28. Celtic Frost, 'Morbid Tales' (1984)
The first band that frontman Tom G. Warrior and bassist Martin Ain formed, death-metal forerunners Hellhammer, was a humiliating experience. Underground zines of the time had panned their demos, saying they couldn't play their instruments. Citing a review in the zine Metal Forces in his book Only Death Is Real, Warrior wrote, "[It] was a severe blow, and we felt our pride slighted to no end." So when they put Celtic Frost together, they had to prove themselves. What they made with their debut LP, Morbid Tales, would shape extreme metal for years to come. Chunky, muscular riffs like the one in "Dethroned Emperor," which has a unique, almost Southern rock–inspired groove, would influence death-metal bands like Obituary, while the galloping rhythms and gritty guitar sound of "Into the Crypts of Rays" would inspire black-metal acts like Darkthone, whose A Blaze in the Northern Sky sounds like a black-mirror reflection of Morbid Tales. Celtic Frost never adhered to a specific genre; they played fast like thrash groups but also wrung out their riffs slowly like doom acts. "Danse Macabre" is more like a Dario Argento horror-soundtrack work than metal, and they enlisted a creepy-sounding female vocalist for the spoken invocation in "Return to the Eve." Moreover, Warrior had a personality and tough-guy singing style all his own. Between his oft-mimicked "Ugh" grunts, he wasn't afraid to get corny and ask, "Are you morbid?" in the song "Morbid Tales." The album is fun, heavy and spooky all at once, but more than that, for Warrior and Ain, it was a vindication. "To me, it’s the essence of my musical life and the essence of Celtic Frost," Warrior said of the album in 2007. K.G.