Sunday, 14 September 2014

Red Hot Chili Peppers Top 50

If my announcement that my next top 50 would be the Red Hot Chili Peppers is anything to go by, they're definitely a band that polarise opinion.  Some of you were really looking forward to this one, others poured scorn on them as a one song band or a bit of a joke.  Probably a hint of truth in both of those criticisms, but as I'm here doing this chart I obviously see it from a different angle.  Yes, the lyrics were quite often daft rhymes and in-jokes that most people wouldn't dare utter in public, but despite the socks, lightbulbs and flaming helmets etc. they have always made people move and have always been extremely good at the art of "the song", as many of the higher entries in my chart demonstrate.

I may have heard bits and pieces here and there but I first got into the Red Hot Chili Peppers when I saw a piece on Raw Power in 1992 promoting 'What Hits?', which showed clips from videos throughout their career so far.  I promptly bought said album (nestling in the chronological paper record of my early collection between 'Stigma' by EMF and 'Broken' by Nine Inch Nails) and took it from there.

Alongside listening to the songs, as a 14 year old I remember studying the sleeve and working out which member was which and who were those people who didn't look like Anthony Kiedis, Flea, John Frusciante, Hillel Slovak, Chad Smith or Jack Irons?  Buying 'Blood Sugar Sex Magik' shortly after and trying to match the tattoos on the inner sleeve to the band members.  Buying the first four albums and discovering that, despite being in the original lineup, that Slovak and Irons weren't on the first album and first two albums respectively and that the mystery men were Jack Sherman and Cliff Martinez.  All the details that matter, all before Google was around to help me out.

Those first two albums, the first self-titled from 84 and 'Freaky Styley' from 85, were very patchy, hence their under-representation here.  'The Uplift Mofo Party Plan' was where the "proper" lineup came back together and where they hit their stride, but Hillel Slovak's tragic death interrupted that progress.  Enter Frusciante and Smith and the classic line-up was born.

Career highs of 'Mother's Milk' and 'Blood Sugar Sex Magik' followed and fame was assured, but the guitarist curse struck again as Frusciante departed from the limelight and after a few stops and starts Dave Navarro finally joined for the underrated 'One Hot Minute' album.  Some good songs were produced with Navarro but he never really fit in and it wasn't long before Frusciante was back and the band were reinvented.

Out went the brash funk-rock and bravado on the whole and in came a slightly introspective twist which reintroduced the band to the mainstream with a series of hit singles and the ever-bonkers videos that accompanied them.  I'm sure there were many that abandoned the band at this point, but just as many (if not more) would have joined the story and, like me years before, delved into the rich and variable back catalogue of an excellent band.

1. By the Way
2. Otherside
3. Higher Ground
4. Knock Me Down
5. My Friends
6. Under the Bridge
7. Give it Away
8. Jungle Man
9. Backwoods
10. Blood Sugar Sex Magik
11. I Could Have Lied
12. Breaking the Girl
13. Taste the Pain
14. Stone Cold Bush
15. Suck my Kiss
16. If You Have to Ask
17. Soul to Squeeze
18. Nobody Weird Like Me
19. Parallel Universe
20. Fight Like a Brave
21. Nevermind
22. Warped
23. Me and My Friends
24. Sir Psycho Sexy
25. The Righteous and the Wicked
26. Funky Monks
27. Apache Rose Peacock
28. My Lovely Man
29. Aeroplane
30. The Greeting Song
31. The Power of Equality
32. Can't Stop
33. Cabron
34. Coffee Shop
35. Naked in the Rain
36. Catholic School Girls Rule
37. Good Time Boys
38. Around the World
39. Californication
40. One Big Mob
41. Get Up and Jump
42. Subterranean Homesick Blues
43. Shallow Be Thy Game
44. Dani California
45. Johnny, Kick a Hole in the Sky
46. Organic Anti-Beat Box Band
47. Behind the Sun
48. Scar Tissue
49. Subway to Venus
50. No Chump Love Sucker

By Era
Red Hot Chili Peppers 1
Freaky Styley 3
The Uplift Mofo Party Plan 7
Mother's Milk 8
Blood Sugar Sex Magik 15
One Hot Minute 6
Californication 5
By the Way 3
Stadium Arcadium 1
I'm With You 0
Others 1

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Paradise Lost Top 50

Ask anyone who the most influential British metal band ever are and they'll probably list bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden.  Add Paradise Lost to that list.  Name a European metal band that formed in the last 20 years that have a healthy dose of melody and melancholy and chances are that Paradise Lost were probably an influence.

If you're a metal fan and haven't yet had them cross your path then you NEED to hear them.  If you aren't a metal fan, but maybe one of those people who has a soft spot for, say, the Black album then go straight for 'Draconian Times' and give it a listen.  It doesn't particularly sound like it, and certainly wasn't anywhere near as successful, but for me with its metal wrapped up inside huge, proper songs approach, it is the European version of the Black album.

I first came across Paradise Lost when I saw the video for 'Embers Fire' on Raw Power/Noisy Mothers and I kept it on my video but didn't really investigate any further until I got a free cassette with Raw magazine promoting the upcoming album 'Draconian Times' in 1995.  As well as four clips from the new album it also had one song each from the previous two albums.  So that was it, I was away, buying the new album and going backwards to fill in the first four pretty soon after.

Starting off as a slower, English take on Death Metal on their first album 'Lost Paradise', they added more melody into the guitars and the occasional splash of keyboards on the follow-up 'Gothic', with the well-defined lead and rhythm guitar interplay of Gregor Mackintosh and Aaron Aedy gradually honed over subsequent albums 'Shades of God' and the breakthrough 'Icon' before arriving at my personal favourite (as can be seen in this chart) and a huge influence on my own songwriting, 'Draconian Times'.

Some people may say stop there, although glancing down again at my chart you can see I'm not one of them.  After experiencing relative success the next album, 'One Second', saw a less metallic, rockier sound with electronic elements.  With 'Say Just Words' expertly bridging the gap between the two albums it eased you into the change of direction, and while some fans said goodbye I for one find this one of Paradise Lost's best albums.  This new direction was taken even further on 'Host' in 1999.  With virtually all traces of metal now banished from their sound, Depeche Mode comparisons were common.

Skipping swiftly over the relatively average 'Believe in Nothing' album (none of whose tracks made this chart), they made a relative comeback with the excellent 'Symbol of Life' album in 2002.  From this point onwards, while the electronic elements were still present, the guitars gradually crept more and more into the foreground until the old Paradise Lost finally returned over the last few albums.  One of the best bands of all time, metal or otherwise, long may they continue.

1. Embers Fire
2. Say Just Words
3. One Second
4. Forever Failure
5. True Belief
6. The Last Time
7. Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us
8. Once Solemn
9. Erased
10. Hallowed Land
11. Enchantment
12. Pity the Sadness
13. Shadowkings
14. Gothic
15. Pray Nightfall
16. Yearn for Change
17. Another Day
18. As I Die
19. The Enemy
20. Widow
21. Ordinary Days
22. Forever After
23. Last Regret
24. Mortals Watch the Day
25. Shades of God
26. Eternal
27. Isolate
28. Redshift
29. Grey
30. Hands of Reason
31. I See Your Face
32. Dying Freedom
33. Rapture
34. Fear
35. Soul Courageous
36. Praise Lamented Shade
37. This Cold Life
38. The Painless
39. Cruel One
40. Disappear
41. No Celebration
42. As Horizons End
43. Honesty in Death
44. The Rise of Denial
45. Christendom
46. Don't Belong
47. Ash and Debris
48. Tragic Idol
49. Fear of Impending Hell
50. Forging Sympathy

By Era
Lost Paradise 0
Gothic 4
Shades of God 3
Icon 6
Draconian Times 11
One Second 7
Host 1
Believe in Nothing 0
Symbol of Life 4
Paradise Lost 4
In Requiem 3
Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us 4
Tragic Idol 3

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Debut Albums Top 50

When I first heard about the debut album top 50 I must admit I didn't know what would come out on top.  I had done the top 50 90s albums a year ago and there would definitely be some strong contenders in there, but the best?  Not sure.  And so I got down to making a shortlist, each album got a listen with marks out of 10 for each song and an average score per song was calculated as a rough guide.  Adding in factors like adolescent favourites (or albums that opened the door to new avenues of listening) to ones that maybe hadn't stood the test of time as well as the rest changed the ordering a little bit before I arrived at the list below.  

Albums were far more likely to do well if I was there at the time.  Discovering a band on their debut, being the album that you heard first and then following that band through their career is much more likely to leave an imprint on you for life than the ones you find later on and track back, no matter how legendary they may be.  15 out of my top 20 (and 35 out of the 50) were the first albums I owned by the respective bands which kind of proves my point, for me at least.

Due to some of the huge differences in genre and sound in some instances, comparison was occasionally tricky.  I tried to balance up the "how much do I want to play this album right now" factor with its impact on me.  So there you have it, feel free to nod and agree and tear it apart in equal measure!

1. Dragonforce - Valley of the Damned

It sounds like a joke - what do you get if you cross a South African singer, guitarists from Hong Kong and New Zealand, a keyboard player from Ukraine and a French drummer?  The punchline is even stranger - an English power metal band.  When I first heard about Dragonforce with 'My Spirit Will Go On' I thought it might be a better idea to start at the beginning, which led me to this album.  Many many listens later and, by a whisker, it has emerged as the best debut album of all time.  There are no duffers whatsoever, in terms of songs we're talking 9s and 10s all the way and the musicianship, in particular Herman Li and his video game-influenced solos, is incredible.  They've come up with better individual songs since, but they'll be hard-pushed to come up with an album better than this one.
Recommended Song: Valley of the Damned

2. Andrew WK - I Get Wet

I went to Leeds Festival in 2002 for a lot of reasons, but Andrew WK wasn't one of them.  However, I was curious enough to go and see what all the fuss was about (and because Obituary's Donald Tardy was on drums) and I have to say that in terms of fun it was one of the best sets I've ever seen.  Picking up the album not long after was even better.  Yes, most of the songs sound almost exactly the same, yes 'I Love NYC' sounds like the theme tune to 80s kids TV show Fun House, but it was and still is brilliant, the perfect album to put on before you're going on a night out or just to put a great big smile on your face.  And I imagine Andrew WK himself would be immensely proud of that.
Recommended Song: Ready to Die

3. The Haunted - The Haunted

I was already a fan of At the Gates' 'Slaughter of the Soul' before I came across the Haunted through the tried and trusted method of free Metal Hammer CDs, but nothing can prepare you for the full force of the entire debut album.  As my number one album of the 90s in a previous chart this was always going to be high in this selection too, the relentless ferocity just tears your face off and then stops and starts again.  The relaxed, no pressure atmosphere that the songs were bashed out in probably contributed to the no-frills, no prisoners approach which unfortunately hasn't been bettered to date, but we can live in hope....
Recommended Song: Undead

4. Pearl Jam - Ten

If anyone asked me to name my favourite debut album, then off the top of my head 'Ten' would be the first one that comes to mind.  With quite possibly the best A side of any album ever it starts off in style, 'Alive', 'Even Flow', 'Black' and 'Jeremy' classics one and all and an embarrassment of riches for a debut.  The songwriting of Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament was at an all time peak, meshing perfectly with the mournful vocals of Eddie Vedder, and while future albums had some great songs amongst the more average fare, they would never match the consistent high quality of 'Ten'.
Recommended Song: Alive

5. Manic Street Preachers - Generation Terrorists

What is there to say about 'Generation Terrorists'?  Anyone who knows even a little about me knows that the Manics are my favourite band.  So why isn't this number one?  There are a lot of reasons why it should be, over half a typical album's worth of classics on one disc, the whole package with a quote per song and the propaganda surrounding its release, skilfully masterminded predominantly by Richey Edwards.  But unfortunately the length always scuppers it a little bit for me, just a few too many songs that aren't quite up to the standard of the others means that the albums that completely go for it all the way win favour.  But any album with 'Motorcycle Emptiness', 'You Love Us', 'Stay Beautiful' and 'Little Baby Nothing' among others is always going to sail into the top 5.
Recommended Song: Stay Beautiful

6. Feeder - Swim

Only six songs on this debut mini-album but I think, regardless of whether I used this or debut album proper 'Polythene', the outcome would probably have been the same.  At this stage they were in full-on Welsh Smashing Pumpkins mode, although way more fun than that sounds.  Even if you're not a Feeder fan you'll probably know some of these songs from the Gran Turismo games and if you tick neither of those boxes there's definitely something missing from your life.  Huge choruses, tumbling rhythms and big guitars aplenty, Feeder are my second favourite band and this mini-album goes a long way as to explaining why.
Recommended Song: Descend

7. A - How Ace are Buildings?

I've said it before and I'll say it again, A are the best sing-a-long band in the world EVER.  'How Ace are Buildings' was A at their most effervescent, with a studio obviously full of E numbers, ball pools and trampolines.  Or something.  Almost every song is like shaking a can of fizzy drink and letting it loose as the self-styled cheeky monkeys rattle their way through one of the most uplifting albums ever released.  I first saw A live in 1997 supporting Jesus Jones and such is the quality of the songs that one listen was all that was needed to go out and buy this album.  If you haven't you should too, if only for those moments when you need a good cheering up.
Recommended Song: No. 1

8. Senseless Things - Postcard CV

The Senseless Things were a huge influence on my teenage musical years, as you've probably seen me say countless times before, in particular the bass-playing of Morgan Nicholls.  Even though 'The First of Too Many' was the one I heard first, 'Postcard CV' with its ramshackle, race-you-to-the-finish tunes of teenage angst and boredom was the most fun.  Virtually all the songs were short, so never outstayed their welcome and Mark Keds' genius songwriting, Ben's harmonies, Morgan's bubbling bass and Cass' powerful drumming were forever guaranteed to put a smile on this face at least.  And how can you ever refuse an album which has a song called 'Trevor'?
Recommended Song: Too Much Kissing

9. Machine Head - Burn My Eyes

As my journey into metal progressed through classic albums by existing bands such as 'Vulgar Display of Power' and 'Chaos AD', 1994 was way overdue for a new metal band to knock me sideways with a classic debut.  'Burn My Eyes' was that album.  I originally bought it on record and only relatively recently replaced that with a CD, so it has been somewhat neglected of late.  Jogging my memory with this chart reminded me of how refreshing it was then, a nod to the old school but with a contemporary sound, it really was everything that any self-respecting metal fan had been waiting for.  People scoffed at the foray into rap-metal later on, but it was done well and I for one stuck with them until they came out the other side and returned to a similar sound to this debut.  Think 90s and classic metal albums and this will always get a mention.
Recommended Song: Davidian

10. Rage Against the Machine - Rage Against the Machine

No matter what your taste in music, if you were alternatively minded at the time this album came out it will probably be in your list if you were to make one of these charts.  Like nothing you'd heard before, the mixture of rap vocals, rock guitars, funky basslines and Tom Morello's insane guitar sound effects (remember "No samples, keyboards or synthesizers used in the making of this recording"!!) struck a chord with many.  They were never one of my favourite bands, not even close, yet this strolled into the top 10 debuts with ease.  With several classics contained within it was always going to be up there and is just one of those albums you reach for again and again, timeless.
Recommended Song: Know Your Enemy

11. Bush - Sixteen Stone

1994 has the joint highest share of entries in this chart, so was obviously a good year for debuts.  Or else maybe I was just more open to investigating new bands.  Forget all the grunge and Nirvana comparisons, Bush just wrote some great rock songs, especially apparent on this debut.  'Little Things', 'Everything Zen', 'Comedown', 'Glycerine', all amazing songs, even though the critics didn't think so as they dared to crack America before they got wind of their existence.  In a similar way to Pearl Jam they showed their strongest hand early and never really matched the highs of their debut, perhaps deliberately shying away from ever going down the more radio-friendly route again.  Shame.
Recommended Song: Comedown

12. Raging Speedhorn - Raging Speedhorn

In the early noughties there was only one band that could live up to the old Motorhead saying of if they moved in next door to you your lawn would die.  That band was Raging Speedhorn and in both looks and sound the Corby bruisers were intimidating to the max.  With the two-pronged vocal attack and the guitars dripping with tar, the Speedhorn boys bludgeoned their way through their debut album with no thought for the fainthearted.  Full marks for some of the best song titles known to man as well with 'Necrophiliac Glue Sniffer' and 'Dungeon Whippet' among others.  This album influenced me so much at the time that my band even changed direction slightly to incorporate some of my favourite elements, probably the best review that I can give them.
Recommended Song: Superscud

13. System of a Down - System of a Down

System of a Down are pretty insane and in the late-90s were a breath of fresh air into a heavy music scene which, while containing some good bands, was getting a bit dull.  The jittery style, with alternately serious/comedic lyrics and Armenian influences creeping in was utterly unique and people love them for it, I played this album a lot when I first got it, in particular my personal favourites 'Suite-Pee, 'Sugar', 'War?' and 'P.L.U.C.K'.  So far their quality hasn't wavered either and they remain an incredibly consistent band.
Recommended Song: Suite-Pee

14. Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine

The 16th album I owned and an important gateway into finding my own music, 'Pretty Hate Machine' is one of those albums that is and always will be just there.  Up until this point I had listened to pop and then indie, with mild diversions into Extreme and the odd Iron Maiden or Poison song taped off the radio.  This was different and looking at the albums I bought immediately afterwards my record collection would never be the same again.  It's an interesting debut in that it's quite different to what followed it, quite bare in places compared to the choking nature of later albums.  But with classics such as 'Head Like a Hole' and 'Sin' rubbing shoulders with the spooky nature of 'Terrible Lie' and 'Something I Can Never Have' a blueprint of sorts had been laid down.
Recommended Song: Sin

15. Mindset - Mindset

I think I came across Mindset on a free Metal Hammer CD in 97, the song was probably 'Psycho Sound Wave' and I remember thinking they sounded a bit like Helmet, but a bit more lazy.  I think they even got lumped in with nu-metal stuff, but I'm not having a bit of it, this was just an album of 14 songs, all around the 3 minute mark, which mostly contained brilliant straightforward riffs and no-nonsense arrangements.  The perfect album to just stick on if you want to rock.  Ahem.  Seriously, if you like Helmet you could do a lot worse than seek this album out, a lesser-known gem.  And in 'Great Unwashed' you even get lifestyle advice - "You're the great unwashed, shave your pits, take a bath".  Genius.
Recommended Song: Nosebleed

16. Slipknot - Slipknot

At first I didn't want to like Slipknot, there was a lot of fuss and it all seemed like a little bit of a gimmick.  But then I heard the music.  'Spit it Out' wasn't the best advert for the debut album (yes, I'm counting this one as the debut), but it was a gateway to further listening and the more I heard, the more I had to leave my initial misgivings at the door.  This had a similar impact to Korn's debut in my eyes, although with far more of a metal influence than Korn would ever have.  In the live arena they were also phenomenal and I was lucky enough to witness them while the initial magic was still there, but that would have meant nothing without the music to back it up.  Like many bands on this list, another debut that has yet to be bettered further into their career.
Recommended Song: Surfacing

17. Korn - Korn

While Machine Head were busy resurrecting a more old school strain of metal, Korn were busy concocting something entirely different.  There were some pretty dire bands that ended up being tarred with the nu-metal brush, but Korn's debut was unique at the time, "nu" if you will.  Taking Rage Against the Machine's rap and hip-hop influences blended with heavy guitars a notch further, they also introduced Fieldy's 'not-even-bass' bass sound which became a signature part of their music.  But it was mostly all about Jonathan Davis and the vulnerability and whisper-to-scream-to-weird-ragamuffin thing he had going.  A ferocious start, just don't mention the tracksuits.
Recommended Song: Ball Tongue

18. Cradle of Filth - The Principle of Evil Made Flesh

I came into the Cradle of Filth story at 'Dusk and her Embrace' and then worked backwards to fill in the blanks.  This debut was more raw, less lush, they hadn't really gone down the Hammer Horror route at this stage, very much a different twist on the traditional Norwegian black metal that had emerged at the time.  But this wasn't the open sore black metal of the likes of Burzum and Darkthrone, this was a more melodic beast and even though it wasn't fully formed compared to later albums it still beat debuts by much biggers bands in this chart and is the highest placed black metal debut.  By the time the next release came out both guitarists and the keyboard player had gone, but as we got used to over the years with a multitude of lineup changes, the consistency barely wavered.
Recommended Song: The Forest Whispers My Name

19. Iron Maiden - Iron Maiden

I'm certainly not going to claim to have been around for this one, I was coming up to my 2nd birthday when it was released, so it's obviously one of those I caught up on later.  That can sometimes lessen the impact given the progress made in terms of production since then, and so it is a little bit with Maiden's self-titled debut.  Paul Di Anno's rougher vocals fit the not-so-polished, thin-sounding production job perfectly though, compared to the high drama that would follow.  And with career highs of 'Phantom of the Opera', 'Running Free' and their signature title track all featuring it's clearly not messing around.  In my opinion there would be several better Maiden albums throughout the 80s, but this debut is potentially the most influential on this list.
Recommended Song: Phantom of the Opera

20. Metallica - Kill 'em All

As with Iron Maiden I was too young for this one first time round and it's another that suffers with hindsight for not hearing it with fresh ears at the time.  And I was actually surprised when I first heard it as it was the last album from their back catalogue that I picked up around the time of 'Reload'.  It is sonically very different to what came after and the Mustaine influence is strong within a lot of the songs, which probably accounts for the difference.  But put your head back in 1983 and think about what the alternatives were and it becomes a very different animal.  The raw production job turns into a plus point and the speed and enthusiasm just rolls out of the speakers.  They even had the slower, stadium sized songs like 'Seek and Destroy' ready-made for when the time came.  Again, there would be far superior Metallica albums to come but a blistering start.
Recommended Song: Whiplash

21. Babymetal - Babymetal

I imagine this would have raised eyebrows even at number 50, so what the hell am I playing at having it at number 21?!  Am I seriously saying this is a better debut metal album than Megadeth's 'Killing is my Business...' for example?!  Yep, what of it?  A lot of people can't get past the barrier of Babymetal being an obviously manufactured band, I admit that I don't like that element any more than anyone else, but do we see James Arthur and the like having songs written for him by members of Mad Capsule Markets?  It's a subtle difference, but a difference all the same.  Listen to the music - the Slayer-isms of 'Gimme Chocolate', the hybrid of Peter Tagtgren's Pain crossed with Evanescence and traditional Japanese music that is 'Megitsune', the pure ridiculousness that is the Japanese pop meets Korn of 'Doki Doki Morning', it's invariably brilliant.  Ask me again in a year and this might either be number 1 or not in the chart at all, but right here and now it's a big winner.  And no, before you ask, it's all about the music, right? 
Recommended Song: Megitsune

22. Misery Loves Co. - Misery Loves Co.

Of all the albums I played during the compiling of this chart, this was the one that came from out of nowhere to hit the heights of the top half.  Maybe it's because I only own it on record therefore don't play it as often as everything else but the first side is amazing - take 'Psalm 69' and cross it with a pinch of the yet to be released 'Antichrist Superstar' or the yet to be famous Rammstein and you have the self-titled debut from these miserable Swedes.  The second half is decent but doesn't reach the earlier heights, but those 5 songs, 'Need Another One' in particular, are top rock club dancefloor fillers of the highest order.
Recommended Song: Need Another One

23. 3 Colours Red - Pure

Everyone originally knew 3 Colours Red as 'Danny from the Wildhearts brother's band' but not me, I knew them as 'Ben from the Senseless Things' new band'.  Either way they were great, and with this, the previously mentioned A and the mini-album at number 24 below, 1997 was definitely the year of the British sing-along debut.  'Pure' was more of a terrace chant when the song demanded it, especially on the absolutely outstanding 'Sunny in England', sorry 'Eng-er-laaaand'.  Like a lot of the so-called Britrock bands around then they didn't last the distance, but this was part of an excellent legacy.
Recommended Song: Nuclear Holiday

24. Symposium - One Day at a Time

1995-1998 was my main gig-going period and Symposium were the band that turned up in Middlesbrough the most during that time (I saw them 6 times in total, including festivals).  I even ended up in a 3 Colours Red moshpit with Ross and Will after they supported them at one gig.  As I mentioned above, like 3 Colours Red and A, Symposium were fun, fun, fun, and being mere youngsters themselves probably about my age too.  This mini-album was mostly bouncy pop-punk, which they seemed to tire of quite quickly soon after, going a little bit Deftones on their first album proper before imploding and going their separate ways.
Recommended Song: Drink the Sunshine

25. Entwined - Dancing Under Glass

A surprise entry on two counts - one, you're probably mostly thinking "Who?!" and secondly I wasn't even sure this would get in, never mind turn up in the top half.  Released in 1998 on Earache, 'Dancing Under Glass' had a fairly standard, but impressive, metal underbelly, with lush keyboards layered over the top.  Perhaps the rough and ready vocals were the sticking point with breaking out any further, neither particularly gruff or melodic they were a bit of an acquired taste, but for me didn't detract at all from what was an excellent debut.  I did get a demo tape from the band themselves containing new material following this debut, but as far as I know nothing official ever saw the light of day beyond this one album.
Recommended Song: Shed Nightward Beauty

26. Liberty 37 - The Greatest Gift

There are a lot of entries in this middle section for British bands from the 90s who were a little under-appreciated, and here comes the Welsh wing.  Before emo was thrown about with wild abandon, Liberty 37 played emotionally-charged rock with some big tunes.  It was a bit of an outsider when I first started compiling this list, but as I listened to the album more and more, tunes I'd forgotten about started flying from the speakers, propelling it almost into the top half.  If you like a bit of alternative rock that tugs at your heartstrings you could do a lot worse than check this album out.
Recommended Song: Stuffed

27. Cecil - Bombar Diddlah

Bursting onto the scene in 1996 with the infamous and incredibly emotional 'No Excuses' (written about the death of James Bulger), Cecil weren't particularly well-known but were a band I always had a place for.  After seeing them live several times in the mid-90s, they were a great live band with loads of energy and Ste Williams' complete mentalist stage persona.  Ultimately they never really fit into any scene or style, just a really good British rock band, and after this mini-album, a full album and a subsequent short-lived name change to Voy, they sadly disappeared from our horizons.
Recommended Song: No Excuses

28. Spin Doctors - Pocket Full of Kryptonite

This surprised me by getting this high, it's one of those so-uncool-it's-cool albums, from the slightly retro sound to the weirdy beardy frontman Chris Barron.  A schoolfriend gave me a copy on tape originally, which I had for quite a while before finally buying the CD, it's an album that immediately puts a smile on your face with its wacky little tunes.  Not to everyone's taste I'm sure, and this may be one of my more controversial choices, but if you were around in 92/93 then you certainly wouldn't have escaped 'Two Princes' taking refuge in your head at some point.
Recommended Song: Little Miss Can't Be Wrong

29. Carrie - Fear of Sound 

I was attracted to Carrie initially by the fact that Zac Foley from EMF was their bassist, in fact having met China Drum on a few occasions they got me and my brother backstage at one of their gigs where Carrie were supporting.  I intended to meet Zac but instead got talking to Paul Brannigan from Kerrang! (doing an on the road feature) and Gerry from Mega City Four who was a roadie for Cable.  Aaaanyway, 'Fear of Sound' was a top debut, regardless of who was in them, packed full of gorgeous harmonies and innuendo.  For the time it's in your CD player the sun will be out, it's that kind of album.
Recommended Song: Breathe Underwater

30. EMF - Schubert Dip

I remember first seeing EMF on the short-lived rebirth of Jukebox Jury where it was probably everyone's first experience of the soon-to-be smash hit 'Unbelievable'.  1991 was my year of finding my own bands, and EMF were one of them, even though my schoolfriends seemed to have this idea of them being a boy band.  'Schubert Dip' was the 11th album I ever owned and considering the 8th and 9th were both Jive Bunny you can see the new leaf being turned, almost in one Kevin the Teenager-style transformation (I had just turned 13 after all).  The main singles, 'Children', 'Unbelievable' and 'I Believe', could have been enough to get the album into this chart on their own, but there were plenty of other excellent songs.  The follow-up 'Stigma' was a better album but this has a special place in my collection.
Recommended Song: Children

31. Black Crowes - Shake Your Money Maker

No doubt about it, 'Shake Your Money Maker' was definitely the Black Crowes' best album.  The follow up had its moments, but for sheer consistency the debut wins hands down.  Sounding lean and mean there was none of the noodling that came with later albums, the songs were sharp and had that strut that only a band fresh out of the blocks has.  It also came into my life at a relatively young age when I only thought about good and bad music, I suspect if I heard this later on I probably would have (wrongly) not given it the time of day.  This also wins a prize for being the only album that me and my Dad both own.
Recommended Song: Jealous Again

32. Sonata Arctica - Ecliptica

As a relatively recent convert to the cause of these proponents of Finnish power metal, I originally bought 2004 album 'Reckoning Day' and immediately went backwards to start from the beginning.  It's a great place to start, as 'Ecliptica' is chock full of great songs, not least the all-time classic 'Fullmoon'.  When it's done well power metal can't fail and Sonata Arctica are one of the best, true you can't avoid some of the dodgy ballads, but on the earlier albums like this one speed and widdling won out.  A good thing obviously.
Recommended Song: Fullmoon

33. Ugly Kid Joe - America's Least Wanted

Mention Ugly Kid Joe and everyone thinks 'Everything About You'.  Great song but there were a lot more songs on this album worthy of a listen.  As my tastes moved onwards from indie into rock and grunge and eventually metal, Ugly Kid Joe were another important stepping stone along the way.  Klaus Eichstadt was my favourite guitarist at the time and this album was a huge air guitar favourite back then.  But whether it was the dumb fun of 'Neighbor' and 'Everything About You' or the quieter depth of 'Busy Bee' and 'Cats in the Cradle' there was a hell of a lot of talent mixed in with the humour.
Recommended Song: So Damn Cool

34. Flowered Up - A Life With Brian

Back to 1991 and further to my comments about EMF, this was my unlucky 13th album and a big favourite at the time, I used to play my cassette single of 'Take It' to death.  It was a lot more guitar-heavy than the rest of the album, especially the other stand-out track, the keyboard-laden indie hit 'It's On' led by future Republica man Tim Dorney.  People generally had Flowered Up down as Southern Happy Mondays copyists but the truth to me at least was that they were way better.  It's a shame that not only was this their debut, but their only album, never to return following the later sad deaths of the Maher brothers.
Recommended Song: Take It

35. Napalm Death - Scum

There was no question at all that this was the most difficult album to place.  28 songs recorded by two almost completely different lineups (drummer Mick Harris was the only constant between the two), and the kind of songs that you're not going to be humming in the shower meant a comparative nightmare.  How on earth do I compare it to the Spin Doctors, say?!  Maybe I was wrong to say Iron Maiden was arguably the most influential album on the list, this one would push it hard.  Any band that has played at these speeds owes a debt to this album, although it probably did become a bit of a burden in a way.  No, their songs aren't all 4 seconds long, no they're not a joke, far from it.  I couldn't sing you many of the songs on this album off the top of my head, but that's not the point.  If you want extreme, this is it.
Recommended Song: Instinct of Survival

36. Dark Funeral - The Secrets of the Black Arts

Despite guitarist Lord Ahriman being the only constant throughout their career so far, you know exactly what you're going to get from a Dark Funeral album.  Lightning-paced, icy black metal with enough melody in the riffs to have you whistling them later in the day, the perfect combination.  This debut starts as they mean to go on, no discernible difference in sound to later albums despite the aforementioned lineup changes and a relentless sprint for the finishing line.  If you've never heard any black metal but have an interest in doing so, Dark Funeral would be my recommendation as an ideal starter band.
Recommended Song: The Secrets of the Black Arts

37. Megadeth - Killing is my Business...

Another one of those 80s albums with a thin production job, Dave Mustaine has "I'm gonna show Metallica what speed really is" written all over this.  And indeed he won the speed, but as you can see from this chart he didn't produce the better debut.  Clocking in at just 7 songs it flies past in a blur of riffs and Dave Ellefson's chunky basslines.  It's surprising how it actually got made given the state they were apparently in at the time, but Mustaine's vision of how he wanted metal to be played was finally down on tape and the Megadeth rollercoaster ride had begun.  For me they peaked in a big way in the early 90s, but this is a worthy debut.
Recommended Song: Killing is my Business...And Business is Good

38. Life of Agony - River Runs Red

If you're not familiar with the band then read their name and the album title.  And again.  Yes, they really are that tough going.  With a mixture of New York hardcore, metal and Keith Caputo's frighteningly good vocals, this debut wasn't quite the finished article (they would hone it further on the follow-up 'Ugly'), but in 'This Time' and 'Through and Through' in particular it contained great songs.  Interspersed between the music were three 'songs' containing a spoken storyline which ends with a mother finding her child in the bathroom having slit his wrists.  Very rewarding but not for the faint-hearted.
Recommended Song: This Time

39. A-ha - Hunting High and Low

The first ever album I owned and unlike a lot of people it's not an embarrassing one.  True, there's a few slices of cheesy pop on there, but is there anyone who doesn't regard 'Take on Me' and 'The Sun Always Shines on TV' as classics?  I hold the latter so highly that I even turned it into a metal song several years later.  It went down on my shortlist almost apologetically, yeah it's a debut put it down, maybe I can include it as my first ever LP, but after it had its listen it's here on merit.  It's just a shame I never did get to go to the primary school fancy dress day as Morten Harket as I originally wanted (I ended up as a goalkeeper instead).
Recommended Song: The Sun Always Shines on TV

40. Turisas - Battle Metal

With war being a recurring theme in metal songs over the years, we'd had plenty of bands who had taken it further, in particular Bolt Thrower whose every song referenced war in some shape or form.  But no one had quite taken it as far as Turisas, who not only called their debut 'Battle Metal', but also made almost every song sound like some long lost clarion call to arms and dressed like they were ready to face the enemy.  It works magnificently, and while there will be plenty of smirks in their general direction, the people that understand where its coming from just KNOW.  For the inner Viking inside all of us.
Recommended Song: Battle Metal

41. Bal-Sagoth - A Black Moon Broods Over Lemuria

If I was to describe Bal-Sagoth as a less rapier-like version of black metal with lashings of keyboard colour all accompanying lavish tales of swords and sorcery, you'd probably either run out and buy all their albums or just run.  And keep running.  It's impossible to describe Bal-Sagoth without doing them a disservice, what I just said is accurate but they're much more than that.  Debut 'A Black Moon....' is a little more straightforward compared to later albums and the booklet contains only the lyrics and not the stories themselves, but the blueprint was certainly there for the Sheffield warriors to build on.  I discovered Bal-Sagoth in 1997 when one song from this album and its follow-up were included on a Cacophonous label sampler, it's definitely a world worth exploring.
Recommended Song: A Black Moon Broods Over Lemuria

42. Emperor - In the Nightside Eclipse

In my mind Emperor were the best of the Norwegian black metal bands, completely unique to the rest because of the sheer scale of their songs and the amount of music that was crammed in to every one.  Given that they were all very young on this debut, frontman Ihsahn, who was responsible for a lot of the music, is worthy of the tag 'genius'.  Later albums would refine their cold, harsh sound with even more layers, meaning that for me at least this isn't the definitive Emperor album, but more than worthy of a place in this list.
Recommended Song: I Am the Black Wizards

43. Keith Caputo - Died Laughing

Following Life of Agony's change of direction on 'Soul Searching Sun', it always seemed clear to me that it was a nod towards frontman Keith Caputo wanting to go in a more melodic direction.  It kept him in the fold for that one further album, but not long after he left to concentrate on a solo career.  The fruits of which were this album, as far removed from Life of Agony as it was possible to be.  We're in proper singer-songwriter territory here, but with Keith's magnificent voice it lifts it above any negative connotations that might bring.  With acoustic guitars, strings and a positive bounce not heard in his previous band, even though it is laced through with melancholy this sounded like it was the happiest he was ever going to get musically speaking.
Recommended Song: Selfish

44. The Farm - Spartacus

In 1991 The Farm were my favourite band, 'Spartacus' being the 10th album I ever bought and the first one that wasn't just pop.  While my brother was into the Stone Roses, the Charlatans and the Happy Mondays, I was into the less critically acclaimed Flowered Up and the Farm, but obviously wasn't aware of the cool factor then, it wouldn't have mattered to me anyway.  Not unfairly dubbed a bunch of brickies with guitars they could no doubt come up with a damn good tune, 'Groovy Train' and in particular 'All Together Now' being proper bona fide chart hits.  With the iconic washing powder-style cover art it definitely caught my attention as a 13 year old branching out into more alternative music, and this album was the gateway to it all.
Recommended Song: Groovy Train

45. Extreme - Extreme

Yeah I know, I know.  Just look down the list of song titles, listen to the words, it's absolutely horrendous right?  If it came out today, probably yes.  But I used to love Extreme back in 1991/92 when 'Pornograffiti' came out and going backwards to find the self-titled debut there was even more fun in store with guitar histrionics aplenty and HUGE choruses.  Nuno was a genius and I was 14, come on.  Ignoring the slightly dodgy lyrics ('Little Girls' anyone?) it is still an extremely fun album to just blast out and for that reason I don't apologise one bit for its inclusion.  A vote for nostalgia.
Recommended Song: Mutha (Don't Want to Go to School Today)

46. Rollins Band - Life Time

I became a fan of the Rollins Band in 1992 with the excellent 'End of Silence' album and it took me a while to go back and rediscover the earlier albums.  But as with all of them they're one of the few bands that I can tolerate listening to when they go into jam-mode.  Rollins was an unmissable focal point, but in Chris Haskett, Andrew Weiss and Sim Cain there were three musicians who just bounced off each other the whole time, locked into the so-called Hard Blues.  Either in runaway train mode or crawling along on their belly led by Weiss' incredible bass sound this was the beginning of the definitive version of the Rollins Band.
Recommended Song: 1,000 Times Blind

47. Lacuna Coil - Lacuna Coil

This debut mini-album was by no means their best, in fact half of the lineup were gone by the first full album, but the core of bassist/songwriter Marco Coti Zelati and vocalists Andrea Ferro and Cristina Scabbia meant this went largely unnoticed.  Even though they weren't on top form it still manages to make it into this chart, Lacuna Coil are the masters at the Beauty and the Beast combination both in terms of male/female vocals and heavy/melodic music.  They further refined their sound on the first album proper 'In a Reverie', before eventually stripping the music down more, perhaps with one eye on the mainstream.  Still great though.
Recommended Song: Falling

48. Honeycrack - Prozaic

Another of those bands that toured a lot during my main gig-going period, Honeycrack turned up in Middlesbrough three times in fairly quick succession in the mid 90s.  I even managed to make a split-second shadowy appearance on their 'Sitting at Home' video after they filmed most of the footage at Middlesbrough Arena.  With three guitarists and even more harmonies they had a big sound and even before hearing this album the majority of the songs had started camping out in my head from those live gigs, always a good sign.  I was never a fan of the Wildhearts, who they had connections with through Willie and CJ, Honeycrack were miles better and much more fun, although this album finding its way into this chart was still a bit of a late surprise.
Recommended Song: Sitting at Home

49. Linkin Park - Hybrid Theory

With Linkin Park bursting onto the scene and becoming so huge so quickly there was inevitably talk of them being a nu-metal boyband.  Rubbish for me, it was a perfect case of the right band at the right time, they ticked all the boxes of what was popular as the new millennium came around.  Looking at the contents of this chart you can see that I mostly like two things - big guitars and big tunes, and Linkin Park had both of them in spades, nothing more, nothing less.  Yes, it's cool to hate them, but just listen to the likes of 'Crawling' and 'In the End' and tell me that they're not almost perfect slices of rock tunesmithery.  That's all.
Recommended Song: In the End

50. Silverchair - Frogstomp

This album originally didn't make it into the chart and then I had second thoughts.  Recorded when they were just 15, that's a phenomenal fact for an album so good.  True, there are some fairly cringeworthy lyrics on here, mine would have been a hell of a lot worse at 15, but the music and songwriting is remarkably accomplished and better than many of the second wave of grunge chancers around at the time.  A soundtrack to my college days and I expect my first experience of being older than the band I was listening to.  Which is becoming more frequent nowadays....
Recommended Song: Israel's Son


Debut Albums by Year

1980 1
1981 0
1982 0
1983 1
1984 0
1985 2
1986 0
1987 1
1988 1
1989 3
1990 1
1991 3
1992 5
1993 1
1994 5
1995 4
1996 3
1997 5
1998 4
1999 3
2000 3
2001 1
2002 0
2003 1
2004 1
2005 0
2006 0
2007 0
2008 0
2009 0
2010 0
2011 0
2012 0
2013 0
2014 1

Debut Albums by Country

USA 19
England 18
Sweden 3
Wales 3
Finland 2
Norway 2
Australia 1
Italy 1
Japan 1

Debut Albums by Twitter Favourites

A bit of a first for the top 50s here, but I decided to count up the number of Twitter favourites after I tweeted the top 50 and see which albums my followers rated as well as me.  The results were as follows:

1. Pearl Jam 19
2. Machine Head 18
3. Rage Against the Machine 16
4. Megadeth 15
5= Metallica, Napalm Death 14
7. Nine Inch Nails 13
8= Babymetal, Korn 12
10. System of a Down 11
11= Linkin Park, Manic Street Preachers 10
13= EMF, Slipknot 9
15. Dragonforce 8
16= Feeder, Iron Maiden, Ugly Kid Joe 7
19= Emperor, Silverchair 6
21= Aha, Black Crowes, Lacuna Coil, Rollins Band 5
25= Andrew WK, Cradle of Filth, Dark Funeral, The Farm, Raging Speedhorn, Senseless Things, Turisas 4
32= Bal-Sagoth, Honeycrack, Symposium, 3 Colours Red 3
36= Extreme, Flowered Up, The Haunted, Keith Caputo, Liberty 37, Misery Loves Co., Sonata Arctica, Spin Doctors 2
44= A, Bush, Carrie, Entwined, Life of Agony 1
49= Cecil, Mindset 0