10 Best Metal Albums of 1995
The mid 1990s are not thought of with much regard when it comes to heavy metal. A genre that infiltrated and dominated the mainstream had just about fizzled out of the public eye completely by 1995. Metal sank back into the underground, especially with the more extreme acts taking their turn in the metal spotlight. Death and black metal were going as strong as ever with several bands pushing the boundaries even further than just a couple years prior.
New sounds started popping up as well with the early stages of the groove oriented nu-metal starting to take form. Amidst all this change, metalheads were given even more dishes to choose from to whet their appetite for all things heavy and distorted. This wound up being a positive force for the genre in 1995, which turned out to be a surprisingly banner year despite what the charts indicated. Take a step back in time as we count down the Top 10 Metal Albums of 1995!
Forever in debt to Justin Broadrick, Fear Factory helped pioneer the modern perception of the industrial metal genre with 'Demanufacture.' A seamless stitching of the two styles sees the rhythm section take its influences from the industrial side of things while Dino Cazares shoulders the groove-oriented guitar playing. The industrial side helped separate Fear Factory from the countless groove bands that started to saturate the scene. Another difference maker is Burton C. Bell's vocals, which shift from guttural barks to edgy clean singing like in H-K (Hunter-Killer).
Here we are 10 years after Kai Hansen stepped away from the mic in Helloween and the charmingly nasal-toned frontman is back at the helm where he rightfully belongs. Pulling double duty, the Gamma Ray mainman authored another one of power metal's hallmark releases with 'Land of the Free.' The album opens up with an eight minute epic "Rebellion in Dreamland' and wastes no time going right into the scorcher "Man on a Mission." Another treat for Helloween fans in the guest appearance of the band's famed singer Michael Kiske on the track "Time to Break Free." With a keen sense for the theatrics and the fantastic, 'Land of the Free' helped solidify Gamma Ray's true value in power metal and the god status of Kai Hansen.
The sludge supergroup Down, made up of New Orleans natives Philip Anselmo (Pantera), Jimmy Bower (Eyehategod), Kirk Windstein (Crowbar), and the lone outsider Pepper Keenan (Corrosion of Conformity), released their debut album in 1995 to much fanfare. The sound is quite definitive of the swamps most of the band grew up around, with heavy bluesy riffs backed by Anselmo's more traditional vocal approach and the occasional banshee scream he's known for. 'NOLA' couldn't have been timed better with each band member experiencing successful careers of their own at that time. What's better than getting a supergroup while everyone is still in their prime?
Its a good thing we aren't detracting any points for album covers here, otherwise you might see Immortal's 'Battles in the North' a bit lower on this list. Usually one prepares for battles with a standard axe, but Abbath and Demonaz brought axes of the six string nature. However, the album showcases the band's hallmark speed and malevolent storm of riffs from those aforementioned battle axes. Immortal deliver a taste of the Norwegian winter once again while sitting on the throne in their "Grim and Frostbitten Kingdoms" which presumably reside in the "Cursed Realms of the Winterdemons." As easy as it is to make irresistible jokes, 'Battles in the North' is the furthest thing from a joke and a magnificent force of black metal that defines the genre.
One metal act that can certainly chalk its success up to the mid-'90s is Rob Zombie's grunge/groove industrial outfit White Zombie. Combining influences from anywhere and everywhere, 'Astro-Creep: 2000' took the prototypical sound of the era and peppered in all sorts of styles to produce something truly unique and fresh. "Super-Charger Heaven" and "More Human Than Human" are the fan-favorites here, but the album goes deeper than just two of the catchiest songs on the album. Treat the album like a tour of the '90s where some leftover influences from the prior decade are still present along with current trends and a few different genres tossed in for good measure.
My Dying Bride have always been a band that combined unmistakable, beautifully melancholic elements with their brand of doom that is oft imitated but never duplicated. 'The Angel and the Dark River' delivers on a difficult followup to the widely acclaimed 'Turn Loose the Swans,' pleasantly surprising fans and proving that the band is a true mainstay of the doom scene. From the opening notes of "The Cry of Mankind," the album never fails to bring its audience to new levels of morosity with each successive listen. The elegant uses of piano and violin are tactful, executing their purpose when called upon, but never in a dominating fashion that lets the notion stray from the fact that this is still a metal album first and foremost.
Suffocation are a band who see no point in trying to reinvent the wheel, but rather keep the momentum rolling in the pummeling fashion that is 'Pierced From Within.' Sonically, the album is one of the band's more accessible albums, but the buck stops there. Serpentine song structures consistently collide headfirst into walls of brutality as Suffocation put on a clinic. Songs like "Thrones of Blood" and "Suspended in Tribulation" showcase the finest aspects of the band, not that anything here slouches. The album marks the first departure of famed drummer Mike Smith, but the transition is seamless, resulting in one of death metal's most sacred treasures.
The sophomore album from Dissection mastermind Jon Nödtveidt is a milestone in extreme metal. 'Storm of the Light's Bane' can't be pegged as a full-fledged black metal nor death metal album, with a heavy emphasis on melody that derails any notion of a strict genre tag. Forward thinking in its composition, Nödtveidt counters some of the more winding aspects of the music with vocal hooks through his frozen rasp. 'Storm of the Light's Bane' is a complete album from top to bottom not only musically, but through monochromatic, ice-cold artwork courtesy of the renowned Necrolord and the haunting production. The album is one to chill the bones and the only one of its kind.
Never one to rest on his laurels, Death mainman Chuck Schuldiner changed the game once again in 1995 with the release of the pivotal 'Symbolic.' Drum titan Gene Hoglan delivers a concussive performance that truly matches the mastery on display by Schuldiner. "Catchy" is not a word that gets liberally thrown around in death metal circles, but this time it couldn't be more applicable. Songs like "Crystal Mountain," "1000 Eyes," and "Sacred Serenity" are instant earworms that help make this album such a death metal juggernaut. Though these songs are catchy, the music is still uncompromising and features some of Chuck's most intricate work.
Melodic alternate picking and unforgettable riffs that continue to bore holes into the death metal consciousness dominate the widely influential At the Gates release, ‘Slaughter of the Soul.’ Frontman Tomas Lindberg commands an immediate presence with his raspy-throated savagery, creating a nice visceral balance with the melodic aspects of the album. With the band back in full swing, live setlists are still dominated by timeless tracks here like ‘Blinded By Fear,’ ‘Slaughter of the Soul,’ ‘Nausea,’ and many more. Few albums in the history of heavy metal have had the revolutionary impact, which is why it belongs at the No. 1 spot on our list of the 10 Best Metal Albums of 1995.