For every Velvet Darkness They Fear or Something Wicked This Way Comes or Blackwater Park or Nightfall in Middle-Earth there is a Theatre of Tragedy or Iced Earth or Orchid or Battalions of Fear – records mediocre compared to the things that would come (or even just straight up mediocre). I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and I wanted to put together some of my personal favorite debut albums. Records that kicked ass out of the gates, and in some cases were really the best material that the band ever even produced. So here, filling up the July lull in releases, is another Top 5 list. Now it’s true that I’ve left off some records that I thought of adding (it would probably be a Top 10[ish] list that’s needed), so don’t get your panties in a bunch when you don’t see Cynic or Entombed on here. ‘Cause those are great records, but they’re not my favorites.
#(ish): Crimfall // As the Path Unfolds… (2009) — I actually am still not over this record. It was released in 2009 and my initial reactions to it were that it was good, but I never imagined myself being so into this album five years later. The thing has just sunk its claws into me. The synthesis of Turisas, Nightwish, and Moonsorrow makes Crimfall the quintessential Finnish band. And As the Path Unfolds… isn’t a revolutionary record, but it’s just damn well executed.
#5: Ozzy Osbourne // Blizzard of Ozz (1980) — I’m not super nostalgic about Ozzy’s career, and I have very little real personal context for the split from Black Sabbath and what was expected of Osbourne at the time. But what I do know is that Blizzard of Ozz is still a pretty fucking awesome record. Not only is it loaded with some of metal’s greatest hits, but the guitar playing on this album was truly awesome and I still am impressed with Rhoades after all this time (not just the playing, but also his really amazing guitar tone). Some of the tracks on here are better than others, so it’s not necessarily the best for consistency, but it’s still a blast to listen to.
#4: Iron Maiden // Iron Maiden (1980) — Cast your mind back to what you were doing in 1980. Oh right, many of us weren’t even born then, so it might be a bit of a task to do. While Blizzard of Ozz was released the same year as Iron Maiden‘s debut, Maiden was doing something truly spectacular and unique. This record is filled with a punky attitude and rambling bass like nothing you’ve ever heard before or since. And Iron Maiden lit up the underground in a way that I think no one really expected. I still consider the record a classic and love listening to it, even if the songs sound pretty tired when the guys play ’em on the road nowadays.
#3: Taake // Nattestid ser porten vid (1999) — It’s hard to remember, but in 1999 people were pretty much putting the nails in the Norwegian black metal scene. After its big explosion in the early ’90s, and bands moving away from their original sounds, the now infamous Norwegian Taake showed up and breathed life anew into Norwegian black metal. Nattestid is probably the best melodic black metal record that I own. The songs are superbly written, and the riffs are addicting. The production is atmospheric without being totally shit, and Høst’s vocal performance is chilling. A superb debut.
#2: BLAZE // Silicon Messiah (2001) — Back after Blaze Bayley got kicked out of Iron Maiden for not being Bruce Dickinson, he did something that was actually really smart. He found a group of young, English musicians and made a fucking heavy metal record. This album was not quite what everyone expected. Instead of being an Iron Maiden rip-off, it had a distinctly down tuned, modern sound and was produced by Andy Sneap to excellent effect. Blaze sounded tough, his writing was good and the record was crushing. Pay special attention to the guitar work. These cats could fucking play, and they wrote some of the best guitar solos I’ve ever heard.
#1: Ásmegin // Hin vordende sod & sø (2003) — Hin vordende sod & sø is a beast of a record. It is a tour de force of blackened folk metal at its finest. With a fantastic vocal approach of a death metal vocalist, a black metal vocalist, a female vocalist and Lasare from Solefald and Borknagar, this band of nobodies wrote eleven mighty tracks of brutal, melodic, smart and intoxicating folk metal. Every song carried the album forward to perfect effect, and the vocal arrangements are triumphant. This is a record that takes multiple listens to understand and appreciate and Arv, the second record, was almost always doomed to “sophomore slump” from the get-go. Hin vordende sod & sø is a brilliant album that did something I’d never heard before or since and it belongs in everyone’s CD collection.