1. Black Sabbath-Dehumanizer(1992)
Dehumanizer saw Sabbath’s return to the slow, heavy, doomy sound that characterized their early albums with Ozzy. It doesn’t sound anything like “Heaven and Hell” or “Mob Rules.” The production is very organic, eschewing the ’80s aesthetic of big electronic-sounding snares and watery guitars made popular by Def Leppard and others. The riffs are slow, sinister and crunchy, Geezer’s bass is heavy as fuck and stands out clearly in the mix, and Dio is at the top of his game here, giving one of the most evil-sounding performances of his career. Why people slept on this one, I have no idea. Maybe it’s because it came out during that “in-between” period when thrash was dying and death metal was at its peak; More av-ante-garde bands like Faith No More, Soundgarden and Alice In Chains(Yeah, those bands aren’t “metal”…I get it; whatever…) were taking metal and hard rock into uncharted territory, and traditional metal like Sabbath was struggling to find an audience. It’s a shame, because this was a great album. It’s actually the first Sabbath album I ever bought, besides a greatest-hits tape of the Ozzy years. It’s as much of a “comeback” for Sabbath as “Painkiller” was for Priest, in my opinion, but unfortunately it just got lost in the shuffle.
2. Testament-Souls of Black(1990)
Even Testament dislikes this album; they claim that it was rushed, and they weren’t satisfied with it. I don’t understand why, because it’s a hell of a record. Certainly their last truly “thrash” album until “The Gathering” in 1999.(I like everything in between as well)
I don’t think this is a mediocre album it all. It rocks from start to finish, and the title track, in my opinion, is one of their best songs. If some “new wave of thrash” band came out with this today, it would be hailed as a masterpiece.
Is it a coincidence that when James Hetfield started hanging out with Pepper Keenan, whose band Corrosion of Conformity switched up from hardcore punk/crossover metal to a more blues-based hard rock/metal style, that Metallica came out with a blues-based hard rock/metal record? I think not. That’s just my own personal theory. There’s suggestions of Danzig sprinkled throughout as well, and James’ love of both Danzig and the Misfits is well-documented. So it’s not thrash; so what? I understand why people were severely disappointed by it. Hell, so was I, initially. But the truth is that it’s a fucking great album full of great fucking songs, “Hero Of the Day” aside(That song sucks ass). It’s basically a traditional hard rock album in the vein of latter-day COC, Danzig and possibly Down. “Re-Load,” which was recorded during the same sessions, was not nearly as good, although it contained a few tracks that should have been substituted for some of the weaker ones on its predecessor. Take out “Hero” and “Ronnie” and toss in “Devil’s Dance” (Jason’s heaviest bass sound ever)and “Unforgiven II, and it would have been a near-perfect album. Most of the hatred heaped upon it was a direct result of the fact that they cut their hair and put on eyeliner and pimp suits, which was a bit much, I’ll admit(Lars’ feather boa still gives me nightmares), but the fact that so much focus was placed on the short hair just goes to show you how fashion-conscious and superficial metalheads can be. Still, I will concede that the fact that they all did it at the same time and created this new gay image for themselves does seem rather contrived, and the promo shots and live performances from that time are difficult to look at now. I also hated the ninja star and the new logo. But musically(and isn’t that what matters most?), it’s a good solid album that would have been well-received by the metal community had it come from some other entity besides Metallica. Sadly, it was to be their last truly great album, and it was all downhill from there. At least until half-assed return to form “Death Magnetic,” anyway, which was overall a good album, but paled in comparison to the masterpieces that made them legends. Oh yeah, and “Mama Said” kicks ass.
4. Pantera-Re-inventing the Steel
Nearly every track on this album is a fist-pumping, horn-raising, beer guzzling metal anthem, and yet it’s often overlooked and regarded as the weakest of the bands’ post-indie output. It may not be as groundbreaking as “Far Beyond Driven” and “The Great Southern Trendkill”(Another underrated one), but it’s at least as good as “Cowboys from Hell,” and that’s saying a lot. The patented “power groove” that elitists claim was ripped off from Exhorder is back and on full display here. A shame Phil and the Abbot brothers couldn’t settle their differences and prevent the musical travesty that is Hellyeah from ever being brought into existence. Pantera was to the ’90s what Metallica was to the ’80s, and what Sabbath was to the ’70s. They were the last band to bring true metal to the mainstream on such a massive scale.
5. Sanctuary-Refuge Denied
Warrell Dane’s pre-nevermore outfit Sanctuary is one of the most tragically under-looked metal bands of all time. The vocals here are inhuman and must be heard to be believed(Battle Angels). Their debut, “Refuge Denied” was produced by none other than Dave Mustaine.