Grindcore pioneers Carcass eventually evolved into more of a death metal band, and in 1993 everything came together perfectly and they released one of their best albums. Heartwork was as intense and punishing as their earlier material, but they managed to squeeze in a little more melody that made it even better. There are some monster guitar riffs on this album, and the songs are brutal, yet really memorable.
Dreaming Neon Black was Nevermore's third full-length album. The Seattle, Washington band delivered a really diverse effort, with fast, thrashy songs tempered by soaring ballads. Jeff Loomis and Tim Calvert showcase outstanding solos and do some serious shredding. Warrel Dane shows a lot of versatility as well, with vocals ranging from aggressive screams to melodic singing. This is an emotional and powerful concept album.
Nightfall In Middle Earth is a concept album based on the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien. It's a power metal tour de force with epic compositions. The interludes between songs have been polarizing, but they help tie the concept together. Blind Guardian's combination of electric and acoustic guitars, other unusual instruments and the use of harmonies makes this an album that stands out above the power metal masses.
The Norwegian black metal scene of the early '90s was filled with controversy and criminal acts. Emperor were right in the middle of things, and their first full-length is one of the definitive black metal albums. Most of the band (Ihsahn, Samoth, Faust and Tchort) were just teenagers when In The Nightside Eclipse was released, and it has the passion, anger and fury of youth, but the musical maturity of older bands. It's a chaotic frenzy of guitars, keyboards and drums that is cold and harsh with tortured, piercing vocals.
The second album from progressive metal legends Dream Theater is arguably their best. Images And Words was the debut of vocalist James LaBrie. The band's combination of catchy melodies and technical musicianship really struck a chord with prog fans. Dream Theater even crossed into the mainsream with an 8 minute song as "Pull Me Under" garnered a decent amount of MTV exposure. "Metropolis" is also a classic song.
After several indie releases, this marked Pantera's move to a major label and their commercial and critical breakthrough. Dimebag Darrell, or Diamond Darrell as he was called at that time, shines with his creative riffs and blistering solos. Phil Anselmo shows a wide vocal range, going from guttural growls to a piercing falsetto. The title track and "Cemetary Gates" are two of the best songs on this album.
Symbolic continued Death's string of excellent releases, even with the continual lineup changes. For this album guitarist Andy LaRocque and bassist Steve DiGiorgio were gone, replaced with Bobby Koelbe and Kelly Conlon. Chuck Schuldiner's songwriting continued to improve, and the band's combination of technical skill and willingness to experiment and push the musical envelope made for a brilliant album that still stands the test of time.
After starting as a death metal band, the Swedish group moved toward symphonic/operatic metal. The songs on this album are sometimes bombastic and grand, other times darker and more subtle. There are tons of catchy hooks and melodies along with epic and atmospheric elements that make Theli one of the hallmark symphonic metal albums.
Burzum's musical influence, quality and impact will always be overshadowed, which is understandable but unfortunate. Burzum is the one-man project of Varg Vikernes, also known as Count Grishnackh. In 1993 he was convicted of the murder of his former Mayhem bandmate Euronymous. He continued to periodically release music while imprisoned, but Hvis Lyset Tar Oss remains one of Burzum's finest works. The four songs on the album clock in at over 40 minutes, and are very emotional and powerful. The song structures are relatively simple, but the atmospheric and dissonant tracks make a strong impact.
With The Great Southern Trendkill, in addition to their usual intense, crushing metal, Pantera showed some diversity on this CD with a couple slower tracks, which are actually really good. The songs are fueled by anger, and Dimebag's guitar work is outstanding as usual. When it comes to Pantera's catalog, this album is often overlooked and underrated. It's worth revisiting.