Twenty-five years ago the Gulf War started, Nelson Mandela was released from prison, Jennifer Lawrence was born, and that’s about all we can think of without referring to Wikipedia or one of our older colleagues who still has a functioning long-term memory. 1990 also saw the release of several excellent metal records. Here’s the twenty we like best.
20. Deicide, Deicide
Everyone knows that Deicide’s lead singer, Glen Benton, is the guy who burned an inverted crucifix into his forehead. Did you know that he met Sasquatch a few years ago? Or that he’s allegedly a big-time prima donna who throws “hissy fits” while on tour? We only point this out because he admitted to us last year that he’s nowhere near as angry as he seems.
19. Death Angel, Act III
In Greek mythology, the angel of death is a skeleton named Charon who ferries the deceased across a river to Hell (at least, that’s what we remember from the old Clash of the Titans movie). The band Death Angel once ferried a keg of Natural Light and a Ping-Pong table in a grocery cart to a pool party in Concord, California. They also play some bitchin’ thrash metal.
18. Death, Spiritual Healing
Go figure. Death founder and extreme metal visionary Chuck Schuldiner (R.I.P.) is remembered by his friends as a modest animal lover and community-minded optimist. Spiritual Healing is his band’s third album.
17. Entombed, Left Hand Path
This record title refers to a Satanic belief system and malicious spell-casting. Unbeknownst to Entombed, “left-hand path” is also a Scottish euphemism for the old trick where a right-handed gentleman masturbates with his left hand, as the less coordinated and weaker mitt provides a sloppier and thus more authentic vaginal sensation (a type of magic in its own right). Along with dodging accusations of devil worship and chronic masturbation, Entombed play some righteous death metal.
16. Iron Maiden, No Prayer for the Dying
In middle school, our buddy Clint bought the poster for this record at a head shop. He hung it on his bedroom door and saluted it every day with raised horn fingers. Eighteen months later, Clint met his first girlfriend at the arcade. The next morning he packed all of his Maiden shit into a Hefty bag and chucked it into a dumpster. Clint hasn’t looked back since. What exactly does that say about you, Mister 34-year-old single man with an Iron Maiden patch on his windbreaker?
15. Cannibal Corpse, Eaten Back to Life
If you speak ill of Cannibal Corpse, the ground will split apart and the buried will rise from their graves and stalk you to the ends of the earth. Once they catch up with you, the reanimated dead people will say, “We recognize their influence, but we’re not huge fans of Cannibal Corpse, either. We like the more groove-oriented shit from California.”
14. Celtic Frost, Vanity/Nemesis
Refresh our memories. Did the guys in Celtic Frost find a cure for hepatitis, AIDS, and cancer, or did they just make some critically regarded metal albums? From the way you people talk about them, it’s hard to tell.
13. Danzig, Danzig II: Lucifuge
This record is an even split between drunken blues numbers with generically sinister titles (“Killer Wolf”) and some of the best metal songs of Glenn Danzig’s career (“Long Way Back From Hell”). The liner photos feature a preening, shirtless Glenn in tight leather pants as his bandmates, fully clothed, eye the camera with clear discomfort.
12. Kreator, Coma of Souls
Like Metallica, Kreator began as a thrash outfit in the early Eighties. Also like Metallica, the guitarist/singer and drummer have served, for its entirety, as the band’s creative center. Unlike Metallica, Kreator still make decent records, have never employed a band therapist, and tactfully keep their opinions on music piracy to themselves. Nor do they inexplicably infuriate guys who compile lists about old metal records.
11. Living Colour, Time’s Up
When choosing their name, the guys in Living Colour deliberately used the British-Canadian spelling to make a point about their eclecticism — a very late-Eighties act of meaningless eccentricity. Their hybrid of metal and funk has better survived the decades.
10. Megadeth, Rust in Peace
We are relieved that Metallica did not release an album in 1990, too. Otherwise, we’d have included it on this list, leading America’s favorite raving-mad ginger, Dave Mustaine, to worry that his former bandmates had upstaged him yet again.
9. Monster Magnet, Monster Magnet
All you hairy dilettantes who carry on about how much you love stoner metal might want to name-drop Monster Magnet in the same breath as Sabbath once in a while. They carried the torch in the Eighties and Nineties when a lot of other metal bands patted rouge on their cheeks or hot-railed meth and tried to out-speed each other’s Lydian scale solos.
8. Napalm Death, Harmony Corruption
The band that notoriously changes its sound every record has been using the same “scrawled by an eighth-grader” artwork for 35 years.
7. Sacred Reich, The American Way
Sacred Reich was briefly signed to Hollywood Records, a subsidiary of Disney. That might be why their single, “Crimes Against Humanity,” is used as the theme song to The Wizards of Waverly Place (the preceding statement is false).
6. Obituary, Cause of Death
One of the best death metal records to originate from Florida, or anywhere.
5. Pantera, Cowboys From Hell
One night at a house party, we witnessed a skinhead try to surf down the railing of a staircase. He slipped and bounced headfirst all the way down the steps instead. So! Much! Blood! Cowboys From Hell was playing at the time. When the paramedics arrived, one of them said, “Awesome, I love Pantera.” Then he hoisted the brain-dead skinhead out to the ambulance, grinning.
4. Testament, Souls of Black
Testament guitarist Alex Skolnick is a sternly handsome artiste who plays highly expressive leads and solos that reflect his decades-long study of jazz and world music. Vocalist Chuck Billy looks like a blackjack dealer at an Indian casino. We feel like assholes for pointing that out, because we love Testament.
3. Anthrax, Persistence of Time Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian is married to the daughter of Bat Out of Hell singer Meat Loaf. Aside from the grandkids, we wonder what those two chat about at family dinners. Maybe how Anthrax vocalist Joey Belladonna sings like a man getting his testicles squeezed? Or, The Walking Dead.
2. Sanctuary, Into the Mirror Black
Sanctuary broke up in 1992 rather than cave to pressure from Epic Records to adopt a more commercially viable “grunge” sound. Way to keep it real, Sanctuary! They reunited in 2010 and released a new record, The Year the Sun Died, in 2014.
1. Slayer, Seasons in the Abyss
Just hire Dave Lombardo to play drums again already.