70. Death, 'Human' (1991)
Death frontman Chuck Schuldiner helped define the primal, relentless sound of death metal on early demos (under the name Mantas) and on the band's 1987 debut, Scream Bloody Gore. But on Human, the group's fourth LP in as many years, he threw a wild curveball, enlisting guitarist Paul Masvidal and drummer Sean Reinert, a pair of young jazz-fusion-obsessed hotshots (and co-founders of the influential band Cynic), for an album that seamlessly reconciled the intensity of early Death with prog's chops-mad technicality. Gone were Scream's pet themes of zombies and bloodshed; in their place were songs that dealt with "mysteries of our life" ("Flattening of Emotions"), the power of the subconscious ("See Through Dreams") and man's mistreatment of the environment ("Vacant Planet"). Songs like "Secret Face" matched Schuldiner's raspy growls with dazzlingly intricate arrangements and proudly virtuosic playing, while instrumental "Cosmic Sea" sounded like a moody film score arranged for a metal band. In later years, bands such as Gorguts, Cryptopsy and the Faceless would push death metal's mutant complexity even further, but Human remains a shining example of how heavy music can evolve without forsaking its core principles. "People unfortunately think that if you progress as a musician you are wimpy," Schuldiner said at the time. "I don't get that." H.S.