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The 20 Greatest Metal Albums in History: The Complete List

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Thu, Jan 31, 2013 at 9:12 AM

click to enlarge Black Sabbath
  • Black Sabbath
If you count Black Sabbath's 1970 release of their self-titled debut as the birth of heavy metal, the genre is now over 40. It can no longer be called a fad. Hell, it can have adult children, and it can run for president. (Insert "presidental metal of freedom" joke here.)

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So, yeah, it's old. But it continues to evolve, and the bands and albums that paved the way still feel as important and vital in 2013 as they did upon first impact. Here, then, are our picks for the 20 greatest metal albums, as chosen by the Weekly's metal writers. -Jason Roche

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20. Baroness

Blue Record (2009)

Blue Record, from Savannah's Baroness, is a sonic journey featuring both calls to war and moments so romantic your heart will ache. Dueling leads and multi-part harmonies create a dizzying sonic web; opening track "Bullhead's Psalm" sets the ominous religious tone, which leads into violent, distorted chugging. Later: fuzzed out, garish distortion turning into trippy breaks. The contrast is as masterfully complex as Wagner's operas. -Diamond Bodine-Fischer

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19. Motorhead

Bomber (1979)

Sure, everyone loves Motorhead's Ace of Spades, but Bomber is the album that primed the pump, single-handedly inspiring the generation that gave us the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, speed metal, thrash, d-beat and hardcore punk. "Fast" Eddie Clark's contributions on guitar and "Philthy Animal" Taylor lock in tight around Lemmy's trademark bass growl, giving Bomber the heavy power of industrial machinery. Fast and heavy, Lemmy and the boys never stray away from the simple pleasures of rock and roll boogie, hearkening back to the days of Chuck Berry and Elvis. -Nicholas Pell

See also: A Brief Interview With Lemmy

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18. Judas Priest

British Steel (1980)

Judas Priest's Rob Halford looked back on the making of British Steel with me in a summer 2009 Houston Press profile as the band was playing the album every night in its entirety. "A good portion of British Steel was made on the fly," he said. "We were literally making a record once a year for 10 years. So, really we were just writing very spontaneously." Many people have taken to calling it a punk record in spirit, arriving at the tail end of the initial explosion of the genre. Songs like "United" and "You Don't Have To Be Old To Be Wise" only stoked those fires.

"We have always been very much with our ears to the ground. I don't think we have really ever taken those things as direct inspiration," Halford added, not entirely shooting down the punk theorists. The album stands as a steadfast testament to the band's artistic tenacity and metal master prowess. It holds up magnificently well, with insanely catchy singles like "Breaking The Law," "Living After Midnight," and "Grinder" inhabiting New Wave of British Heavy Metal mixtapes to this very day. -Craig Hlavaty

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