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Deafheaven’s George Clarke: My 10 Favorite Metal Albums

Vocalist shouts out Pantera’s ‘Far Beyond Driven,’ Weakling’s ‘Dead as Dreams’ and more

Deafheaven's George Clarke: My 10 Favorite Metal Albums

Deafheaven's George Clarke picks his 10 favorite metal albums, including Pantera's 'Far Beyond Driven' and Weakling's 'Dead as Dreams.'

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At its heart, metal has always been about pushing boundaries, and no young band has explored the outer realms of the genre as deftly as Deafheaven. Formed in San Francisco in 2010, the band nailed a unique fusion of overdriven black metal and softer shoegaze on their 2013 breakthrough LP Sunbather. “That mixture of influences has kind of always been our thing, much to some peoples’ annoyance,” the band’s guitarist, Kerry McCoy, told Rolling Stone with a laugh in 2015.

The guitar tones on Sunbather alternate between bitter and sweet, and the tempos either pummel or gently pulse, as frontman George Clarke growls like a wounded animal. Moreover, Sunbather’s echoey production and adventurous songcraft earned it a place on Rolling Stone’s recently published list of the 100 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time.

In an effort to poll metal artists from different generations while making that list, including Ozzy Osbourne, Lars Ulrich and Corey Taylor, among others, we reached out to Deafheaven’s Clarke and asked him what his favorite metal albums are. He emailed us back a list of 10 picks that range from LPs by obscure, sometimes controversial black-metal artists to some of the biggest names in thrash. Here is what he picked, in alphabetical order.

Burzum, ‘Filosofem’ (1996)

Despite Burzum’s obviously unfavorable politics and world view, this, for me, is the best album black metal has to offer. The production is outstanding, and the vocals are perfect. It’s one of the few albums that instantly gives me a certain mood. It’s an absolute classic. 

ColdWorld, ‘Melancholie2’ (2008)

When our band was first starting, I remember listening to this more than anything. Haunting synth work helps move emotional songwriting to create one of the best atmospheric black metal albums of all time. 

Iron Maiden, ‘Powerslave’ (1984)

Of all Iron Maiden’s records, this one always sticks with me the most. It has incredibly well-written metal songs that are as impressive as they are fun. It’s a perfect road trip record and band that features one of the best metal musicians of all time, [bassist] Steve Harris. 

Leviathan, ‘The Tenth Sub Level of Suicide’ (2003)

This is a genre-defining album for me. It has relentless riffing with smart songwriting and hellish vocals. Leviathan is perfect at being frightening without being uninteresting or campy. 

Metallica, ‘Master of Puppets’ (1986)

Picking a Metallica album to talk about is difficult, because their first four albums are perhaps the only universally agreed-upon subject in the metal community other than loving Black Sabbath. With a short glance at the track list, though it’s hard to believe so many good songs are on one album. Master of Puppets is perfect from front to back. 

Morbid Angel, ‘Gateways to Annihilation’ (2000)

This is another tough one from a band whose entire discography is classic, but I’m choosing this because it was the first one of theirs I had heard and therefore most impactful. I remember seeing them on this tour and being completely blown away. 

Pantera, ‘Far Beyond Driven’ (1994)

Following my pattern, this band really comes into their own mid-career. Far Beyond Driven has powerful, creative songs that feature one of metal’s best vocalists at one of the most aggressive and soulful times of his career. It’s a record that definitely helped define my middle school years.

Sepultura, ‘Arise’ (1991)

Sepultura’s entire early discography down through Morbid Visions is great, but I tend to prefer classic bands when they’re at the midpoint of album releases. The songwriting on this album is fantastic, the production is great and they really step beyond their contemporaries on this. 

Slayer, ‘Hell Awaits’ (1985)

This was a difficult one because with early Slayer, how do you choose? I feel like this record is pretty unsung compared to their other albums around that time. “Kill Again,” “Praise of Death,” “Necrophiliac” … it has so many fast, unrelenting songs that created a blueprint of what was to come. 

Weakling, ‘Dead as Dreams’ (2000)

An essential pillar of American black metal, this album helped redefine what the sound was for me and so many others. It has beautiful, original arrangements that continue to influence and inspire bands of the genre decades later. 

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