Music has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. My parents were always listening to classic rock and when I got old enough I found my own music. I’ve gone through musical phases but for the most part I’ve been true to my roots.
Inspired by a post making its rounds on Facebook, these are the ten albums that I could play over and over again. If I had no other music but these, I’d be a happy man. These ten albums shaped me and made me who I am. If you want to understand me, these albums will go a long way to that end. They are staples in my library. So…here we go!
Anthrax: Among the Living (1987) This album is a classic. It’s heavy, fast, and exemplifies thrash metal. I came across Anthrax just after this album’s release and have been a fan ever since. Of the “big 4” thrash bands, they’ve always been my favorite. I could relate to the band’s attitude of being who they were, no frills and no pretensions. I was introduced to Judge Dredd because of this album and further became a fan of Stephen King (the title track is based on “The Stand”) Runner up album: Persistence of Time.
Metallica: Master of Puppets (1986) Metallica is the god-father of thrash metal. They are by far the most famous and well known of the “big 4” thrash bands. This album starts with a mellow acoustic that soon slams in your face with heavy distortion. Every track on this album is exceptional. James Hetfield’s vocals are dead on and the heavy sound is accentuated by the deep subject matter of drug addiction or losing one’s mind. Out just before “Among the Living” these two albums go hand in hand and formed the foundation for all that came after in my musical tastes. Runner up album: …And Justice For All.
Megadeth: Rust in Peace (1990) Megadeth was founded by former Metallica guitarist Dave Mustaine. The band is considered one of the “big 4” thrash bands (Slayer is the fourth). Their music tends to be heavy with plenty of intricate guitar playing. The opening track “Holy Wars” is mind-blowing and the subject matter still resonates today. Early on I wasn’t the biggest Megadeth fan but over the years I’ve gained a greater appreciation for the band and this is by far my favorite album of theirs. Runner up album: Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?
Suicidal Tendencies: How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I can’t Even Smile Today (1988) Despite their name, I always felt Suicidal was more about building up their fans and giving them something positive to look forward to. This album reminds me of playing Super Mario Bros. with my friends and my early skateboarding days. I was (and am) a big fan of these guys. Mike Muir always seemed to pour everything in his music, good or bad. He was honest and I appreciated that. As an angry teenager, the title track spoke to me like nothing else. Runner up album: Lights, Camera, Revolution.
Voivod: Dimension Hatross (1988) Voivod is a Canadian band that is heavily influenced by science fiction. Their albums were concept albums that told complex stories often involving space travel and exploration. This album is heavy with vocals only Snake (their singer) could do. The song “Tribal Convictions” has this heavy drum beat I’ve always loved. These guys headlined the first concert I ever went to (with opening acts Faith No More and Soundgarden. Think about that for a minute!) They aren’t as widely known as they should be. Runner up album: Nothingface.
Red Hot Chili Peppers: Blood Sugar Sex Magic (1991) Wow. By far one of my favorite albums of all time. This has it all: heavy funk laced songs intertwined with soulful ballads. All coming from a place of vulnerability. The sound of this album is amazing. The band’s energy pours through every song. When I moved from Cleveland to Southern Illinois this album carried me through. “Under the Bridge” the commercial success of the album spoke a lot to me, not that I was a recovering addict but because of the love Anthony had for his city. I felt the same way about the city I was forced to leave. I can put this album on, hit repeat, and never turn it off. Runner up album: Mothers Milk.
Stormtroopers of Death: Speak English or Die (1985) A side project of Scott Ian and Charlie Benante of Anthrax with bassist Dan Lilker of Nuclear Assault and singer Billy Milano, this album influenced many thrash bands. Created almost as a joke, they played as hard and heavy as possible. Written and recorded within a week, the short songs on this album insulted everyone. I always understood the joke behind it though many still don’t. I loved how heavy the songs were and how raw they sounded. If you ever watched Headbanger’s Ball on MTV, you’ve heard tracks off this album as it was the intro music to the show. Runner up album: None. It was one and done for them.
Pearl Jam: Ten (1991) When this album first came out, it didn’t register on my radar. All you have to do is look at the albums above this to see where my musical tastes were. However when I went to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers on the “Blood Sugar Sex Magic” tour, there was this band I’d barely heard of called Pearl Jam that opened for them (along with the Smashing Pumpkins). I was impressed by their sound and later picked up this album. It has never left my rotation since. Eddie Vedder’s voice is amazing. My all-time favorite song “Alive” is on this album. Along with “Blood Sugar Sex Magic” this followed me from Cleveland to Southern Illinois and I spent many days and evenings in my room listening to this. Any time I hear “Alive” on the radio, I turn it up loud and sing along. And I cannot sing. Runner up album: VS.
Beastie Boys: Check Your Head (1992) Skateboarding brought so much to my life and I will never forget it. We used to watch skate videos to get pumped up before going out on our stunt-wood and trying new tricks. I’d known about the Beastie Boys but lost interest with their second album. One of the songs, “Pass the Mic” was featured in a skate video and the sound with the skating was so powerful it instantly became a classic. When I finally listened to the entire album and heard the punk roots of the group come through their rap, it was like a new era of music opened up. Heavy metal and punk were not supposed to be associated with rap, but they did it (to be fair, Anthrax did so earlier with “I’m the Man” and even Aerosmith with Run DMC). Runner up album: Ill Communication
Foo Fighters: Echoes, Silence, Patience, and Grace (2007) From the moment I heard “The Pretender” I couldn’t put this album down. There isn’t one bad song on the entire record. I listened to this over and over again. I’d heard most of their hits before this came out and enjoyed the songs but never really gave them much credit. I always thought of them as “that band with the dude from Nirvana.” I was wrong. Dave Grohl is an amazingly talented musician and although Nirvana is often viewed as the “more important” band, I honestly think the Foo Fighters deserve more attention. This album spoke to me like none of their previous ones and to this day when “Home” comes on I think about my family and wanting to be home. Runner up album: The Colour and the Shape.
This list is not intended as a “best ever” list of music, but the ten most influential albums to me personally. I’d love to hear your thoughts. How many are on your list? Who’s created art that’s moved you? Add yours to the comments below.