New York has a very rich history of strong contributions to heavy music. While the NYHC pioneers get worshipped (and justly so), New York often gets overlooked in discussions of other influential heavy music scenes. Our below choices for the Top 20 New York Hardcore and Metal Albums of All-Time will hopefully get those discussions going again, with New York getting the proper respect it deserves this time.
Urban Discipline (1992)
Biohazard were one of the first metal acts to gain a crossover audience with hip-hop fans. While still heavily grounded in hardcore and groove-metal, the group’s second album saw them integrate rap influences to great success. Biohazard’s versatility saw them being a credible opening act for both traditional metal acts such as Slayer and hip-hop acts such as House of Pain. The main single from this album, “Punishment,” may be one of the most appropriately titled tracks in the history of metal.
Prior to forming popular Goth-metal group Type O Negative, bassist/vocalist Peter Steele trolled in pure nihilism with this aggressive Brooklyn hardcore outfit. While there are some similar lyrical themes–failings of religion in “Angry Neurotic Catholics” and introspective depression in “Inner Conflict”–overall Carnivore was a much angrier beast and engaged in more incisive imagery on songs like “Jesus Hitler.” Steele would also show off the distinctive bass sound he later refined in Type O Negative, making these songs sound as thick as they were pissed off.
18. Made Out of Babies
The Ruiner (2008)
This now-defunct Brooklyn quartet quite nicely straddled the bridge between early ’90s-style AmRep noise-rock and the post-metal atmospherics of bands like Neurosis and Isis. The shrill vocals of Julie Christmas gave off an air of emotional instability that lent chaos to the fine-tuned musical approach of the rest of the band. It may not have been “metal” in the traditional sense, but the air of desperation communicated in every track is smothering in its heaviness.
Scattered, Smothered & Covered (1995)
The skateboarding wipeouts depicted in the music video for the song “Scrape” may have gotten the most notoriety for this noise-rock trio, but everything else on this album is fully worthy of your attention. Unsane’s third album was a caustic, stripped-down affair that was sheer noise punishment. Their label, Amphetamine Reptile, made its name by putting out some of the noisiest affairs in heavy music, and this was no exception.
16. Sick Of It All
Blood, Sweat, and No Tears (1989)
Though commercial success would ensue with later releases, Sick Of It All’s debut full-length would position them to be just as vital to the NYHC scene as bands that broke earlier in the decade. The riffs were heavy enough to inspire some very fired-up pitting while vocalist Lou Koller spit out insanely catchy shout-along choruses on lively anthems such as “My Life” and “Injustice System.” The world view on their debut was also a little angrier than later releases, as evident on tracks like “World Full of Hate” and “Friends Like You.”
Fire Down Under (1981)
Riot built up their name as a heavy rock band with its first two albums, but on their third release they amped up the heaviness and put out a metallic slab that competed with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement that was happening across the pond during this time period. The songs were faster-paced and the guitars of Mark Reale were downright blazing, but the songs still retained the catchiness honed during their more traditional hard rock period.
Into Darkness (1990)
Winter defied the typical metal stereotypes of fast guitars and fast drumming by slowing their music down to a molasses-like crawl, making for a sound that was almost suffocating at times, but in the end was incredibly rewarding. The band would occasionally rise up out of the muck for air, only to plunge back into the murky depths soon after. Into Darkness is a landmark album in the annals of doom metal, though as slow as this gets, it would be more apt to describe this as dooooooooooooooooooooom metal.
Prong may have gotten their start in the ’80s NYHC scene, but they didn’t really find their voice until they started incorporating more Pantera-esque groove into their riffs and dabbling in industrial-metal. The addition of ex-Killing Joke member Paul Raven on bass just turned the tide even more in their favor, leading to a release that proved to be as catchy as it was heavy. Tracks like “Whose Fist Is This Anyway?” and “Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck” made the body dance as much as the head banged.
12. Twisted Sister
Under The Blade (1982)
Their biggest hits may have come later, but as far as we’re concerned this is the best TS album. Dee Snider’s vocals sound genuinely threatening on the Iron Maiden-esque “Under The Blade” and the ominously slow burner “Destroyer.” The catchy sing-along greatness that would come with their later hits would also be hinted at on “Bad Boys (of Rock ‘N’ Roll),” but overall the group’s debut is a credibly heavy slice of pure metal.
11. Brutal Truth
Sounds of the Animal Kingdom (1997)
This grindcore quartet had already established themselves as leaders of the genre with their prior two albums, but Animal Kingdom saw them tossing every ingredient into the pot and cooking up a deviously wicked brew. Very much remaining in the grindcore wheelhouse, Brutal Truth varied up their sound and would slow down every now and then for moments of noise and an occasional bluesy riff that somehow made their madness sound even more manic.
Dawn of Possession (1991)
One of two hugely influential death metal albums from 1991 on this list, Dawn of Possession highlighted a band that was as equally proficient at slowing things down as they were at speeding things up. Bassist/vocalist Ross Dolan growls his way through blasphemous tomes such as “Despondent Souls” and “No Forgiveness (Without Bloodshed).” All of this growling would sound very hollow if it wasn’t anchored by the guitar work of Robert Vigna, which paved the way for the multiple waves of technical death metal that has come in the band’s wake.
Speak English Or Die (1985)
Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian recruited fellow Anthrax members Dan Lilker (bass) and Charlie Benante (drums) and local hardcore scene mainstay Billy Milano (vocals) to join him in a studio for three days and crank out jams that were as humorous as they were heavy. Metallic hardcore odes to violence (“Sargent D. and the S.O.D.”), tongue-in-cheek sexism (“Pussy Whipped”), tongue-in-cheek pro-USA sentiments (“Speak English Or Die”), and dead rock stars (“The Ballad of Jimi Hendrix”) proved that hardcore and metal didn’t have to be 100-percent serious business to still kick ass.
8. Agnostic Front
Cause For Alarm (1986)
Having already made a name for themselves in the hardcore scene with their 1984 debut Victim In Pain, Agnostic Front upped the ante on their follow-up by incorporating a more metallic sound. The group still traded in anthems that got the hardcore kids going, but now had riffs that could get the metal kids headbanging along as well. The addition of second guitarist Alex Kinon beefed up the group’s sound, lending extra weight to the group’s already powerful sound.
The rhythmic, syncopated guitar riffs and gruff screams of band leader Page Hamilton made Helmet a big hit in the era of grunge. Helmet carved out their niche by eschewing both the over-the-top hysterics of traditional metal acts and tough-guy posturing of traditional hardcore acts. The quintet bridged the gaps between metal, hardcore, and grunge by indulging in a sound that (for better or worse) hugely influenced the nu-metal bands that would be all the rage later in the ’90s.
6. Life of Agony
River Runs Red (1993)
This Brooklyn quartet took the hardcore blueprint and added a layer of groove metal to put out one of the most mature debut albums of the ’90s. The mighty bellows of vocalist Keith Caputo were a powerful tool of delivery for the deeply introspective lyrics of bassist Alan Robert. Songs like the title track and “Through and Through” came from a place of darkness metal bands slumming in Satanic imagery only wish they could replicate.
5. Gorilla Biscuits
Start Today (1989)
Gorilla Biscuits proved that hardcore didn’t have to be about politics and negativity all the time. While other vocalists would shout about how the world is fucked, GB vocalist Anthony “Civ” Civarelli spent most of his time shouting about how we can join together to make the scene a better place. While the term “positive hardcore” is often used to describe Gorilla Biscuits, the guitars of future Quicksand leader Walter Schreifels still inspired wild mosh pits.
Effigy of the Forgotten (1991)
On their debut album, Long Island death metal pioneers Suffocation engaged in bludgeoning brutality, but never lost focus from emphasizing strong musicianship. Vocalist Frank Mullen delivered some of the most guttural, razor blade-gargling vocals of the genre. Guitarist Terence Hobbs laid down riffs that ended up serving as a blueprint for all brutal death metal to come, influencing both rhythm and lead guitarists that came to prominence in death metal.
3. Type O Negative
Bloody Kisses (1993)
When former Carnivore frontman Peter Steele formed his next project, he decided to slow it down and ended up putting out one of the finest pieces of Goth-oriented metal ever laid to tape. While a few traces of his hardcore background would pop up here and there, Steele mainly embraced wrist-cutting dirges on fan favorite songs such as “Black No. 1” and “Christian Woman.” His deep booming vocals and thunderous bass ended up resulting in one of the most enduring sounds of that era.
The Age of Quarrel (1986)
This album is the ultimate bridge between hardcore punk and thrash metal. Basic song structures were taken from hardcore punk, but the guitars and attitude were pure fucking metal. Punks and metalheads alike were taken aback by the aggression on display here. Save for a couple of exceptions, the album was violent and unrelenting from start-to-finish. Songs like “We Gotta Know” and “Street Justice” inspire mosh pits that are just as scary and intimidating today as they were when performed originally in ’86.
Among The Living (1987)
Bay Area acts Metallica, Megadeth, and Exodus all put out seminal works in the thrash genre. Anthrax proved the East Coast could thrash just as hard and heavy. The intense double-bass drumming of Charlie Benante backed tasty riffs put together by the guitar duo of Scott Ian and Dan Spitz, with vocalist Joey Belladonna having the finest vocal performances of his career. While the aura around their brand of metal wasn’t as dour and serious as Metallica and Megadeth, these thrashers proved they could get just as much of a vicious mosh pit going with classic tracks such as “Caught in a Mosh” and “I Am the Law.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 8, 2013