The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time

28th Apr 2010 | 13:15

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Deftones - Around The Fur (1997)

Amidst the celebration of bowel-disturbing heaviness that is Metal Week on MusicRadar, it seemed fitting to let you decide for once and for all which piece of plastic or vinyl deserves the ultimate accolade; what is The Greatest Heavy Metal Album Of All Time?

You voted in your thousands. You voted, and voted, and voted again. And we counted your votes, always mindful that this was a question likely to provoke a more passionate debate than any in the history of Ask MusicRadar. The Top 50 Guitar Riffs Of All Time? A mere scuffle in a pub car park compared to the all-out war for which this poll was the catalyst.

So, without further ado, in reverse order of greatness, here are the 50 best and most brutal long players ever committed to tape. If you're after a compulsory listening playlist for students of metal and its myriad sub-genres, look no further. We kick things off with the 1997 breakthrough LP by Sacramento, California's loudest sons: Deftones.

Always destined to outgrow the baggy shorts and frat boy audience that characterised nu-metal, Around The Fur saw Deftones burst out of the underground with pulverising intensity. Nothing says 'metal' more than screaming into a shark's face.

Your votes:

“Deftones - Around the Fur. Cemented their emerging status as one of the fathers of the nu-metal movement.” (Thanks, vorax)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Aerosmith - Rocks (1976)

Is this a heavy metal album? Sure, there's plenty of hard rock and an unashamed Led Zeppelin influence here, but the year that punk broke in the UK saw Boston's answer to The Rolling Stones release their rawest and heaviest set of songs ever.

Rocks would go on to inspire and influence the likes of Guns N' Roses, Metallica and Nirvana. Does it rock? You bet your ass it does. It's also Tom Morello's third favourite metal album of all time.

Your votes:

“Depending on how heavy metal is defined, some might question this band and album. But I grew up loving metal and Aerosmith was definitely one of my bands, so I‘m going to include this one because I consider it to be one of the great hard rock records of all time. It‘s got all the essential elements: it's heavy, it's sleazy, it's funky and it‘s what all bands with pretensions to play hard rock should aspire to.” (Thanks Tom Morello, via his 13 greatest heavy metal albums of all time)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Kyuss - Blues For The Red Sun (1992)

Long before he was a Queen Of The Stone Age, Josh Homme was the heavy-riffing powerhouse at the heart of stoner rock trailblazers Kyuss.

1992's Blues For The Red Sun was the influential outfit's standout achievment, with the then-19 year old Homme tuning down as low as Drop C. Sabbath, in the Californian desert, on even more acid.

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Sepultura - Arise (1991)

The much-loved Brazilian metal band's finest hour was 1991's Arise, which saw their early thrash sound honed to absolute perfection while exhibiting the first evidence of a fiercely experimental instinct.

Here's the quite terrifying title track.

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Death - Symbolic (1995)

The late Chuck Schuldiner is widely recognised as the father of the death metal genre. 1995's Symbolic is a visceral momument to the sheer aggression and technicality that Death always exhibited, revolving door band lineup notwithstanding.

Turn off the lights, turn up your sound system and wait for the police to arrive.

Your votes:

"Death - Symbolic." (From Artur via Facebook, thanks)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Soundgarden - Badmotorfinger (1991)

Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil jokingly referred to Badmotorfinger as "the heavy metal White Album", and while 'grunge' was a convenient pigeonhole for the music press, the Seattle band wore its metal and classic rock influences with pride.

Tuning his low E string down to B for several songs on Badmotorfinger, Thayil's channeling of Iommi is evident throughout.

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Judas Priest - Painkiller (1990)

A decade on from British Steel, Priest released their strongest album for years, revitalising their sound with an injection of contemporary speed and thrash metal influences.

The result? One of metal's most influential bands at their most metal.

Your votes:

“Number Of The Beast, Master Of Puppets, Painkiller.” (Thanks, eadgbe)

“Painkiller- Judas Priest.” (Thanks, dudewheresmybass)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Anthrax - Among The Living (1987)

Often somewhat unfairly seen as the junior partners alongside Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth in thrash metal's 'Big Four', on Among The Living, Anthrax showed that it was possible to mix thrash metal with pop hooks. Four years later, Metallica became MTV darlings by perfecting the same formula.

Remastered in late 2009, Among The Living is still a thoroughly sick riff fest.

Your votes:

“Among The Living - Anthrax.” (Thanks, dudewheresmybass)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Megadeth - Peace Sells… But Who's Buying? (1986)

One of thrash metal's absolute must-own albums, Peace Sells... is a complex, apocalyptic masterpiece and the sound of former Metallica guitarist Dave Mustaine defiantly flexing his musical and intellectual muscles.

The title track is a highlight, as is riff-packed opener Wake Up Dead.

Your votes:

“Megadeth - Peace Sells.” (Thanks, agux987)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
At The Gates - Slaughter Of The Soul (1995)

The final studio album from Sweden's At The Gates is a death metal classic and an essential album from the melodic death metal scene in Gothenburg, alongside contemporaries In Flames and Dark Tranquillity.

Blinded By Fear is the opener on this uneasy listening long player.

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Skid Row - Skid Row (1989)

Another one for the 'Is it metal?' file, Skid Row's tattoos-and-hairspray debut sold over 10 million copies worldwide. The Bon Jovi protégés briefly threatened to be as big as Guns N' Roses, but could never better the blend of hard rock and power ballads on their first record.

Did we mention the power ballads? They really had some damn good ones.

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Rage Against The Machine - Rage Against The Machine (1992)

Rage's eponymous 1992 LP remains one of the most perfectly-formed debuts in the history of heavy music. Fire, invention and intelligence are here in abundance and its capacity to shock hasn't dwindled over time.

Which heavy metal albums does RATM guitarist Tom Morello rate as his personal favourites of all time? Find out here in this MusicRadar exclusive.

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Celtic Frost - To Mega Therion (1985)

Revered in death and black metal circles, the Swiss legends also influenced the likes of Dave Grohl, Opeth, Sun O))) and The Melvins.

Check out Circle Of The Tyrants to find out why.

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath (1970)

What can you say about the album that started it all? It's fair to say that without Black Sabbath, the majority of the other albums in this Top 50 would not exist.

The band, the album, the song: the unholy trinity, diabolus in musica and the root of all that's brilliantly evil in heavy metal music.

Your votes:

“Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath. The title song is the scariest thing you will ever hear. Heavy metal is all about playing a power chord followed by its flat-fifth and they did it first.” (Thanks, vivekayer)

"Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath (1st album)." (From Fotis via Facebook, thanks)

“Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath... the origins???” (Thanks, mdg1157)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Iron Maiden - Iron Maiden (1980)

Another hugely significant eponymous debut, Maiden's debut sounds as raw and vital three decades on as it did in 1980.

Phantom Of The Opera is an absolute masterpiece, while here's the band performing Running Free live on Top Of The Pops the same year that it was released. Both songs are still live staples.

Your votes:

“The first Iron Maiden album blew me away when I first heard it, as did Kill 'Em All by Metallica. Then again, Slayer's Reign In Blood is, like, totally awesome. Sorry, it's just too difficult!” (Thanks, cheezes)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Tool - Undertow (1993)

A favourite of Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello, who describes this dark and intense LP as containing "everything that's great in metal".

Here's Sober. It's not exactly party music. Unless your idea of a party involves rocking in the foetal position in the corner of a room with roadkill nailed to the walls and a flickering lightbulb. At 4:00am. On ketamine.

Your votes:

“I had the privilege of witnessing these songs as they were written and debuted in the LA clubs, and on those nights there was no better metal band in the world. While Tool may shun being described as 'heavy metal,' the huge, punishing force of their riffs, coupled with the dark and shadowy lyrics, are everything that’s great in metal. This remains one of my favorites.” (Thanks Tom Morello, via his 13 greatest heavy metal albums of all time)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Rainbow - Live In Munich 1977

While the music establishment was wiping punk's phlegm off its face in 1977, Rainbow were playing 17 minute songs on tour in Germany. That said, the combination of Ritchie Blackmore and Ronnie James Dio was always going to result in cosmic, heavy music with progressive sensibilities.

Check out Sixteenth Century Greensleeves from Live In Munch 1977 here. Billy Corgan is a confirmed fan.

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Killswitch Engage - Alive Or Just Breathing (2002)

The most recent entry in our rundown so far, this is modern, slick metalcore executed with power and precision.

Check out single My Last Serenade, but don't be fooled by the mellow intro.

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Iron Maiden - Piece Of Mind (1983)

Maiden's fourth album is their second entry in our Top 50, but the first to feature the classic lineup of Dickinson, Harris, Murray, Smith and McBrain.

Hardcore Maiden fans might feel that the LP is let down a little by the second side of the disc, but you simply can't argue with The Trooper.

Your votes:

“Piece Of Mind by Iron Maiden.” (Thanks, RobDavies)

“I wore this album out on my turntable, and that's saying something because I was playing many records over and over during a certain period of my life. Between the relentlessness of the galloping bass, the cavalry charge of the drums and the razor-sharp precision of the then-double-axe attack, the whole thing was almost too much for my young metal soul to bear.” (Thanks Tom Morello, via his 13 greatest heavy metal albums of all time)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Slipknot - Slipknot (1999)

One of six eponymous albums in this Top 50, the debut by Iowa's masked metal ensemble was a blast of darkness and kinetic aggression that made Limp Bizkit sound like the Backstreet Boys by comparison.

Wait And Bleed also proved that they knew their way around a tune.

Your votes:

“Now I’m not sure if Slipknot are allowed, but their first album Slipknot is one of the best hardcore head-banging albums I’ve ever heard That album is the reason I love metal.. .actually it’s the reason I love music at all. That album shows music is not just about riffs and solos... but it’s mostly about that god damn passion :D.” (Thanks, pleskoch)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Metallica - Metallica (1991)

An LP that polarises fans of their 1980s thrash sound, 1991's 'Black Album' was the record that made Metallica one of the biggest bands in the world.

Mötley Crüe's producer (Bob Rock) and heavy MTV rotation aside, this is still an album with teeth.

Your votes:

“Metallica – Metallica. Massive groove, dark, dense, hooky and carried the metal flag to the world.” (Thanks, vorax)

“Most hardcore metal fans will probably go for Master Of Puppets, but for mass appeal nothing comes close to Metallica's Black/self-titled album. Even R'n'B fans know the words to Sad But True.” (Thanks, RadioIsDead)

“The Black Album.” (Thanks, BucketheadRules)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Opeth - Blackwater Park (2001)

Swedish progressive death metal outfit Opeth are hugely respected and singer/songwriter/guitarist Mikael Åkerfeldt is easily one of the most talented musicians of his generation.

Opeth came of age on Blackwater Park and it remains a great starting point for the uninitiated. Check out opener The Leper Affinity.

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
System Of A Down - Toxicity (2001)

Another album that features in Tom Morello's 13 greatest heavy metal LPs of all time, 2001's Toxicity has sold over 12 million copies worldwide.

Your votes:

“A record like no other, it combines the unique flavor of the band's Armenian heritage with absolutely brutal riffage. Top that off with Serj Tankian’s otherworldly vocals and humanistic world view, and you have an experience that you’re not likely to get from any other band.” (Thanks Tom Morello, via his 13 greatest heavy metal albums of all time)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Dio - Holy Diver (1983)

Then just 20 years of age, guitarist Vivian Campbell plays out of his skin on Dio's debut long player - a record packed full of demons, sorcery and fist-pumping tunes.

Check out the promo video for the title track here. A melodic metal classic, for good reason.

Your votes:

“Dio - Holy Diver.” (Thanks, wolf5150)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Mastodon - Crack The Skye (2009)

"Basically we're exploring the ethereal world. We're dissecting the dark matter that dominates the universe, in a nutshell," explains Mastodon vocalist/bassist Troy Sanders. Given that Crack The Skye is a record that deals with such themes as the art in Tsarist Russia, astral travel, wormhole theory and the death of drummer Brann Dailor's sister, don't expect an easy ride.

What you can expect though, is genuinely epic, progressive metal of the highest possible quality. Read more about the record in our interview with Brent Hinds or listen to opener Oblivion here.

Your votes:

“Crack The Skye from Mastodon is the best metal album of the last 10 years.” (Thanks, Ireground)

“Mastodon - Crack The Skye.” (Thanks, mdg1157)

“Mastodon - Blood Mountain or Crack The Skye.” (Thanks, Calvinios)

“I can't get enough of Crack The Skye by Mastodon, Watershed by Opeth or The Blue Album by Baroness.” (Thanks, cheezes)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Slayer - South Of Heaven (1988)

What's the one thing more sinister than the relentless thrash assault of Slayer's 1986 classic Reign In Blood? When they slowed everything down a couple of notches on South Of Heaven, metal's darkest sons got even creepier.

Even today, the title track genuinely makes our skin crawl, while Mandatory Suicide is up there with the very best that metal has to offer.

Your votes:

“South Of Heaven - Slayer.” (Thanks, dudewheresmybass)

“For pure, unadulterated metal, it's Master Of Puppets or Reign In Blood. Or ...And Justice For All. Or South Of Heaven. Or Seasons In The Abyss. Vulgar Display Of Power and Cowboys From Hell were both pretty incredible at the time too.” (Thanks, ChrisVinnicombe)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Black Sabbath - Vol 4 (1972)

Yet another album in the compulsory listening file for students of the genre, Vol 4 saw Sabbath hit Los Angeles hard, and drugs even harder.

Look, it's got Supernaut and Snowblind on it. If you haven't already, just go and buy it.

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Metallica - Kill 'Em All (1983)

Metallica's debut - which the band wanted to call Metal Up Your Ass - is still brimming with youthful energy and killer tunes.

Kill 'Em All was one of the first, and most influential albums in the thrash metal canon. And it wouldn't be a Metallica live show without Seek & Destroy.

Your votes:

“Metallica - Kill ‘Em All.” (Thanks, mdg1157)

“Metallica: Kill ‘Em All (just love that old Metallica sound... great metal).” (Thanks, pleskoch)

“The first Iron Maiden album blew me away when I first heard it, as did Kill 'Em All by Metallica. Then again, Slayer's Reign In Blood is, like, totally awesome. Sorry, it's just too difficult!” (Thanks, cheezes)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Iron Maiden - Live After Death (1985)

There are live albums, and there are live albums. And then there's Live After Death.

Recorded on Maiden's mammoth 1984-5 World Slavery Tour at shows in Long Beach, California and Hammersmith in London, Live After Death goes a long way to explaining the band's enduring live appeal.

Here's Hallowed Be Thy Name from Long Beach Arena. Class.

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Machine Head - The Blackening (2007)

Six albums in, Machine Head pulled a classic out of the bag and were nominated for a Grammy in the process.

Listen to opener Clenching The Fists Of Dissent, and prepare to jump out of your seat when the punishing riff comes in at 1:43.

Your votes:

“Tough one, ask in a few weeks time and it'll be a different answer too. This week it is Machine Head - The Blackening.” (Thanks, clarky)

“The Blackening - Machine Head.” (Thanks, dudewheresmybass)

“For me it's either Machine Head - The Blackening or Devildriver - The Last Kind Words.” (Thanks, suicidalllama)

“Machine Head - The Blackening.” (Thanks, Calvinios)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Slayer - Seasons In The Abyss (1990)

Occupying the sonic space between the frenetic Reign In Blood and the slower, more sinister tempos of South Of Heaven, Seasons In The Abyss saw Slayer release their most accessible album to date while still dealing with family-friendly themes like Satan, serial killers and war atrocities.

Where to start? The brilliant title track? The ferocious War Ensemble? Or the one song most likely to make you unable to sleep without the light on?

Your votes:

“Slayer - Seasons In The Abyss.” (Thanks, davidian1988)

“Seasons In The Abyss - Slayer.” (Thanks, eventhelosers)

“For pure, unadulterated metal, it's Master Of Puppets or Reign In Blood. Or ...And Justice For All. Or South Of Heaven. Or Seasons In The Abyss. Vulgar Display Of Power and Cowboys From Hell were both pretty incredible at the time too.” (Thanks, ChrisVinnicombe)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Ozzy Osbourne - Blizzard Of Ozz (1980)

Ozzy's first solo album is full of classic songs, and stellar six-string wizardry courtesy of the late, great Randy Rhoads.

Tom Morello explains: "If there were no vocals at all on the record, it would still hold this high position due to Randy Rhoads’ axe mastery.”

Your votes:

“Ozzy Osbourne - Blizzard of Ozz.” (Thanks, chrisbagi)

“Blizzard Of Oz - Ozzy and Randy.” (Thanks, Shish)

“The record that introduced Randy Rhoads to the world. In my opinion, he still ranks as the greatest hard rock/heavy metal guitar player of all time. What an album! It combined awesome musicianship with furious rock, and it revitalized Ozzy’s career and began to make him the household name he is today. More importantly, if there were no vocals at all on the record, it would still hold this high position due to Randy Rhoads’ axe mastery.” (Thanks Tom Morello, via his 13 greatest heavy metal albums of all time)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Judas Priest - British Steel (1980)

What can we say about this stone cold British metal classic that the members of the band can't say with far more insight?

Check out our interview with Glenn Tipton and KK Downing in which they talk us through British Steel, track-by-track.

Your votes:

"Judas Priest - British Steel. Malmsteen's 1984 epic Rising Force is a close 2nd. Next Question." (From Brad via Facebook, thanks)

“As a teen, this was a record that was guaranteed to alienate any potential female companionship, which should not be construed as a negative in any way, shape or form. It’s one of my favorite records of all time. Judas Priest are a longtime standard-bearer of metal, and this is their greatest moment.” (Thanks Tom Morello, via his 13 greatest heavy metal albums of all time)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
AC/DC - Highway To Hell (1979)

AC/DC's sixth and final studio album with the legendary Bon Scott. Here's the band performing the title track live on German television, and the official If You Want Blood (You've Got It) music video.

All of a sudden we want to jump on a table and rock out on air guitar. Dumb and infectious heavy rock music at its best

Your votes:

"AC/DC - Highway To Hell." (From Steve via Facebook, thanks)

“Runner up: Highway To Hell - AC/DC.” (Thanks, thedude5)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Black Sabbath - Master Of Reality (1971)

Often cited as the first stoner rock album, Iommi and Butler tuned down to C# for Master Of Reality and a darker, sludgier sound was the result.

"Alright now! Won't you listen?"

Your votes:

“Crumbs! Just one album? I really ought to say Master Of Reality by Black Sabbath, because they are my all-time favourite band.” (Thanks, cheezes)

“Master Of Reality – Sabbath.” (Thanks, dudewheresmybass)

“It would have to be a Black Sabbath album. Somewhere between Master Of Reality, Vol 4 and Sabotage. Although the opening riff to their first album is iconic, it was still a kinda rhythm and bluesy album I think. Paranoid was a great leap forward but I think they pretty much defined heavy metal with Master Of Reality so Master Of Reality it is!!!” (Thanks, bbcoz)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Black Sabbath - Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (1973)

Billy Corgan and Tom Morello's favourite heavy metal album of all time is also one of yours too.

"Heavier than God" and "unbeatable for its power and heaviness", they say. Here's the title track.

Your votes:

"Creepy, spooky, and heavier than God in brief, fleeting moments. This album always makes me think of the soundtrack Sabbath would make to a final day on Earth." (Thanks, Billy Corgan, via his 10 greatest heavy metal albums of all time)

“It’s number one for a very simple reason: it’s the greatest heavy metal band’s greatest songs, back-to-back-to-back. It’s just unbeatable for its power and heaviness. I dare anyone to try to come close to replicating it in any way. Good luck.” (Thanks Tom Morello, via his 13 greatest heavy metal albums of all time)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Opeth - Watershed (2008)

Opeth's ninth studio album proved even more popular with you than 2001's Blackwater Park.

Budding prog metal guitarists should check out our video lesson in which Mikael Åkerfeldt and Fredrik Åkesson show you how to play the amazing Watershed track, Heir Apparent.

Your votes:

“Watershed - Opeth.” (Thanks, Akeldama)

“I can't get enough of Crack The Skye by Mastodon, Watershed by Opeth or The Blue Album by Baroness.” (Thanks, cheezes)

“Opeth – Watershed.” (Thanks, citson)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Pantera - Cowboys From Hell (1990)

Shrugging off their dubious hair metal beginnings, Cowboys From Hell marked the emergence of Pantera as a formidable force in 1990s metal, with Darrell Abbott's visceral riffing a sonic signature.

The title track and Cemetery Gates still sound ridiculously fresh and rocking. Billy Corgan prefers Far Beyond Driven, but that's his prerogative.

Your votes:

"Pantera- Cowboys from hell." (From Thomas via Facebook, thanks)

"Such a difficult question. Master Of Puppets, Number Of The Beast, Reign In Blood, Back In Black. Cowboys From Hell. No Sleep ‘Till Hammersmith. But really - Physical Graffiti?" (From Johannes via Facebook, thanks)

“Cowboys From Hell – Pantera.” (Thanks, dudewheresmybass)

“Cowboys From Hell - Pantera.” (Thanks, CoolMcSerious)

“Cowboys From Hell - Pantera or Sacrament by Lamb Of God, in fact there's too many to list!” (Thanks, LittleBigMatt)

“Pantera - Cowboys From Hell.” (Thanks, citson)

“For pure, unadulterated metal, it's Master Of Puppets or Reign In Blood. Or ...And Justice For All. Or South Of Heaven. Or Seasons In The Abyss. Vulgar Display Of Power and Cowboys From Hell were both pretty incredible at the time too.” (Thanks, ChrisVinnicombe)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Lamb Of God - Ashes Of The Wake (2004)

Voted the 49th greatest guitar album of all time by our friends at Guitar World magazine, Ashes Of The Wake is indeed one hell of a guitar album, and in your eyes there are only 11 better heavy metal albums in history. Now that's really quite something.

Check out Laid To Rest and the title track for evidence of their astonishing musicianship.

Your votes:

“…and a few lesser known albums: Ashes Of The Wake by Lamb Of God.” (Thanks RobDavies)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Metallica - ...And Justice For All (1988)

How do you follow a classic? By writing and recording another one, that's how. Metallica had a supremely difficult task following up Master Of Puppets while still mourning the loss of bassist Cliff Burton, and the resulting LP was as relentlessly bleak as it was brilliant.

The success of One as a single and its heavy MTV rotation would pave the way for their crossover into the hard rock mainstream a couple of years later.

Your votes:

“Metallica - …And Justice for All. An anthemic metal masterpiece, leading the way for all to follow.” (Thanks, vorax)

"Best metal album: Metallica - …And Justice For All." (From Sondre via Facebook, thanks)

“Metallica - ...And Justice For All.” (Thanks, davidian1988)

“For pure, unadulterated metal, it's Master Of Puppets or Reign In Blood. Or ...And Justice For All. Or South Of Heaven. Or Seasons In The Abyss. Vulgar Display Of Power and Cowboys From Hell were both pretty incredible at the time too.” (Thanks, ChrisVinnicombe)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Iron Maiden - Powerslave (1984)

The album that saw Iron Maiden take over the world is your 10th favourite heavy metal album of all time.

The Egyptian-themed cover art would inspire one of the most iconic and elaborate stage sets ever seen in metal, while the album itself was a corker, with the band's pomp and sense of theatre in full flow. A 13 minute epic based on a Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem? Oh yes!

Your votes:

"Iron Maiden - Powerslave." (From Rolf via Facebook, thanks)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Pantera - Vulgar Display Of Power (1992)

Two years after Cowboys From Hell, Pantera perfected groove metal on this Double Platinum album.

More aggressive than its predecessor, listening to Walk or Fucking Hostile still feels like a punch in the jaw almost two decades on.

Your votes:

“Pantera - Vulgar Display Of Power. Steered metal back towards the groove.” (Thanks, vorax)

“Pantera - Vulgar Display Of Power.” (Thanks, dafuzz)

“For pure, unadulterated metal, it's Master Of Puppets or Reign In Blood. Or ...And Justice For All. Or South Of Heaven. Or Seasons In The Abyss. Vulgar Display Of Power and Cowboys From Hell were both pretty incredible at the time too.” (Thanks, ChrisVinnicombe)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
AC/DC - Back In Black (1980)

Tom Morello's second favourite metal album of all time is your seventh. It's certainly difficult to argue with tunes the size of Hells Bells and the amazing title track, which was voted number six in our Top 50 Guitar Riffs Of All Time.

Morello: “I never get tired of this album. I don’t see how anybody who likes hard-hitting rock ever could.”

Your votes:

"Such a difficult question. Master Of Puppets, Number Of The Beast, Reign In Blood, Back In Black. Cowboys From Hell. No Sleep ‘Till Hammersmith. But really - Physical Graffiti?" (From Johannes via Facebook, thanks)

“There can be only one truly kick-ass heavy metal record: Back in Black - AC/DC.” (Thanks, thedude5)

“A close contender for the throne, as it contains two of the greatest metal songs of all time, Hell’s Bells and the title track.” (Thanks Tom Morello, via his 13 greatest heavy metal albums of all time)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Black Sabbath - Paranoid (1970)

Released the same year as their debut album, Paranoid is the fifth, and highest Sabbath entry in our Top 50.

The seventh best heavy metal album in history. The seventh? Are you really sure that this isn't the best? You do remember that it opens with War Pigs, right? And then there's the title track, Planet Caravan, Iron Man...

Your votes:

“Black Sabbath – Paranoid.” (Thanks, pleskoch)

“I'm on a bit of a Sabbath trip at the moment so Paranoid.” (Thanks, BucketheadRules)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Megadeth - Rust In Peace (1990)

Featuring the iconic Megadeth lineup of Mustaine, Ellefson, Friedman and Menza, Rust In Peace saw Megadeth enter the Platinum-selling, Grammy-nominated big league, while staying true to the intricate thrash and apocalyptic lyrical vision so beloved of Dave Mustaine.

If you're wondering whether Rust In Peace deserves its place in the higher reaches of our Top 50, here's album opener Holy Wars... The Punishment Due. Awesome, right?

Your votes:

"By far the best metal album: Megadeth - Rust In Peace... Polaris!" (From Adam via Facebook, thanks)

“Rust In Peace - Megadeth.” (Thanks, dudewheresmybass)

“Megadeth - Rust In Peace.” (Thanks, agux987)

“Rust In Peace - Megadeth.” (Thanks, Akeldama)

"Best is Rust In Peace. Second best is Number Of The Beast." (From @KienanMolloy via Twitter, thanks)

“Rust In Peace - Megadeth.” (Thanks, eventhelosers)

“Rust In Peace - Megadeth.” (Thanks, Shish)

“Rust In Peace or Countdown To Extinction by Megadeth.” (Thanks, robwallis)

“Megadeth - Rust in Peace.” (Thanks, fretmeister)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Slayer - Reign In Blood (1986)

Not many bands record major label debut albums that sound like this. Songs about death, religion, insanity, muder and Auschwitz, riffs of pure evil and some of the most blistering drumming ever recorded add up to 28 minutes of glorious and terrifying thrash metal aggression.

Slayer, we salute you. Reign In Blood is the fifth best metal album of all time. Now listen to Raining Blood.

Your votes:

“Slayer - Reign in Blood. Set a new standard for aggressive riffing.” (Thanks, vorax)

"Such a difficult question. Master Of Puppets, Number Of The Beast, Reign In Blood, Back In Black. Cowboys From Hell. No Sleep ‘Till Hammersmith. But really - Physical Graffiti?" (From Johannes via Facebook, thanks)

“Master Of Puppets and Reign In Blood for the older stuff.” (Thanks, Ireground)

“Close runners up include: Reign In Blood by Slayer.” (Thanks, RobDavies)

“The first Iron Maiden album blew me away when I first heard it, as did Kill 'Em All by Metallica. Then again, Slayer's Reign In Blood is, like, totally awesome. Sorry, it's just too difficult!” (Thanks, cheezes)

“For pure, unadulterated metal, it's Master Of Puppets or Reign In Blood. Or ...And Justice For All. Or South Of Heaven. Or Seasons In The Abyss. Vulgar Display Of Power and Cowboys From Hell were both pretty incredible at the time too.” (Thanks, ChrisVinnicombe)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Metallica - Ride The Lightning (1984)

Metallica's second album set the scene for the progressive thrash that followed on Master Of Puppets and has sold five million copies to date. It's position here in the lofty upper reaches of the Top 50 is only a little surprising until you remind yourself of the tracklisting.

Incredibly, this was recorded and released before James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich celebrated their 21st birthdays.

Your votes:

"Ride The Lightning (def the number one!)." (From Laura via Facebook, thanks)

“Metallica - Ride the Lightning.” (Thanks, agux987)

“Ride The Lightning – Metallica.” (Thanks, Akeldama)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Guns N' Roses - Appetite For Destruction (1987)

The best selling debut album of all time has sold well in excess of 33 million copies. Not bad for a bunch of skinny kids from the LA club circuit. It doesn't matter that the third best heavy metal album of all time is a hard rock record. For many people, this is the best album of all time, regardless of genre.

Tom Morello: “From top to bottom, it’s the embodiment of lightning being caught in a bottle. An unbelievable combination of band chemistry, great rock and attitude, brewed to perfection.”

Your votes:

“Maybe it's more of a hard rock record, but for me, as a complete, all-killer LP, it's probably Appetite For Destruction.” (Thanks, ChrisVinnicombe)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Iron Maiden - The Number Of The Beast (1982)

Like Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden have a massive five albums in this Top 50. With an estimated 14 million sales, 'Beast was Maiden's third studio album, and their first to feature Bruce Dickinson's incredbile vocal prowess.

Fans will still argue that Invaders is a weak opener, but the rest is utterly iconic stuff, not least the brilliant title track and the Iron Maiden song that your mum knows.

The second best heavy metal album of all time, eh? The winner had better be good...

Your votes:

"Such a difficult question. Master Of Puppets, Number Of The Beast, Reign In Blood, Back In Black. Cowboys From Hell. No Sleep ‘Till Hammersmith. But really - Physical Graffiti?" (From Johannes via Facebook, thanks)

“Number Of The Beast, Master Of Puppets, Painkiller.” (Thanks, eadgbe)

“Number Of The Beast - Iron Maiden.” (Thanks, dudewheresmybass)

“The Number Of The Beast - Iron Maiden.” (Thanks, eventhelosers)

“All of Maiden's ‘80s records would be in contention along with Priest's ‘70s records (except Rocka Rolla), Scorpions with Roth, Ride The Lightning, Trouble - Psalm 9, Angel Witch's debut, Dark Angel - Darkness Descends and of course most of Sabbath's albums.” (Thanks, reverend)

“The Number Of The Beast - Iron Maiden.” (Thanks, Akeldama)

“Iron Maiden: The Number Of The Beast, Killers.” (Thanks, pleskoch)

“Iron Maiden - Number Of The Beast.” (Thanks, citson)

“Iron Maiden - Number Of The Beast.” (Thanks, shizzle)

The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time
Metallica - Master Of Puppets (1986)
The greatest heavy metal album of all time, as voted by you!

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner. With a huge 20 percent of the final vote, your greatest, best, finest and most-loved heavy metal album of all time is Metallica's 1986 progressive thrash metal monolith, Master Of Puppets.

Billy Corgan describes it as "smart metal at its greatest level." We're inclined to agree. It has certainly inspired millions across the globe to pick up guitars in the decades since its release.

Back in 2008, you voted it Metallica's best album. Now it's anybody's best and time to shut up and let the music speak for itself.

Your votes:

“Master Of Puppets and Reign In Blood for the older stuff.” (Thanks, Ireground)

“For me, Metallica - Master Of Puppets.” (Thanks, jmikel17)

"Such a difficult question. Master Of Puppets, Number Of The Beast, Reign In Blood, Back In Black. Cowboys From Hell. No Sleep ‘Till Hammersmith. But really - Physical Graffiti?" (From Johannes via Facebook, thanks)

"The perfect combo of blitzing riffs matched with the beginnings of Hetfield finding that melodies weren't just something in the way of his robotic right hand. This is smart metal at its greatest level." (Thanks, Billy Corgan, via his 10 greatest heavy metal albums of all time)

"Master of Puppets." (From Tommy via Facebook, thanks)

“Number Of The Beast, Master Of Puppets, Painkiller.” (Thanks, eadgbe)

“Master Of Puppets – Metallica.” (Thanks, dudewheresmybass)

“Master Of Puppets – Metallica.” (Thanks, eventhelosers)

“Clearly, there's only one winner: Master Of Puppets by Metallica.” (Thanks, RobDavies)

“Master of Puppets will surely be in the top five.” (Thanks, Calvinios)

“Master of Puppets - Metallica.” (Thanks, Shish)

“Master Of Puppets.” (Thanks, pleskoch)

“There are so many it's cruel to choose just one… Master Of Puppets.” (Thanks, BucketheadRules)


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