11. Metallica, 'Ride the Lightning' (1984)
Recorded before the band had even secured a major-label recording deal, Metallica's second album remains the purest expression of the band's vision, a document of a group who has found their sound but is neither overly self-aware, nor able to spend too much time navel gazing in the studio. "I love the sound of that album and it holds up really well," guitarist Kirk Hammett told Rolling Stone in 2014. "We just bashed it out, which lead to a more natural performance. By the time we recorded our next record, Master of Puppets, the days of just bashing it out were much fewer." You can hear the pure adrenaline pumping through tracks like "Fight Fire with Fire," a grim ode to an inevitable nuclear apocalypse, and the gruesome "Creeping Death," which recounts the divine culling of Egypt's first-born sons from the Book of Exodus. Meanwhile, bleak power ballad "Fade to Black" showed off the dynamic mastery the band would explore further on later epics like "Master of Puppets" and "One," while instrumental "The Call of Ktulu" ended the record on a memorably spooky note. The immediacy of Lightning's strike is only heightened by the youthful whine of frontman James Hetfield's voice, which had yet to drop in register to the lower growl he would use to equal if more mature effect on subsequent Metallica releases. T.B.