1. Black Sabbath (Black Sabbath)
|Black Sabbath (Black Sabbath)|
The entire album is great. Black Sabbath (the song) is ominous and plodding. N.I.B. is another one of my favorites but it has more of a groove.
2. Live After Death (Iron Maiden)
This is an amazing live Album from Iron Maiden. It was also my introduction to the band and it was a good choice because it gave me a window into three of their greatest records: Number of the Beast, Power Slave and Piece of Mind. They also had material from their first two albums. Live After Death was my first real experience of musicianship in metal. Before Iron Maiden, I didn't really now much about harmonies or complex solos and melodies.
3. Night of the Stormrider (Iced Earth)
|Night of the Stormrider (Iced Earth)|
4. As the Flower Withers (My Dying Bride)
This was a band my drummer introduced me to. I was very much into doom metal by this point and this was well before the internet made music easy to find so learning about new bands was pretty challenging. You either relied on fanzines, magazines, word of mouth, fan tapes or you took a chance at the record store. I don't know where he heard of this band but he showed me the second track, Sear Me, and it was so different from anything I'd heard to that point. The beat was odd, it was little on the jazzy side I think (I'm not a drummer and my rhythm is terrible so don't quote me on that). The vocals were basically death style but the guitar surprised me. It was heavy but had a little bit of that Iron Maiden fondness for melody, except instead a focus on twin harmonies, it was more like counterpoint. They also had a violin in there as well. And the lyrics were in latin. It was a bit on the pretentious side for sure, but they had the skills to back it up and they were clearly paving a new direction musically.
My Dying Bride was an interesting band because their sound really evolved following this album. The vocals became increasingly more melodic, for example.
5. Forest of Equilibrium (Cathedral)
|Forest of Equilibrium (Cathedral)|
It isn't just the speed of the album that attracted my interest. Cathedral was clearly on the experimental side (similar spirit to My Dying Bride but totally different sound). The cover of the album pretty much says it all. It opens up with a wild flute solo that morphs into the first droning notes of Commiserating the Celebration. And while Forest Equilibrium is notable for its slow pace it also has a bit of funk (which isn't too different form Sabbath, but by this point Doom bands pretty much eschewed that). The vocals are hard to characterize, not quite death, but not clean either. There is a guttural wobbliness to them. And they are kind of in the background. They also do interesting things with melodies on the guitar. There is a section in one of the songs that took me forever to learn because they don't repeat a single note, even though the whole thing sounds a little redundant. A good sample of the slowness can be be heard in the songs Ebony Tears, Serpents Eve, A Funeral Request and Forest Equilibrium. If you only look into one album from this list, check our Forest Equilibrium if only because it is so unusual.
After Forest of Equilibrium and Soul Sacrifice (an album that featured the song Autumn Twilight and as far as I can tell there is no record of its existence anymore), they moved into funkier territory and jettisoned the slowness they established in their first venture.
6. Tales of Creation (Candlemass)
|Tales of Creation (Candlemass)|
Candlemass is a bit on the eccentric side. Their vocalist's name at the time of this release was Messiah Marcolin (talk about hubris) and he sang almost like an opera singer. The closest I'd heard to that style in metal before Candlemass was Bruce Dickinson, who was operatic but this sounded like proper opera. And it was still doom. Candelmass was dour, not uplifting like the later Power Metal Bands that would employ a similar singing technique in the following years. The guitars were amazing. The musicianship was there but so were the composition skills. This sounded like classic music, real classical music, brought into heavy metal. At least to me, at the time, that is what it felt like.
Another important thing about this album was at the time it proved to me that you could sing about religious themes without veering into Satanic territory. This was important because I was still quite religious and a Christian and my singer was Jewish. My views on religion would change over time, but until then, this opened up an area for me to explore musically. I should state Candlemass wasn't a Christian band or anything, they just were comfortable using the mythology on this particular album.
There are a lot of highlights on this album, but I'd recommend The Edge of Heaven as a first exposure to the band.
7. Beyond the Crimson Horizon (Solitude Aeturnus)
|Beyond the Crimson Horizon|
The first track stunned me. It may sound silly now, but at the time I really hadn't heard a band like this (and I think this was prior to me hearing Candelmass or around the same exact time). The vocals were soaring, the drums were pounding and the guitars were heavy with thrash elements but a bit more plodding. Even more than Candlemass the religious themes on the album were strong, covering everything from the killing of Abel (Seeds of the Desolate) to the corruption in the Catholic Church (Black Castle). The whole album is great, from start to finish. For songs I'd suggest Seeds of the Desolate, It Came Upon One Night, Plague of Procreation and Beneath the Fading Sun. Solitude Aeturnus quickly became my favorite band in the doom genre.
This album was also important because I used their list of inspirational bands on the sleeve as a guidebook for what to buy for the next year (it is where I found Cathedral, Count Raven, and St. Vitus I believe).
8. War Master (Bolt Thrower)
This was a band I came to from a friend in my gaming group who discovered them. By the time this came out, death metal was an established genre, but the opening to this defined the sound for me. I was familiar with Obituary and Morbid Angel but it was something about the way they mixed the sound that I felt the guitars on this really shined. The guitar sound had honestly been around since at least Slayer. This just managed to get a richness and weight that felt like a barge moving through the sea. Plus the cover art was right out of Warhammer. Definitely recommend checking out the song ...Unleashed (Upon Mankind).
9. Rust in Peace (Megadeth)
|Rust in Peace (Megadeth)|
10. Gothic (Paradise Lost)
This was a band that I just didn't know what to make of when I first heard them. My drummer introduced me to the album Gothic, and I simply had no idea how to categorize the sound. The guy sang like a Death Metal vocalist, but the guitars were pretty far from death, almost a groovy rock sound, with some cool melodic lines. Occasionally it sounded heavier but these definitely weren't the guitar sounds I was accustomed to. Then on top of all that they had a woman (Sarah Marrion) singing the chorus. Now women singing chorus isn't that unusual, but in 1991 I don't think I'd ever heard a metal band do that. They were much more in the realm of My Dying Bride than some of the other stuff I was listening to. But I quickly became a fan and followed them through the remainder of the 90s. Stand-out songs for me are Gothic, The Painless, Rapture, and Eternal. I think The Painless really captures what was unique about this band when Gothic was released.
We ended up calling them rock-death. No idea what label ended up sticking with them though.