Why is it that people are so eager to tell you about all the “must have” albums missing from your collection? A real friend would help you avoid the pitfall of spending hours upon hours trying to appreciate albums that supposedly are indispensable but are, in reality, just okay — or worse. Since you probably don’t have a friend like that, here’s a list of some metal albums to avoid no matter how passionately the hesher at Best Buy defends them.
Ozzy Osbourne – Tribute
Remember how, after Randy Rhoads died, Ozzy never made another album and gave up on music altogether? Exactly. Rhodes was a good guitar player but he was no Yngwie Malmsteen. Ozzy mourned the loss of his friend, then moved on with a new guitarist. Totally appropriate. Where he slipped up was releasing Tribute, essentially an entire album of live versions of old songs and some tracks of Rhoads noodling around in the studio. It’s as good as any other live album, which is to say not very good. Calling this essential is really reaching.
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Metallica – Master Of Puppets
To be fair, Metallica was still a young band when this record came out. It was only their third full-length, after all. Okay, enough sarcasm. Listening to Master of Puppets is like using a time machine to go back and watch 3-year-old Rembrandt learn to draw with crayons. Everybody knows Metallica didn’t hit its stride until Bob Rock took over on bass for St. Anger. Some people will tell you that Metallica was still deeply immersed in the San Francisco thrash scene when this album came out and should therefore be viewed as a good example of a band evolving. But who would you rather have for a friend: Australopithecus afarensis, who would spend part of its time up a tree hiding from some sort of leopard predecessor, or a regular, modern homo sapien who doesn’t sit around “thinking” about what stone tools will look like? Either listen to full-blown thrash or full-blown Metallica. Anything, really, besides Master of Puppets.
Black Sabbath – Paranoid
Certainly, you’ve heard that Black Sabbath invented modern heavy metal. That’s debatable at best, but whatever the band did, are you aware it didn’t have a clue what it was doing? Accidentally creating something like the first lawnmower or nuclear fusion is great. But heavy metal? Paranoid sounds like a bunch of Beatles-obsessed hippies trying to toughen up their image because that’s exactly what it is. And, be honest: Have you ever actually listened to anything on this album besides the title track, "War Pigs," and "Iron Man"? If you want to hear Paranoid arguably done better than the original, check out the Dickies' version on Still Got Live Even If You Don’t Want It.
Pantera – Vulgar Display of Power
For a long stretch of time in the ’80s and early ’90s, heavy metal was, for lack of a better word, weak. Bands could get away with wearing makeup and spandex and teasing their hair into such enormous proportions as to make ceiling fans impractical. All that changed when somebody came up with the idea to meld the approachability of metal with the edginess and tempo of hardcore. One of the bands leading the charge to replace the homoerotic videos of the past with images of screaming, tattooed hellions on MTV's Headbanger’s Ball was Pantera. The band released four full-length albums before its 1990 major-label debut, Cowboys From Hell (who knew?). It was great. Nothing earth-shattering in retrospect, but certainly a respectable introduction to the band for anyone (read: everyone) who didn’t hear the first handful of albums. Then came Vulgar Display of Power, which was … considerably less great. After that, Pantera just continued their fat-kid-on-a-wet-banana slide toward irrelevance.
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Slayer – Reign in Blood
Seasons in the Abyss is the best Slayer album. It’s also their best song and music video. Get out of here with that Reign in Blood shit.
Iron Maiden – The Number of the Beast
This one is a puzzler for me. This isn’t even close to being the best Iron Maiden album, but it’s the one every moron metalhead knows. I suspect it’s the only one most of them have heard, owing largely to the Satanic imagery and message of the song. But when you get to Hell and devil asks you what your favorite metal records are and you say The Number of the Beast, of course, Lord Satan,” don’t you think he’s going to be a little disappointed? I can see him rolling his big demon eyes as I write this. It’s like telling Lemmy you REALLY like “Ace of Spades.” Plus — and here’s where it gets complicated – Iron Maiden is terrible. I don’t mean they aren’t good musicians. Rather, they’ve made such laughable art with the talent God, or Satan or Gaia or Papa Smurf gave them. So If you have to listen to Iron Maiden at least have the decency to make it Powerslave.