My Top 10 Albums Of The 90's
Sort by: Showing 10 items
Rating: List Type:
My Top 10
The Sound of Perseverance - Death
Originally Released: September, 1998
Genre: Technical death metal, progressive metal
As a teenager discovering afresh a vast array of rock and heavy metal music I must confess I regarded death metal with a degree of contempt. Of course that was for the most part from a rather ignorant standpoint, hearing snippets here and there of blastbeats and grunting, the gore or satanic themed lyrics and controversial imagery and thinking to myself "oh it must all be like that...". In a way it says something about those who dismiss heavy metal in general as a valid form of music, judging the form to be purely about ugliness and noise, which in all honesty couldn't be further from the truth. Yes it is often aggressive, just as The Sound of Perseverance is aggressive, but a listen to a track like Voice Of The Soul as an example and one is exposed to the multidimensionality of the form, its avenues of melancholic reflection and true melodic beauty.
Tragically The Sound of Perseverance would be Death's last album, the loss of core member Chuck Schuldiner at the age of 34 due to a terminal brain tumour sealing it as the final chapter of a startling creative musical process. A journey which saw their beginnings as innovators of traditional death metal with aforementioned relatively crass horror gore soaked themes evolve into highly technical pioneers of melodic and progressive metal whose lyrical content explored all avenues of the human condition. In all honesty I initially found it a difficult album to get into, the skewed time signatures and complex structure of tracks like Scavenger Of Sorrow and Flesh and the Power it Hold's aren't as immediate as Death's previous works, there is a definite jazz and prog influence across its entirety, this is dizzyingly technical stuff and certainly not for the casual listener. There's defiance here too, in terms of Chuck proudly holding the heavy metal flag high, 1998 after all being a time when metal had been reshaped (at least on a more mainstream level as promoted by MTV by alternative fashions, with the likes of Nu-Metal particularly trendy at the time) where archetypal staples of the past like guitar solo's were seen as being akin to a passe fopaux, well there's no shortage of those here, Chuck's guitar spiralling into ever more melodious detours. This nod to traditional metal is perhaps best represented in the form of closing track Painkiller, a cover of Judas Priest's 1990 classic.
Soundtracks for the Blind - Swans
Originally Released: October 1996
Genre: Experimental rock, dark ambient, drone, post-rock
Whether it be due to a desire to broaden my horizons or quite possibly an identity crisis there has been times when I have ventured outside my metal safe haven, especially in my late teens and early twenties. Post-punk was one particular genre that struck a chord with me,aggressive and energetic but not stifled by the regimented creative limitations of punk, so bands like Joy Division and Nick Cave And Bad Seeds became as much a part of my listening habits as the likes of Opeth and Tool over the years. Swans seemed liked the next logical progression.
It was actually just after their demise that I first heard about Swans, becoming fascinated by the praise they received in magazines like Terrorizer (usually reserved for extreme metal acts). Only problem was how damn hard it was to get a hold of their CD's (back in the late 90's, early 00's), they were obscure enough as it was but in my little rural part of England they may as well have been a mythological concept. Frankly the idea of the band always appealed to my pig-headed contrarian spirit and their enigmatic qualities only made that fascination grow. Finally getting a hold of their material didn't always meet with overwhelming affection or understanding on my part, this was and always will be a challenging band and their music often takes time for one to immerse oneself in. Case in point Soundtracks for The Blind to say this double album isn't an easy listen would be a grand understatement. I played it to a girlfriend one time and her reaction was that of a queasy combination of hysterics and acid-reflux. Labyrinthine drones, dark ambience, post-rock and surreal narratives cascade across the two discs, a highly experimental soundtrack to a film that never existed. It's a masterpiece but definitely a challenging and emotionally exhausting one.
My Arms, Your Hearse - Opeth
Originally Released: August, 1998
Genre: Progressive death metal
One of the most disappointing aspects of this current decade is the unfortunate descent of Opeth from the most consistent and creatively exciting bands in modern metal to noodlers of rather bland prog-rock. But oh man there was a time when everything they put out was pure gold, for me that period truly started with 1998's My Arms, Your Hearse. Yes Orchid and Morningrise were pretty great but Opeth's third effort was where they took it that next level and formed the template of a sound that would serve them throughout their peak. Where Mikael Akerfeldt's love for prog, folk and death metal fused to startling effect.
A concept album of a ghost story in which a man returns from the dead to witness the lives who he left behind, themes of love and loss build a atmospheric narrative that's reflected in the music. The folk influences are as prominent as the extreme elements, but unlike so many bands who utilise seemingly antithetical sounds there isn't that jarring schizophrenic quality here. It merges beautifully, forming a rich tapestry of melancholic beauty, rich melody threaded throughout the brutal riffs, glistening like shards of sunlight through the canopy of a vast forest.
Oh and have to mention the bonus tracks (for the 2000 reissue), usually I hate such things, dodgy demo's and inferior b-sides tacked on at the end of albums but here it's a different story; Opeth's cover's of Celtic Frost's Circle Of The Tyrants and Iron Maiden's Remember Tomorrow are pure quality.
Judgement - Anathema
Originally Released: 25 June 1999
Genre: Alternative rock, progressive rock
It really does boggle the mind as to why Liverpool's Anathema aren't huge, witnessing their journey away from Doom metal into atmospheric alternative rock with progressive elements the feeling always was that they were on the cusp of superstardom. After all those of us in the metal loving community could all see how a band like them could easily appeal to fans of bands like Radiohead and their ilk if given the right push, clearly though record label execs and radio stations didn't agree and they have always been stuck in a place of relative obscurity, adored by those who are familiar with them but unknown to the vast majority of the population (at least here in the UK). Tragic given their obvious brilliance.
Judgement is masterpiece of heartbreak and atmosphere, the perfect soundtrack of losing the love of your life. In many ways it is the definition of the album as art, not just individual tracks but a flowing gorgeous whole, tracks aren't just individual pieces tacked together, they belong together,conjoined by a heart that pulsates with extraordinarily moving raw naked expression. Stark acoustics are as prominent as warm synths and electric guitar, Vincent Cavanagh's emotionally wrought vocals narrating the melancholic journey. Lee Douglas joins the band for the first time here, her gorgeous voice adding yet more layers to the already rich tapestry.
October Rust - Type O Negative
Originally Released: August, 1996
Genre: Gothic metal
One of the longest albums Iv'e had in my collection as far as this list goes October Rust was extremely close to my heart throughout my teenage years (and continues to be to this day). Upon its release I remember how hard the record label pushed it in terms of its obvious potential commercial appeal (or so one would have thought), but here in the UK they remained a long away from denting the top 40 and thus wider success, this was the era of Brit-pop, Oasis vs. Blur and the likes, so the drab Butlins like vibe of that particular commercial fortification and the machine behind it wasn't for the penetrating. But October's Rust appeal has clearly lasted long after many of those bands who had more commercial success in the domain of artistic merit have turned to thrift store kitsch. And so it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut waffled.
For an album that is so often labelled Doom Metal it's obvious while elements of those trademark Iommi flavoured riffs linger they are somewhat relegated in favour of lush keyboards and melody. Lush is a word I'd use to describe the album as a whole, the production is absolutely gorgeous, soaked in atmosphere like a rain soaked autumnal forest, glistening and alive with melancholic splendour. What I appreciate so much about October Rust is that you have the obvious standout singles (Love You To Death, Cinnamon Girl and My Girlfriends Girlfriend, the latter with it's similar tongue in cheek vibe to breakout Goth favourite Black No 1.) but it's those tracks in between that I truly love, the atmospheric heartbreak of the likes of Red Water (Christmas Mourning), the acoustic tinged tragic ballad Die With Me, the Dream Pop influenced psychedelia of In Praise Of Bachuss or the erotic bass driven lycanthrope themed Gothic brilliance of Wolf Moon, quite simply every track is brilliant and that is the key to the creation of a classic album.
Originally Released: June, 1991
Genre: Post-punk, neofolk, gothic rock
When I finally did get a hold of Swans material it was though the Various Failures compilation. Imagine my surprise, I had been reading about how they were at one point considered "the loudest band in the world" by publications like the NME and was expecting a kind of monstrous industrial grind that would warp my ears into obliteration but what I got was much more subtle and cerebral. Such is the case when you discover a band years after their inception, I had no idea the various transformations they had taken throughout their existence but it wasn't an unwelcome discovery, on the contrary as the years progressed this material would become my favourite Gira and Jarboe would produce (and honestly far more preferable to Swans early extreme "No-Wave" material) though how much I immediately appreciated it as an Eighteen year old dunderhead I'm not sure.
Much like Swans earlier material that sense of doom remains at its core, at least in the lyrical sense, so while the music is a lot more accessible you're unlikely to find more depressing songs than the likes of Failure or Blind. Extraordinary bleak these tracks might be but there is no questioning the incredible power in their stark honesty. It isn't all acoustic gloom though, there's these great swathes of almost orchestral walls of sound that fill the album with an epic soundtrack vibe as perfectly exemplified on the otherworldly climax of Miracle Of Love. Jarboe too brings some of her most heartbreakingly gorgeous vocals to tracks like Song For Dead Time and When She Breathes reminding you how much she is missed from the current Swans lineup with the variation and quality she brought to an already rich soundscape.
Symbolic - Death
Originally Released: March, 1995
Genre: Death metal, Melodic Death Metal
Symbolic is Death's Magnum opus, Death Metal as sophisticated art, a majestic journey through melody as much as brutality. Human and Individual Thought Patterns were brilliant enough but their 1995 effort truly perfected the voyage into the territory of musical virtuosity. Death's lineup had fluctuated considerably throughout the years with metal god Chuck Schuldiner it's only constant but here the lineup of Chuck, drummer Gene Hoglan (who returned after Individual Thought Patterns), guitarist Bobby Koelble, and bassist Kelly Conlon are in such incredible lockstep any metal head worth his salt cannot help but salivate voraciously over the perfect musicianship.
Acoustic guitars are incorporated for the first time on tracks here, most prominently on Crystal Mountain and Perennial Quest, adding of level of atmosphere that immediately sets it apart from earlier material. That isn't to say the metallic aspects are diluted, on the contrary the interwoven guitar work between Schuldiner and Koelble is some of the best shredding you're ever going to hear with solos peeling out of the disciplined cacophony like harmonised banshee's, the riffs may be extreme but the melodies give it a hook, a catchiness which is perhaps most widely associated with the Gothenberg sound but here is perfected in many ways. Lyrically the album consists of some of Chuck's best work, carrying on the realm of philosophical refection he decided to take in the early 90's. Reflecting upon human nature, the negative aspects that corrupt humanity, as individuals and collectives. Tyranny, greed and hatred are reflected on, as is the will to turn away from such corrupting avenues, for the betterment of the soul.
Crimson - Edge of Sanity
Originally Released: April 1996
Genre: Melodic Death metal, Progressive metal
The tragic thing was how little fanfare Crimson received around the time of its release (at least here the UK), I was a metal fan back in the nineties, and I can't remember reading a thing about Edge Of Sanity in the metal press and if I did it was very fleeting reference, most likely to Dan Swanö's production work with other bands.In terms of hidden gems of nineties metal Crimson may well the jewel in the crown. Thank goodness it has been re-discovered by a new generation of metal-head and the internet has cast light on it because quite simply if I hadn't read about it on site's like Metal Storm or Rate Your Music I doubt I would have given it any of my attention.
Even within its opening ten minutes Crimson undergoes vast transitions, from brutal death metal to shimmering melodies, underpinning the cyclical nature of the track as a whole, a vast tornado of metallic tempo's tempered by passages of melodious hooks, a Children Of Men type of Dystopian story the central lyrical theme. A masterpiece that every fan of thinking mans (or women's) heavy metal should have in their collection.
Ænima - Tool
Originally Released: September, 1996
Genre: Alternative metal, progressive metal
Fashion's and trends reshaped nineties rock and metal music in all kinds of interesting forms, for the most part it was a rebellion against what had come in the eighties, justified in some cases with the likes of glam metal buffoon's Poison and Cinderella as vacuous as it get's. But as is so often the case the rebellion its self became a inane trend, and what started as an varied and innovative surge of creativity at the start of the decade descended into a form just as obnoxious as what had come before at its climax, this time with the whinging excess and slack-jawed stodginess of Nu-Metal, guitar music shorn of its melody and beauty, this truly was metal for morons. But in its heyday of the early nineties there was undoubtedly a lot of interesting stuff going on with the "Alt-revolution", of course a lot of it was due to the massive popularity of Nirvana, but there was the likes of Alice In Chains, Rage Against The Machine, Faith No More, Nine Inch Nails, Soundgarden and Ministry too, all of whom put out stellar music. And then there was the most interesting one of the lot, this weird little band from Los Angeles called Tool, Prog was as dead as traditional metal but they helped reshape it for a new generation.
I didn't have MTV growing up, but a friend of mine, she would video tape Super Rock ( successor of the recently cancelled Headbangers Ball, a video compilation show that showcased alternative rock and metal videos) for me. It was on there that I was first to exposed to the brilliance that is Tool, specifically the Stinkfist video with it's surreal stop-motion animation imagery certainly making an impression on me, but as is so often the case the brilliance of the music it's self wasn't necessarily so immediate. This was something frankly more sophisticated than the groove metal bands I was besotted with at the time (Machine Head, Fear Factory, Sepultura, Pantera etc), it was certainly heavy but there was much more going on, melancholic melodies flowing against heavy riffs with graceful elegance. As my teenage years progressed my appreciation for Tool grew, and finally after purchasing Ænima at a music festival at the age of seventeen that appreciation became an obsession. And of course it's still one of favourites to this day, should I pick it apart? Like the slew of fans dissecting the lyrical content and such, well why? It's been done to death, all I'll say is it's the music that truly matters to me, though the cerebral and imaginative quality, well yes they added to the majestic quality of the album as a whole. But when it comes down to it, it's like this; Iv'e been listening to this one for over twenty years and it's still an incredible experience. A true classic.
Still Life - Opeth
Originally Released: October 1999
Genre: Progressive death metal, progressive rock
The best albums are like the best books, they are journeys of the imagination, they take you into another realm, one that with each chord progression takes the listener across a sea of emotions, tantalising the realm of dreams, something vast and eternal it feeds the soul. Still Life is one of those albums. Carrying on their stellar work from My Arms, Your Hearse here Opeth reach the pinnacle of their creative achievements (though 2001's Blackwater Park is right alongside it) where brutal riffs and harsh vocals are spliced alongside graceful acoustic melodies and wistful singing with formidable precision.
Seamless transitions encapsulates Still Life's ingenuity, in which extreme metal, progressive rock, folk and even jazz influences amalgamate into one pure expression. A concept album with themes such as religious tyranny, persecution and love there is a truly magical atmosphere to the music, and one that I don't think had struck me so much since I'd heard Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son at the age of ten, and after a detour in my late teens away from heavy metal it reminded me why I loved the form so much in the first place.
People who voted for this also voted for
Current TV Show 2018
The True Story of Communism/Socialism:
Favourite Metal & Rock music videos 90s
Movies I Like
My Fav Metal Albums
America's Got Talent... Jack Nicholson
Another Face / Mask
Favourite Movies 70s
Ladies & Motorcycles