In 1994, heavy metal was taking sharp turns in all directions as it continued to evolve and branch out even further. Grunge had a vice grip on the music world and metal acts were starting to react to this new and popular style. Bands that were known for virtuosic guitar playing began to strip down their sound while others simply incorporated a grungier vibe when starting a new band. 1994 was also a pivotal year for the Norwegian black metal scene as future legends released some of their most acclaimed discs.

Not everything had taken a drastic turn though. Some bands rediscovered their roots and carried the flag of the '80s while others took influence from traditional metal and reacted harshly to the simplistic music being played and churned out incredibly progressive music. In a period of absolute turmoil where new subgenres kept cropping up, heavy metal began to divide fans into very different crowds where one metalhead had the potential to have little musical taste in common with another metalhead. We embrace it all, so join us in taking a look at the 10 Best Metal Albums of 1994!

  • Atlantic


    Dream Theater

    Two years after the breakout album 'Images and Words,' progressive metal luminaries Dream Theater furthered their reputation with 'Awake.' The album saw the band really delve into more complex songwriting while still mixing in the standard rockers like 'Caught in a Web.' Dream Theater got significantly heavier on 'Awake,' as well, and 'The Mirror' serves as a perfect example. More mellow songs like 'Lifting Shadows Off a Dream' and 'Silent Man' are a testament to their diversity and expansive musicianship as a whole.

  • Rotten Records
    Rotten Records

    'When the Kite String Pops'

    Acid Bath

    While grunge was dominating the mid-'90s, some metal bands took a bit of influence from the down and dirty style. One of those bands was Acid Bath (boasting Sammy Duet who would later go on to form Goatwhore) and they provided one of the most genuinely paranoid metal albums of the decade. The lyrics of Dax Riggs look like the words of a criminally insane person, which echoes the John Wayne Gacy painting that adorns the album cover.

  • Peaceville

    'Transylvanian Hunger'


    As extreme metal fans know, 1994 was the banner year for black metal, particularly that of the Norwegian persuasion. The duo in Darkthrone truly joined the ranks of the elite with their most widely-known record, 'Transilvanian Hunger.' The production is warm, yet still raw, which is in stark contrast of the tinny guitar sound that had dominated the band's last two albums. Without even changing time signature until the second half of the album, 'Transilvanian Hunger' has a lethal force in the title track and the ferocious riff on 'Skald Av Satans Sol.'

  • Castle Communications
    Castle Communications

    'Master of the Rings'


    After two tumultuous albums, Helloween decided to ditch famed singer Michael Kiske and return back to their metal roots from the 1980s. They recruited Andi Deris, who's voice sounds nothing like Kiske's, and promptly turned over a new leaf and ushered in a new era of the band. With hits like 'Sole Survivor' and 'Where the Rain Grows,' Helloween were back on track. Deris has a powerhouse of a voice, bringing in a new sound to a rejuvenated band eager to get back to the peak they planted their flag in just a few years earlier.

  • Immortal/Epic



    Korn helped to spawn nu-metal in a big way with their eponymous debut album. Combining hip-hop and rap-like rhythms with an industrial feel and the groove laid down by Pantera, 'Korn' set the precedent for the new genre. 'Blind' and 'Shoots and Ladders' have a schizophrenic attitude portrayed through Jonathan Davis' lyrics and eerie delivery with bouts of pure angst. 'Korn' set the pioneering band up for the big stage that they would have a stranglehold on in just a couple years as they continued to evolve their sound and stay ahead of the scene.

  • Candlelight

    'In the Nightside Eclipse'


    Emperor's debut, 'In the Nightside Eclipse' was a new take on the black metal sound, incorporating an array of keyboards to add to the chilling mix. Mainman Ihsahn was a mere 18-years-old when the album was released, which is staggering considering the complex songwriting and level of musicianship present on this album. 'In the Nightside Eclipse' is home to some of the most famed Emperor songs like 'Cosmic Keys to My Creations and Times' and 'I Am the Black Wizards.'

  • Capitol



    As if 'Countdown to Exctinction' wasn't already far removed from the guitar acrobatics on 'Rust in Peace,' Megadeth's 1994 album goes even further. 'Youthanasia' is dedicated to simplistic and catchy riffing, with vocal hooks being the highlight of nearly every song. Dave Mustaine's voice also comes off as particularly strong here, at least in context of this new style. Whether its 'Train of Consequences,' 'Elysian Fields,' the career-chronicling 'Victory,' or the ever-popular ballad 'A Tout Le Monde,' Youthanasia will have you hooked in one listen.

  • Deathlike Silence
    Deathlike Silence

    'De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas'


    Perhaps the most influential debut black metal album ever, Mayhem's 'De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas' definitely raised the bar for traditional black metal. The atmosphere of this record is captured perfectly by the shadowy blue hues of the album cover. The music casts a shadow over the listener with cuts like 'Freezing Moon,' 'Funeral Fog,' and Buried By Time and Dust.' Attila Csihar's odd vocals only help the suffocating atmosphere on 'De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas' while Hellhammer's percussive fury anchors it.

  • Metal Blade
    Metal Blade

    'The Bleeding'

    Cannibal Corpse

    The last Cannibal Corpse album to feature vocalist Chris Barnes saw a shift in the band's sounds, but for the better. Rather than rehashing the same elements already mastered, 'The Bleeding' featured more noticeable lead work and a more accessible production. Barnes' voice was more intelligible than on past recordings, allowing for the band's gruesome lyrics to come to life a little more on fan-favorites like 'F--ked With a Knife' and 'Stripped, Raped, and Strangled.'

  • EastWest Records
    EastWest Records

    'Far Beyond Driven'


    By 1994, Pantera dominated the global metal stage with their unforgiving attitude and riffing frenzy. 'Far Beyond Driven' features some of the band's most hardened tracks like '5 Minutes Alone' along with some bluesy dirges like 'Hard Lines Sunken Cheeks.' The album titles alone give a sense of what was going on with the band between drug use, take no sh-t attitude, and the feeling of invincibility. Dimebag Darrell's guitar playing has a more Southern feel to it, adding a new dynamic to the already untouchable band.