Thursday, 19 September 2013

90s Top 50

When I heard on Twitter that a group of people were compiling their top 50 albums of the 90s I couldn't resist....I turned 12 in 1990, so the 90s were the decade where I found my musical feet, discovered my tastes, bought a shedload of albums, saw loads of live bands, well my youth basically.  Not taking part was never an option.  I surprised myself with some of the placings which I originally revealed on Twitter at the end of June, but without further ado here are my selections....

1. The Haunted - The Haunted 

Now, At the Gates were a great band, but after they split no one realistically expected THIS did they?!  On this first album it was predominantly guitarist Jensen's baby with the ex-At the Gates-ers coming in later along with vocalist Peter Dolving.  I may get shot for saying this, but for all the many Slayer comparisons this album got I personally think it's better than any Slayer album.  From the opening blast of 'Hate Song' it really does just tear your face off and not relent for the full duration.  As is the Swedish way though there is plenty of melody in the guitar playing to go with the "riffs a la tractor pulling" as they so succinctly put it in the credits.  In a chart like this I think that longer albums can be let down by the fact that they may have a few filler tracks....this has none, from start to finish an absolute blast, in every sense of the word.  If you like metal, you MUST own this album.
Recommended Song: Chasm

2. Manic Street Preachers - The Holy Bible

Where do I start?  Everyone that knows me knows the Manics are my favourite band, how could I not have them at number 1 during a period when they were at the height of their powers?  Maybe I surprised myself, but that's just how it turned out.  For the band and for the listener, from start to finish this is a very different experience from most albums.  Like James Dean Bradfield who has to actually somehow form the predominantly Richey Edwards-penned words into something coherent that he can actually sing, you feel like you're peering in on something that you shouldn't, but you're powerless to stop. From the grimy 'Archives of Pain' to the desolate 'The Intense Humming of Evil', with stop-offs along the way for the mechanical 'Faster' and the oasis of relative calm that is 'This is Yesterday' there are no emotions left unturned.  Uncompromising, unsettling, but utterly, utterly brilliant.
Recommended Song: Faster

3. Pearl Jam - Ten

So, they never reached these heights again but with a debut this good how could they?  A non-stop barrage of quality songs, no band really has the right to have a debut album this good do they?  True, the driving force behind this album of Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament had honed their skills in Mother Love Bone, but with the addition of singer Eddie Vedder the jigsaw was now complete.  His voice brought the songs alive (if you'll excuse the pun), with an opening trio of 'Once', 'Even Flow' and 'Alive' being possibly the greatest opening to any album.  Touching on the beautiful 'Black', the poignant storytelling of 'Jeremy' and the raucous 'Porch', all bases were covered.  A true classic.
Recommended Song: Alive

4. A - Monkey Kong

A are the best sing-along band in the world bar none.  With the upbeat nature of the majority of their songs, the lush harmonies and Jason Perry's high-pitched voice, everything about them just screams out for you to sing along.  'Monkey Kong' is them at the height of their powers, the storming tunes of predecessor 'How Ace Are Buildings' all present and correct in songs like 'Monkey Kong', 'Old Folks' and 'Miles Away' but with an additional introspection on some tracks like the gorgeous 'Hopper Jonnus Fang'.  Some people may write A off as a bit of a laugh, a bit of a joke, but I'm having none of it.  Yes they're fun, and for any of us that also love a bit of 'The Holy Bible' we all need a bit of that contrast, but put this album on when you're not feeling your best and you'll be grinning from ear to ear in no time.
Recommended Song: Old Folks

5. Manic Street Preachers - Generation Terrorists

Before I did this chart I actually considered 'Generation Terrorists' to be my favourite Manics album.  I think its length and the accompanying lowering of standards that that brings on some songs may have pushed it below 'The Holy Bible' here.  In terms of when I owned them this is the earliest album in my top 50, receiving it on my 14th birthday a few months after its release.  I knew all the preceding singles, so was already familiar with a few of the songs, and I honestly think that the earlier in your life you hear an album, the more untouchable it becomes in terms of how it sounds.  I didn't hear any of the Guns 'n' Roses comparisons or anything, I just heard great music, and while I can see a few songs now which may have been better placed as B-sides, it would have ruined the whole idea of releasing a multi-million selling double album and splitting up (which inevitably didn't happen).  As I said, untouchable. (This album will be covered in more depth on my other blog, From Despair to Here)
Recommended Song: Motorcycle Emptiness

6. Rage Against the Machine - Rage Against The Machine

Now RATM aren't and never have been one of my favourite bands, but this is an incredible album that you never get tired of hearing.  Like all of the albums in the higher reaches of this chart, there are no duff tracks, just consistently great all the way through.  For anyone hearing this for the first time now it might not be apparent how different this was back in the early 90s given everything that has been and gone since, but it certainly was.  From the provocative album cover to the guitar sounds Tom Morello managed to get out of his instrument, this certainly grabbed your attention.  Although maybe Bruno Brookes would have liked less attention when he played 'Killing in the Name' uncensored and in full on the Top 40, classic moment!!!
Recommended Song: Know your Enemy

7. Senseless Things - The First of Too Many

Before the Manics completely took hold of me, the Senseless Things were my favourite band for a short while and this album is why.  Well not the only reason, as I really loved Morgan Nicholls' bass too (now tinkling the ivories live for Muse), even though I didn't end up playing anything like him he inspired me to start playing bass (after initially failing on guitar).  I think 'Easy to Smile' was probably the first song I heard and I went backwards to this album which has been a firm favourite ever since.  I do have this strange tendency to love some of the harshest metal and the brightest, breeziest pop-punk, it's all about different moods, and this certainly fits into the latter, although this is a distinctly British version, not your American MTV variety.  Still have my blue Pop Kid shirt by the way.
Recommended Song: Should I Feel It

8. Metallica - Metallica

I was too young to be into the early albums, so wasn't affected by any of the talk of this being the album where they "sold out", but personally I think that's rubbish.  I expect this album is probably responsible for a massive amount of non-metal fans turning their heads that way and that's got to be good right?  Sorry they all got into "your" band.  This really does still sound huge over 20 years after its release and when you can honestly say that most of them could have been released as singles (and were!) you have a truly great album.  It's also to the band's credit and the album's benefit that Jason Newsted was actually allowed to have his bass included this time round!!
Recommended Song: Wherever I May Roam

9. Paradise Lost - Draconian Times

If I had to pick just one album that has influenced me the most as a musician then this is it.  The "metal with songs" approach and the very distinct roles between the two guitarists is something that I have returned to again and again.  'Draconian Times' is one of the many albums on this list where I can say the first half is absolutely incredible and I can get away with making that distinction given that I originally had it on cassette.  All six songs would be up there with the very best in their repertoire and all six show a different part of their armoury - the ominous opener 'Enchantment', the slow, soaring 'Forever Failure', the all-out rocker 'Once Solemn', I could go on.  Probably better if you heard it for yourself though.....go on, what are you waiting for?
Recommended Song: Forever Failure

10. Bush - Sixteen Stone

One of my favourite debut albums of all time.  Bush were much maligned in the British press for daring to be popular in America before they found out about them, but Sixteen Stone deserved all the popularity it got.  Also criticised for sounding like Nirvana, I never really saw that one myself.  They had guitars and they wrote songs with an alternative twist, but that was about it.  And yes, Gavin Rossdale's lyrics tended to be absolute incomprehensible drivel, but 'Little Things', 'Comedown' and 'Glycerine' in particular shone brightly, showing three different strings to their bow.  This album was never bettered as they gradually faded from the limelight, but this album is legacy enough.
Recommended Song: Comedown

11. Manic Street Preachers - Everything Must Go

Get it out of the way early - I didn't like 'A Design for Life' when I first heard it, I am an idiot.  There.  The comeback album to end all comeback albums, it's difficult to emphasise how different this was coming off the back of 'The Holy Bible' and Richey's disappearance.  But for all the sad circumstances and the general melancholy of the lyrics (and music to a certain extent) there is an incredibly triumphant air to a lot of the songs.  It was difficult to get used to the non-image and the more mature sound at first, but once I got past that, this CD was one of the mainstays of my stereo during the rest of 96.  Not a weak link to be found anywhere.
Recommended Song: A Design for Life

12. Faith No More - Angel Dust

I had already heard 'Epic' in passing, but I was relatively young at that point so didn't really get into Faith No More until this monster came into view in 92.  It really is utterly bonkers, but brilliant.  For someone to include 'RV' plus covers of 'Midnight Cowboy' and 'Easy' alongside 'Malpractice', 'Crack Hitler' and 'Jizzlobber' in one career might be considered daring, but on one album?!  It's another one of those "what on earth happened since the last album to come up with THIS?!" albums.  Mike Patton got his feet under the table a bit more I expect.  Always up there in my list of favourite bands since this was released, and always will be.  To sum it up, for a relatively mainstream rock band at the time, I'll use that word again - bonkers.
Recommended Song: Midlife Crisis

13. Pantera - Vulgar Display of Power

Around 1992/93 this album, along with 'Chaos AD', was one of the albums that shifted my tastes from indie through rock/grunge to metal.  If there was some kind of "Listening to Metal" foundation course I think this would be the first album on the students' syllabus.  'Cowboys From Hell' still had a few hangovers from their slightly dodgy past, but was well on the way to showing what this album would be.  Yes, Phil Anselmo is an incredibly strong vocalist, but I was never too keen on him as a person, Pantera to me was always about the combination of the Abbott brothers.  And it took me years before I referred to him as Dimebag rather than Diamond Darrell.  The ultimate riff album.
Recommended Song: Walk

14. Feeder - Polythene

I missed out a bit on the really early Feeder stuff, picking up on 'Polythene' around the time of 'High' (which strangely has never been one of my favourites) and seeing them at Reading 97.  After that they were firmly established as one of my favourite bands.  'Polythene' was the perfect combination of heavy guitars within what could essentially be called pop songs (before that became a dirty word).  Virtually every song had power, it had the guitars, but it would also be stuck in your head for the next week.  Even more difficult to shift if you also played Gran Turismo, with several songs being included on that soundtrack.
Recommended Song: Descend

15. A - How Ace are Buildings

Like I said in the 'Monkey Kong' piece, the best sing-along band bar none.  And they even had a song named after the act on this one!!  This is pretty much relentless, all the time this album is on the sun is shining, everything is great and you're pretty much going to be hoarse by the end of it.  I remember seeing A for the first time in Middlesbrough Arena, all the band stood ready on the stage before Jason decides he needs the toilet, leaving his bandmates stranded!!!  Then returning to play the highlights of this album and gaining a new fan in the process.  Another band that will always stay nailed to my list of favourite bands.
Recommended Song: Number One

16. Helmet - Meantime

It certainly wasn't obvious to me that this album would be this high in my top 50 before I started.  But then you listen and it just dawns on you how good it actually is.  It's nearly impossible to describe Helmet without using the word "staccato" - there, I did it.  The way they were, the formula they had, it wasn't surprising that they were relatively short-lived.  The stop-start riffs, arguably the best rhythm section ever and random bursts of noise, all over in a relatively short space of time for a 90s album, make this a pretty unique release.
Recommended Song: Unsung

17. Cradle of Filth - Cruelty and the Beast

A concept album about Elizabeth Bathory may not sound like an inviting proposition to most people, but this really is stunning.  In my eyes it saw them leave the black metal tag behind and turn into a more extreme Iron Maiden.  Not a bad hole in the market to fill.  Probably my favourite COF album so far (although 'Vempire' pushes it close if that can be counted), but with one of the most amazing drummers around why they chose to make Nick Barker's snare sound like a biscuit tin is beyond me.  He was gone by the next album incidentally.  Still, minor gripes aside, this is an album any self-respecting metal fan shouldn't be without (if you can get past Dani's, erm, unique vocal style).
Recommended Song: Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids

18. Bolt Thrower - ...For Victory

One of my favourite metal albums during the 90s, as it is today, and probably the one that led me down a darker path than just your Panteras and Sepulturas of this world.  So much so that when I branched out into writing metal songs in 1996 (under the suitably swords and sorcery name of Oakenshield), the first 5 or 6 sounded exactly like Bolt Thrower, at least one was about war and my vocal style was basically stolen wholesale from Karl Willetts.  Still do the voice to this day (it's comfortable doing a kind of Brummie accent).  This will always be a favourite as a milestone album in my musical journey through the genres.
Recommended Song: ...For Victory

19. Shelter - Mantra

One of the lesser known bands in my top 50, I remember hearing 'Here We Go' and sending off for a free tape with that and 'Civilised Man' on it and being hooked.  I saw them live at Middlesbrough Arena not long after.  An uplifting masterpiece of melody and muscle, I used to play 'Mantra' a lot after I bought it on vinyl, and with it being relatively short at around 35 minutes and every song a winner it was convenient to just throw on when you felt like it.  Short albums really do have an advantage in this chart as there's less chance of tracks you don't like...or they're over quick enough for it not to matter!!
Recommended Song: Message of the Bhagavat

20. Machine Head - The Burning Red

Maybe a controversial choice as many of the diehard metallers may not have forgiven them for "going rap-metal" but this is my favourite album of theirs.  Robb Flynn had never hidden his love of rap, so I always found it one of the less-forced and most natural left-turns that a band could make.  They went back to normal anyway after they got it out of their system.  Some great songs on here, with a masterful performance from Dave McClain on the drum stool in particular, and the title track rivals Nine Inch Nails 'Hurt' for sheer poignancy and atmosphere.
Recommended Song: Desire to Fire

21. Fear Factory - Demanufacture

Fear Factory, a little bit like Bolt Thrower, had a sound and stuck to it, but you really didn't mind.  'Demanufacture' was them at the very height of their powers.  Every band since this album that has used the mixture of gruff and clean vocals owes it to Burton C Bell (I will include myself in that).  The synergy between the riffs of Dino Cazares and the machine-like drumming of Raymond Herrera was breathtaking.  I have tried on several occasions to try and air-drum along and the bass drums are just completely beyond me.  We all do this, right?  Right?  The alternative soundtrack to Terminator 2 basically in both concept and music.
Recommended Song: Self Bias Resistor

22. System of a Down - System of a Down

At the back end of the 90s there were constant reports about this amazing band of Armenian-American origins, but it seemed to take an age before anyone actually heard any songs.  Hype?  Could have been, but one listen to opener 'Suite-Pee' and you knew that this was a very different band to anything you had heard before.  Livewire is probably a good word to describe it, hyperactive might be another, unique most certainly.  The jagged guitars and the alternately crazed and melodic vocals would be perfected over the next few albums but this is a raw and original masterpiece.
Recommended Song: Suite-Pee

23. Korn - Korn

The one that started it all, and in my opinion still their best, this is both the launching of a career and the springboard for 1000 inferior bands to stake their claim for world domination.  This is a pretty weird sounding album when you think about it - the downtuned-to-death guitars with their own twist on Tom Morello-isms, the bass with its strings virtually swinging they were so loose and Jonathan Davis screaming, crying and barking over the top.  'Blind' is the song that most people will remember but the first half of the album is pretty relentless, you almost feel like you need a bath after hearing it.  I've always been slightly suspicious of Jonathan Davis milking the whole "everybody hates me" routine, but of any band and any album that leans in that direction, this one does it best.
Recommended Song: Ball Tongue

24. Green Day - Dookie

I doubt there are too many of us that heard the albums before this one, so like the majority I was introduced to Green Day via 'Basket Case'.  Straightforward songs packed full of tunes that don't hang around long enough to outstay their welcome, it was the right album at the right time.  And also one of those albums that fledgling college guitarists could cut their teeth on (I remember a few)!  There is a sub-thread throughout this chart of short albums packed full of cheery songs to sing along too - always a winner for me when someone gets it right and Green Day got it spot on with 'Dookie'.
Recommended Song: Basket Case

25. Manic Street Preachers - Gold Against the Soul

The fourth Manics album in my top 50 and not necessarily the band's favourite, but still excellent nevertheless.  An opening trio of 'Sleepflower', 'From Despair to Where' and 'La Tristesse Durera' could get into the chart on its own regardless of what else was on the album, they're THAT good.  But the rest of the album IS good, including the built for arenas 'Roses in the Hospital' and the famed "snooker ball hitting the frying pan" sample of 'Nostalgic Pushead'.  The sound was certainly more mature than its predecessor 'Generation Terrorists', but that could also have been said to have inspired the U-turn in terms of sound of its successor too....which is a good thing obviously.
Recommended Song: From Despair to Where

26. Paradise Lost - Icon

This is the album that got them labelled the gothic Metallica, not too far wide of the mark to be honest as this was around the time when the Black Album was still king and as Paradise Lost moved towards more accessible songs and more conventional song structures there were some similarities.  Not to mention the famous "Hetfield in a cloth cap" quote directed towards singer Nick Holmes.  'Embers Fire' was the first PL song I ever heard, probably on Raw Power, and is still one of my favourite PL songs to this day.  'Draconian Times' may be better in my opinion, but 'Icon' was the one where it all fell into place.
Recommended Song: Embers Fire

27. Sepultura - Chaos AD

Like many metal fans around my age I expect, 'Chaos AD' and 'Vulgar Display of Power' were important albums.  I had already heard 'Arise' (the song) beforehand, but when the intro to 'Territory' begins with a barrage of drums as Igor Cavalera plays out of his skin (as he does all album) you knew that they had stepped up from 'Arise' into the big league.  The overall pace slowed up as well, true there were still songs like 'Biotech is Godzilla' that put their foot on the accelerator, but against slower paced, harder hitting songs like 'Refuse/Resist' it just made the contrast sound even better.  It's a shame the legendary lineup didn't last much beyond this album.
Recommended Song: Territory

28. Slipknot - Slipknot

Whatever you might think of Slipknot, their first album WAS incredible.  I was a little suspicious at first, nine men in boiler suits and masks, surely this all seems a little too contrived, they must be crap?  One listen to 'Spit it Out' and I wouldn't say I was bowled over immediately but I was more intrigued.  I think I may have then heard 'Eyeless' and decided to take the plunge on the album and certainly wasn't disappointed.  One of my best gig-going experiences was seeing Slipknot at Leeds Festival around the time of this album when they were still fresh and exciting, in the evening slot where everything starts to get a bit dark.  Seeing nine masked lunatics going completely insane blasting their way through 'Surfacing', while the eerie red stage lights mix with the fading natural light is one hell of a memory.
Recommended Song: Surfacing

29. Red Hot Chili Peppers - BloodSugarSexMagik

Red Hot Chili Peppers have always been good, but many of their albums are fairly patchy affairs, some great tracks but some maybe a little jokey, some just not up to it.  When John Frusciante and Flea really hit top form like on this then sparks fly.  It's quite a long album but not so you'd notice.  I was an aspiring bassist at the time, so was obviously drawn in by Flea's prowess, but the fluid sounds from Frusciante also made the album what it is.  It seemed to be the album where Flea decided actually I don't necessarily need to show off to have a great song.  Plus, even before some of the later albums, the Chilis have always done quiet songs really well, the obvious 'Under the Bridge' here, 'Breaking the Girl' and 'I Could Have Lied' showing they weren't all just dumb lyrics, showmanship and socks.
Recommended Song: Give it Away

30. The Gathering - Nighttime Birds

For anyone that's not familiar with The Gathering, they started life as a Dutch Death Metal band, gradually incorporating female vocals into their sound before finally deciding on their third album, 'Mandylion', to recruit Anneke Van Giersbergen as their new singer.  It was a masterstroke, culminating in their next album 'Nighttime Birds', the band at their haunting best.  By then of course they had dropped the death metal, still with the heavy guitars but interspersed with melodic passages, keyboards and Anneke's stunning vocals.  I always love watching live footage where it just seems so strange seeing someone having so much fun playing this kind of music!!  They later lost one of their two guitarists and became a lot more atmospheric, generally quieter, with maybe a bit of a prog twist, but to me 'Nighttime Birds' is their finest hour.
Recommended Song: Third Chance

31. Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral

Forever known as "drilling in the road music" (copyright my brother), there were hints that the follow-up to 'Pretty Hate Machine' may be a noisier affair after the 'Broken' mini-album and in particular its remixed cousin 'Fixed' (not the most apt name if I'm truthful).  Opening with 'Mr Self Destruct' we're left under no illusion that Trent Reznor has gone for noise in a big way.  I always think the sleeve art depicting rust and decay fits the music brilliantly, there's always an undercurrent of something beneath the music bubbling away.  And after album closer 'Hurt', the final chord and resulting dissonance just sums up the album perfectly.
Recommended Song: Heresy

32. Bolt Thrower - The IVth Crusade

It was touch and go as to which is my favourite Bolt Thrower album, this or '...For Victory' as both are immense.  All the songs do sound the same, but what a song!  I remember buying a new Bolt Thrower album, one of the later ones, and sitting air-drumming along, knowing exactly where all the fills were going to be and what they would sound like even though I had never heard the songs before (sorry Andy Whale)!  Bolt Thrower have this unique way of writing riffs and coupled with the drums they often sound like some kind of runaway train, gathering momentum before the solo comes in, sparks flying as the brakes are then applied (too far with the analogy?).
Recommended Song: The IVth Crusade

33. Bal Sagoth - Starfire Burning Upon the Ice Veiled Throne of Ultima Thule

If you haven't heard Bal-Sagoth you really just have to.  I would imagine to most people on the street they would probably receive a few sniggers for their grandiose compositions and over the top storytelling, but they fit together so perfectly on this album in particular that you just run with it.  To quote song titles would take up too much space, but suffice to say there are tales of witch-queens, dragons and heroes, all backed up with a thundering soundtrack with keyboard parps aplenty.  Seeing live videos does kind of spoil the mystery a bit, which is when it all does start to seem a little bizarre, but on album-only your mind is free to wander.
Recommended Song: The Splendour of a Thousand Swords Gleaming Beneath the Blazon of the Hyperborean Empire

34. Machine Head - Burn my Eyes

'Burn my Eyes' was a big part of the soundtrack to my college years, being released in the year I first started.  It obviously had a big impression on others as well, I remember one lad having the iconic yellow and black logo on the bonnet of his car!!  It was one of those logos that just begged you to try drawing it.  The opening blast of 'Davidian', 'Old' and 'A Thousand Lies' set the tone and (at the time) a modern metal classic was born.  I had to add the words in brackets in afterwards when I realised it probably doesn't count as being modern any more....
Recommended Song: Davidian

35. Pearl Jam - Vs

To come out of the blocks with an album as good as 'Ten' was always going to mean that following it up would prove tough.  'Vs' is an excellent album in its own right, with 'Rearviewmirror' in particular shining brightly, but it never quite hit the heights of the debut.  All the business with no videos, interviews etc. seemed to detract from everything and even though subsequent albums had some great individual tracks on, they never managed to be as consistently good as the first two.
Recommended Song: Rearviewmirror

36. Carcass - Heartwork

Carcass came a long way in a relatively short space of time.  From the sludgy mess of debut 'Reek of Putrefaction' through to the classy melodic metal of 'Heartwork' they evolved from album to album.  The medical references were still there, but more subtle and less gory than earlier song titles such as 'Vomited Anal Tract' or 'Regurgitation of Giblets'.  Along with Bolt Thrower and Napalm Death, one of my initial forays into the more extreme side of things, and they will forever remain a favourite because of that.
Recommended Song: Heartwork

37. Sepultura - Arise

Some people might be surprised to see 'Arise' in my chart when 'Roots' didn't make it, but to me the early 90s were Sepultura's best era.  This album and 'Chaos AD' looked like they were laying the foundations for a long and glittering career at the top of the metal pile, but fate had other ideas.  They finally perfected what they had been trying to do on the previous three albums on 'Arise', the title track in particular summing up what they were about, but 'Desperate Cry' was also there to point the way forwards to a slightly slower-paced future.
Recommended Song: Arise

38. Soundgarden - Badmotorfinger

This was my introduction to Soundgarden after buying the cassette while on holiday in Edinburgh in 1992.  I had already heard 'Jesus Christ Pose', maybe 'Rusty Cage', possibly 'Outshined' (not too clear on the timing of the album/single releases here) and this was another one of my stepping stones from indie into a more rock-based record collection.  Looking into my old numbered paper record it was actually my 19th album, bought in between the Black Crowes and Extreme!  It's quite an odd album listening to it with fresh ears now, there are the slower, sludgy songs, those with a more classic sound and, well, 'Jesus Christ Pose' kind of defies description, all band members putting in a phenomenal performance, but drummer Matt Cameron in particular.  I struggled with whether this should finish higher than 'Superunknown', but this was the first of theirs I got into, the gateway, so just won out.
Recommended Song: Jesus Christ Pose

39. Shelter - Beyond Planet Earth

When I was a teenager some of my favourite lyrics were provided by Henry Rollins and Shelter's Ray Cappo. I didn't go in for their so called "Krishna-core" leanings, but they spoke sense and in a straight-talking way which appealed to me.  The first half of this album is absolutely incredible, a massive sing-along all the way, and 'Refusal' was basically "my" song with its anti-peer pressure lyrics which would continue to crop up in my own songs over the years.
Recommended Song: Whole Wide World

40. Soundgarden - Superunknown

As I mentioned above I struggled with whether this should finish higher than 'Badmotorfinger' - this probably has better songs, but the impact of the first songs I hear by a band is often one that stays with me and sways me.  I think it may also be that this has a collection of consistently excellent songs but no real one that stands out head and shoulders above the rest like with some albums.  Their real breakthrough album, they mostly managed to break free of some of their more classic rock tendencies for a more "alternative" sound with great results.
Recommended Song: Black Hole Sun

41. Faith No More - King for a Day Fool for a Lifetime

People talk about this album as missing Jim Martin....I disagree.  Even though he is on it I always think this album misses the keyboards of Roddy Bottum.  At the time my three favourite bands were Manic Street Preachers, Senseless Things and FNM and they all had a member that set them apart from all the other bands - Richey Edwards (for being Richey), Morgan Nicholls (for his bass-playing skills) and Roddy.  There weren't many rock bands around at the time adding sweeping keyboards into their sound and to me this set them apart.  But many of the songs on this album lacked them and while it is still an excellent album it wasn't the FNM that we had grown accustomed to (if indeed that was possible).  But, having said that, the likes of 'Digging the Grave', Ugly in the Morning' and 'The Gentle Art of Making Enemies' got on just fine - arguably their second best album?
Recommended Song: Ugly in the Morning

42. Life of Agony - Ugly

A strange one this - incredibly depressing subject matter, but strangely uplifting tunes.  When Keith Caputo really lets rip there are few singers better and this album was where he was at his best.  Mixing their hardcore roots in with more straightforward rock songwriting and Kirk Hammett-inspired leads, this to me is the quintessential LOA album.  The follow up 'Soul Searching Sun' was excellent, but they had already started to lose a little of their identity before Caputo eventually left to pursue a solo career.
Recommended Song: Let's Pretend

43. Cradle of Filth - Dusk and her Embrace

I first heard COF and the title track of this album on a free Metal Hammer CD and it was my first real introduction to black metal.  I was hooked and went straight out and bought the album on cassette from HMV in Middlesbrough.  As soon as I returned home I played it....and it snowed.  A perfect review.  It has a really cold sound to it, but also quite a stifling production job as well, I guess many people won't get past Dani's particularly "unique" vocals on this album, but it is undoubtedly one of their best.
Recommended Song: Funeral in Carpathia

44. Offspring - Smash

I always remember seeing the video for 'Come Out and Play' on Raw Power/Noisy Mothers and thinking "shall I keep it? Nah, I'll probably never hear of them again".  Oops.  Smash was definitely the word for this album and rightly so, if 'Vulgar Display of Power' and 'Chaos AD' were the metal albums of the early 90s, this and 'Dookie' had the same impact on pop-punk a few years later.  One of those albums I might go to if I just want to mindlessly sing along.
Recommended Song: Genocide

45. Will Haven - El Diablo

This really is the most unsettling album in my collection.  From the eerie guitar sounds to Grady Avenell's strangled vocals to the haunting images on the artwork this really is like nothing else, even compared to the rest of their albums.  It's not necessarily an album I listen to a lot, but for those moments where you just need to make your ears bleed this is the album to put on.  Just listen to the music coming back in on 'Mason' after the "I question every step rung by rung" line.....and I defy you not to soil your pants.
Recommended Song: Mason

46. Reef - Glow

To me this is the perfect summer album.  If only it didn't mean that idiots around the country start putting their hands UP when 'Place Your Hands' comes on.  Debut 'Replenish' was a good album, but as a whole ended up being a little bit too loose and laidback for my liking.  This really hit the mark though, all the songs being honed and unleashed with perfect timing into the Britpop/lad culture climate.  Unfortunately never bettered, but they would have been hard pushed to do so.
Recommended Song: Summer's in Bloom

47. My Dying Bride - The Angel and the Dark River

A completely beautiful and miserable album, My Dying Bride were at the peak of their powers on this.  Six songs, with the shortest clocking in at 6 minutes 30 seconds, and their snail's pace being at odds with the majority of other metal bands around, they certainly weren't to everyone's tastes.  But to those of us who like a bit of melody and misery mixed in with our metal the likes of the sublime 'The Cry of Mankind' and 'From Darkest Skies' prompted us to close the curtains, block out everyone else and retreat into their world.
Recommended Song: The Cry of Mankind

48. Korn - Issues

Generally written off as one of their even number albums (i.e. falling in between the good ones) it's actually probably my second favourite of theirs.  Maybe it was the shiny production and accompanying MTV-friendly videos that tarnished it, but songs like 'Make Me Bad', 'Beg for Me' and 'Falling Away from Me' lift it high up into the reaches of this chart over the likes of (the still very brilliant) 'Follow the Leader'.
Recommended Song: Make Me Bad

49. Nine Inch Nails - The Fragile

Following up The Downward Spiral was always going to be difficult, but this just about pulls it off.  The first disc is absolutely incredible, a mixture of light and shade, noisy outbursts, creepy crawling rhythms and a healthy dose of melody in there too.  The second disc lets it down a bit, being a little inconsistent, and is why it ultimately makes it no higher than number 49.  The last great NIN album.
Recommended Song: We're In This Together

50. Earplugged Compilation (Earache)

In 1994 I came across this cheap compilation on Earache records containing bands I had mostly heard of but not heard and thought why not?  At the time I was moving through the likes of Sepultura and Pantera in search of ever more extreme sounds, so this came along just at the right time.  Two tracks each from Bolt Thrower, Napalm Death, Carcass, Brutal Truth, Cathedral, Entombed and Godflesh was both diverse within the confines of Earache and a massive influence on the bands and styles I would listen to in the future.
Recommended Song: Bolt Thrower - ...For Victory

So that's it then.  I suppose honourable mentions should go to the ones that just missed out like 'Slaughter of the Soul' by At the Gates, 'Vobiscum Satanas' by Dark Funeral, 'Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk' by Emperor, 'In a Reverie' by Lacuna Coil, 'Psalm 69' by Ministry, 'Nevermind' by Nirvana and 'The End of Silence' by Rollins Band among many others.  Not to mention Napalm Death being one of my favourite bands but not really having that one album that shines enough to beat any of these 50.  Just an incredibly consistent back catalogue.  It was fun compiling this, it was fun writing about it, I hope you had fun reading it.

Chart by Country

   USA 26
England 14
Wales 5
Brazil 2
Holland 1
Sweden 1

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