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The Top 50 best metal debut albums ever

40. Mayhem – De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (1994)

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So much has been said about Mayhem (opens in new tab)’s debut full-length album (opens in new tab) that it’s hard to know where to start when describing its quality and importance to the black metal genre. The Norwegians were arguably the most important band in terms of reigniting the black metal movement and this gloomy, impenetrable, aggressive and eccentric – not least in the vocal department – work perfectly embodies the dark, angry and otherworldly spirit of the genre.

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39. Babymetal – Babymetal (2014)

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The album that launched the biggest metal phenomenon of the last decade – and the most controversial. Wearing black-and-red tutus, the cutesy Su-metal, Moametal and Yuimetal twirled and sang their way through the exhilarating Gimme Chocolate and weirdly sinister Rondo Of Nightmar, by the anonymous but technically impressive Kami Band. To some, Babymetal (opens in new tab) were a Japanese idol band co-opting metal’s tropes in a cynical cash grab. To others, they were a bona fide addition to metal’s creative canon. You can love them, you can hate them, but it’s impossible to ignore them.

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38. Nirvana – Bleach (1989)

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No-one spotted it, of course. Nirvana (opens in new tab) were just another one of those ‘Subpop bands’ - decent enough, but you didn’t rush from the bar when they were support. Three years later, everyone went scurrying back to Bleach to see if there were signs they’d missed. There were plenty: Love Buzz, About A Girl, Blew – all laid down the blueprint for Nevermind (opens in new tab). Negative Creep was a new punk classic - and actually quite funny until you realised he really meant all that “I’m a negative creep when I’m stoned” stuff.

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37. Mastodon – Remission (2002)

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Mastodon (opens in new tab) marked out their territory as one of metal’s most intriguing new bands with a pair of EPs that suggested there was more to them than just mangled underground fury. Their debut full-length album delivered on that promise. March Of The Fire Ants and Trampled Under Hoof took jagged shards of noise and rearranged them into brand new shapes which seemed to shift and change depending on the angle at which you looked at them. The awkward time signatures and Brann Dailor (opens in new tab)’s restless drumming hinted at the progressive leanings that would surface on later albums, but Remission’s main aim was to reinvent brutality for the new millennium. On that front, it was job done.

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36. Skid Row – Skid Row (1989)

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Skid Row (opens in new tab) were glam metal’s last world-beating band. With the blueprint established, their mentor Jon Bon Jovi (opens in new tab) and manager Doc McGhee simply applied a tried and trusted formula. With a pretty, OTT frontman in Sebastian Bach (opens in new tab), they had a man willing to sell his mother for the slightest whiff of fame. And it duly came along with this record. The rest of the band were seasoned players, so songs like 18 And Life and Youth Gone Wild (opens in new tab) were immediate and anthemic. Given the material, they knew exactly how to treat it. Bach was living it large, and Skid Row quickly became the rock monster he craved.

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35. Danzig – Danzig (1988)

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While thrash (opens in new tab) and glam metal (opens in new tab) duked it out for dominance in the late 80s, former Misfits (opens in new tab) singer Glenn Danzig slipped around the side to deliver a gothic-blues masterpiece in the shape of his eponymous band’s Rick Rubin (opens in new tab)-produced debut album (opens in new tab). Pared-to-the-bone songs such as Twist Of Cain and Mother dispensed with metal’s cartoon histrionics in favour of dark, sensual malevolence, Danzig himself howling like Jim Morrison (opens in new tab) reincarnated in the body of a bench-pressing goth homunculus. It’s testament to his vision that nothing has come close to capturing its pitch-black charisma.

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34. Mercyful Fate – Melissa (1983)

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If their debut EP brought Satan firmly into the traditional metal realm, Mercyful Fate (opens in new tab)’s first full-length gave the evil old bastard the ultimate platform. Melissa is still stupidly exciting nearly four decades later: the malevolent, twin-guitar heroics of Hank Shermann and Michael Denner and King Diamond’s unmistakable falsetto howl and crypt-creeper snarl combining to distort Judas Priest’s ornate heavy metal formula into something far more menacing and otherworldly. As Metallica (opens in new tab) would later confirm by covering several of its highlights in a much-celebrated medley on Garage Inc in 1998, the music on Melissa wields a peculiar and irresistible magic.

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33. Mötley Crüe – Too Fast For Love (1981)

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Originally issued via the band’s own label Leathur Records in 1981, Mötley Crüe (opens in new tab)’s debut was remixed by Queen (opens in new tab) producer Roy Thomas Baker for its international major label release a year later. But no amount of polish could smooth off is rough edges, and the band’s barely competent performance is an integral part of the album’s tacky appeal. The influence of British glam rock legends Slade (opens in new tab) and The Sweet (opens in new tab) are evident in the terrace-style chants of the title track. But the Crüe also had a cutting edge: a raw, coke-fuelled bovver-boy aggression, felt in the supercharged cowbell-clunking yob-rock of Live Wire. Plainly, these dudes had balls.

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32. Marilyn Manson – Portrait Of An American Family (1994)

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A damning critique of a talk show-obsessed, sofa-ridden USA, Marilyn Manson (opens in new tab)’s debut album antagonises and exposes the hopes, fears and overbearing hypocrisy of his home country. Manson proclaims himself “the God of Fuck” during opener Cake And Sodomy, while samples are pulled from serial killer testimonials, children’s stories and even The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown (opens in new tab), creating a melting pot of themes Manson would dip into with later records.

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31. Death – Scream Bloody Gore (1987)

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The album that birthed a new generation of metalheads. Scream Bloody Gore (opens in new tab) was to inadvertently provide the embryonic blueprint for what was to become the death metal genre. This gradual epiphany was predominantly due to the appearance of Chuck Schuldiner’s guttural approach to vocals, the only aspect that really set Death apart from their ferocious thrash metal contemporaries – a genre from which he took primary inspiration. The apex of the early formative demos and lineups, Scream Bloody Gore immersed their thrash roots in a fascination with horror and Chuck's grisly artistry.

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