Readers' Poll: The Greatest Heavy Metal Albums of All Time - Rolling Stone
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Readers’ Poll: The Greatest Heavy Metal Albums of All Time

Selections include ‘Paranoid,’ ‘Master of Puppets’ and ‘Reign In Blood’

Readers' Poll: The Greatest Heavy Metal Albums of All Time

Chris Walter/WireImage

Metal fans are a very passionate bunch. They're also very opinionated, so when we asked them to vote for their favorite metal albums we expected a huge response. We also expected a big debate about the very definition of "heavy metal." Some metal fans say that groups like Led Zeppelin and Guns N' Roses are metal. Others think that's completely insane. We aren't here to settle these debates. We're merely here to count the votes. Click through to see the results. 

Iron Maiden - 'The Number of the Beast'

Metal-Is/Capitol/Sony Music Distribution

4. Iron Maiden – ‘The Number of the Beast’

Iron Maiden's third disc, The Number of the Beast, is where the group found their voice. Literally. Before they began recording the 1982 classic, they booted singer Paul Di'Anno in favor of Bruce Dickinson. Kicking out the frontman is a risky move for any band, but when fans heard Dickinson's incredible, operatic range, they were sold. This is not a band with a lot of hit songs, but The Number of the Beast's "Run To The Hills" and the title track did actually get some airplay. More importantly, the album doesn't have a single weak moment, from the opening notes of "Invaders" to the end of "Hallowed Be Thy Name." The group only grew in popularity from here, but they never quite reached this level of sheer perfection. 

Black Sabbath - 'Black Sabbath'

Warner Bros.

3. Black Sabbath – ‘Black Sabbath’

Black Sabbath's 1969 debut LP is the Big Bang of heavy metal. It's impossible to imagine how the genre would have evolved without it. At the time the music wasn't even called metal, and the four members of Black Sabbath had virtually no idea they were breaking ground. They did know they didn't like the hippie music of the day, and they wanted to create music that scared people in the way horror movies scared them. The disc was recorded in a single day at a London studio, and in stores just three months later. Much to their surprise, it found a huge audience. They didn't truly become superstars until their second album, though. 

Black Sabbath - 'Paranoid'

Warner Bros.

2. Black Sabbath – ‘Paranoid’

Just a few months after the release of their self-titled debut, Black Sabbath went back into the studio to begin their second LP. This time around they had an even more stunning arsenal of songs, including "War Pigs," "Paranoid," "Iron Man" and "Fairies Wear Boots." Guitarist Tony Iommi was churning out mind-blowing riff after riff, and the result is an absolute masterpiece the group never quite managed to top. The disc was originally called War Pigs, but at the height of the Vietnam War the label didn't want to anger segments of their audience. They also felt that "Paranoid" was a more radio-friendly single. They were correct in that regard. The song only reached Number 61 on the Billboard Hot 100, but it's been played on the radio about ten billion times since, and in many ways has become their signature song. No matter how much success they had after Paranoid, the songs on this disc have always been at the center of their live set list. 

Metallica - 'Master of Puppets'


1. Metallica – ‘Master of Puppets’

Well, this wasn't much of a contest. Metallica's 1986 LP Master of Puppets blew the competition completely out of the water. It's no big surprise. The disc captured Metallica at the height of their powers. It's their final work with bassist Cliff Burton, and many feel it's their last truly flawless record. Picking the best song is a difficult task, but the title track is an epic that never gets old, even though they've pretty much played it at every concert during the past three decades. Much like Black Sabbath's early work, the album inspired musicians all over the world to first pick up their instruments. Though it's a monumental disc, it took a few years for critics to fully appreciate it. Metallica played the album straight through on a European tour in 2006 to celebrate its 20th anniversary. 

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