It’s Sunday night, just after midnight, which seems like the perfect time to run down a dozen albums that rock hard. By no means definitive, and with respects to Umlaut, here’s a short list of albums that make me sprout horns:
Slayer * Diabolus In Musica  Many prefer Reign In Blood, but Diabolus… gets the nod here. After a pretty sludgy couple of minutes, this turns into a brutal bludgeoning that doesn’t let up for four delicious, blood-spattered sides of vinyl.
Metallica * Ride The Lightning  This makes the list on the strength of ‘Trapped Under Ice’ – a four-minute epic that recreates the claustrophobic hell of drowning under a solid sheet of ice. On a personal side note, I had a bad college roommate who liked to crank this song up while driving recklessly through Eugene after several drinks – which for some reason racheted up the intensity of the song for me. It’s an album that reminds me of death on several levels…
Black Sabbath * Sabbath Bloody Sabbath  Ozzy and the lads generally get a bad rap about their dark lyrics, but on Sabbath Bloody Sabbath they truly embraced the dark side. From the artwork – depicting a couple awash in a bed full of blood – to Tommy Iommi’s more-sinister-than-usual riffs, this is a dark vision by a band higher on much more than just life.
Judas Priest * British Steel  Not only does it sport one of the most iconic sleeve designs in the history of music (it was used in an Absolut campaign a few years back), but the songs hold up as well. ‘Breaking The Law’ was practically Beavis & Butthead’s mission statement, and there are plenty of other gems here, including ‘Rapid Fire’ and ‘Metal Gods’.
Motorhead * Ace Of Spades  Everything louder than everyone else, indeed. Motorhead is the aural equivalent of being cornered in a dark alley by an bloodthirsty gang of psycho bikers. While a lot of metal has a sense of pretension and theater about it, one listen to the title track of this album ensures you’ll understand that these guys are not screwing around.
Soundgarden * Badmotorfinger  While Nirvana often gets the credit for blowing the lid off of hair metal, this album was the true death knell for that sub-genre. It’s hard to overstate how suprisingly delightful it was to find a hard rock album that didn’t feature a single ballad! It’s also worth noting that the bonus ep that was included with this album for a time is worth seeking out – if only for their classic re-reading of Black Sabbath’s ‘Into The Void’.
Rammstein * Sehnsucht  I saw these guys at the dearly departed Maritime Hall while they were supporting this album, and that show featured more fire and pyrotechnics than all the other shows I’d seen put together. I was in the back of the Maritime (near the bar) and the blasts of heat from the stage felt like they were singeing my eyebrows. Perhaps it is over the top German metal-opera, but it’s good schtuff.
Tool * Lateralus  Released four months before the 2001 World Trade Center bombings, this album played out like a prophetic – if somewhat muddled – take on that catacalysmic event. With song lyrics about cornerstones giving way (‘The Grudge’), burn victims (‘The Patient’), death (‘Parablola’), and government secrets (‘Fiapp De Oiad’), it’s a truly unsettling listen for anyone who still remembers that day well.
Front 242 * Tyranny (For You)  Riddled with menace and unbridled anger, Tyranny (For You) has the backbone of a hyperkinetic electronica album, but its volume, pace, and intent-for-harm clearly mark this as a hardcore metal album of the first order.
Body Count * Cop Killer  The controversy-baiting lyrics of the title track notwithstanding, this is relentless metal wrapped in the skin of a gangsta rap album. Lead guitarist Ernie C. shreds throughout, and Ice T rants like a hip-hop Henry Rollins. Those who would argue that this isn’t metal are merely color blind.
Motley Crue * Shout At The Devil  Scribe Chuck Klosterman describes Shout At The Devil as the greatest concept album of all-time, and claims that it “took on a conceptual quality that Yes would have castrated themselves to achieve.” I’m not entirely sure about that, but the songs here prove that before they became a parody of themselves in the late 80’s, Motley Crue could rock with the best of them.
White Zombie * Supersexy Swingin’ Sounds  This collection gathers remixes from White Zombie’s first two albums, and in every case the songs here are faster, louder, and more sinister than the original versions. I was listening to this album in the office one day way back when, and a female producer happened to walk by and overhear some of these tunes. She was so put off by the experience that she claimed she needed to take a shower to remove the aural grime from her psyche. Now that’s my kind of album…
Here’s another metal list.