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27 Albums Every Metalhead Should Own

The are the most essential headbanger-friendly LPs ever recorded

1 / 27

Black Sabbath, 'Black Sabbath' [1970]

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 04: Ozzy Osbourne of Black Sabbath performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Pa
Christie Goodwin/Redferns via Getty Images

Whether you're a fan of thrash or death metal, the technical or the melodic, these 25 metal albums—from PanteraSlayer, Carcass, Lamb of GodChildren of Bodom, Iron Maiden and more—are essential for any complete collection. In shred we trust.

Considered by many to be the blueprint on which the heavy metal sound was built on, Black Sabbath's self-titled debut was released nearly five decades ago. A spellbinding blend of blues and muscular hard rock, tracks like "Behind the Wall of Sleep," "N.I.B." and the spine-chilling title track are what Hammer horror films would sound like if they were transformed into song form. —Carlos Ramirez

2 / 27

Judas Priest, 'Sad Wings of Destiny' [1976]

ASSAGO SUMMER ARENA, ASSAGO, MI, ITALY - 2015/06/23: Rob Halford of Judas Priest performs live at Assago Summer Arena. Judas
Francesco Castaldo/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Sad Wings of Destiny originally flew into record stores back in 1976, but the unbridled power found in songs like "Victim of Changes" and "Tyrant" is timeless. Judas Priest are considered architects of the heavy metal sound and this is the album where they first found their stylistic footing. The blood-curdling scream Rob Halford lets off about eight seconds into "The Ripper" earns the entire disc a spot in your record collection. 
—Carlos Ramirez

3 / 27

Motörhead, 'Overkill' [1979]

Motörhead's sophomore album was a bruising 35-minute slab of proto-metal, and it's the perfect way to remember the dearly departed Lemmy Kilmister. —Zach Dionne

4 / 27

Ozzy Osbourne, 'Blizzard of Ozz' [1980]

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 03: Ozzy Osbourne of Black Sabbath performs during 2012 Lollapalooza at Grant Park on August 3, 2012 in
Barry Brecheisen/WireImage

The first of two albums guitar icon Randy Rhoads would record with Ozzy Osbourne before his untimely death in 1982, Blizzard of Ozz is heavy a metal tour de force. Looking through its credits, the album could serve as a greatest hits collection with tracks like "Crazy Train," "Suicide Solution" and "Goodbye to Romance" all making appearances. Listen to the keyboard intro to "Mr. Crowley" to hear what would have happened if Giorgio Moroder had grown up on a diet of heavy metal instead of rhythm and blues and pop music. —Carlos Ramirez

5 / 27

Black Sabbath, 'Heaven and Hell’ [1980]

UNSPECIFIED - NOVEMBER 01: Photo of ELF and Ronnie DIO; Ronnie James Dio performing on stage, 6,  (Photo by Fin Costello/Redf
Fin Costello/Redferns

Sabbath's the only act you're gonna see twice here, and it's a no-brainer: The Ronnie James Dio–fronted version of The First Metal Band Ever is very much its own thing. Heaven and Hell is an incredible reinvention, the first of a gorgeous two-album moment in the band's history (shoutout to "Turn Up the Night" on '81's Mob Rules), and good enough that when Sabbath reunited with Dio in 2006, they simply called the act Heaven & Hell. —Zach Dionne

6 / 27

Iron Maiden, 'Piece of Mind' [1983]

(GERMANY OUT) Iron Maiden, Bruce Dickinson (Singer) "Maiden England European"-Tour Open Air at Arena Oberhausen  (Photo by Br
Brill/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Most music publications seem to think that The Number of the Beast is Iron Maiden's strongest album, but most music publications are wrong. Piece of Mind is Maiden's finest hour. Live favorites like "Flight of Icarus" and "The Trooper" find a home on the record, but even the lesser known cuts like "Still Life" and "To Tame a Land" are first class. —Carlos Ramirez

7 / 27

Mercyful Fate, 'Don't Break the Oath' [1984]

Mercyful Fate during Mercyful Fate in Concert at Wetlands - 1996 at Wetlands in New York City, New York, United States. (Phot
Steve Eichner/WireImage

King Diamond seems like a nice enough guy, but the man possesses one of the most menacing singing voices in all of music. His work as the frontman of Mercyful Fate in the '80s was groundbreaking, and Don't Break the Oath is the pick of the litter. But as powerful as King's vocal work is on the album, the nine-song platter wouldn't have become known as the classic it is today without guitarists Michael Denner and Hank Shermann's soaring solos and instantly memorable riffs. —Carlos Ramirez

8 / 27

Slayer, 'Reign in Blood' [1986]

SAN ANTONIO, TX - JULY 31: Musician Kerry King of Slayer performs onstage during the 2015 Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festiv
Rick Kern/WireImage

Reign in Blood has been a double-edged sword for the men of Slayer. On one hand, the album is celebrated as one of the finest collections of metal songs ever committed to tape. On the other side of the coin, Slayer has lived in the album's shadow ever since it came out. Either way, Reign in Blood is mandatory listening for any self-respecting hesher. And you might as well survey the best songs on every Slayer album while you're at it. —Carlos Ramirez

9 / 27

Metallica, 'Master of Puppets' [1986]

LEEDS, ENGLAND - AUGUST 30: James Hetfield of Metallica performs headlining the main stage on day 3 of The Leeds Festival at
Shirlaine Forrest/WireImage

Opening with the sonic blitz that is "Battery," Master of Puppets finds Metallica in pure kill mode. You can't go wrong with the thrash titans' first four studio albums, but Master is their most well-rounded full-length. The speedy ("Damage, Inc."), epic ("Orion") and slow-burning ("Welcome Home (Sanitarium)") sides of Metallica's songwriting style are all represented here. —Carlos Ramirez

10 / 27

Megadeth, 'Peace Sells... but Who's Buying?' [1986]

Dave Mustain of Megadeth performed at the Heavy TO festival in Downsview Park Saturday afternoon.
Lucas Oleniuk/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Like the jump his former bandmates in Metallica made from Kill 'Em All to Ride the Lightning, the improved quality of Dave Mustaine's songwriting from the material on Killing Is My Business... and Business Is Good to Peace Sells... but Who's Buying? is staggering. Where Megadeth's debut still mined from the tried and true Motörhead school of speed and attitude, its follow-up takes that and adds better arrangements and sonic nuances to the formula. The results are lethal. —Carlos Ramirez

11 / 27

Anthrax, ‘Among the Living’ [1987]

POMPANO BEACH, FL - SEPTEMBER 26: Joey Belladonna and Scott Ian of Anthrax perform at The Pompano Beach Amphitheater on Septe
Larry Marano/Getty Images

Thrash's breakout moment birthed a quartet of acts that would eventually be known as the Big Four. Alongside MetallicaSlayer and MegadethAnthrax was the only non-California act, and their third record is a goldmine of headbangers, including "Caught in a Mosh," one of the band's best-known songs ever. —Zach Dionne

12 / 27

Pantera, 'Vulgar Display of Power' [1992]

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 01: USA  Photo of Phil ANSELMO and PANTERA, Phil Anselmo  (Photo by Mick Hutson/Redferns)
Mick Hutson/Redferns

Heavy metal's chart dominance in the States was already waning by the time Pantera unleashed their Vulgar Display of Power on us in 1992. The fact that it went on to sell over 2 million copies with very little to no radio support at home is a testament to the strength of the material on the album. Some purists have written off Pantera (probably due to the large number of jocks that love the band) but if you can't admit that Vulgar Display is a top-to-bottom classic heavy metal record, then you're living in denial. —Carlos Ramirez

13 / 27

Carcass, 'Heartwork' [1993]

BERLIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 27: Singer Jeff Walker of the British band Carcass performs live in support of Amon Amarth during
Frank Hoensch/Redferns via Getty Images

Five years into their recording career, Liverpool's Carcass broadened and perfected their game, moving from a gore-obsessed grindcore act to a melodic death metal powerhouse. With future Arch Enemy founder Michael Amott (a Swede, duh) on the guitar team, the band made Heartwork, a beautiful, brutal album that sounds like nothing recorded before or since. —Zach Dionne

14 / 27

Korn, ‘Korn’ [1994]

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 05: Jonathan Davis performs during The Korn 20th Anniversary Tour at Irving Plaza on October 5, 2015 i
Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Thank or blame Korn for nu-metal, but you can't hate on their raw self-titled. Munky and Head's noisey, bizarro guitar interplay is one-of-a-kind, Fieldy's slap bass is a sound that rings across metal history, and Jonathan Davis' tortured honesty crushes time and time again. And few metal albums open with as memorable a lyric as "Arrrrrrre youuu reaaaddyyyy??!" Read about our experience watching the entire album performed in its entirety on the band's 20th anniversary tour right here—Zach Dionne

15 / 27

At the Gates, 'Slaughter of the Soul' [1995]

IPPODROMO CAPANNELLE, ROME, ITALY - 2015/06/16: Jonas Björler (L) and Tomas Lindberg (R) of At The Gates performs live at Roc
Francesco Castaldo/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

It's not At the Gates' fault that an entire generation of bands copied their style. After all, who could blame anyone for being completely enamored with the Swedish quintet's blend of melodic guitars and scalding thrash rhythms? 1995's Slaughter of the Soul is At the Gates' magnum opus and makes any metal record collection 100 times better the instant it joins it. —Carlos Ramirez

16 / 27

Meshuggah, 'Destroy Erase Improve' [1995]

MONTREAL, QC - AUGUST 07: Jens Kidman of Meshuggah performs on Day 1 of the Heavy Montreal Festival at Parc Jean-Drapeau on A
Mark Horton/Getty Images

Lots of the best metal comes out of Sweden, but Meshuggah seem to have crash-landed there from another galaxy. The heavier-than-thou act's sophomore album showed off such a ferocious, technical melding of jazz, industrial and prog-rock flavors that we're pretty sure math-metal acts like the Dillinger Escape Plan and Between the Buried and Me would have never been born without it. —Zach Dionne

17 / 27

The Haunted, 'The Haunted' [1998]

Three-fifths of At the Gates—including the bass/guitar brother duo of Jonas and Anders Björler—came together three years after the then–swan song Slaughter of the Soul to form this thrashier project; the intensity of their debut set a high bar for the rest of the Swedish act's career.

18 / 27

Children of Bodom, ‘Hatebreeder’ [1999]

ALCATRAZ, MILAN, ITALY - 2015/11/24: Alexi Laiho of Children of Bodom performs live at Alcatraz. (Photo by Franceso Castaldo/
Franceso Castaldo/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Alexi Laiho's Finnish brigade has consistently wowed with its virtuosic guitar and keyboard solos since its 1997 debut, but its second LP is the most special in its catalog—and a must-have for fans of melodically inclined neo-thrash. —Zach Dionne

19 / 27

In Flames, 'Colony' [1999]

COLUMBUS, OH - MAY 16: Musician Anders Fridén of In Flames performs at MAPFRE Stadium on May 16, 2015 in Columbus, Ohio.  (P
Jason Squires/WireImage

Old school Gothenburg metal purists tend to root for In Flames' somewhat At the Gates-adjacent early work—The Jester's Race, Whoracle—and it makes sense. But the influential Swedes had an early period and a late period (which they're still carving out, with their 11th full-length, Siren Charms, dropping in 2014), and Colony was the sturdy bridge. The trademark guitar harmonies were never sharper, the then-novel sung-not-screamed choruses never better, and the quality-per-minute ratio never higher. Colony is a masterpiece from the first second to the 40th minute, a conceptual melodic death metal album that feels strangely hopeful. —Zach Dionne

20 / 27

Opeth, ‘Blackwater Park’ [2001]

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 11: Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth performs on stage at The Roundhouse on October 11, 2014 in Lon
Burak Cingi/Redferns via Getty Images

Sweden's Opeth has one of the most consistently adventurous and high-quality discographies in the entire pantheon of axe-based music. Vocalist/guitarist Mikael Åkerfeldt's ability to switch from a roaring giant to a melodious wood nymph is never not-striking, and the mid-career masterwork Blackwater Park is one we'll be leaving for the aliens. —Zach Dionne

21 / 27

Arch Enemy, ‘Wages of Sin’ [2001]

UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 01: Photo of ARCH ENEMY  (Photo by Mick Hutson/Redferns)
Mick Hutson/Redferns

Built on the dual-guitar foundation of Carcass alum Michael Amott and his freakishly talented little brother, Christopher, the Swedes dropped three spectacular albums in the late '90s, blotched—terribly so, depending on who you ask—by a lackluster, grumbly vocalist. In 2001, the reinvented act welcomed Germany's Angela Gossow, an absolute vocal demon, to front a collection of melodic death metal diamonds. Jump straight to "Ravenous" if this one passed you by. —Zach Dionne

22 / 27

The Dillinger Escape Plan, ‘Miss Machine’ [2004]

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MARCH 02: Vocalist Greg Puciato and guitarist Jeff Tuttle of The Dillinger Escape Plan perform at the ral
Araya Diaz/WireImage

Dillinger's 1999 debut, Calculating Infinity, is the grail for math-metal devotees, but the band's switch to vocalist Greg Puciato—a more melodically versatile and philosophically inclined fellow than the beloved Dimitri Minakakis—was a watershed moment. Miss Machine was still full of that signature technical brain-fuckery, but more accessible and sing-alongable, standing on the shoulders of a vast spread of metal forefathers to become a permanent landmark for heavy music. —Zach Dionne

23 / 27

Necrophagist, ‘Epitaph’ [2004]

Relapse Records

If your collection only has one death metal album, make it Epitaph. The German sorcerer Muhammed Suiçmez may actually be immortal; there's no other way to put in the amount of time it must've taken to learn how to play guitar this maniacally while growling bone-disintegrating vox. Cannibal Corpse, Deicide, Vital Remains, Nile—they're all legends, but Necrophagist is on a different level. Epitaph also gets major rarity points; the band only released one album before and zero since. —Zach Dionne

24 / 27

Unearth, 'The Oncoming Storm' [2004]

NEW YORK - APRIL 1: Heavy metal band Unearth performs on stage during MTV2 Headbangers Ball Tour on April 1, 2004 at the Rose
Scott Gries/Getty Images

Though the metalcore genre proliferated fast and almost too furiously in the mid-aughts, Unearth's early entry into the genre was full of enough jun-jun breakdowns to make you crush a whole silo of beer cans off your head. Throw in Gothenburg-indebted guitar harmonies and scarily sharp songwriting, and the Massachusetts bruisers found a place in history. —Zach Dionne

25 / 27

Between the Buried and Me, 'Colors' [2007]

MANCHESTER, TN - JUNE 12: (L-R) Musicians Paul Waggoner, Tommy Rogers, Blake Richardson, Dan Briggs and Dustie Waring of Betw
FilmMagic/FilmMagic for Bonnaroo Arts And Music Festival

The North Carolina band shattered minds with their first three so-technical-you-almost-need-a-PhD-to-comprehend albums. Then they dropped a covers LP nakedly titled The Anatomy Of, claiming influences as wide-ranging as QueenMetallicaSoundgarden, Sepultura, the Counting Crows, Blind Melon, PanteraPink Floyd and Mötley Crüe. When they followed that with Colors it was clear that the dudes weren't lying about their eclectic hearts. All those bands run in their blood, as do 14-minute songs stacked with time-changes, piano sing-alongs, acoustic strum-alongs and harmonized solos that can run with the best of Iron Maiden. But the ingredients alone can't even approach a true description of Colors as a full-album experience. A completely unique metal gem for the history books. —Zach Dionne

26 / 27

Baroness, 'Yellow & Green' [2012]

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 02: John Dyer Baizley and Peter Adams of Baroness perform live at Bumbershoot at Seattle Center on Se
Suzi Pratt/FilmMagic

Picking a favorite Baroness album is like picking a favorite Metallica album—impossible. But the way 2012's two-parter played with the Southern act's interplay between prog, doom and straight-out groove made it immensely memorable and relistenable. It's a perfect gateway to the group. —Zach Dionne

27 / 27

Lamb of God, 'VII: Sturm und Drang' [2015]

LAS VEGAS, NV - AUGUST 28: Singer Randy Blythe of Lamb of God performs at the Las Vegas Village on August 28, 2015 in Las Veg
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Southern-fried metallers of Lamb of God made four increasingly excellent albums before finding themselves locked in a repetitious pattern for a few years. Then frontman Randy Blythe stared down a lengthy prison sentence in the Czech Republic over the death of a fan at a concert, ultimately being acquitted and leading to Lamb of God's most powerful album in years—and the one that may end up going down as their best. "512" alone merits VII's inclusion on any metal must-list. —Zach Dionne

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