The 10 most important old school metal albums

People come to me occasionally asking for recommendations for music to check out. Now, my musical tastes are too esoteric and varied to easily narrow down. But, being that I am a proud fan of metal music, I have decided to attempt to come up with a top ten list. I know lists are highly subjective and debatable, but I feel that this one can be somewhat agreed upon, especially since I narrowed it down to old school metal albums (1980’s – 1990’s). Here we go:


Biohazard, “Urban Discipline”

This would eventually become one of the top selling metal albums of all time, with their single “Punishment” becoming one of the most played metal videos ever on MTV (coincidentally, Parris Mayhew of the Cro-Mags directed this video!). This is one of the first albums to meld metal, hardcore punk, and hip-hop, and it would be a strong influence on the NYHC scene in the 1990’s.

Recommended songs to check out: “Punishment”, “Urban Discipline”, “Wrong Side Of The Tracks”


Cro-Mags, “The Age Of Quarrel”

The Cro-Mags’ debut album is widely revered as a hardcore classic. However, it was one of the first crossover albums that had a large metal influence. From the slowed-down intensity of “Malfunction” and “Life Of My Own”, to the speed metal of “Street Justice”, this is one of the few albums that is killer from start to finish. Impressive, especially since they were all teenagers when they recorded this.

Recommended songs to check out: “Hard Times”, “Malfunction”, “Life Of My Own”


Death, “Symbolic”

Death is widely known as a death metal band, mostly because of the name. However, Symbolic has more of a straightforward metal sound, with progressive metal and death metal influences. The best Death album is highly debatable, since there are so many good ones, but Symbolic would be my pick. Chuck Schuldiner had some awesome songs on here, and the drumming of Gene Hoglan is a veritable showcase of his skills.

Recommended songs to check out: “Crystal Mountain”, “Without Judgement”, “Empty Words”



Deftones, “Adrenaline”

Most people don’t think of the Deftones as a metal band, especially nowadays, but their debut album Adrenaline is a prototype for all of the nu-metal that would come out in the late 1990’s. They were the Pixies of the heavy music scene, with their quiet/loud dynamics and knack for catchy melodies. Stephen Carpenter had some killer riffs on this one, and Chino Moreno’s vocals would influence countless metal frontmen.

Recommended songs to check out: “One Weak”, “Nosebleed”, “Fire Engine No. 9”


Machine Head, “Burn My Eyes”

This is another highly influential album. Burn My Eyes had an old school thrash template, with street sensibilities and a love for guitar harmonics. It is widely considered the best MH album (with the possible exception of “The Blackening”), and is still heavy as hell.

Recommended songs to check out: “Davidian”, “The Rage To Overcome”, “Block”



Meshuggah, “Destroy Erase Improve”

This Swedish band would influence countless bands with this album, with its Helmet-inspired guitar riffing, monotone vocal delivery, jazz breakdowns, and polyrhythmic drumming.

Recommended songs to check out: “Suffer In Truth”, “Future Breed Machine”, “Vanished”




Metallica, “Master Of Puppets”

Yep, here is the album that really brought metal into the spotlight. This is widely considered Metallica’s best album, and is a classic from start to finish.

Recommended songs to check out: “Battery”, “Master Of Puppets”, “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”




Pantera, “Far Beyond Driven”

Cowboys From Hell was a great major label debut, and Vulgar Display Of Power is a classic. But, Far Beyond Driven would find Pantera in their prime. This album redefined heavy, and also helped to put metal in the spotlight with its #1 Billboard first week album debut.

Recommened songs to check out: “Becoming”, “Shedding Skin”, “Hard Lines And Sunken Cheeks”



Sepultura, “Arise”

Arise was a truly innovative metal album. The boys from Brazil would put their own original mark on the metal scene. Arise is a timeless album, which has an old-school thrash sound with their own spin on it.

Recommended songs to check out: “Dead Embryonic Cell”, “Desperate Cry”, “Altered State”




Slayer, “Reign In Blood”

And…here we go. This is arguably the most important old-school metal album right here. Clocking in at around 30 minutes, this is metal at its head-banging finest. A must-have for any fan of metal.

Recommended songs to check out: all of them!



Do you have any suggestions or favorites? Let me know!


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