’s stood the test of time with me.”

Buy from Amazon

Dimmu Borgir - Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia (2001)

Chosen by: Tom Whitty (Dyscarnate)

Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia was definitely a first of its kind for me. A good friend played it to me on his CD Walkman while we were waiting for the bus at high school. It blew me away when I first heard it and became an instant classic.

“It felt like it was way ahead of its time in the black metal genre with regards to musicianship, songwriting and production. I loved how it was so varied and dynamic. From extreme and precise blasting sections through to orchestral choruses and operatic vocal passages. The atmosphere was always dark and menacing, but the use of multiple genres really gave it an edge. 

“The genre they were playing wasn’t necessarily a direct influence on me musically, but the quality of songwriting and attention to detail on every level was definitely something that I aspired to achieve.

“I was still discovering metal at that time so I didn’t have a huge connection with the scene, but it’s definitely easy to see how it influenced so many of the newer wave black metal bands soon after. Without a doubt it raised the bar.”

Buy from Amazon

System Of A Down - Toxicity (2001)

Chosen by: Brady Deeprose (Conjurer)

System Of A Down do something that, bar Carly Rae Jepsen, no other act can: unite my band. Our gig trips are fraught with musical arguments but System have always been a constant – truthfully, any of their records could go on this list, but Toxicity is by far their most celebrated and influential work. What it really marked was SOAD’s willingness to accept their eccentricity in any form it took – pushing an eclectic mix of influences, more challenging vocal lines and harmonies, and less conventional song structures became the norm. 

“What’s truly astounding is how this record became so successful despite being this weird mix of nu metal bounce, punk attitudes and alt metal absurdity – 220,000 copies in your first week is something I don’t think we’ll ever see for a breakthrough heavy artist from our generation. While you can’t hear the influence directly in Conjurer’s sound, this was one of the first records I can remember to demonstrate the power that two different singers can achieve, and their limitless vocal creativity is still a constant source of inspiration. Big riffs, too.”

Buy from Amazon

Nine Inch Nails - With Teeth (2005)

Chosen by: Justine Jones (Employed To Serve)

“I bought this album when I was in year nine in secondary school in about 2005 after I saw Nine Inch Nails' March Of The Pigs video playing on Scuzz TV. With Teeth is responsible for getting me into electronic music like Aphex Twin and the lighter side like Bonobo and generally heavier music, it’s actually almost solely responsible for my current music palette.

“It was constantly in my Sony Discman. I’d listen to it to and from school and I used to blast this album in the back of my grandparents’ car when we’d go on day trips to the seaside. I love the way opening track All The Love In The World sets the album up with a slow, atmospheric build. Trent Reznor’s lyrics on Right Where It Belongs are just incredible. It taught me how important clever and catchy lyrics are in an album.

“In that moment in time, Nine Inch Nails were a legacy band, and were big but not particularly hyped among the younger crowds, so not many of my friends were into them as their dads listened to them. But they continue to release great albums, EPs and film scores.”

Buy from Amazon

Lamb Of God - Sacrament (2006)

Chosen by: Loz Taylor (While She Sleeps)

“I remember being young and discovering new bands, and this was one of the things that really hit me. I had heard them at rock nights, and when I got the album it was just, like, ‘Wow!’ It blew my mind how bouncy it was. They smashed it all the way through without slowing down. It’s just a crushing album – Chris Adler’s drumming is phenomenal and the riffs are massive all the way through. It’s unforgiving.

“I like to crank up the second track, Again We Rise. Plus it’s got Redneck and Walk With Me In Hell on it, too – those songs are just incredible. It’s influenced my writing so much. 

“It’s through-and-through metal, which comes across live. Randy Blythe is one of the great frontmen – he’s someone I really look up to. I saw Lamb Of God supporting Slayer recently – I made a trip to purposely see them. They’re that good.

“When we first emerged from the UK scene, people were saying we were like a new version of them. I didn’t really get that from our sound, but I’ll take the compliment. There are a lot worse bands to be compared to.”

Buy from Amazon

Merlin Alderslade
Executive Editor, Louder

Merlin moved into his role as Executive Editor of Louder in early 2022, following over ten years working at Metal Hammer. While there, he served as Online Editor and Deputy Editor, before being promoted to Editor in 2016. Before joining Metal Hammer, Merlin worked as Associate Editor at Terrorizer Magazine and has previously written for the likes of Classic Rock, Rock Sound, eFestivals and others. Across his career he has interviewed legends including Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Metallica, Iron Maiden (including getting a trip on Ed Force One courtesy of Bruce Dickinson), Guns N' Roses, KISS, Slipknot, System Of A Down and Meat Loaf. He has also presented and produced the Metal Hammer Podcast, presented the Metal Hammer Radio Show and is probably responsible for 90% of all nu metal-related content making it onto the site.