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The 25 Greatest Debut Metal Albums of All Time

on April 09, 2018, 12:00am
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10. Death – Scream Bloody Gore (1987)

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After cranking out tons of demos that would become the foundation for death metal, Chuck Schuldiner and his band, Death, brought the genre to album form in 1987. Scream Bloody Gore set the template by intensifying thrash’s tempos, Schuldiner’s growled screams, and the general obsession with horror and the macabre. “Zombie Ritual”, in particular, remained a live staple until Schuldiner’s death in 2001; its screechy intro was unlike anything coming out then. Possessed and Slayer were already among the most extreme thrash bands at the time, yet Scream solidified that into code. He would later expand death metal’s frontiers a thousandfold, yet this primitive model still has old heads and new forming death metal bands. And though he didn’t realize it, Scream was the first step in making Florida death metal as important to the state and the world as Miami bass and Blowfly. –Andy O’Connor

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09. Napalm Death – Scum (1987)

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Napalm Death’s debut album, Scum, arguably the first grindcore record, is almost two albums. Side A and Side B have completely different lineups, with drummer Mick Harris the common thread between them. Side A features Justin Broadrick on guitar and vocals, who would later go on to form Godflesh, and bassist, vocalist,and founding member Nik Bullen trading shrieks and barks. They compacted Discharge’s blown-out, dystopian anachro-punk into its shortest, most blistering form possible, ending with the infamous one-second track “You Suffer”. Side B has a more grinding guitar tone from Carcass’ Bill Steer and deeper grunts from future Cathedral singer Lee Dorrian, both of which predicted Napalm Death’s eventual death-grind direction. Their pointed social commentary, as blunt as the music itself, served as inspiration for other groups to use death metal to confront societal ills. Intense music shouldn’t leave you off the hook — why compromise on your ideals? –Andy O’Connor

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08. Godflesh – Streetcleaner (1989)

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“YOU BREED! LIKE RATS!” Justin Broadrick’s opening words on “Like Rats” are still spine-chilling and some of the angriest verses laid to tape. After leaving Napalm Death, Broadrick formed Godflesh to combine grindcore and death metal with industrial music. Though part of Earache’s Golden Era, their debut, Streetcleaner, wasn’t blistering fast: it was a steady death machine, the programmed drums only functioning to kill. Streetcleaner needed that cold feel of a drum machine; it’s a record about crushing life, or in the case of “Like Rats”, propagation as destruction. G.C. Green’s bass provided even more inhuman clang, and even Broadrick himself doesn’t sound human, offering pained growls that sound like he’s fighting off assimilation and losing. Don’t hold him back, as he says on “Christbait Rising”, this is his own hell. –Andy O’Connor

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07. Morbid Angel – Altars of Madness (1989)

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Morbid Angel were destined for greatness from the moment they first rose from the swamps of Tampa, Florida in 1983. It took mastermind Trey Azagthoth and his cohorts less than 7 years to push to the front of the Sunshine State’s fertile death-metal circuit, racing alongside scene poo-bahs like Obituary, Deicide, and Death. On 1989’s debut, Altars of Madness, the quartet effectively left their peers in the dust with 10 eternal, accessible stompers, each showcasing the transcendent potential of a style regarded by many a music snob as being overly primitive and formulaic; take the incendiary opener, “Immortal Rites”, one of the first tracks of its kind to incorporate sampling and drum machines; “Maze of Torment”, a polyrhytmic, byzantine clusterfuck of the highest caliber; or “Evil Spells”, the hallucinogenic love letter to dark magic that concludes the whole affair. In the wake of Altars of Madness, Morbid Angel signed with Giant Records and started getting spins on MTV, making them the first death-metal band to burst into the mainstream. –Zoe Camp

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06. Slayer – Show No Mercy (1983)

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Years before the giant shades, years before tribal tats, years before Sum 41 guest appearances, years before Gary Holt, there was Show No Mercy. Formative American thrash albums showed their NWOBHM influences more nakedly, and Mercy was no exception. Slayer’s look at the time was more dramatic, filled with studs, spikes, and eyeliner (thrashers could be pretty boys, too!), and Tom Araya’s vocal performance reflected that. “Die by the Sword” is an upbeat romp where Araya attempts squeaky highs and theatrical lows — as fun as it is, it’s as much about him finding his literal voice. Still, there were signs here of the Slayer to come. Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King’s soloing is noticeably cleaner and more Priest-influenced than the borderline free chaos they created, though “Evil Has No Boundaries” and “Metal Storm/Face the Slayer” were still rife with messy squabbles. “Black Magic” has a darker air and is the most Slayer song on here, which is why it’s still a setlist staple. Hanneman’s hardcore influences, which made Reign in Blood a modern classic, hadn’t fully seeped in yet, but there was more speed than what was coming from across the pond. Even if the British influence lingered, Slayer were already well on their way into carving their own place, and with the exception of Kill ‘Em All, no thrash debut came close to touching Show No Mercy. –Andy O’Connor

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