Heavy Metal has had its fair share of the good, the bad, and the laughably bad. It’s common knowledge. But every so often you’ll come across that album that reminds you of why you love metal in the first place. Every fan has an album that they consider to be a masterpiece, a flawless effort deserving of a perfect score on one’s own personal review. Below are three albums that I would easily grant a 10/10.
1. Judas Priest – “Stained Class” (1978)
“Stained Class” showcased Judas Priest at their creative peak in the late 1970’s. Many of the blues and progressive rock elements that dominated their earlier efforts were toned down allowing them to formulate their own unique style that was both aggressive and technically proficient. The musical diversity alone is worthy of merit, with examples ranging from the speed metal classic “Exciter” to the extremely dark ballad “Beyond the Realms of Death”. Les Binks performed on this release giving Priest some of their most intricate drumming to date, while Downing and Tipton perfected their dual guitar attack, creating the blueprint for New Wave of British Heavy Metal riffing.
2. Metallica – “Master of Puppets” (1986)
There is still debate in the metal community over which is Metallica’s finest album, “Ride the Lightning” or “Master of Puppets”. It’s close but “Master of Puppets” is the only album of theirs that truly deserves a perfect score. Everything about this album is great. The compositions within each song are varied, yet still tight, giving it a progressive metal feel. The tone of the guitar through the mix is pounding, the lyrical content was at it’s strongest (and most honest), and Cliff Burton made his final appearance with the band before the tragic bus accident cut his life short. “Master of Puppets” contained songs ranging from the thrashy “Battery” to the epic title track, and also featured Metallica’s most cohesive and memorable instrumental “Orion”.
3. In Flames – “The Jester Race” (1996)
Released during a time period when a dichotomy between brutality and melody existed within the metal scene, these Swedes sought to reattach the pieces. Not only did they succeed, but with the release of “The Jester Race” they managed to create a sound unlike any other. This album combined the intensity of death metal (guttural vocals, tremolo picking, blast beats etc.) with the lead and dual guitar melodies of NWOBHM acts such as Iron Maiden. Yet, it’s not sufficient enough to just leave the description at that. In Flames also brought in a significant amount of influence from Swedish folk music. This is clear when listening to the acoustic breaks in songs such as “Moonshield” and “Lord Hypnos”. Taking from these varying influences, “The Jester Race” exhibits some of metal’s finest moments in the 1990’s.