The Top 20 best metal albums of 1993

11. Life Of Agony – River Runs Red

Brooklyn quartet Life of Agony were unfairly lumped in with the New York hardcore scene, thanks to geography and not a whole lot else. In fact, River Runs Red – produced by Type O Negative's Josh Silver – was so far ahead of its time that many bands in that particular scene are only just catching up to it now. 

Their 1993 debut is an incredibly moving conceptual piece about an attempted teenage suicide – a picture brilliantly painted, in part, by the dark, ominous music that the band have written, but mostly, thanks to the sublime lyrics and vocal performance of Mina Caputo.

12. Morbid Angel – Covenant

A third undisputed classic album in a row, Covenant emerged as death metal reached its early ‘90s peak. Staggeringly heavy and boasting some of Morbid Angel’s most enduring anthems, it sustained the band’s momentum with considerable ferocity. 

Co-produced with legendary Metallica collaborator Flemming Rasmussen, the likes of Rapture, Pain Divine, Blood On My Hands and the absurdly heavy God Of Emptiness simply added to Morbid Angel’s unassailable position at the top of the death metal tree.  As with each of the band’s first four albums, Covenant has proved to be massively influential and is regular cited as a benchmark for the entire scene. Full marks all ‘round, then.

13. My Dying Bride – Turn Loose The Swans

Proving the saying ‘it’s grim up North’ holds more than a kernel of truth, My Dying Bride’s second record saw them emerge from the shadows and start stamping their own trademark on the goth/doom sound. 

Dialling the death metal elements right back and filling the void with smatterings of folk and classical (Martin Powell’s violins much more prominent in the mix), Turn Loose The Swans helped extricate gothic metal from its Bauhaus/Sisters Of Mercy/The Mission forerunners, its grinding riffs and discordant guitar squeals perfectly at odds with the album’s more delicate moments. If you ever wondered what a British Bloody Kisses would sound like, this is it.

14. Nirvana – In Utero

Nirvana’s final album was as heavy in its own way as any metal record. Kurt Cobain’s reaction to sudden and explosive fame was to write a set of songs that were jagged, barbed and dripping with irony, from Serve The Servants to the scabrous Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle

But even in the middle of his own emotional storm, Cobain’s melodic prowess shone like a beacon – beneath the hardshell grunge exterior, Heart-Shaped Box and Penny Royal Tea were as fragile as glass.

15. Paradise Lost – Icon

Paradise Lost’s first three albums established them as top dogs of the British underground metal scene, but they had no interest in stopping to congratulate themselves on what they’d helped build.

The band’s fourth album in three years was their greatest leap forward yet. The change in approach was most apparent in Nick Holmes’ vocals, which swapped dank growls for crisp, James Hetfield-esque power, but it was there in other ways too: the taut, razorwire hum of Greg Mackintosh and Aaron Aedy’s guitars, the gothic swirl of Forging Sympathy and Joys Of The Emptiness. For Paradise Lost, the future was so black they had to wear shades.

16. Sepultura - Chaos A.D.

In 93, Sepultura were ready, willing and certainly able to make the leap from cult status to being major players on the metal scene. With Chaos A.D., Seps ditched the primeval thrashing for deep grooves and world music flourishes.

Suddenly, greatness beckoned and Chaos A.D. was their ground-breaker. Hard hitting, powerful, challenging, confrontational, this was Sepultura on a new level.

17. Sleep – Sleep’s Holy Mountain

If Black Sabbath invented stoner metal then cult Californian power trio Sleep perfected it with their second record. The resiny, Sabbathian charge of opener Dragonaut and the hardcore-tainted, Saint Vitus-like Inside The Sun are enough alone to get your bong water bubbling, but it’s during the droning, almost tantric grooves of the title track and the 10- minute From Beyond when the record becomes most cosmically immersive. RIYL: Bong hits in the temple at the top of Olympus Mons.

18. Tool - Undertow

A continuation of what came on predecessor Opiate – but with a sicker, darker and more menacing tone – Tool’s debut full-length album saw the band begin the process of pulling away from the rest of the scene around them. 

They received plenty of attention for the catchy, growling groove of Sober, but it’s the likes of Bottom (featuring a contribution from Henry Rollins) and Flood that show the direction that Tool were moving into. 

Technically precise with more patience and musical subtlety, while still delving deep into the more perverse aspect of the human psyche, Undertow is a hell of a statement from a band growing in confidence.

19. Type O Negative - Bloody Kisses

Led by the strapping dark lord Peter Steele, Type O Negative rose from the ashes of chest-thumping thrashers Carnivore and went on to create some of the most emotionally tortured goth-metal of the decade.

Bloody Kisses is their magnum opus. Steele ramped up the dark-hued goth-metal grandeur – if Dracula had a favourite metal band, Type O were definitely it. This, it was a more committed, elegant gothic doom masterwork than others in their back catalogue. Gargantuan hits Christian Woman and Black No. 1 perfectly showcased the band’s evolving songcraft, mordant wit and deviant sexuality, helping the album become Roadrunner’s first US Platinum release.

20. Various Artist - Judgment Night

Few people actually watched Judgment Night, but its soundtrack has passed into rap-metal legend. An all-star meeting of rap and rock minds, it brought together Slayer and Ice-T, Helmet and House Of Pain, Pearl Jam and Cypress Hill and Biohazard with Onyx. 

Perhaps surprisingly, the results were genuinely brilliant, particularly when Faith No More and Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E. joined forces for the scabrous Another Body Murdered.

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