While I already have a Best Albums section, this section covers
the best of the best. This list has stayed the same for the most part for a long time. However, I've
finally rounded out my top 5, more or less. It's difficult though. Howe can you compare Opeth to
Megadeth? Impossible. Read on!!!
Oh, I also have a Best Games Ever section.
Don't Break The Oath (1984)
My friend gave me a copy of "Them" on tape, probably around 1988/1989. "WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?"
I can honestly say I remember the first time I ever heard King Diamond. I remember my room, where my
tape deck was, sitting on my bed and reading those effed up lyrics. This shit was marvelous!
It was a while later that the same friend's sister told me to listen to Mercyful Fate. While
Melissa was her favorite, it wasn't until those opening notes of the title track of Oath that
the full grandeur hit me. This is evil. This is pure evil and it is utterly spectacular.
More than 25 years later, the magic is not lost. I don't know how this isn't heralded for the glorious
miracle that it is. Tell me one weak spot of this record. Timi's bass is beyond anyone else's in metal
in 1984. The riffs and the solos...oh the solos...While Shermann may have lost his touch after this (and
it should be mentioned that it's probably good that MF broke up soon after.), the trade-offs with
Denner are unparalleled in metal. I don't care what you think of Tipton/KK, Smith/Murray, Kerry/Jeff - Those
two were the best balance of shred and harmony. And King, what can be said of King? If you hate his voice,
clearly this record isn't for you. But his vocals coupled with that voice soar from the highest peaks of beauty before descending into absolute evil.
It sounds great. It was before its time and it's beautiful. And, it is easily in the top five list for album covers too. I can't say any more. It's almost a waste of time trying to put this into words.
Metallica: Master Of Puppets (1986)
It was 1999 and I was visiting a friend's family in upstate New York.
We were driving to Canada and I sat in the back seat. It was a long drive and we got to
listen to the entire record. It was an experience. It was a revelation. It was
like listening to greatness for the first time.
Of course, I had Puppets long before 1999. In fact, my journey started
around 1988 (age of 12). I recall listening to the album over and over. Memorizing all
the drum beats, each inflection of Hetfield's voice, each bend and bass line. A few years
later, my friend Danny, new to drumming, and I, new to guitar, started covering these
songs. This album epitomizes my youth.
However, as the years passed, my interests expanded and Puppets was no longer
a part of my playlist. Their music never would match the excellence of this masterpiece.
I saw them in '97 and it was almost altogether terrible. Done.
So, imagine my surprise in the summer of '99, my best friend and I were in a great mood
listening to this. From start to finish, just sheer perfection. The production is stellar,
everything is clear, Cliff's bass with a perfect tone. The songwriting is perfection.
Upbeat tempos, mixed with melodic interludes, Lars constantly doing something different.
The middle songs are utter bliss, Santiarium, Disposable, Leper, Orion. An EP of those
four songs alone would still top the best-ever lists. They have it all. Metallica's prowess
for acoustic songs, non-stop riffing, catchy doodles and the most perfect instrumental.
Sure, I've used the word perfect a few times and it isn't. The only flaw I can find
is that I utterly hate The Thing That Should Not Be. Can't stand it. Even with
that, the remaining seven songs more than make up for it.
I saw Dream Theater play the album in its
entirety in 2002. This album is legendary, everybody knows it.
Opeth: Morningrise (1996)
I'd heard much about Opeth by the time the Firestarter Compilation came out
on Century Media. The comp is one of the best ever, and it helped kick-start the
black metal movement in the U.S. (It's also how I got into Satyricon)
The track, Nectar underwhelmed. In fact, even though the first 3 Opeth
records are among my top-20, I didn't like any of them after the first listen. However,
it was enough to warrant a follow-up and after a few spins of Morningrise I had a
favorite band. Barring Mercyful Fate and probably Metallica, Slayer
and Anthrax 7 years earlier, I hadn't had a favorite band. In fact, since
Opeth's fall on 1999's Still Life, I haven't had a favorite band. (Edit: It's Kalmah)
and has been for a few years now.)
As the months progressed, Opeth had solidified their place as my favorite band.
Heavy, technical, harsh vocals (I'd listened to Mikael Åkerfeldt sing with Katatonia),
long, brutal riffs, it had everything I wanted at the age of 21. From the catchy groove of
Advent to the beautiful ending of To Bid You Farewell, I can think of few
weak points on this record. Some riffs are so memorable I still hum them at the most random
moments. The tempo changes, perfect blend of acoustic guitars, clean vocals and METAL
(however you'd classify typical Opeth) never felt awkward or out of place, though others
disagree. Unlike Puppets above or RIP below, I cannot break this down song-by-song. Each epic
track goes through changes as vast as a year of seasons. Guitars harmonize perfectly, bass
riffs stand out as unique (and detestable, according to Mikael!) and his voice rips through
you, somehow both harsh and soothing at the same time.
I cannot describe it accurately. I simply know that it is exactly what it should be.
I went back to get Orchid and love it. I waited for My Arms... and of course,
hated it first, then loved it. That album frightened me. They said it was more 'accessible'.
What a bad word in metal. Shorter songs just meant more brutal, it turns out. Sadly, after
that, everything went downhill and I would never have the passion I once had. There will
never be another Morningrise, and I suppose that's the beauty of it all. This album
is perfect and rounds out my top-3 favorite records ever.
Megadeth: Rust In Peace (1990)
I wasn't too thrilled with this record the first time I heard it. I don't quite understand
how that is at all possible. However, once it hooked me, there was no letting go. I was 14 in
'90 but didn't really get into this too much until the following year, probably after
seeing them on the Clash Of The Titans Tour. A year later
a friend of mine got an advance copy of Countdown and that was it for the band (until
the late '00s). Perhaps the lack of a decent follow-up is part of the album's draw, but I
doubt it. There is no suitable follow-up to this.
I can think of no weak spot on this album. My only issue is that it's not as fast as
Megadeth's previous albums. It's technical, but not as fast. There's not as much
double bass, but...seriously, is that the only problem? Yeah. Fuck yeah!
Starting with Holy Wars, Hangar 18, the two singles. I've never
succesfully counted how many solos are in the latter song. Every time I start, I get all
pumped up and lose track of counting. Take No Prisoners is an awesome, attitude-filled
metal anthem. Five Magics and Poison Was The Cure both have similar intros, but
the latter is just speed riff-o-fucking-rama. It gets me going so much, it has to be among my
favorite songs of all time. It's under 3 minutes, the first of which is the bass intro, so as
soon as it begins, it's over. Brilliant.
In all seriousness, that should be enough, but the next two songs are almost equally as
phenomenal. Lucretia's wicked laughter is merely an intro to excellence, and
Tornado of Souls has one of the band's most-memorable riffs. While Dawn Patrol
is something I could live without, it's merely 2 minutes and leads right into Polaris,
which is such a fitting outro.
It's one of those records that you need to play again (flip the tape!) as soon as it ends.
Every song shines. It's fast, melodic, pure metal. It's sad the remaster had the re-recorded
vocal tracks, they suck. I'd love a rip of the vinyl remaster.
Emperor: Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk (1997)
As the U.S. metal scene that I loved was dying in the early 90s, things were growing in Europe.
While these major evolutions were initially unknown to most Americans, 1997 saw a massive
change, from which we never looked back.
I had known of Emperor and recall a colleague at college claiming that In The
Nightside Eclipse was the best record ever. I liked it. I enjoyed it but it wasn't the
best shit ever IMO. Century Media was starting to put out more black metal in the U.S. and
I was thrilled. I ate it up, playing it all on the radio and amassing a nice collection. The hype
for Emperor was there but its release in the States was remarkable. Suddenly everyone knew
them, knew the genre, and was blown away.
The intro is majestic, sweeping and powerful and its transition into the legendary Ye
Entrancemperium was unlike anything I'd heard before. OMG, FAST! Beautiful orchestral segments
leading into brutal speed and technicality. The keyboards, incredibly fast drumming, Ihsahn's voice, it
all mesmerized song after song. Ensorcelled By Khaos is so fast. With Strength I Burn
has a long, Iron Maiden-like section in the middle. Even the lyrics are amazing, something I rarely
notice or comment on. A dark evolution from Nightside, they are moody and evil and so utterly
fitting. Unlike other black metal bands, Emperor managed a pristine blend of speed and melodicism.
That blend made the fast parts seem faster and the melodic sections more powerful.
Live, the songs are equally fabulous. I got to see the band live in 2006
and even without Samoth, they delivered everything that is amazing about the band. Almost 15 years
later, the record is still memorable and its grandeur still felt with each successive spin.