From Hell’s Heart:
What Are the Top 5 Worst Metal Albums?
Constraints had to be placed on what each person deems a “worst” album to be, otherwise many of us would just list a bunch of grungey/alternashit, mallcore/nu/core. Therefore, it typically is from a band that plays a style of metal that each of us like. Read on to learn about some truly terrible albums.
It would be easy to name some terrible albums like a bunch of post black album Metallica, all Maiden albums with Blaze, etc. However, I’m picking the ones that to me personally felt like a form of betrayal.
1. Metallica – Load (1996)
While “the black album” was a step down, for me it was the LOAD album that really erased this band from the world of metal. The weak songs, the lack of anything remotely metal, the cutting of hair (which in and of itself it’s a big deal, but does play into the whole mainstream-makeover of the band), the wearing of make-up, and their total poseur image from this era made me sick. It all just spit directly into the face of metalheads. It wasn’t until 2008’s DEATH MAGNETIC that the band made some amends. Even that didn’t erase the near 20year period of boredom they assaulted us with. It is their first four albums that has kept this band’s legacy alive and provides ample reasons to explain for why we care.
2. Megadeth – RISK (1999)
This aptly named album should of been called “FAILURE”. Just terrible….unbelievably bad for a band that has written such great music both before and after. Unlike Metallica, it only took Mustaine one album of crap, and not 20 years, to smarten up. I remember hearing this for the first time in total disbelief, skipping over the songs trying to find something metal but to no avail. Just sadness.
3. Slayer – God Hates Us All (2001)
After the downfall of Megadeth and Metallica, I assumed Slayer would not stoop to their level. They didn’t follow along and do a pop/rock album, it was still aggressive, and still had a few moments. However, I was majorly let down as they pandered to the lowest common denominators from the nu/mallcore/ozzfest crowd. To their credit, the album that followed it up, Christ Illusion (2006), was awesome.
4. Judas Priest – Demolition (2001)
The only Priest album I do not own is Demolition. My dislike for the album isn’t a result of it having Ripper on vocals as I really enjoyed the previous – Jugulator. My disappointment comes from the nu/indistrial-ish influences that seeped their way into the bands style.
5. Machine Head – The Burning Read (1999)
When I heard the excellent Machine Head album Burn My Eyes (1994) I remember thinking they could be a band that would take the bay area thrash sound into a new era. I loved that debut album and recall it fondly as a bright spot in what were dark times for metal in the mid 90’s. The follow up, The More Things Change… (1997), was a step down, but it was still respectable. It was the deplorable step into laughable Limp Bizkit/Korn/mallcore that sent this band off my radar forever. Although they’ve since improved, I can’t forget the retarded jump suits, dreadlocks, and rapping. There is no excuse that will ever explain this shame. This was the epitome of everything that sucked ass about late 90’s / early 2000 mallcore.
1) Morbid Angel – ILLUD DIVINUM INSANUS (Season of Mist, 2011): To call this album garbage would be an insult to garbage, and garbage doesn’t deserve to be associated with this album. Loaded with techno, rap, and all kinds of electro wankery, ILLUD DIVINUM SUCKSANUS was a raised middle finger towards their fans and a slow drip of urine spilling over the Morbid Angel legacy. I totally understand creative expression and artistic freedom, but to blatantly turn your back on everything that has allowed your success as an artist is akin to treason. The Trey & Dave show has tried to buy back some goodwill through recent stints on Summer Slaughter and a well timed COVENANT 20th Anniversary tour, but the damage is done. BLESSED ARE THE SICK is still one of my all time favorite albums, but I’ll never think of Morbid Angel the same way again.
2) Six Feet Under – GRAVEYARD CLASSICS Trilogy (Metal Blade, 2000-2010): Imagine all of the music you’ve ever loved getting repeatedly punched in the dick by Chris Barnes and you’ll begin to understand what the GRAVEYARD CLASSICS series is all about. Barnes has the vocal nuance of a lawnmower, which is exactly what you want to hear in a band covering Deep Purple, Jimi Hendrix, Mercyful Fate, or an ENTIRE AC/DC album. And then dumb down the riffs a bit so it’s easier for the kids to mosh to and/or so that it doesn’t scare them when they’re really, really high.
3) Sepultura – ROOTS (Roadrunner, 1996): ROOTS is the sound of four Brazilians jumping on a bandwagon. Riding a well deserved wave of success that began with ARISE and culminated with CHAOS A.D., the Seps knelt at the altar of Ross Robinson and said “we wanna sound like Korn”. It’s a shameless Nu-Metal album that hides behind buzzwords like “tribal”. It’s also the album that fractured the band’s classic lineup and forced Soulfly upon us, which is more than enough reason to dislike ROOTS.
4) Gwar – CARNIVAL OF CHAOS (Metal Blade, 1997): Gwar found themselves lost in the woods for a few albums during the mid-90’s, but this is arguably their worst. It’s a musical identity crisis in action, a fact that’s obvious across the 18 (!) tracks on the album. The band was trying too hard to be all things to everybody (metal, punk, alternatively quirky), but none of it was done well. The songs sound like they were leftovers from an all night drinking binge – you know, the kind where EVERYTHING sounds like it’s a good idea? That’s the only explanation I can posit for this hot mess. The only redeeming quality with CARNIVAL OF CHAOS is that you can kinda see Slymenstra Hymen’s boobs in the CD inlay.
5) Bolt Thrower – HONOUR VALOUR PRIDE (Metal Blade, 2001): This is a singular moment of darkness in the otherwise unsullied history of Bolt Thrower, but man, it’s a doozy. Let’s start with the album cover; are those space marines? What the hell is going on? Why is that guy’s hand so disproportionately large? Things don’t get any better with the actual tunes. Benediction’s Dave Ingram was tapped to replace longtime vocalist Karl Willets, which I’d equate to Ian Gillan fronting Black Sabbath; it seemed like a good idea at the time, but the musical personalities were just too different. Couple that with a batch of lackluster songs that sound recycled even for Bolt Thrower, and there’s no way this ends well.
1. Metallica – Load: Haircuts, dull songs, and megalomania all combined to bring the release of LOAD to a completely unsuspecting fan base. Only one album removed from throwing darts at Kip Winger in the “Nothing Else Matters” video (talk about irony), to suddenly joining the Lollapalooza tour, Metallica single-handedly ushered in the term “trend whore.” Ulrich plays the simplest grooves, Hammett cannot take his foot off the wah-wah pedal, while Hetfield clearly wants to be in Lynyrd Skynyrd. LOAD was the beginning of Metallica treating long-time fans like a battered wife. “How much will they take? Let’s piss on ‘em with this and look, we are still making money!” ST ANGER is probably worse, but it would never have happened had Metallica not gotten the idea that integrity, fans, and good songs can be damned if albums are selling. ST ANGER was simply the logical conclusion from a band that believed they could do whatever they want and still sell records, thanks to LOAD.
2. Guns N Roses – Chinese Democracy: An album fourteen years in the making with only 2 or 3 good songs. Axl Rose’s pathological opus to himself remains one of the greatest examples of hubris in modern music, not just metal. Axl was out of breath singing the songs in his first televised appearance in years, which was fitting for the tired music. A hodge podge of rock, reggae, hip-hop, and industrial, this album pleased no one but the one person that it was meant to please.
3. Lacuna Coil – Karmacode: The success of COMALIES and touring with big Nu Metal bands evidently made Cristina and company believe that they themselves were on the verge of undreamed success if they started playing Nu Metal too. That is what they did, and KARMACODE is the trend whore result, an album with poor Nu Metal riffs tuned low enough to be, well…trendy. Yeah it managed to bring in some new fans, but the album completely alienated long term fans like me. KARMACODE currently has a 48% rating on Encyclopedia Metallum, a far too generous grade.
4. Sepultura – Roots: Some people liked ROOTS, but I personally thought it was Sepultura imitating Korn, which is never a good idea. Now, as time passes, many folks are revisiting the album with justifiable disdain. Remove the tribal drums and ROOTS is nothing more than a down-tuned, Groove/Nu Metal album. Max’s vocals, and lyrics are abysmal and it is no surprise that the band imploded before sending Max on his way. Bottom line, any stiff can down tune their guitar and sound pissed off while yelling motherfucker over and over on a song like “Ambush.”
5. Anthrax – State Of Euphoria: Kudos to the band for recently appearing on “That Metal Show” recently and ranking STATE OF EUPHORIA as their worst album musically (not sales). I happen to agree, and have for a long time. I said as much on our webzine back in 2009. Anthrax went too punky and hardcore on this album, drifting away from the heavy thrash and catchy tunes of previous albums, while trying too hard to be funny. They were under pressure to have the album out for a tour, much like Testament on SOULS OF BLACK and it showed. The songs are bland, not catchy, and the cover tunes frankly uninspired.
1. St. Anger – Metallica: This album was intended to be back to the roots one with a rough sound coming out of a garage. No, this sound has come out of garbage, not garage. I am still wondering if they have listened the result of their effort and who did like it. If Metallica want to be a top metal band, they must rethink the way they walked in and created the great 4 first albums.
2. Chameleon – Helloween: I cannot say much about this album, as the band has got into conflicts and the inner war of egos and business troubles. This is not a good album. For real!
3. Risk – Megadeth: Almost two years after the very good CRYPTIC WRITINGS, Megadeth decided to release this. RISK has its moments (“Prince of Darkness”), but it has fell into oblivion. As a Megadeth fan, I am not too fond of this album and never would be.
4. Stomp 442 – Anthrax: This album is total proof Anthrax’s intention and try to evolve their sound and adapt a more aggressive, groove heavy sound. This try is in the frameworks of the general defense towards to gigantism of grunge and due to break out of other groove bands such as Pantera.
5. Illud Divinum Insanus – Morbid Angel: I am a huge fan of Morbid Angel. This album is probably even more hated than the disgusting Metallica’s ST. ANGER. I put this album in fifth spot as the sound of it is by far better than ST. ANGER. There is not a single track on it that I consider to be good. This effort and transformation to an industrial style is completely shitty. If you have not listened to this album, please don’t do it. It’s a waste of time. Fans are merciful and can forgive only once.
1. Iron Maiden “A Matter of Life and Death” (2006) – Even though this band is my favorite in the entire world, and have been since 1982, I have to admit they have had their not so bright moments. This album is a low point where the band lost their sound. The music is too progressive and I feel they lost the Iron Maiden feeling on this album.
2. Saxon “Innocence Is No Excuse” (1985) – Already, on CRUSADER, you could hear where the band was going, and it wasn’t promising. This album contains too much keyboard play and it too commercial. The album cemented the sad truth that Saxon was on a downlow for a few years.
3. W.A.S.P. “Still Not Black Enough” (1995) – Blackie Lawless was about to follow up the brilliant album CRIMSON IDOL… and then came this!!.. It was meant to be a solo album but he chose to release it under the W.A.S.P. flag, bad mistake. There is nothing remotely good to say about this crash landing.
4. Metallica “Metallica” (1991) – From having been a thrash, Metallica sold their soul and became commercial. Metallica went mainstream with the black album and haven’t recovered since.
5. D.A.D. “Helpyourselfish” (1995) – This album is the bands effort to ride on the grunge wave….a few years after the grunge was dead! Luckily, they didn’t stay on this track and released the much more solid album SIMPATICO a few years later.
There are so many obvious picks in this topic that, for my own personal list, I decided to try and come up with albums that others may not think of (i.e. although they are “deserving”, you won’t see ST.ANGER or RISK here). So then, this is a list of albums that are just not good, from bands that I otherwise like (with one glaring exception)
1. Infamous Sinphony – Manipulation
Starting off the list is truly one of the worst albums I’ve ever had the displeasure of hearing, thankfully from a band that few have heard of. As I said in my review, this is one of the worst excuses of thrash metal I’ve ever heard. Sloppy, tuneless, and generally aggravating, this is an album that gives thrash metal a bad name.
2. In Flames – Siren Charms
I know most fans would say that In Flames lost the plot way back on REROUTE TO REMAIN and, while that was certainly not a good album, I’ve liked some of their more recent releases. That said, SIREN CHARMS is a full-on pop-metal disaster. Avoid at all costs.
3. Manowar – Gods of War
In which the once-mighty Manowarriors completely lost the plot and destroyed a proud heavy metal legacy with meandering nonsense, opera, and pointless instrumentals.
4. Iron Maiden – Virtual XI
OK, so I’m adding one obvious album to my list. VIRTUAL XI is every unnecessary Iron Maiden excess taken to it’s painful conclusion and it permanently sank poor Blaze Bayley (this album is NOT his fault). Thankfully the reunion years with Bruce have been fruitful because it would have been a sad thing indeed if this mess had stood as Iron Maiden’s epitaph.
5. Opeth – Heritage
As I said in my year-end comments about this album, I have no problem with a band gradually changing their style and certainly Opeth has never been a band to stick to a single sound. But with HERITAGE the boys just lost the plot. The full-on move into ’70s prog wasn’t the problem; the fact that the song writing sucked definitely was.
1. Metallica – Load
2. Megadeth – Risk
3. Morbid Angel – Illud Divinium Insanus
4. Entombed – Wolverine Blues
5. Ozzy Osbourne – Scream
It is with heavy (Metal) heart that I contribute to this weeks column. It is a tough question and debates about best/worst albums have raged across bars, cars and concerts halls for decades, not to mention the internet! I generally don’t go out of my way to criticize albums/bands I don’t like. I’d rather give positive support to bands I do like. However, on some occasions (like this one) we get called to explain why we don’t like something.
I don’t expect my choices for Top 5 Worst Metal albums to be popular. In fact, I find some of the albums that have disappointed me most in my life have been hugely successful and popular albums for millions of other Metal fans. I except a significant amount of negative feedback for my tastes and comments for this column but like a True Metal Warrior I am braced and battle-ready for the impending firestorm of digital hate.
There are many, many albums that are widely accepted by the vast majority of metal fans as poor albums. TURBO (Judas Priest), COLD LAKE (Celtic Frost), LULU (Metallica), ENDORAMA (Kreator), FIGHT FOR THE ROCK (Savatage) THE PACK IS BACK (Raven), RISK (Megadeth), III, (Van Halen), CHAMELEON (Helloween), FORCE OF HABIT (Exodus), SUPERCHARGER (Machinehead), THE ELDER (Kiss) and way too many Queensryche albums to count. I would have, could have easily named any of those albums except that is too easy, like shooting fish in a barrel or picking on the handicapped kid on the playground. I decided to go with something a little more personal. Deep breath, here we go….
How could a band with so much promise go so bad so quickly? Sepultura was poised to be one of the truly legendary thrash bands but they completely, totally blew it. In hindsight I should have seen the decline coming. ARISE was a little bit disappointing, but a misstep that could be easily rectified. Unfortunately, the band chased the dollar and went down the sewer. When CHAOS A.D. came out that was really, really awful blow to the once great band. Signing to a major label, abandoning all sense of speed or power, silly, insincere lyrics filled political whining, stupid non-Metal guests stars, plaid shirts, pandering to the grunge crowd…it was all just so lame. But it got worse, along comes…ROOTS. Since when is getting naked, smearing mud on yourself and prancing barefoot around the rainforest, playing the bongos with some indians and singing about saving the trees at all, even remotely Metal? All semblance of Metal was gone in favour of ‘groove’ and ‘feel’ and all this very insincere ‘tribal’ crap from a guy who bailed out of his home nation of Brazil to go live in a nice home in suburban Arizona, the minute he got a paycheque. After this piece of crap the band slowly disintegrated with no original members left today. Slow, dull, uninspired, and completely lacking in melody or harmony, ROOTS is about as plodding and neanderthal of an album as you get.
2. Pantera- VULGAR DISPLAY OF POWER
God, I hate this record. It is so weak and watered down. I discovered Pantera with POWER METAL, an absolute classic. COWBOYS FROM HELL was disappointing but I thought they could recover on the next album. Nope. They went even further away from what attracted to me to the band in the first place. The speed, the heaviness was all gone, in favour of shouting, down-tuned guitars, macho-he-man bullshit posturing, and Lord was it slow and boring. Album low-point: ‘Walk’. The main riff is so uninspired that even AC/DC wouldn’t use it for a FLY ON THE WALL B-side and a chorus that reminds me of Aretha Franklin. Metal is about violence and aggression not ‘respect’. I personally blame Pantera for the dumbing down of Metal by pandering to the drunken American, red-neck, jock-rock crowd. Phil Anselmo is a case study of one of the greatest wastes of natural talent in the history of Metal. He can sing and sing EXTREMELY well but he squandered his God-given gift instead choosing to shout and yell and rant like an angry toddler having a temper tantrum in the toy aisle at Wal-Mart. Unfortunately millions of mouth-breathing, knuckle dragging, fish-eyed fans from middle America fans bought into the faux-aggro nonsense like a fish with hook in mouth lining up to hand the band their money. For a so-called ‘underground/ heavy’ band they sure have a lot of flashy, expensive video hits on mainstream media like MTV! Insult to injury: It was recently revealed that the story about the album cover (the guy getting punched in the face) was faked and it was all a lie. Horrible, horrible album. When Zakk Wylde eventually joins the band for the predictable and inevitable reunion, it will go #1 and the tour will make millions.
I remember with razor sharp clarity the exact moment I knew it was over for Metallica. This memory will haunt me forever as the detailed are permanently scarred into my brain as one of the greatest disappointments of my musical life. In 1991, I was driving late at night in the pouring rain in Southwest Vancouver and I heard “Nothing Else Matters” on the radio. I remember it because I never listen to the radio. 99% of the time radio doesn’t play music I like so I don’t support it. It was always tapes, not radio, in the car going places. However, I was with my girlfriend (she was “not-metal”) so we had the popular rock station on in the car. The song came on and I didn’t know who it was at the time but it sounded like Hetfield and it sounded so familiar. It sounded like Hetfield but I didn’t want to believe it could be him singing like that. When the ballad was over the DJ announced it as the new song from Metallica and I almost cried. It was like I’d been stabbed in the heart and betrayed by a true friend. I knew at that moment Metallica was gone forever. JUSTICE didn’t excite me, and BLACK was the final nail in the coffin. I didn’t buy another Metallica CD until DEATH MAGNETIC. With the self-titled album that could have redeemed themselves from the lack-lustre AJFA but they choose to turn their back on the fans. Over the next few years I watched surprisingly unmoved and emotionally detached by Metallica’s continued evolution away from Metal. James can’t sing, whoever told him he could sing (Bob Rock) and should try, did the entire planet a disservice. Lars slowed down, the production was murky, the songs bloated and corpulent, (despite being short!) and ballad after ballad after ballad with only one or two songs of the 62 minute album attaining any level of intensity so easily displayed on the first four albums. And of course every non-Metal fan on the planet loved this safe, catchy album and the band has been making albums for them every since.
4. Anthrax-SOUND OF WHITE NOISE
One of THE WORST attempts at a sell-out in the history of Metal. In a desperate attempt to pander to the grunge crowd they dump their singer, slow down, down-tune and start writing politically correct nonsense. Anthrax, like so many other unfortunate bands confuse ‘heaviness’ with ‘slow’. Bush is an average vocalist at best and the only real talent in the band, Benante, gets hamstrung by playing simple slow beats. All the energy, excitement, humour and uniqueness that made Anthrax one of the Big Four is ejected on this awful record. Bland, tasteless and inoffensive like so many grunge albums of the era. Packaged Rebellion indeed! Conformsist and boring, it was the start of two decades of unadulterated crap from C(r)amp Anthrax. From thrash to trash in just a few short years.
5. Slayer-GOD HATES US ALL
Feeling their age and declined albums sales after a pair of crappy albums , a lame punk rock covers album and an ill advised experiment with grunge (DIABOLUS IN MUSICA) they band unwisely listens to their agent/lawyer/manger/label/wives/kids and go on a number of tours tour with a bunch of mall core/nu-metal bands. like Lamb of God. The result is tragic as the influence of the younger bands is reversed and suddenly Slayer is pandering to the 14 year old Metalcore crowd, completely betraying and abandoning their original fan-base. Too ‘modern’, too over produced, as aggression and fury get confused with random screaming and uninspired solos. More than one person noticed the blatant rip-off of W.A.S.P for the album cover as well. Slayer has yet to recover.
To summarize, all five of these albums have a few characteristics in common; insecurity, desperation and betrayal. These five incredibly exciting, original and innovative bands all radically, and I mean RADICALLY, departed from their original sound to chase, Lord knows what, money, fame, artistic ‘credibility’ and yet in the process, backstabbed all the fans (like me) who got them to where they were.
1.) Insecurity to continue to make the music they started their careers with. You didn’t see guys like Yngwie, or Lips from Anvil, Biff from Saxon, Joey from Manowar, Blitz from Overkill or Gerre from Tankard or King Fowley from Deceased giving up and selling out just because times were getting tough! All of the bands in my Top 5 should have ignored the mainstream critics and continued to make Metal.
2.) Desperation. Declining sales, evolving market place, label changes lead these bands to try to emulate what was popular (Ie ,slow boring underplayed crap like grunge) instead of sticking to hero guns. Stripes of a tiger don’t wash away. Instead these bands, booted original members, bought into crappy major label deals and made every wrong move in the book. They everything to reverse their declined fortunes and it failed. It sad to see a career slowly slip away but even more sad to see a band desperately grasp at straws and throw away artistic integrity in an effort to maintain status.
3.) Lastly, and perhaps the most painful was that all these bands betrayed the fans who originally supported them.
In my defense, in case the reader thinks that I’m a sort of old-school, elitist, snob, crank etc, who is stuck in the past… that is not the case. I support hundreds of METAL bands to this day from the level of a garage band who have one demo to bands like Manowar who have never let me down on 30+ years. I’m not doing this post to get attention either, nor to cause controversy by calling out and slagging popular albums from the safety of being behind my keyboard. I truly believe these are horrible terrible albums devoid of any merit. I tried them, I didn’t buy them, I don’t support them, I don’t enjoy them and I don’t recommend anyone listen to them. None of those bands have EVER recovered from these albums. Why do you think many people say I only like ‘old’ (insert band name), or they say, ‘I only like the first four albums’ etc. That is because that is when these bands were at their energetic and creative peak origin and producing their most innovative and exciting material and albums.
Post-script. As a counter-point to my rantings, my far more intelligent, liberal and open-minded colleague (and world renowned metal expert) Martin Popoff gave the albums the following ratings in his Collectors Guide to Heavy Metal.
Vulgar Display Of Power- 10/10
Sound Of White Noise 10/10
God Hates Us All-10/10
Then again, he assigned Danger Danger’s utterly flawless and superb second album, SCREW IT! a zero out of 10, so what does he know?