See also: The 20 Greatest Metal Albums in History: 20-11

10. Metallica

Master of Puppets (1986)

MASTER! MASTER! MASTER! Metallica's 1986 statement is generally regarded by knowing and trustworthy metalheads as the best Metallica slab to date. The album's eight tracks are virtually fat-free, and the damned thing even comes with an eight-minute instrumental cut (“Orion”) foretelling two to three generations of heavy metal to come. It's not only a good bedroom jam (just put in on repeat) but the San Francisco boys at their most surly and burly too. If you ask me, your favorite track should be “Leper Messiah.” -Craig Hlavaty

9. Tool

Ӕnima (1996)

All the aural promise of Tool's bleakly cathartic debut album, 1993's Undertow, was realized when they returned with Ӕnima three years later. With new bassist Justin Chancellor aboard, they uncoiled with paranormal, exhilarating abandon: super-proggy, ominously polyrhythmic explorations rippling beneath and around Adam Jones' wonderfully restrained (by metal standards) guitars and Maynard James Keenan's monastic incantations. Subsequent releases have been sometimes frustratingly arcane — Ӕnima is where Tool's extreme dynamics and esoteric implications intersect to maximum visceral and cerebral effect. -Paul Rogers

See also: Top 20 L.A. Metal Albums

8. Sleep

Holy Mountain (1993)

If you are going to name your record after one of the trippiest films of all time, you have to be prepared to deliver a seriously mind-altering experience. San Jose stoner metal pioneers Sleep rose to the challenge on their 1993 genre masterpiece, Sleep's Holy Mountain. The colossal riffage begins with the deceptively groovy “Dragonaut” and from there on out one's ears are offered only the briefest of respites. When Sleep chooses to turn the volume down, as on the 48 second bluegrass interval titled “Some Grass,” it is only to prepare the listener for the next pummeling assault.

-Emmett Shoemaker

7. Black Sabbath

Master of Reality (1971)

Black Sabbath deliberately down-tuned for their third effort, Master of Reality, which would become the very ore from which all gloomy, doomy and drudgy metal is mined. Crafted for altered mindstates, this is the band at their stoniest. Prickly critics of the time (notably Bangs and Christgau) failed to see this as the one of ghosts of metal future, despite the act's forward-thinking techniques and fiercely honest outsider attitude. And, yes, there is even cowbell. -Paul Bradley

6. Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath (1970)

Fittingly released on Friday the 13th, Black Sabbath's eponymous 1970 debut spawned heavy metal as we know it. Brooding, satanic, and deeply bluesy, Black Sabbath contains some of the group's best and darkest material. The title track in particular, which incorporates a dirging tri-tone interval, church bells, and Ozzy Ozbournes's impassioned, damnable wailing, is frightening even by today's standards. While the Ozzman's harmonica work on “The Wizard” may have aged less gracefully, the album remains unstoppably heavy, an unparalleled classic. -Emmett Shoemaker

5. Opeth

Blackwater Park (2001)

There are other bands who balance abrasive death metal and melodic progressive-rock influences, but none do it as well as Sweden's Opeth, and Blackwater Park was the moment in their 20-year career when they reached the pinnacle of this blend. On songs such as “Bleak” and “The Drapery Falls,” band leader Mikael Akerfeldt alternates between throat-shredding death vocals and soothingly-clean croons, with the music hitting similar peaks and valleys. Each is delivered masterfully. -Jason Roche

4. Motorhead

Ace of Spades (1980)

The title track of Ace of Spades, the fourth album by U.K. trio Motörhead, is the ultimate devil-may-care anthem. Singer and bass player Lemmy declares, “I don't want to live forever,” and his boozing and pill-popping makes for a convincing case. In 1980, the record was an influential precursor to thrash metal. With characters including gambling gunslingers and those fucking whoever the hell they want, the album went gold quickly, and made Lemmy a heavy metal icon. -Linda Leseman

3. Pantera

A Vulgar Display of Power (1992)

Pantera's third album with Philip Anselmo on vocals saw the Texas quartet completely shed the remaining vestiges of their humble hard rock beginnings. The group ratcheted up the anger and testosterone on groove-metal classics like “Walk” and “Fucking Hostile.” The guitars of Dimebag Darrell became abrasive buzzsaws, providing the perfect backdrop for Anselmo's venomous snarl. Soon after this album's release, mosh pits at Pantera shows rivaled the brutality found in the pits at Slayer concerts. – Jason Roche

2. Black Sabbath

Paranoid (1970)

Black Sabbath's debut may have invented heavy metal, but their second album Paranoid (released later that same year in 1970) perfected it. The record is chock-full of now-classic guitar licks by Tony Iommi. Along with the title song, tunes like “War Pigs” and “Iron Man” are instantly memorable — the kinds of tracks you only have to hear once before they're forever seared on your psyche. The swinging “Faeries Wear Boots” and watery “Planet Caravan” show hints of the stylistic diversity that would allow Sabbath such a strong run in the early part of their career. In the relatively brief history of heavy metal, it's impossible to overestimate Black Sabbath's significance, and Paranoid is their best moment. -Linda Leseman

1. Slayer

Reign in Blood (1986)

Producer Rick Rubin, as he has for so many artists, trimmed Slayer's sonic fat after signing them to his primarily hip-hop Def Jam label in 1986. Reign in Blood, the first fruits of this seemingly unlikely union, retained all of the band's firework technicality and melodramatic imagery, while shunning the meandering arrangements (and shoddy production) of their prior indie releases in favor of short, punky salvos of worryingly savage thrash. Though the quartet has created much accomplished music since, to many fans this album is Slayer. -Paul Rogers

See also: The 20 Greatest Metal Albums in History: 20-11

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