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Top 50 Extreme Metal Albums

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 time.

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 Oath

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 masterpiece!

 

#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 Soul

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 metal fanatics.


#11.

Death - Individual Thought Patterns
#12. Immortal - Damned In Black
#13. Celtic Frost - To Mega Therion
#14. Moonspell - Wolfheart
#15. Dark Tranquillity - Skydancer
#16. Carcass - Heartwork
#17. Death - Scream Bloody Gore
#18. Death - Human
#19. Death - Leprosy
#20. Venom - Welcome To Hell
#21. In Flames - The Jester Race
#22. Emperor - In the Nightside Eclipse
#23. Entombed - Left Hand Path
#24. In Flames - Lunar Strain
#25. Cynic - Focus
#26. Arch Enemy - Burning Bridges
#27. Morbid Angel - Covenant
#28. Dissection - Storm of the Light's Bane
#29. Immortal - At The Heart of Winter
#30. Arch Enemy - Stigmata
#31. Arch Enemy - Wages of Sin
#32. Immortal - Sons of Northern Darkness
#33. Kreator - Endless Pain
#34. Celtic Frost - Morbid Tales
#35 Bal-Sagoth - Starfire Burning Upon The Ice-Veiled Throne Of Ultima Thule
#36. Bathory - Blood Fire Death
#37. Celtic Frost - Into the Pandemonium
#38. Nile - Amongst The Catacombs of Nephren-Ka
#39. Morbid Angel - Blessed Are The Sick
#40. Morbid Angel - Domination
#41. Dark Angel - Darkness Descends
#42. Atheist - Piece Of Time
#43. Cover of Atheist - 'Unquestionable Presence' Atheist - Unquestionable Presence
#44. Arch Enemy - Black Earth
#45. Dark Tranquillity - The Gallery
#46. Bolt Thrower - The Fourth Crusade
#47. Amorphis -  Tales From the Thousand Lakes
#48. Borknagar - Quintessence
#49. Hellhammer - Apocalyptic Raids
#50. Dimmu Borgir - Enthrone Darkness Triumphant

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,
EvilG, Metal-Rules.com.



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