In our continuing series of guest columns, we’ve asked a bunch of metal’s heaviest hitters to provide us with a list of five crucial albums they think will change you — either for the better or the worse. Today, we hear from Henrik Engkjær of Deus Otiosus.
Guns N’ Roses — Appetite For Destruction
Although not really a metal band, this was my first introduction to hard hitting music. Back in ’91 or so, of all things it was MTV that introduced me to Guns N’ Roses, Skid Row, Danzig, Metallica and those other hard rock bands that were big in those days. At that point I had actually lost interest music, but this dangerous meeting with hard rock re-invigorated it and set the course for my musical tastes to this day.
If pressed to mention only one album as the best one ever, it would probably be Appetite For Destruction. The songwriting on this album is magical, and every riff, vocal line, harmony, drum roll and guitarlead is a small masterpiece in itself.
Appetite is not just good music, but more like the very definition of what good music is; a blueprint that will allow you to understand all other good music out there. The album has all the things you want in a metal album — danger, darkness, hard hitting, memorable and characteristic songs. And even when you play it today, the room still fills with cigarette smoke and the smell of whiskey.
Slayer — Show No Mercy
When I first heard Slayer, I thought they had to be the most brutal and extreme band ever. I all honesty Show No Mercy was not the first Slayer album I heard at all, but it is the best and most enduring Slayer-album by far.
On this album Slayer truly peaked. The dark, melodic heavy metallish riffs fused with the hammering pulse of thrash metal resulted in some of the most rocking and catchy songs metal music has ever given us. The album is a great example of the “all killer, no filler”-principle that usually characterizes the very best and most creative metal albums.
Morbid Angel — Blessed Are The Sick
As a young teen, I was still curious to find the most brutal and extreme music in existence, and around ’94 I discovered death metal. My earliest introductions to this new extremity came in the form of the first two Deicide albums and the first three albums from Morbid Angel. Once again I found that these new musical discoveries of mine had to be the most brutal music that could ever exist. At this point I was quite close to being right, I guess. Bands may play faster or compress their production more, but you can’t give a much more brutal impression than these early death metal bands did, and still do.
Almost 20 years later I am of course not at all that fascinated by brutality itself, and if Morbid Angel, Deicide, Death and other pioneers had not also made very good music, I would probably not have stuck around. But boy, could they write and play music! These early years of death metal were years of wild, outlaw creativity – evil that knew no boundaries. The complete opposite of today’s metal, which often seems to have been forged with a rulebook in hand.
Blessed Are The Sick sounds as fresh as it ever did, and will hopefully this and other classics of death will never be forgotten.
Judas Priest — Painkiller
Everyone knows the title track to this record, but I myself didn’t get into the album as a whole during my early first in metal. It was one of those many classics that I have dug back and checked out since. The point is that you do not have to hear these albums when they first come out to hear their greatness. A classic shines forever and is just as good if you find it 10, 20 or 40 years after it’s release.
Every song on this album is at least as good as the title track, and with Painkiller, Judas Priest had a great peak late in their carrier, which is a pretty rare thing. Painkiller is probably the perfect heavy metal album. Every note, every word and every drum hit is the most perfect thing that could possibly come next in each song. On this album the golden age of 80’s heavy metal reached the summit of absolute perfection just before the creativity and popularity of the genre started to die out.
Absu — Abzu
Besides discovering great, classic metal music, there’s nothing I love more than great new music. And in fact great new music is one of the things that inspires me the most. Metal music should be a living tradition. Not just a tradition of new music coming out, but a tradition of great new music, that can sit side by side with the classics on the shelf and stand the test of time itself.
Unfortunately metal fans are generally not just as ready to reward bands for making exceptionally great music today as they used to be 20 years ago, which is why I find it extra inspiring that some bands put the effort into making great music none the less. Absu, Aura Noir, Macabre, Morbid Angel, Melechesh, Grand Magus — all examples of great bands that carry on today as if the flattening of musical quality and the extinction of creativity had never happened.
Just listen to Abzu. It bears the trait of classic albums: Each new beat, each new tone, is the most perfect thing that could possibly come at that exact moment! Surely this we be an album we remember 20+ years from now.