Top 10 Important Albums in Heavy Metal History

VOICE OVER: Matt Campbell
Script written by Brandon Stuhr

These albums are the best that heavy metal has to offer. Join as we count down our picks for Top 10 Important Albums in Heavy Metal. For this list, we are only including albums that can be classified in the heavy metal genre.

Special thanks to our user MikeyP for submitting the idea using our interactive suggetion tool at http://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest
Script written by Brandon Stuhr

Top 10 Most Important Albums in Heavy Metal History

These albums are the best that heavy metal has to offer. Join as we count down our picks for Top 10 Important Albums in Heavy Metal.

For this list, we are only including albums that can be classified in the heavy metal genre. Finding its roots within the English rock band Led Zeppelin, heavy metal includes extended guitar solos, head-banging riffs, and pure metal lyrics. Let’s get ready to mosh.

#10: “Ace of Spades”
Motorhead (1980)

Heavy metal would not be the same without our first entry. Considered by critics and fans as a monumental effort in the evolution of heavy metal, the album introduced American fans to the UK heavy metal scene with the release of it’s title track “Ace of Spades”. Due to the success of the title track, Motorhead has often been linked to the development of thrash and speed metal. Little known fact, while “Ace of Spades” is the band’s fourth album overall, it is also Motorhead’s debut album in the United States. What a way to make an impression.

#9: “British Steel”
Judas Priest (1980)

Sometimes you have to abandon the dark themes of heavy metal to go for a more commercial sound. The sixth album in Judas Priest’s repertoire, “British Steel” crushed the heavy metal market with singles like “Breaking the Law” and “Living After Midnight”. This more commercial sound proved that the heavy metal genre can be tweaked and manipulated into sounded something entirely new. Interesting fact, in 2009 for Judas Priest’s 30th anniversary, “British Steel” became the only album to be played in it’s original order and on the save tour. While we were tempted to give out number nine spot to the band’s 12th album “Painkiller”, but the album’s speed metal couldn’t trump “British Steel”.

#8: “Cowboys From Hell”
Pantera (1990)

It’s time to let loose the “Cowboys From Hell”. By far the most cohesive entry on our list, “Cowboys Fom Hell” shows exactly what happens with great band chemistry. From Phil Anselmo’s gut-wrenching vocals to Diamond Darrel’s insane guitar work, the album included tracks that would later inspire many musicians, such as the guitar shredding epic “The Art of Shredding” or the grim but ground-breaking “Cemetery Gates”. Serving its spot as Pantera’s fifth album release,”Cowboys From Hell” is considered by fans and critics alike to be the band’s most iconic album. While Pantera’s sixth album “A Vulgar Display of Power” introduced listeners to a new style of groove metal, there is no way you can “Walk” over the “Cowboys From Hell”.

#7: “High ‘n’ Dry”
Def Leppard (1981)

When you think of glam metal, you often think of our next entry. Released as the band’s second album, “High ‘n’ Dry” became a statement of the glam metal scene with hits like “Let It Go” and “High ‘n’ Dry”. Making a mark during the early 1980s, many metal fans accepted the glam genre with a grain of salt, knowing it wouldn’t last. They were wrong. While it was later certified double platinum, it wasn’t until after the band’s third album, “Pyromania”, that “High ‘n’ Dry” took off. While we were tempted to give this spot to Guns N’ Roses “Appetite for Destruction”, Def Leppard kept their spot by becoming synonymous with hair metal.

#6: “Rust in Peace”
Megadeth (1990)

Bring on the “Holy War”. By far the most technical album Megadeth has released in their three decade career, “Rust in Peace” is often overlooked in comparison to Megadeth’s other releases. The album excels in all areas of heavy metal, whether it be Mustaine’s masterful lyric writing or dueling guitar riffs, we gladly recognize Megadeth as not just another Metallica ripoff. This album proves that you don’t need drugs to push out a heavy metal masterpiece. Megadeth earned their spot as one of the Big Four and are there too stay.

#5: “Reign in Blood”
Slayer (1986)

Sometimes heavy metal isn’t fast enough and you have to pick up the speed. The third effort from Los Angeles metal legends Slayer, “Reign in Blood” allows listeners to dive into pure insanity as early as the opening track. Back in 1986, the album was as fast as it came, taking Jeff Hanneman’s mastery over the guitar and Tom Araya’s blood-curdling vocals and adding just a pinch of adrenaline. The album is not only a landmark in the heavy metal genre, as it is also contributed as the beginning of the speed metal genre. Now we let the blood rain.

#4: “Blizzard of Ozz”
Ozzy Osbourne (1980)

Time to enter the world of Ozzy Osbourne. Ozzy’s first release after being removed from heavy metal giant Black Sabbath, “Blizzard of Ozz” cemented Ozzy’s position as a major player in heavy metal. Recorded with famed guitarist Randy Rhoads, the album brought classics such as “Mr. Crowley” and “Crazy Train” into the world. More melodic than previous Black Sabbath efforts, Ozzy brought new material that even the hardest of metalheads can jam along. While we were tempted to give this spot to Ozzy’s second album “Diary of a Madman”, it’s hard to argue against a four times platinum certification and six million copies sold. Ozzy Osbourne truly is a madman.

#3: “The Number of the Beast”
Iron Maiden (1982)

666 is the number we are looking for. Another third album from the heavy metal legends Iron Maiden, “The Number of the Beast” introduced fans to classic hits such as “Run to the Hills” and the album’s title track. Considered a critical and commercial success, the album introduced the heavy metal scene to the vocals of Bruce Dickinson. On the other hand, this would be the last we see drummer Clive Burr before his departure. “The Number of the Beast” wasn’t without controversy, as due to it’s religious imagery as well as lyrics. Heavy metal isn’t metal without controversy right?

#2: “Master of Puppets”
Metallica (1986)

Welcome home, metal fans. The bay area metal giant’s third album, ‘Master of Puppets” is a monumental landmark in the progression of the heavy metal genre. The album is a masterpiece of everything the band had developed so far, mainly the combination of six string guitar riffing paired with a distinct bass and rapid-firing drumming. Unfortunately, “Master of Puppets” would be the last we would see of guitarist Cliff Burton before his passing during the album’s promo tour. While many Metallica fans argue that their second album “Ride the Lightning” is the most ground-breaking, we can’t break away from being puppets for our masters.

Before we salute our devil horns to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “Holy Diver”
Dio (1983)

- “Black Metal”
Venom (1982)

- “Roots’
Sepultura (1996)

- “Scream Bloody Gore”
Death (1987)

- “Slipknot”
Slipknot (1999)

#1: “Black Sabbath”
Black Sabbath (1970)

Congratulations, you found the origins of modern heavy metal. The debut album of English legends Black Sabbath, “Black Sabbath” made a rather unique entrance onto the then unknown metal scene. Blending blues and rock ‘n’ roll elements, the album creates a free-flowing guitar masterpiece that can’t be easily forgotten. Believe it or not, the album was not well-received by critics upon initial release, yet opinions change as it is now considered a landmark in heavy metal’s roots. We considered given the gold to Sabbath’s second effort “Paranoid” with classics such as “Iron Man” and “War Pigs”, but their debut changed heavy metal like we had never seen it before.

Do you agree with our list? What is your favorite heavy metal album? For more crushing top tens published every day, be sure to subscribe to

Cliff burton was a bassist not a guitarist