Remembered I still haven't updated this, so I'm doing it now, because it's 6 AM and I can't sleep haha.
There are many bands I believe I could exchange in the bottom ten on this list, but I'm sticking with what I have here. Some of these depend on whether I've been listening to them recently or not, but most, especially top ten, are solid. I could, however, substitute any number of bands - Slayer, Mercyful Fate, Dark Funeral, Candlemass, Dream Theater, and so on and so forth. So these 20 are not quite written in stone as favorites, except the top 6-8.
20. Motley Crue - Shout at the Devil
I like the Crue, although I must admit I have to listen to glam with a grain of salt. I believe this is their best album, it's by far their heaviest, and pretty much every song on here feels iconic of the LA scene in the early 80s. It's also got my favorite guitar work from Mick Mars, who in my opinion is one of the most underrated guitarists ever.
19. Scorpions - Love at First Sting
Sort of the same deal here as with Motley Crue. This is the kind of stuff I listen to in the background at work. Heavy enough to keep my interest, but for the most part, completely non-threatening and free of any introspective feelings or ideas like most of the music I listen to is more or less completely immersed in. It's just fun to listen to and the band sounds great.
18. Immortal - At the Heart of Winter
I could say this or Pure Holocaust is my favorite, depending on my mood. The riffs on this album are massive, but Pure Holocaust is their best work overall, in my opinion. Immortal is not my preferred black metal, although I do find myself listening to this album sometimes, when I still want to listen to black metal but want a small break from the completely grim and serious.
17. Queensryche - Operation Mindcrime
Or, as I like to call it, Operation Mindfuck. One of the most underrated bands of the 80s, and I think it's unfortunate they have been saddled at times (inaccurately) with the "glam" or "hair band" labels. Right out the gate with their self-titled EP, these guys are a sonic punch right in the face. Geoff Tate's vocals are so unique and powerful, and I love how they build intensity in their songs. Honestly, I probably could have picked any album as a favorite up to and including Empire, but Operation Mindcrime, lives up to its positive reviews in just about every way.
16. Iron Maiden - Piece of Mind
Similarly, I could probably pick just about any Maiden album up until Fear of the Dark as a favorite. For a bands that's been around since what was essentially the birth of metal, they're pretty damn consistent from album to album, although I can't say I enjoy their later albums with the same zeal. There are just so many classics in their discography, and Piece of Mind is probably the album I've listened to the most cover to cover.
15. Suicidal Tendencies - Lights...Camera...Revolution!
I love how these guys meshed thrash metal with hardcore punk without becoming some bullshit metalcore band. Love the guitar work on this album, lyrics are ultra relatable. Some of my favorite music to listen to when I'm pissed off. Mike doesn't mince words about stupid people and fucked up society, a great way to put things back into perspective when I'm made to feel like I'm the crazy one. Just great, ass-kicking music.
14. Death - Symbolic
Ah, Death. I'm much more on the black metal side of things, but I have a soft spot for Death. Not only were they such an innovative band, and with this album specifically, but the misanthropic themes on Symbolic really speak to me, and there are few bands I can say can express this theme with the same level of fury and honesty. "Empty Words" and "Crystal Mountain" are timeless classics and personal favorites of mine.
13. Gorgoroth - Antichrist
I prefer Gaahl-era Gorgoroth (Incipit Satan is pretty damn hard to beat), but Antichrist just has a certain atmosphere about it which I find especially enjoyable. I'm not sure if it's the production, or perhaps because they almost approach doom metal at times (especially the closing track), but this is exactly the kind of thing I love to listen to on a cold, rainy night. And, I mean, it's Frost behind the kit, can't go wrong there.
12. Moonsorrow - Voimasta Ja Kunniasta
Black metal with a heavy dose of folk influence? Yes, please! I typically have to be in a certain mood to listen to this sort of thing, but this album is so good, every song on here is equal parts beautiful and aggressive. They're also not as annoying as a lot of other similar bands can sometimes be. Rarely, if ever, do I feel compelled to quit listening to them halfway through an album.
11. Korpiklaani - Tales Along This Road
I don't listen to this band as much as I used to, and in retrospect, a lot of what they do is just the same regurgitated tropes (though still good fun in the right setting). I do, however, still really like this album, especially "Tuli Kokko", which may well be my favorite "folk metal" song ever.
10. Turisas - Battle Metal
Again, not a band I listen to as much anymore, though their much smaller discography makes it easier to revisit them over the course of an afternoon. Battle Metal and The Varangian Way still hold up and I still like them, Battle Metal being, in my opinion, groundbreaking in its own way. Sadly, I think this band has fizzled out after a rather short career.
9. Finntroll - Jaktens Tid
I won't lie, I love Finntroll. I love every single album they've ever done. Not a 100% serious band, nor do I believe they ever were, but I like what they do. Really difficult for me to pick a favorite, and all of their albums get equal rotation from me, but there's an intangible about Jaktens Tid which bumps it just a bit higher than the others.
8. 1349 - Hellfire
I'm not entirely sure if this band would rank as high on my list if they had a different drummer, but I still love their sound and aesthetic regardless of Frost's genius. I appreciate that they continue to maintain an authenticity to black metal when so many others have for the most part abandoned the genre. Again, tough to pick a favorite album, but I tend to listen to Hellfire the most.
7. October Tide - Rain Without End
October Tide itself, is not what I would say have been a terribly influential or groundbreaking band by any means throughout its existence, given the fact that this genre was already sort of established at the time, but goddamnit do I love this album. It's like the extra early Katatonia album (more on that later) with such a perfect atmosphere, memorable riffs, beautiful lyrics, great vocal performance. An obscure jewel of an album.
6. Darkthrone - A Blaze in the Northern Sky
Okay, here's where we're getting into what I would call something like "The Most Untouchable Metal Bands in Depraved's Humble Opinion". To say this album was hugely influential and still such a classic is an understatement. They really mastered and perfected the sound, and to think it was one of the first Norwegian black metal albums ever recorded, really speaks to its importance despite the direction the band began to move in after Transylvanian Hunger. Simply put, it's one of the most perfect Norwegian black metal albums ever written.
5. Paradise Lost - Draconian Times
Where do I begin with them? I believe they're the quintessential gothic metal band, whose influence was quite far-reaching, more so than was probably originally thought. What they became after this album I believe was a travesty, despite their efforts to redeem themselves in recent years, but their earlier material - and this album especially - are untouchable. Some reviews I've seen say it's a little cheesy or compare Nick Holmes's vocals to James Hetfield (???) which I don't agree with at all (actually never drew any connection with Hetfield until I read that and I guess I can kind of see why some people would hear a similarity, but still sounds nothing like a "gothic Metallica" or some other stupid things I've read). Paradise Lost did everything right with this album, the songwriting, the lyrics, the clean tones, the artwork, even the samples. There is something inexplicable about this album - which is usually a great sign when it comes to music - which can't be expressed in words, but this album creates such a specific mood. This album takes me alone to a graveyard in autumn in the rain, that sort of quiet, internal sorrow and existential introspection. It's that feeling, in musical form.
4. Opeth - Orchid
I know I'm an outlier for choosing Orchid here, but early Opeth, up until Still Life are some of my favorite albums ever written. Opeth was actually the first metal band I really listened to, and so maintain a certain special place in my heart, and at one time I would have told you they're my favorite band. That's not exactly the case anymore, but I still thoroughly enjoy their early material whenever I revisit it, and Orchid is probably the only album of theirs toward which my feelings still haven't changed. Like Draconian Times, it's difficult for me to put my finger on what it is specifically about this album that I love so much. The riffs, that goes without saying, but it's something more than that. The structure of the songs, while unconventional and sometimes meandering even by Opeth standards or those of progressive metal as a genre, is very unique, in a way that makes each piece feel like a journey. The acoustic parts are beautiful, too. Some people might say it's a bit of an amateur effort, but I don't really see it that way. For whatever little they lack in technicality, they make up for in scores with passion and innovation.
3. Satyricon - Nemesis Divina
Somewhat underrated compared to their contemporaries, but Satyricon's first three LPs really capture the atmosphere and meaning of the genre. I absolutely love Dark Medieval Times and The Shadowthrone as well, but Nemesis Divina is their magnum opus in my opinion and a culmination of their earlier creative efforts. Listening to these albums is like a mesmerizing, dark, grim fantasy, which no other band has seemed to be able to recreate in quite the same way. I believe this is due, in part, to the use of piano and acoustic bits here and there where they're least expected. Something about that, combined with the rawness of the riffs and Satyr's demonic vocals, makes this album such a great listen and is one of the best black metal has to offer. I've already mentioned Frost a couple of times in this post, so I don't really need to talk about him again (wait - what am I saying?) If this album was already perfect for its riffs and melodies, Frost's drumming puts it over the top. His style is so aggressive, urgent, and complex and really fits with the mood of the album. He's one of my all-time favorite drummers - if not my favorite - and some of his best work is showcased here.
2. Katatonia - Dance of December Souls
They're almost number one on my list and they may well be tied for that spot. Such an original sound, heavy and melancholic without sacrificing melody. I could fanboy for hours about their early material and it almost makes listening to their later output sort of bittersweet, simply because it's always felt overshadowed by their first two LPs. My first introduction to them was Brave Murder Day, and I didn't think metal could get much better than that, but then I listened to Dance of December Souls and I was completely blown away. I'm not sure what it is, and it feels foolish to attempt to express how I really feel about this music in words, but I think these guys demonstrate better than anyone else the very definition of artistic expression through music, all while (in the early-mid 90s, at least) pushing the boundaries of creative license. I don't think I'll ever be able to quit talking about Dance of December Souls. It's so haunting and beautiful and gut-wrenching all at the same time. Kingpins of doom/death for sure.
1. Mayhem - De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas
I'm not sure what I could possibly say about them that hasn't already been said. De Mysteriis... is, in my opinion, black metal's finest hour. Dead's lyrics, Euro's riffs, the aggression and atmosphere this album creates...the only thing which could have made it better is if they had been able to record it when Dead was still alive. I'm not a huge fan of Attila's vocals, but it's not like they ruin the album or anything. Perhaps the reason these guys are at the top of my list is mainly because of their legacy and influence, but the early material still blows me away. I don't think anyone who came after has been able to touch them, as many good black metal bands as there have been. Mayhem's classic lineup just had something intangible about them; the perfect storm gone horribly awry, but it's the lyrical themes and hair-raising guitar tone that keep me going back to their debut full-length.