90s Essentials – Volume Seven

We’re seven weeks into this, and by now, you know the drill. Here are ten more albums that every metalhead worth his or her Slayer shirt should know and know well.

For this seventh entry of MetalReview’s 100 Most Essential Albums Of The 1990s, things start out thrashing and grinding, then tread through some more popular and commercial entries before getting weirder than hell with some unique Scandinavian strangeness. Finally, we close with a Mexican death metal powerhouse and a prog-thrash-goth-power metal classic.

We’ll start this one in the bowels of Hell:


Harmony ushered in a new era for Napalm. Although this rebirth was previewed in their Mentally Murdered EP only a year before, something more wicked this way came: a crisp, more defined take on a crust-punk attitude throwing down with a death-metal-like awareness of instruments. Grindcore? Crustgrind? Whatever…. Napalm Death birthed labels, so we’ll just commonly lump them in the “One Of The Best Fucking Bands Ever” category and call it a day. Thirty-six minutes, twenty-one years ago, and still bridging gaps. This album gave unto us current vocalist Mark “Barney” Greenway, a reason for crustpunks and metalheads to get along (if only for the duration of a ND live set), and a version on cassette signed by the band… but that’s ours, not yours. [Earache, 1990]

• • • •


Sepultura’s music has been in a near constant state of evolution, but for a few years these Brazilians were content to be a thrash band. If Beneath the Remains was Sepultura’s Ride the Lightning, Arise was the band’s Master of Puppets. Though sharing the same lock-tight performance and vicious intensity of its predecessor, anthemic cuts like “Dead Embryonic Cells”, and the title track make Arise the more accessible album of the two. Arise stands as not only one of the last great Sepultura albums, but one of the last great albums of the classic thrash era. [Roadrunner, 1991]

• • • •


Cowboys From Hell was the equivalent of an Old West outlaw kicking in the doors of a saloon, announcing his presence with authority; this album was said outlaw beating the shit out of everyone in the place. An aural ass-kicking from start to finish, Vulgar Display of Power’s uncompromising, visceral attack launched Pantera straight to metal’s upper echelon, and they soon became the last great metal band to break the arena barrier because of it. The only thing more amazing is that almost 20 years later, there are still bands trying to be the next Pantera, and still trying to duplicate the sound of Vulgar — and not one has yet to succeed. [EastWest, 1992]

• • • •


Some bands made drastic style changes in the 90s that did not turn out so well. Corrosion of Conformity was not one of those bands. The shift that began on 1991’s Blind was fully realized with the bluesy Southern metal of 1994’s Deliverance. Although a far cry from crossover classics like Animosity and Technocracy, it was embraced by the faithful as much as the masses, thanks to improbable hits “Albatross” and “Clean My Wounds” and their damn heavy, damn catchy riffs. In a post-Black Album world, COC proved that a band could reinvent themselves without compromising their integrity — and that sometimes an album is so good, everyone just has to accept it as fact. [Columbia, 1994]

• • • •


When talking about avant-garde metal, the one name that has become household in the subject is Ved Buens Ende and their only full-length, Written in Waters. The highly unusual mixing of elements of black metal and jazz, together with Carl-Michael Eide’s unique style of singing and the shrieks of Yusaf Parvez (a.k.a. Vicotnik), make this album a necessary listen for any metal fan and / or historian. The influence Written In Waters has had on the hordes of avant-black bands that followed is undeniable. [Misanthropy, 1995]

• • • •


Once upon a time, melodic death metal was actually heavy, and the ‘progressive’ tag wasn’t shorthand for jazz beats, fretless bass and vocoders. For proof, give this underrated classic a spin. Crimson isn’t terribly approachable — it’s a single, 40-minute composition. But accessible or not, it’s a thrilling, enthralling listen. For all the curveballs Edge of Sanity throws, they never forget that they’re a burly-as-fuck Swedish death metal group. Crimson should be required listening for anyone who thinks Obscura and Decrepit Birth are the be-all and end-all of proggy DM.  [Black Mark, 1996]

• • • •


While Cryptopsy’s later work suffered in the wake of constant lineup changes, None So Vile was the one album where everything positive about the band came together at once, and the result is a benchmark for technical death metal and one of the style’s enduring classics. A surging mix of brain-frying musicianship, outright brutality, and incredible melodic and compositional prowess, None So Vile helped to revitalize a slumping mid-90’s death metal scene and broke down numerous barriers for what could be achieved in the genre. [Wrong Again, 1996]

• • • •


For fans of weird metal, there was Voivod. For fans of seriously fucking strange, twisted, and mentally corrupt metal, there was ArcturusLa Masquerade Infernale. Norway’s elite (Garm and Hellhammer to name two) came together and wrote the soundtrack to Satan’s Cirque de Soleil. Each bloody second is too oddball to be comfortable, yet too majestic to be ignored; nowhere more so than on “The Chaos Path,” a Garm-ICS Vortex duet of dancing high-rise vocals so bleeding with macabre personality that it should be a sin. And it probably is. [Music for Nations, 1997]

• • • •


The Chasm is one of death metal’s most respected bands, and it was Deathcult For Eternity: The Triumph that marked the Mexican outfit’s transition into truly elite territory in their field. Each song on Deathcult functions like an epic journey; the intricately layered riffs, expressive drumming, and haunting vocals all mesh together to form a sound that is both blistering and hypnotic in a way only The Chasm can pull off. This album is memorable in its execution and staggering in its overall depth, and is one of the decade’s most overlooked releases. [Oz, 1998]

• • • •


Before the switch to seven-string guitars would change their sound to a degree, Seattle, Washington’s titans of heavy metal perseverance released this truly gripping album, unquestionably the darkest full-length within their outstanding catalog. Also including some of Dane’s most morose lyrical content he’s ever penned, his vocals herein simply mesmerize as they tell this morbid tale of love gone terribly wrong. Meshing perfectly with the darkened and downright depressive hues provided by chief songwriter and guitar wizard Jeff Loomis, Nevermore has only surpassed this one’s greatness with its immediate successor. [Century Media, 1999]

• • • •


Seventy records…  That’s a lot of music, kids…  There’s thirty left…  Can you guess what they are?

Posted by Last Rites


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