Below are what we, the staff of Metal-Rules.com, have collectively
decided are the best and/or most influential extreme metal albums of all
Based on the success (and rampant discussion!) that took place as a
result of our "Top 100 Heavy
Metal Albums", we decided to devote a top list for
extreme metal. For this top 50 list, we agreed that extreme metal encompasses:
death metal, black metal, and some of the more extreme forms of thrash
metal. We didn't allow any overly melodic thrash metal albums on the
list in an effort to keep the final list to the more extreme side of
things. We also disallowed melodic death metal, but we did allow some of
the earlier albums from bands that started out as much heavier than what
they eventually became.
Although this is an extreme metal list, this is not a ranking of
"who is the heaviest band", "who is the most
satanic", or "who is the most underground". How
underground, satanic, or how heavy a band is may not ALWAYS be related
to extremity or how they rank in a list of what we considered the most
important extreme albums. We rated our master list based on quality and
on the album's influence.
We scored a list of just over 500 albums to determine this top 50.
There is absolutely nothing scientific about the ranking that appears
below; it is simply the collective opinion of a group of true metalheads.
Not everyone will agree with the list or all the items in it, and that's
fine, we make no apologies for having an opinion and sharing it with
you! This is not meant to be the only definitive list in existence, but it
does reflect the common interests of everyone who writes for this
webzine as of October 2003.
The Top 10
#1. Mercyful Fate - Don't Break The
Released in 1984, this album is a pure satanic black
metal masterpiece. Featuring the piercing vocals of King Diamond, many
have argued that this is the best Mercyful Fate album ever. Joining the
King on this album is Michael Denner (lead guitar), Hank Shermann (lead
guitar), Timi G. Hansen (bass) and Kim Ruzz (drums). For those who might
not have followed Mercyful Fate's career, let's put this album into some
kind of perspective for you....this album is every bit as essential, and
as groundbreaking as MASTER OF PUPPETS, NUMBER OF THE BEAST, or
SCREAMING FOR VENGEANCE.
#2. Mercyful Fate - Melissa
MELISSA was released in 1983, the year before the
landmark DON'T BREAK THE OATH. It was a little surprising that two
Mercyful Fate albums came in the top two spots for this list. Both of
these albums are 'must haves' for any fan of extreme metal, or for newer
fans of extreme metal who would like to get a good look at where many of
the seeds of black metal were sown.
#3. Venom - Black Metal
When looking at those albums/bands that had (and
continue to have) a huge influence on extreme metal, and specifically
black metal, besides early Mercyful Fate another band is impossible to
ignore...the mighty Venom! Venom's music is satanic, black (yet thrashy)...and
they often reveal a sense of humor in their lyrics. This is the beginnings
of black metal in it's purest, rawest form. Although the sound of this
album is not polished, nor is the musicianship technically perfect, it
did create an atmosphere that very few others at that period in time
(1982) were able to do.
#4. Slayer - Show No Mercy
No other Slayer album sounds quite like SHOW NO MERCY.
This is a RAW album which shows Slayer forging a new speed metal sound
by taking elements of bands like Maiden/Priest and mixing in a sprinkling
of evil, speed and heaviness to develop an album that endures with
classics like "Black Magic", "Evil Has No Boundaries",
"Die By The Sword", "Crionics", etc. Not a single
track is filler on this 1983 CD. Any true Slayer fan knows that this
album ranks right up there alongside REIGN IN BLOOD as a total fucking
#5. Kreator - Pleasure to Kill
PLEASURE TO KILL from 1986 is an album that is a
descendant of the above mentioned albums (and from the below 1985 Slayer
release). This is a milestone album for early & raw speed/thrash
metal. This was also arguably Kreator's first really brilliant album with
godly tracks like "Ripping Corpse", "Riot of
Violence", "Under The Guillotine"
and the title track. Anyone into black/thrash metal has to have this CD
or they are a poseur.
#6. Slayer - Hell Awaits
This 1985 release easily has one of my favorite album
covers EVER. It's totally sick and evil and spellbinding! In
conversation, it's hard to just call this album "hell
awaits"...it's hard to resist yelling out "HEELLLLLLLL
AWAAAAAAAITSSSSSSSSS!!" Although many current albums begin with
pointless intros, this one had THE fucking intro...perhaps the best
intro EVER! Yes, when it comes to 80's Slayer I am a fan(atic), but so
what! This album will keep the fire growing deep inside for many more
decades to come.
#7. Death - Symbolic
I think if you asked most Death fans what their favorite
Death album would be, 1995's SYMBOLIC would be high on the list...but to
be honest, I was surprised at how high this one placed in our top 50! I
honestly expected to see HUMAN, LEPROSY, or even SCREAM BLOODY GORE rank
in the top 10 (don't freak - those very three albums are not far
below). This album is polished, melodic, technical, and consistent
from beginning to end. Stand out tracks include "Zero
Tolerance", "Crystal Mountain", and the album's title
track. All hail Chuck, the metal world misses you and will forever bear
the mark that you left upon us all.
#8. At The Gates - Slaughter of the
At The Gates pioneered a new sound in extreme metal.
Some purists didn't like it, or at least didn't like the other bands
that took what At The Gates started and made more palpable. Either way,
this band and album shook things up in the extreme metal realm combining
death/thrash metal with melody and groove in a unique way. The sound
forged by this band has often been called the Gothenburg sound, or
melodic death metal. In 1995 when SLAUGHTER OF THE SOUL was unleashed,
the early 90's death metal boom was fizzling. This album proved that
death metal could still evolve, capture more fans, and still rip your
head off. Some of the more memorable moments on this CD include
"Blinded by Fear", title track "Slaughter of the
Soul", and "World of Lies".
#9. Morbid Angel - Altars of Madness
In 1989 (the year ALTARS OF MADNESS was released) a full
on death metal explosion was coming...especially after
this album! Those in tune with extreme metal immediately latched onto
this album which quickly became a classic setting things up for
many bands that followed a similar path after this was released. Killing
songs like "Immortal Rites", "Maze Of Torment", and
"Chapel Of Ghouls" gave new meaning to well executed,
technical, death metal. Essential!
#10. Possessed - Seven Churches
This 1985 album is crucial because it represents the
first death metal album. Those with a keen ear noticed that this album
was not exactly like any of the other extreme albums from the mid-80's.
For one, Jeff Becerra, is credited with being the first death metal
vocalist! Others of course influenced his style, but he offered
something new with his guttural vocals. This album easily separates
those who have a passing interest in death metal from true death/black
Well there you have it, a look at the best extreme heavy metal albums of all
time!! I'm sure some will again raise unholy hell because their personal
selections are not in the list (some of mine didn't make it
either....for example...where in the hell is Deicide self titled and
LEGION?? Argh!), or were not high enough on the list. To you I say,
chill out....this is not meant to be the only definitive list for
extreme metal, it is our list and reflects the COLLECTIVE, not
individual, opinions of our staff.
Thanks for reading,