90s Essentials – Taking Ourselves To Task: Additional Essentials

Yes, we know that we skipped some of your favorites in our compilation of the 100 Most Essential Albums of the 1990s. We feel your pain. One of the drawbacks to our democratic voting process was seeing some of our own favorite 90s releases left out in the cold. Thus, a collection of staffers have taken it upon themselves to tout some personal favorites that were shunned from the elite hundred. The result? Twelve more classics to chew on.


Alexander Von Meilenwald is the center of all that is unholy when it comes to the Fatherland. From Truppensturm and Kermania to The Ruins of Beverast, nothing says majestic quite like Meilenwald’s distinct influence. Nagelfar is no exception, as Srontgorrth contains more moments of schizophrenic ecstasy than should ever be allowed on one album. And then there’s that fucking riff… the embodiment of all that has ever been considered extreme. The power of Srontgorrth will certainly seize you, as the fear it instills seizes the blood of the others. [KK]

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“Shiva-Interfere” begins with the same piano phrase from the closing track to the previous year’s Satanic Art EP, but just as one’s synapses report on the provenance of the familiarity, oblivion explodes around one’s ears. The listener is thrown into a disorienting blender of nightmarishly clinical scything black metal and neon-diseased industrial club beats. That’s right, motherfuckers – Dødheimsgard owns you with this album. 666 International is one of the best albums of the ‘90s precisely because it casts a withering glance over all that came before, grabs the choicest fruit from the rotting tree of tradition, and vaults unguided into a ruthlessly bold future that it both creates and anticipates. It’s also a nearly perfect and still-unrivaled master class in avant-garde metal bliss. [Dan Obstkrieg]

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With its Sunlight Studio production and signature Swedish death metal guitar tone, it is easy to dismiss Soulside Journey, as a mere rip-off of Left Hand Path. It is also wrong. Darkthrone, despite a tonal debt to the Stockholm scene, had a unique voice in death metal. Darkthrone’s compositions flowed from riff to riff with an almost progressive disdain for conventional song structure. The band’s sound, even in its pre-black metal days, was cold and grim, relying on groove and atmosphere over speed and aggression. To some it may be an odd footnote in Darkthrone’s legendary career, but to connoisseurs of fine death metal, Soulside Journey is absolutely essential. [Jeremy Morse]

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Taking the evolution of one’s metal music to a creative peak before largely abandoning it was nothing odd in the 90s. Sweden’s enigmatic Tiamat was no different, morphing from rather ordinary death metal to a doom/goth/death hybrid on the spectacular Clouds and taking that vision even further on their masterpiece, Wildhoney. Executed through a constantly flowing series of song suites (“Whatever That Hurts” and “The Ar” offering particular heft), the band applied the approach of 70s album rock to artsy underground heavy metal. Ethereal, indirectly intense, and even a tad campy, it took Johan Edlund’s vision to a level he could never achieve again. [Zach Duvall]

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Psychotic Waltz rode the burgeoning wave of technicality in metal from the late eighties into the nineties with a unique flair for catchiness and outright oddity. Their debut runs the gamut from mind-bending progressive abstraction to impossibly infectious ear-worm melody, often within the same piece (see “Another Prophet Song”).  Even now, that quirkiness feels a little bit unstable in the context of a raw, ingenuous production job, giving A Social Grace the sentimental edge over later efforts.  Too many metal fans have never heard this strange bunch of heavy proggers from El Cajon, but those that have understand this album’s immeasurable contribution to progressive heavy metal. [Lone Watie]

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Yeah, so Sean Killian’s vocal-stylings were an acquired taste. An animated response to the growling and stonewashed-jeans-too-tight screaming that was the norm at this period in time. But for those of us who could get past that, and dare I say even enjoy it immensely, there were premium grade thrash-antics at the helm of this Vio-Lence warship. Most of you know that Flynn and Demmel are now the concrete of our present day Machine Head, but as wee lads they exercised their right to fight, juvenile style, right here on this album, and they saved the best for earlier on. There’s no denying the poison in the pressed frets of take-over tunes like “World In A World” and the title track, perhaps two of the most potent anthems ever written. The Vio-venom just seeped into each and every one of these eight tracks, and many of us still wish that it would’ve soaked the cover-art, too. That shit is just god-awful. [Sasha Horn]

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At the first crossroads of Paradise Lost’s lengthy career lies Shades Of God. With Gothic in 1991, the band released a masterpiece of death/doom, seminal and cementing their place at the peak of misery. With Icon in 1993, they released the first of a serious of increasingly gothic efforts that culminated in the total abandonment of metal by the decade’s end. In its place as the turning point, Shades Of God blends the two approaches that define Paradise Lost — heavier on the former, Shades sports some seriously aggressive material that incorporates both the epic and thrashy into the trademark sorrowful crunch. A portrait of transition but nevertheless a brilliantly downcast ride. [Andrew Edmunds]

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I am sure that even heavy metal rookies have heard the name Dan Swanö, because he who carries that name has been galloping unstoppably through metallic genres for decades now. The Breathing Shadow was the first full-length Swanö released under the moniker Nightingale, at the epicenter of the 90s, and it was created and recorded by Swanö, all by his lonesome self, in one week exactly. The result is an album filled with intimate lyrics accompanied by a signature guitar craftiness and majestically dark goth melodies that haunt the woods on a full moon. It is a release that marked not only the decade, but music itself for this metal journalist. [Mirela Travar]

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Had the band sprouted from less impoverished roots and had a Langquist, Marcolin or Lowe behind the mic, Solstice likely would’ve been the biggest epic doom band on the planet. But by the time New Dark Age finally hit the streets, these laboring Englishmen were already inching the ship further toward a sound that emphasized clouting heads with a more ‘battle-charged’ scheme. Splashes of medieval/folk elements and loads of sprawling, dynamic leads courtesy of founding member Rich Walker and co-axeman Jerry Budby help secure New Dark Age as one of the true underground paragons in the crowded realm of epic heavy metal. [Captain]

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Formed in 1987, Warrior Soul was one of the first bands to combine the pounding sounds of heavy metal with the socio-political slant of punk. Frontman Kory Clarke’s lyrical cannon was firing on all cylinders for the band’s full-length debut. Whether addressing society’s ills (“I See the Ruins”), celebrating the outcasts (“The Losers”), or simply offering escape (“Trippin’ on Ecstacy”), sympathy (“Lullaby”), and compassion (“In Conclusion”), Warrior Soul trode upon ground oft ignored in the genre and struck a nerve with many a listener through an album whose overall message remains relevant to this day. [Dave Pirtle]

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Metalcore degenerated into self-parody by the aughts, but in the nineties it was a force to be reckoned with. Never was it more so than on Botch’s magnum opus, We Are the Romans. This album often sounds like it’s being played backwards or inside-out—the guitars skronk instead of sing, the rhythms all have trick joints, and the melodies sound like they were beamed straight in from space. But We Are the Romans is more than an exercise in weirdness. These songs will stick in your head for years, and you can listen to them dozens of times without discovering all of their secrets. [Doug Moore]

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Before they became Dani and The Filths and began specializing in pre-teen lullabies, Cradle actually kicked ass. Now, if your tolerance for the Dani-screech is low, I’d point instead to the Vempire EP for it’s combination of brevity and visceral Stuart Anstis riffage. But Cruelty was the most refined product of that too-brief Anstis / Barker combo. The opening triptych of seven-minute opuses expertly interwove majestic shredding with Dani Filth’s surprisingly highbrow lyrics, but the quick-hits of “Desire In Violent Overture” and “The Twisted Nails of Faith” are the true examples of the CoF brand’s pinnacle. (We’ll just pretend that the cover of “Hallowed Be Thy Name” isn’t the best thing on here.)  [Jordan Campbell]


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Posted by Last Rites


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