It wasn’t until Scorpions broke worldwide in the late 70s that Germany established itself as a global metal powerhouse, but once it did it never looked back. From its thriving mid-80s thrash scene and the birth of power metal as we know it to the emergence of Rammstein and beyond, the German metal scene is as consistently successful as its celebrated soccer team. To prove it, here are the 10 greatest metal albums Deutschland has gifted the rest of the world.
Scorpions – Blackout (1982)
After half a decade on the cusp, this was the album that marked the band becoming major international players. As they eased into the 80s, the Scorpions became confident and comfortable with the demands of the era.
From the moment that instantly recognisable staccato riff ushers in the title track, there’s not a wasted moment: the pop-rock sensibility of No One Like You, the Eastern-tinged inflections of China White, the epic balladry of When The Smoke Is Going Down, and thunderous set-closer Dynamite. Even more remarkable is that singer Klaus Meine was suffering potentially career-ending throat problems when they recorded it.
Accept – Restless And Wild
If the Scorpions will forever be the big daddies of German metal, then Accept (opens in new tab) are their unruly kid brothers. Led by pug-faced shrieker Udo Dirkschneider, the Teutonic terrors hit maximum velocity on their fourth album, Restless And Wild. Brawny and barely house-trained, this was a world away from the slick, MTV metal their countrymen were purveying – and in the immortal Fast As A Shark, they laid down a 200mph marker for the incoming thrash era.
Kreator – Pleasure To Kill (1986)
The US may have dominated the thrash scene, but Germany’s contribution was huge. Kreator (opens in new tab)’s second album remains one of the few to challenge Slayer (opens in new tab) in the violence and mayhem stakes, its blistering tempos and Mille Petrozza’s deranged screeching conspiring to wrench open the gates of hell and let its nastiest demons run rampage. Rage has never sounded more exciting.
Destruction – Eternal Devastation (1986)
If Destruction’s debut album, 1985’s Infernal Overkill, was overloaded with enthusiasm, this stellar follow-up was where Schmier (opens in new tab) and co established themselves as a major force on the German thrash scene. What they captured was a distinct Teutonic style and sound. Tracks like Life Without Sense and United By Hatred have such a ferocious energy, but stay on the rails due to the formidable musicianship of the trio. A landmark for Destruction, and for the European scene.
Helloween - Keeper Of The Seven Keys Pt 1 & II
Helloween (opens in new tab) began life as charter members of the German thrash scene, but that all changed when frontman Kai Hansen (opens in new tab) stepped back from the microphone to focus on playing guitar and enlisted teenage wunderkind Michael Kiske to take his place on vocals.
The result were astounding. Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part I (opens in new tab) was arguably ground zero of the whole power metal movement, ramping Iron Maiden (opens in new tab)’s galloping heroism to Wagnerian levels. Its sequel, released 12 months later, featured a pair of hit singles in Dr Stein and I Want Out, rubber-stamping the Hamburg crew as Steve Harris and co’s natural successors. It never quite panned out, of course, but this pair of monumental records stand as undeniable 80s metal classics.
Sodom – Agent Orange (1989)
While their primitive early efforts proved hugely influential to the later black metal scene, it was Sodom’s third album that established the band as metal heavyweights. A grim exploration of the Vietnam War, set to furious, precise speed metal riffing, it still slams – and it proved one of the German thrash scene (opens in new tab)’s last great hurrahs.
Rammstein – Mutter (2001)
One of the greatest industrial metal (opens in new tab) albums of all time, Mutter cemented Rammstein as serious contenders. The album’s first half is literally just singles, even the ballad-esque title-track proving a hit. Twenty years on, it remains Rammstein’s defining statement and a record that has yet to be bested by the band or their contemporaries.
Heaven Shall Burn – Veto (2010)
Germany took its time to embrace the post-millennial metalcore (opens in new tab) code, but Heaven Shall Burn were way ahead of the game. Formed in 1996, their shrewd hybrid of ferocious melodic death metal and ‘core-friendly breakdowns have made them a major success in Europe and beyond. Had they been American they would have been much more prominent on the global stage, but the quality of albums like 2010’s Veto is unquestionable.
The Ocean – Pelagial (2013)
There’s no shortage of post-metal (opens in new tab) bands who owe a limb or two to Neurosis (opens in new tab), but few of them have evolved with the same degree of creative zeal that has driven The Ocean. From the twisted, dark, cinematic hardcore of their earliest works through to the fervently progressive explorations of 2013’s Pelagial, these devotedly experimental Berliners have constructed their own musical world and it’s a remorselessly fascinating one.
Powerwolf – Blessed And Possessed (2015)
More than 30 years after its inception, Germany remains the spiritual stronghold of power metal. And of all the bands to have rolled off the production lines in recent years, few deliver it with as much heroic grandeur and tongue-in-cheek humour as Powerwolf (opens in new tab). Their sixth album hit both bases dead on, flashing a wolverine grin as they invoke glorious blasphemy like a group of rogue 15th century monks. Utterly ridiculous, inarguably brilliant.