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The 25 Greatest Debut Metal Albums of All Time

on April 09, 2018, 12:00am
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20. Earth – Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version (1993)

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It might sound hard to believe, given the music’s copious reptile brain baiting, but the brutal, primitive genre known as drone comes courtesy of the latter-day intelligentsia: a loose network of Ivy League musicologists, avant-garde performance artists, and psychonauts-turned-philosophers who molded 20th century anxieties into overwhelming sonic horror shows. With their inaugural full-length, Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version, Dylan Carlson and co. sent a heretofore inaccessible musical philosophy on a one-way ticket to hell, resulting in one of the harshest, most punishing albums ever pressed to wax. The band might’ve pivoted to a lusher, more melodic sound after Earth 2, but their opus is their calling card nonetheless. Is there any question why? –Zoe Camp

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19. Bathory – Bathory (1984)

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Bathory’s self-titled 1984 debut brought the fuzzy, necro-production that would eventually become a staple of black metal. Beneath that murk was tons of swagger, bringing Motörhead’s charge from bikes, girls, and whiskey to Satan, witchcraft, and more whiskey. Quorthon, the band’s leader and chief songwriter, had a rasp as nasty as Lemmy’s, but he also had his sense of hooks, too. Bathory was far from pop-metal, though had Blackie Lawless gotten a copy, he would sense a kinship in Quorthon and maybe even have him out to throw some meat on audiences. It’s a lot cheekier than the music that black metal would eventually inspire. Quorthon himself would take his own music towards a more epic style focusing on Norse mythology before passing away in 2004, but from the onset, he sealed his legacy. –Andy O’Connor

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18. Dillinger Escape Plan – Calculating Infinity (1999)

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With Calculating Infinity, Dillinger Escape Plan crammed hardcore, technical death metal, grindcore, progressive rock, and even traces of IDM into one of the most volatile musical cocktails. Riffs never stay static, and if they can fit a synchronized solo in there, they will. “43% Burnt” is still the jam, an experiment if you can mosh to ultra-fast sweeps and ever-changing tempos. Its title track, one of the lone breathers, has a noise-rock-meets-Faith No More vibe that would not only chart the band’s future, but also lead to working with Mike Patton himself. “Weekend Sex Change” has tranquil guitars but sputtering angry drums, like they tried to remember an Aphex Twin song from memory. Dillinger Escape Plan came out the gate with such an insane record, it’s no wonder every album since has been tempered down to some degree. To be fair, trying to replicate this wouldn’t be just deadly, but impossible. –Andy O’Connor

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17. Trouble – Psalm 9 (1984)

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Formed in 1979, the Illinois band Trouble were among the first bands to churn out UK-style doom-metal stateside, garnering local fame through massive, primordial psych jams reminiscent of Blue Cheer and Black Sabbath. 1983’s self-titled debut LP — eventually rechristened Psalm 9, to avoid confusion with Trouble’s eponymous fourth LP, released seven years later — represents the first great American doom album, a bleary-eyed wonderland awash with down-tuned riffs, turgid chug, and pointed hooks. Even as a record musically inseparable from Ozzy and co.’s infernal tradition, Psalm 9’s god-fearing, spiritually-driven themes proved damn subversive in the early ’80s, when popular discourse framed metal as a musical means of devil worship. In tempering the light and darkness, Trouble challenged and expanded genre mores, providing a possible explanation for the dubious “white metal” label bestowed upon them by label home Metal Blade. The grand irony, of course, is that Trouble’s Psalm 9 is neither pure nor holy: it’s simply enlightened, albeit wrathfully so. –Zoe Camp

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16. Cynic – Focus (1993)

cynic focus The 25 Greatest Debut Metal Albums of All Time

Death metal is proof that sometimes the best music is made by the biggest fucking nerds to walk the Earth, and in the early ’90s, when it began melding with progressive rock and jazz fusion in part because of Atheist and Pestilence, that was even more true. Vocalist/guitarist Paul Masvidal and drummer Sean Reinert had already helped Death advance to a new realm of musicality with Human, and they returned to their main band, Cynic, to further explore progressive directions with their debut, Focus. Masvidal recorded his vocals through a vocoder, creating a robotic and totally alien vibe. Even the guitars are rough yet polished, grafting metal heft onto smooth fusion runs. Basically, they sound exactly like they were recorded on headless guitars. Fretless bass gives this a hopped up Jaco feel, a small Florida homage. Death metal had explored the cosmos before, but Cynic felt truly interdimensional. –Andy O’Connor

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