10 Best Metal Albums of the ’90s


Metallica performing in Detroit, Michigan.

Metallica has one of the best metal albums of the ’90s – Story by Anne Erickson, photo by Ken Settle

When it comes to music in the 1990s, genres such as grunge and hip-hop come to mind. Both of those genres really blossomed and flourished in the 1990s, but they weren’t the only forms of music taking hold. Some of the best heavy metal albums of all time arrived in the ’90s, so even as hair metal was quickly falling out of fashion, heavy metal was flourishing. In honor of the great metal that came out in what was otherwise the flannel decade, here are 10 of the best metal albums of the ’90s.

Best Metal Albums of the ’90s

10. Sepultura, “Roots”

Brazilian thrash titans Sepultura unleashed a banger with 1996’s “Roots.” While Sepultura shine with their straight-ahead thrash music, “Roots” showcased a bevy of sounds and styles, making it their most experimental album ever. They also brought some interesting guests on the set, including Korn’s Jonathan Davis and Faith No More’s Mike Patton.

9. Anthrax, “Persistence of Time”

Anthrax broke out of the East Coast, brining a much needed dose of New York to a thrash metal scene taken over by West Coast bands. Anthrax proved to be one of the heaviest thrash bands, with a keen focus on rhythm. The band’s 1990s release, “Persistence of Time,” is legendary, featuring mature songwriting and game-changing melodies. It’s one of the best metal albums of the ’90s.

8. Tool, “Ænema”

On the less heavy metal and more progressive metal side, Tool released “Ænema” in 1996, and it catapulted Tool to modern rock success. “Ænema” is considered the band’s breakout album and showcased their incredible musicianship, from Maynard James Keenan to every member of the band. Tracks such as “Forty-Six & 2” and the album’s title track are legendary.

7. Ozzy Osbourne, “No More Tears”

Ozzy Osbourne and Zakk Wylde released an opus with 1991’s “No More Tears.” The album’s title track is forever in rotation on rock radio stations across the country, and it really is a pinnacle of Ozzy’s solo career. Another massive hit was “Mama I’m Coming Home,” with lyrics penned by Motorhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister.

6. Slayer, “Seasons in the Abyss”

Slayer got a little bit soft on “South of Heaven,” and then they unleashed an absolute assault of an album with 1990’s “Seasons in the Abyss.” This album is one of their finest and right up there with “Reign in Blood.” It’s a relentless metal concoction that helped define Slayer as one of the greatest thrash metal bands in the history of the genre. “Seasons in the Abyss,” undoubtedly, is one of the best metal albums of the ’90s.

5. Judas Priest, “Painkiller”

“Painkiller” showed early on that Rob Halford was a force and that he had the pipes to not only front one of the biggest metal bands in the world, but he also had the spirit. “Painkiller” is one of the heaviest Judas Priest albums of its era, with songs such as “Night Crawler” and “Metal Meltdown” being real ragers.

4. Pantera, “Vulgar Display of Power”

When it comes to aggressive metal, it doesn’t get much more angsty than Pantera. The band’s 1992 release, “Vulgar Display of Power,” is their defining work, along with their debut, “Cowboys in Hell.” Hearing Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul in lock on this set is simply heaven. It’s easily one of the best metal albums of the ’90s.

3. Iron Maiden, “Fear of the Dark”

By the time Iron Maiden released “Fear of the Dark” in 1992, they were already nine studio album into their career. “Fear of the Dark” ended up being singer Bruce Dickinson’s final album before leaving the band, at least until he rejoined the group in 1999. While the album doesn’t feature a lot of “hits,” it does have some solid tracks. While some critics panned this set, along with their previous “No Prayer for the Dying,” it’s a solid release.

2. Megadeth, “Rust in Peace”

Megadeth really created something special with 1990’s “Rust in Peace.” It’s absolutely mind-blowing to hear Dave Mustaine and Marty Friedman’s guitar swapping on this set. Both have the technical ability to pull off near-impossible guitar playing. The guitars really take center stage on “Rust in Peace,” and it’s Megadeth’s defining moment as a band.

1. Metallica, ‘Metallica’

I know this choice might get some harsh comments, because Metallica’s “Metallica,” also called “The Black Album,” is controversial. The guys went very mainstream on this release, and that, to this day, draws criticism from metalheads. But, you can’t deny that “Metallica” was the most pivotal metal album of the 1990s. It took not just Metallica but metal music to the masses with songs such as “Enter Sandman” and “Nothing Else Matters.” “Metallica” is not just one of the best metal albums of the ’90s, it’s the very best.

Check out Audio Ink Radio’s list of the best heavy metal debuts of all time, too.

Anne Erickson
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Posted by Anne Erickson | Features, Metal, Music