Let’s face it, there have been a whole host of amazing metal albums produced over the decades no matter your personal preference within this music genre. It ultimately means you will never be short of something to listen to with so many bands releasing countless ones that are all worthy of some air time.
But we want to make your life that bit easier, so here’s our list of the 55 best metal albums of all time. It should help narrow things down if you want to listen to the best metal music that has ever been produced.
1. Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
For many, Black Sabbath is the King of Metal, and this self-titled album is one of the reasons why so many people have that opinion. With ominous lyrics throughout the album, it was an explosive introduction to the world of metal for a band that started off playing blues. The harshness and rough nature of the tracks, and don’t forget the vocals from Ozzy Osbourne, ensured this would always remain one of the best metal albums to ever be produced.
2. Rust in Peace – Megadeth
We love Megadeth because they have this insane ability to thrash around in what seems to be a chaotic manner, and yet, you know they are in absolute control throughout. It lasts for 40 minutes, and it’s the sort that leaves you out of breath by the end. But it still contains rhythm even amidst the thrash metal, as they pushed their claim to be one of the best metal bands around. Honestly, when you listen to this album, you will understand why so many people would not argue against that claim.
3. Ride the Lightning – Metallica
Metallica produced this before they had a record deal, so you see how talented they were from the outset. Many see this as Metallica at their most pure, and the band themselves state how they could just throw out the music without having to think about pleasing anyone other than themselves. It shows a group having fun and fully absorbed in what they are doing, and that’s what makes it such a great album to check out, and it’s also why it has appeared on our list.
4. Iron Maiden – Iron Maiden
This album from 1980 introduced more speed metal and thrash to the world, and Iron Maiden was at the root of it all. There’s a sense of grit to their music and an aggressive vibe that becomes more apparent as it progresses. If you want to get to the root of modern metal, then this is the one you need to listen to, and it will explain everything you need to know about modern metal music.
5. Killers – Iron Maiden
Yet again, we have another release by Iron Maiden, and these guys made a habit out of producing high-quality metal albums that sound just as well as they did decades before. This is another roaring success that is typically Iron Maiden, which is apparent from the very start of the first track. The energy they create is aggressive, but not over the top, showing the absolute control they have had over their craft from the very beginning.
6. City of Evil – Avenged Sevenfold
This was actually their third album, and for many fans, it’s also seen as their best. It represented a move away from their metalcore roots and into more of a metal sound, so expect riffs galore, frantic shredding, and some seriously catchy choruses that make it easier to sing along to. With it being different from their norm, it makes it something of a refreshing one to listen to. But a warning though, this is the type that could turn you into a full-on Avenged Sevenfold fan.
7. Paranoid – Black Sabbath
We have yet another album by Black Sabbath, and as soon as you listen to the first few tracks, you will understand why. We love the way the pace changes and jerks around as it keeps you alert to everything that’s going on. Ozzy Osbourne comes along with his usual heavy vocals that slice through the tracks from the first to the last. It’s dark, it’s tainted with riffs straight out of blues music, and it’s just a real joy to listen to.
8. Among the Living – Anthrax
Anthrax always knew how to put strong metal songs together, and this album is another prime example of that talent. This was thrash metal on a whole other level compared to most, and it’s filled with cool changes in tempo and ripping guitars that blast out and remind you of just how cool a band they were when at their height. It’s rip-roaring fun with every single track that appears on it.
9. Vulgar Display of Power – Pantera
If you love riffs in your metal music, then this one is full of it. Pantera themselves even stated how they wanted to just grab some cool riffs and see what they could do with them. The result is a thrash metal album that is antagonistic at times and just downright explosive at others. Considering they started off as more of a glam band, it shows how a band can completely change its sound and be better off for it.
10. Master of Puppets – Metallica
Metallica is just awesome, and albums such as this are a key reason why they are loved by so many metal fans. This contains riffs that will come across as if they plan to fight you, and we love how they lure you into it softly and with acoustic guitars before they assault you with full-on metal that will inevitably leave a mark. But just let them do their thing, as you will be glad you did so by the end.
11. Holy Diver – Dio
This solo album by Ronnie James Dio saw him move away from his time in bands such as Black Sabbath and Rainbow. Ultimately, it’s fantastic from start to finish and is just some serious metal music blasting out at you with every single track. Listen out for some seriously crunchy chords throughout that add a new depth to it, as that’s what makes this one of the best out there.
12. The Number of the Beast – Iron Maiden
We have yet another album by Iron Maiden, and it’s just another excellent example of how amazing they are as a metal band. Containing stunning tracks such as Run To The Hills and Hallowed Be Thy Name, it allowed Bruce Dickinson to showcase his vocals and cement his place in the group. And boy, did he manage to do that, as you will experience when you throw on this one.
13. Screaming for Vengeance – Judas Priest
This was where Judas Priest managed to push forward its claim as one of the top metal bands in the world. They had already made inroads with earlier albums, but this one was different. It’s actually heartfelt even from the opening tracks; pay attention to songs such as Electric Eye to get a real taste of the talent that this group has, and how they have been on top of their game for decades.
14. … And Justice for All – Metallica
This release from 1988 helps show how Metallica was evolving as a group. As a double album, it lets you get the full experience of the band, so expect mega-riffs, thunderous drums, and more growling vocals than you will ever be able to listen to. But we also love it as it shows the group experimenting, and they state how it’s more of a progressive album rather than anything else. So, sit back and enjoy as they mess around with their sound.
15. Shout at the Devil – Mötley Crüe
This 1983 album may be a touch more of the glam metal genre, but it still contains some thumping tracks designed to blow you completely off your feet. The sound is heavy and crashes along via songs such as Too Young To Fall In Love and Looks That Kill, among others. Sure, it may not be the Mötley Crüe music you expect, but it shows their absolute talent in what they do.
16. Agent Orange – Sodom
This German trio spent this album thrashing out songs with huge and heavy riffs, delivering a whole lot of anger and rage with every track. Expect to feel revved up as it progresses, thanks to the way it just never drops in tempo and instead grabs hold of you and drags you through the songs until it leaves you feeling exhausted. It’s amazing stuff to listen to even though you feel as if you have been in a fight by the time it all ends.
17. Vivid – Living Colour
This debut album was a major hit for Living Colour in 1988, and it’s all because of the way it incorporates so many genres into it. Think metal alongside some funk and cool grooves, as well as some thrash shredding at the same time. It’s a unique blend, but one you need to listen to in order to get a full appreciation for what this band was capable of producing.
18 metallica – Metallica
This was their fifth release, and it was also the first one to get to the top of the charts. Viewed as perfection, it’s a monstrous album from beginning to end which is why it also contains huge hits such as Enter Sandman and Nothing Else Matters, which shows a more acoustic and softer side to the band. If you only want to own one Metallica album, then choose this one.
19. Rising – Rainbow
This was their second album, and it showcased real growth in their own belief within themselves as a band. Viewed as the real peak of their talent, it features outstanding guitar work that leaps out of the songs and taps into your inner air guitar player. It’s time for you to just rock on out, and Rainbow is there to help you with that.
20. Welcome to Hell – Venom
This 1981 album from Venom is yet another example of how the Brits had a real handle on the concept of metal in the 80s. The band hails from Newcastle, and even if you have never heard of them before, this should change that. It seeps charisma, and at the same time, it delivers at a frantic pace that’s difficult to keep up with. Ultimately, this requires stamina from you, but it’s all worth it in the end.
21. Blues for the Red Sun – Kyuss
With Josh Homme of Queens Of The Stone Age at the helm, this album from 1992 comes across as having some luxurious tunes compared to most metal that was being produced at the time. With fuzzy guitar riffs and thick melodies throughout, it’s not the hardest metal sound you will ever listen to, but it offers real control and some gorgeous tunes to check out.
22. Blizzard of Ozz – Ozzy Osbourne
This list had to have at least one release by Ozzy Osbourne because could there be any mention of metal without him? This was his debut album as a solo star after leaving Black Sabbath, and considering he was in a bad state at the time, it’s an outstanding album to listen to. It’s strong and packed full of your classic metal sounds, and yet he managed to still make it sound different from Black Sabbath, which was amazing. It quickly became a metal classic.
23. Stained Class – Judas Priest
This release from 1983 helped Judas Priest to continue its quest to be one of the best metal bands around. It was also the one that helped them to really break into the US market thanks to the heavier sound that was brought into the tracks. Also, the songs are faster and tighter than anything they had produced before resulting in a thumping album you cannot fail to enjoy.
24. Bonded by Blood – Exodus
This debut album by Exodus will literally throw itself out of your speakers and fill the room with its power and energy. Paul Baloff gives off the vibe of a chaotic frontman with so much mayhem going on inside that he pulls you into his mad world and makes sure you have to listen until he is completely done with you. His ability to do this is the reason why we have included this on our list.
25. Human – Death
We love this release by Death because it comes across as completely different from their previous three albums. Even the subject matter is different as it looks more introspectively at life, as opposed to songs about zombies. This almost comes across like prog-metal with intricate layers to the tracks that make you sit up and take notice.
26. Self-Titled Album – Rage Against the Machine
This was their debut album, and to say they managed to shake the world is music would be an understatement. It’s a wonderful blend of metal with hip hop and a bit of punk thrown in as well, and it quickly made people sit up and take notice of the band. It’s a thumping album that will simply throw you up against a wall and leave you standing there while it shouts at you.
27. Stay Hungry – Twisted Sister
Even though they come with a glam look, don’t let that put you off listening to this superb album. Twisted Sister struggled to launch their career, and yet this release showed the world that they really knew what they were doing from a music perspective. Full of highly addictive hooks, they have the ability to draw you into their music, making it almost impossible to leave.
28. Diary of a Madman – Ozzy Osbourne
We have another one by Ozzy Osbourne here, and it’s another example of just how cool and amazing he was as a performer. This includes some real anthemic songs with tracks such as Over The Mountain and Flying High Again acting as real standouts. With outlandish riffs, piercing vocals, and heavy bass influences, it’s an extremely good album to listen to.
29. Fallen – Evanescence
This album may be a surprise inclusion, but you need to remember that Evanescence was the king of an entire gothic metal movement in the early 2000s. They crunch through songs, and Amy Lee then produces haunting vocals with an operatic quality to them. It’s outstanding, and while it may not come across as full-on hard metal, there’s still enough about it to be familiar to most lovers of the music genre.
30. Danzig – Danzig
This self-titled album allowed Glenn Danzig to move away from underground punk bands and into the mainstream as a metal star. It comes with a real swagger attached to the tracks, and let’s not ignore the positively squealing riffs of the lead guitar throughout. This shows a musician seeking to push their own personal boundaries as a solo star, and we think he did a pretty good job of it in the end.
31. Far Beyond Driven – Pantera
We included this one because it shows Pantera at their fastest and heaviest, which is the complete opposite of what they were asked to do with this album. It shows they only cared about producing music they wanted to make, and the outcome is extreme in its approach and yet manages to strike a chord with any individual who listens to it.
32. Left Hand Path – Entombed
This 1990 release by Entombed helped push the band as a major player in the death metal scene. The amazing thing was that all the members were in their teens when they produced this album, and yet, they managed to achieve a real groove and melody to their tracks. Expect major guitar distortions followed by ripping chords that will blast your eardrums out of your head.
33. Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying? – Megadeth
This is just packed full of rage throughout each song, but it adds a whole lot of raw energy to the tracks. It showcased a new maturity compared to their previous release, and it contains enough thrash guitar playing to keep most fans happy. Ultimately, we feel it shows a band growing in confidence in what they can do, and the result is an amazing album.
34. Korn – Korn
Korn was the real instigator of the entire nu metal wave in the mid-90s, and this self-titled album played an integral role in growing this new music genre. Filled with angst and anger, it rips along through the songs, and their inclusion of different musical influences allowed them to attract fans across the musical spectrum. Of course, they went on to become a huge band, but this is where it all really took off for them.
35. British Steel – Judas Priest
If you love metal, then you must also love Judas Priest, and this is one you need to have in your collection. It changed the genre by introducing faster tempos and just more energy than was previously witnessed by other groups. But at the same time, they didn’t just rip through songs, but they also introduced melodies leading to this album, inspiring so many other bands that followed.
36. Red Album – Baroness
As debut albums go, this is pretty cool. It’s more of a progressive metal sound throughout though, so if you are going for the heavier stuff, then this is not for you. With blended harmonies and scrumptious melodies throughout, it’s the kind that bounces along without a care in the world. Add in the occasional twisty riff and a positive vibe, and you get a feel-good metal album, which is not that common.
37. Once – Nightwish
This power metal band knows how to fire across their sound without too much effort, and it’s impressive how they manage to achieve it. But for us, it’s the fact they have more of an operatic side to them that makes them stand out. It takes metal and pushes it in a new direction, and that’s something we always love to listen to. Also, check out their power chords as the way they balance it all out with the general tempo of their music is spellbinding.
38. Jane Doe – Converge
This hardcore metal band set the world alight with this album, and you will understand why from listening to just the first couple of tracks. We love how it has a sense of being unpredictable with variations in tempo and vibe and also moving between thrashing out tunes to more laid-back songs that act as a breather before they blast into something else once again. It’s a rollercoaster of an album to listen to.
39. Portrait of an American Family – Marilyn Manson
As a debut album, this introduced the world to the snarling sound of Marilyn Manson, and what a debut it was. He had no issue telling you exactly what he thought about so many touchy subjects as he exploded onto the scene. It’s sneering and angry at times, but then it’s also just so well put together from a production point of view that it shouts at you to get your attention.
40. Reign in Blood – Slayer
We included this one because it’s one of the best speed metal albums of all time. The pace is frantic from start to finish, and the outcome leaves you feeling exhausted by the end, but we don’t see that as a bad thing. Even their lyrics are thrown out at a crazy speed to the point where you struggle to follow what’s going on, but that’s part of the overall fun.
41. Chaos A.D. – Sepultura
This album showed a band moving away from death metal and more into a sound that contained thicker grooves and a more melodic sound. It allowed them to really experiment with things, and they took that experimentation to a whole new level. With some funky beats incorporated into the tracks, it contains influences from hardcore to metal, and then on to punk in an interesting blend that allowed the group to bring in some new fans intrigued by their new sound.
42. Powerslave – Iron Maiden
This was their fifth album, and it continued their track record of producing albums that just had this ability to blow away their competition. With outlandish shredding going on, there’s enough aggression throughout to keep you alert to each track. Bruce Dickinson shows some stunning vocals in various tracks with the likes of Two Minutes To Midnight being a perfect example. This is yet another one we think you should add to your metal collection.
43. Angel Dust – Faith No More
This fourth album resulted in the band moving away from a sort of indie and alt-rock approach to more of a metal approach, and people loved it. It came across as being more in-your-face than you would expect, and it’s just so different from their usual music. It feels as if it has a different form of energy, and yet, they keep delving back into their roots at times with changes to the rhythm that lets you know they are rockers at heart.
44. Sunbather – Deafheaven
This band blends together experimental rock with a touch of indie and then some metal is thrown into the mix as well. Ultimately, it means you never know which direction they will head in next, and that’s exciting. It feels uplifting throughout, and it pulsates as you check out each track while the group has no problem holding onto your shirt until they have finished with you. As their second album, it showed a real improvement over their debut, and if you want to find out what Deafheaven is all about, then choose this over any other.
45. Jerusalem – Sleep
This is completely different in that it contains just one song, but don’t worry, as that track lasts almost an hour. It’s really a compilation of heavy riffs, and there’s a trippy sense to it as well. Apparently, it was punishing for them to produce due to the length and trying to blend everything together, but ultimately, it has resulted in a real concept metal album that is unique to them.
46. No Remorse – Motörhead
Motörhead never changed their approach to their songs, and we love that about them. You know in an instant you will get tracks containing blasting drums, a thumping bass throughout, and vocals that will blow your mind. It’s a simple approach, and yet, they always make it sound like perfection, and this album is no different. They yelp and sound energized with each track, and you will feel the same after it as well.
47. Dirt – Alice in Chains
We love Alice In Chains because they manage to have real grit and depth to their metal sound that can sometimes be missing with other bands. It has a heavy feel to it, but at the same time, it doesn’t leave you feeling down. Instead, their raw power and energy pump you full of a jarring vibe that you won’t be able to shake for days. But then, that’s not exactly a bad thing.
48. Images and Words – Dream Theater
This is more of a prog-metal album instead of the full-on metal you may have been expecting. The band was even in a tough time when recording this, but it didn’t stop them from producing an absolutely classic album. It allows them to really push across their personality, and at the end of the day, it led to one full of new metal music that bounces along faster than you would anticipate. It just comes across as a whole lot of fun to check out.
49. Sabotage – Black Sabbath
The amazing thing about this release is that Black Sabbath was able to produce it even though the band itself was in a mess. Surrounded by lawyers and threats, they somehow created an album full of depth, and there’s a sense that they just didn’t want to hold back with any track. As a result, it is a real blast.
50. Women and Children First – Van Halen
So, Van Halen was viewed as more of a party metal band, but they still knew how to put tracks together that would blow you off your feet. This album from 1980 contains some stunning shredding going on, and a whole lot of melody placed throughout the tracks to really hook you in.
51. Louder Than Love – Soundgarden
This inclusion may surprise some people, but prior to their more prog-rock sound, this band verged more into the world of metal than most people realize. This is the perfect example of their metal days, and it comes complete with classic filthy riffs, heavy vocals, and a sense of aggression that you just don’t really get from them later on. It’s a must-listen album for all metal lovers and not just people who love Soundgarden.
52. White Pony – Deftones
This was their third release, and it represented some real growth as a band with it coming across as an album that seeks to achieve a balance between them being chaotic and moody without it being overbearing. They achieved this easily, and it also showed a slight movement away from nu metal and opened up a different approach to their music. Yet, we love how it still involves some real passion as they blast through the tracks with consummate ease.
53. Seasons in the Abyss – Slayer
We have yet another album by Slayer, and it really brings their sense of anger and angst to the fore with each track. Containing your typical thrash metal sound, it will blow the very core out of your sound system even from the opening track. But be warned, it’s dark and violent in its lyrics then delivered by raw power throughout.
54. Streetcleaner – Godflesh
We love this album as Godflesh sought to do things differently from most, and that’s why drum machines have been included in some of the tracks. It certainly changes the sound you get, and then you have their distorted guitar sound just to round it all off. It’s dark and moody, but at the same time intriguing, making you want to listen to the very end in case you miss something.
55. Toxicity – System of a Down
One word to describe this album is it feels unhinged, and then, there’s a sense of absolute mayhem that also overcomes you when listening to it. Yet, that’s the appeal as it gives you the impression that this band had so many ideas that they just tried to throw it all down at the one time. Sit back and just allow yourself to absorb their chaos. It will all be worth it.
Barry has worked as a freelance writer for over a decade and has developed an eye for detail when it comes to unearthing cool and interesting facts.
His love of music stems from his student days checking out up and coming bands playing in the darkest corners of bars and clubs in Edinburgh.
The love of uncovering something new also remains with him. With an appreciation for music that’s best described as eclectic, his musical tastes range from Eric Clapton to Eminem through to Snow Patrol and Incubus. The memories that music can bring back to the fore is something he tries to portray in his writing.
For him, the voyage of discovery and unearthing something new is what makes this task of writing for MusicGrotto.com so interesting.