The decade of the '90s started strong. There were outstanding releases from mainstays like Megadeth, Judas Priest, Slayer and Anthrax. More extreme acts like Emtombed and Deicide also cracked the top 10. Here's the list of our top 10 heavy metal albums of 1990.
Megadeth's fourth album is a thrash masterpiece. Dave Mustaine and Marty Friedman's riffs are outstanding, and there are also several really good solos throughout the album. The songwriting on Rust In Peace is really strong, with a lot of complexity and variety in song structure, tempo and style. Highlights include "Hanger 18" and "Tornado Of Souls."
This is Slayer's second best album, after the classic Reign In Blood. Seasons In The Abyss combines the intensity of that album with a little more melody. The band refined their sound, but without losing any of their anger or aggression. From the bone rattling opener "War Ensemble" to the slower "Expendable Youth," Slayer shows they can crush at any tempo.
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.
After ending the eighties with a couple of less than well received albums (1986's Turbo and 1988's Ram It Down), Judas Priest started the '90s on a high note. Painkiller would be the last Rob Halford Priest album for more than a decade, and the metal god gave a great vocal performance on this release. New drummer Scott Travis gave Priest a shot of energy, and that combined with the usual stellar guitar work from Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing made this the band's best album in years.
The Swedish band Entombed roared upon the scene with their debut album. Left Hand Path is a hugely influential death metal album that helped put Scandinavian death metal on the map. The album is crushingly brutal, but also has melody. It's savage, yet simple, and influenced legions of bands in Sweden and all over the world.
When this album was released 1990 it caused quite a stir. Deicide's extreme style of death metal along with the inverted cross burned into frontman Glenn Benton's forehead and the band's blasphemous lyrics shocked many. More than just image, Deicide backed it up with well written songs, frenzied blast beats and memorable riffs. The band is still making mayhem today, but many still think their debut is their best album.
This was the last Anthrax full-length studio album to feature vocalist Joey Belladonna. He went out with a bang. Persistence Of Time is dark and angry with politically charged lyrics, but still has an abundance of melody and great thrash riffs. One of the best songs on the album is the Joe Jackson cover "Got The Time." "In My World" and "One Man Stands" are also standouts.
Death Angel were a Bay Area thrash band made up of five cousins. Act III, as you can probably guess from the title, was the group's third release, and their first on major label Geffen Records. It was their best album, especially the guitar work of Rob Cavestany. In addition to speed metal, Death Angel mixed in slower, acoustic parts and even some funk to spice things up. They broke up not too long after this album was released, but reunited ten years later.
Operation Mindcrime was a tough album to follow up, but Queensryche did an excellent job with Empire. It brought them a lot of mainstream attention and radio airplay because of the smash hit single "Silent Lucidity," and "Jet City Woman" also garnered a fair amount of airplay. It's a CD that's diverse and complex, yet very catchy with tons of memorable songs. Unfortunately this was probably Queensryche's peak, and both their sales and critical acclaim went on the decline after this album.
Although it lacked a hit single like "Mother," Danzig's second album was a deeper and better release. The band improved in both songwriting and musicianship. II: Lucifuge is harder edged than their debut, and Glenn Danzig's vocal performance throughout the album is some of his best work. There's no filler here, just an album of really good songs.