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 411mania » Music » Columns

The 411 Top Five 05.07.13: Top 5 Debut Albums
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 05.07.2013


Criteria: This week we're looking at the best albums that were the first of a particular act. Pretty self-explanatory so I don't think this needs much explanation!

Before I start, a word of explanation for bemused readers. Because I am an idiot who can't use computers properly I lost all my writing for this at 2am, about 10 minutes before deadline. A pity too, because it was truly brilliant, life-changing prose, and you'll never get to read it. Anyway, so there's something to post I've hurriedly penned a haiku for each of the albums I've picked. I'll elaborate more in the comments section perhaps. I'm sorry for the crapness of my submission but I hope you and Jeremy will forgive me.

5. Outkast - Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik

Southern Hip Hop? Shit.
Until two teens save the day.
With charming record.

4. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes

Oh, the harmonies.
And the deep, thoughtful songs, but
Oh, the harmonies.

3. The Clash - The Clash

The best punk albums
Grab you by the testicles
This rips them clean off.

2. Leonard Cohen - Songs of Leonard Cohen

So Long, Marianne,
Suzanne, Stories of the Street,
Need I say any more?

1. The Smiths - The Smiths

Mancunian kids
Write songs about child abuse
And they're great. How brave!

Honorable Mention:
Mayhem - De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas: I'll be the first to admit that while I do love this band, they are more remembered for their crazy shenanigans than their music. But this is an album that I really enjoy and is, in my opinion, the high point to Mayhem's musical career. I think without this album we'd be missing a lot of black metal bands, as well.

Iron Maiden - Iron Maiden: It really pains me to put this awesome album all the way in my honorable mentions, but really, all of these albums could be good in a number one spot. This album is the one that started the rise of one of the biggest bands of all time, and it is a great album. Many classics come from this album, and I honestly couldn't give you any reason why it isn't in the actual list other than personal preferences.

Candlemass - Epicus Doomicus Metallicus: This album almost made the Top 5, so close, but the more I thought about my #5 and this album, I felt like #5 HAD to be there. This album is one of the best doom metal albums ever. It had a very epic feel to it, with a undercurrent of dread in every song. I kind of wish Johan Langquist would have stayed for one more album, because he was so good on this one, but just like the Ninth Doctor, one was all we got with him, and it's one of my favorites.

5. Emperor - In the Nightside Eclipse

I started writing the Honorable Mention for this album, and I had to stop myself and think, am I letting my heart cloud my head, and the answer was yes, so here we are. This album is considered by many to be one of THE greatest metal albums, if not general albums of all time (then again, if you put this album in your best albums of all time, you're a metalhead and of course you'd put it there). The album has a really nice symphonic feel to it, as well as an ambient one, but ambience usually follows along with black metal pretty well, so no surprise. Usually when you have an album that uses symphonic elements to it, the album can suffer a bit for it, because they symphonic elements can drag an album out if you're not careful with them. Luckily for us, Emperor knew exactly what they were doing, and never let the symphony overwhelm what they are trying to pull off. Almost every song on this album is a classic, nothing feel out of place, every note feels precise, and Ihsahn's screams sound devilishly good. The only knock that I've heard on this album is the production, which I do admit, can be a problem if you don't like that sort of thing, but I love it. I feel like that dense black metal production that you get from early black metal adds another level of mystery to the album, just as it does here. If you're feeling froggy and want a nice introduction to black metal, find this album (on spotify, youtube, your uncle's cd collection, or wherever) and listen to it, you wont be sad about it.

4. Death - Scream Bloody Gore

Oh come on, you all knew this was coming, anyone who knows me, reads me, or even breathes the same air as me knew this album was going to be on this list. Though I will say that I have even surprised myself by not putting it higher than I already have. This album is the album that really gave death metal a definitive sound and it is a great starting point for anyone wanting to start their own death metal band. This album has it all for me, the lyrics are nice and gory, the vocals have old Chuck Schuldiner doing his growls, and the band sounds so fresh and hungry, like they want to blow the roof off the place and eat the surviviors. This albums has some real standout tracks, with the one that I feel stands on its' own is, "Zombie Ritual", the intro is so awesome, so random underground rapper stole it and Eric Greif (the lawyer of Death/guy who runs their facebook page) sent the guy a cease and desist. I love the song, personally, there are other standouts for me like the song I scream everytime I think of Bruce Campbell, "Evil Dead". There are other great songs, as well, like "Baptized in Blood" and "Denial of Life". This album has the driving beat, the choked howls, and the very soul of death metal in it, a great album from my favorite band, and deserving of being one of the best of all time. I also love the album cover, if that is anything else positive.

3. Possessed - Seven Churches

This album came out of left field for me, like even today, when thinking about the list while doing inmportant things like eating dinner and driving, this album didn't really come to me. Until I started thinking about Death, and then I thought about 'Seven Churches'. I just threw it into the pile of albums I was considering for this list, and as I whittled the list down, I found that this album was still here, and with more thought, I had to put this among the best albums on here. This album is the album that got Chuck Schuldiner of Death to change the sound of his band to something more like Possessed. I don't quite maintain that Possessed are death metal, I feel like they're more thrash with a hint of death metal, still making Death the first death metal band, but without this band, and this album, we wouldn't have had any of that. This album is something that I would consider perfect, just like many of the other picks on this list, but this one has something that the next two albums on my list have, a hand in history. I've already mentioned the history that goes with this album, it had a hand in the creation of death metal with this album. This album has all of the great things you would find from thrash in the early years of the genre, with the guitars being fast and vicious, it feels like every strum could kill you where you stand. The vocals add to the assault, the growling rasp that Slayer showed us a few years before and adds a hint more of evil to it. I think the highlight of this album is the song that gave death metal a name, "Death Metal", one of my favorite songs to wake up to, it builds and just beats you in the face. This album is a top-tier thrash album from a band that only released two albums as of this writing, it's sad that they didn't do more. But regardless, this is one of the best debuts you can find anywhere.

2. Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath

I originally had this album at one, because it started heavy metal, and it is a really good album to boot. But the more I considered it, the more I put it at #2, but that's nothing to blow your nose at. What hasn't been said about Black Sabbath's self titled album, it has so many great riffs, and solos, and gave us what we all know and love today as heavy metal. Everything is crisp, and even this early in the metal game, we get what would now be considered doom metal with, "Black Sabbath". I think it also helps their cause when you consider that the album sold damn well and it was still only album number one for them. I really would like to put it at #1, a few things hurt it, like cover songs, which were done well, but still, not original material (though I'm sure that statement will bite my ass late, just like my #1 will bite my ass). If you don't have this album, go buy it for $5 from Wal-Mart or something (or wherever you choose to spend your money), a classic among classics.

1. Metallica - Kill 'Em All

Here is Numero Uno, I feel like I'll catch hell for this, but this album deserves this spot. I love this album to this very day, when I first got into metal in high school, Metallica was one of the first bands I got into, and this album sold them for me. I feel like this is Metallica as they were rising out of the basement, ready to conquer the world. This album definitely has that thing that a lot of the old-school Metallica fans loved about them, the fact that they played balls to the wall, fast and hard, thrash metal, and there was no other speed than fast. This isn't my favorite Metallica album, it ranks somewhere between two and three, depending on the time of day, but I still love it. There are so many good cuts here, which is almost all of them, including what is one of my favorite songs in all of thrash, and my second favorite Metallica song (who wants to guess the first), "Hit the Lights", it's all about metal, damnit, the way it should be. The song is also the second oldest thrash song, with number one being Anthrax's "Howling Furies".

You know, now that I think of it, I think every song on this album is a favorite of mine by Metallica, every song is fast and kind of has a similar sound, but this fact makes it better when you consider how far from this sound they later went (take that how you will). Special mention of my affection goes to the late Cliff Burton's solo, "(Anesthesia)Pulling Teeth", it made me want to play bass, then I remember that Guitar Hero has me forever playing backwards. But enough about me, this album here is one of the finest cuts of pure, speed metal pumped thrash you will find, especially from the early 80s. Give this album a listen, it's really easy to find. If you have listened to this album, go listen to it again, especially if you're one of the diehard Metallica bashers. On a side note, I really wish it'd have been called, 'Metal Up Your Ass', that name still makes me laugh. Now for fun with MetalliDave!

I need to point this out before we get into this...this was a VERY hard category to narrow down. I came up with well over twenty albums off the top of my head and it was nearly impossible to narrow them down. So when you guys hit the comments and point out the ones we missed, I probably already considered it and a little part of me died when I had to cut it so I didn't have nineteen honorable mentions.

Honorable Mention: Meat Loaf - Bat out of Hell, N.W.A. - Straight Outta Compton, Beastie Boys - Licensed to Ill, The Ramones - The Ramones, Guns N' Roses - Appetite for Destruction, Sex Pistols - Never Mind The Bollocks Here's The Sex Pistols, Pearl Jam - Ten, Madonna - Madonna

5. Portishead - Dummy

This is probably not the first album that comes to mind for people when they think of great debut albums, and that is a shame. Portishead is one of my favorite bands; they almost work less in notes and harmonies than they do in sheer mood. Dummy is a hypnotically good album and had a huge impact on popularizing trip-hop on a national level. What makes this album so amazing is the fact that despite the quality of Portishead and Third, Dummy remains their best work to date. Is it sad when you can't top your opening album if that opening album is as fantastic as this? I think not. Few albums are as evocative as this one, from the wierd unearthliness of "Mysterons" and the silky jazz feel of "It Could Be Sweet" to the pinnacle of the album, the mournful solace of "Roads." The album catches you from the opening notes and won't let go until well after the last chord of "Glory Box" has faded away.

4. Tori Amos - Little Earthquakes.

Tori Amos absolutely burst on the scene with her debut album. Little Earthquakes is an album that no one was prepared for, and she completely took people aback by the uncompromising artistry and personal emotion of the album. Seriously, how many people start off their solo career (yes, I know she was part of Y Kant Tori Read, this was a solo debut) by giving voice to her experience being raped? And that's just one piece of intensely raw music from this album, which matches her passion with some absolutely beautiful piano arrangements. Some people say that she never topped herself from this first album; I don't agree with that, but it was certainly a hell of a way to start her solo career.

3. Notorious B.I.G. - Ready to Die

Biggie's first (and sadly, only pre-humous) album is sheer brilliance. I simply don't know how else to put it. It showed the East Coast rapper's lyrical and storytelling skills and raised the bar in the East Coast/West Coast rivalry, putting New York back on the map after Los Angeles had largely established dominance. Much like many of the albums on this list it is not only one of the best debut albums but one of the best albums in its genre period. That's about all you can say.

2. Nas - Illmatic

Illmatic is Nas' biggest credit and his biggest curse. The album is universally regarded as one of the best in rap history for a very good reason, but it has also left the rapper constantly chasing it in an attempt to make a better LP or even as good of one. Much like Ready to Die it is a landmark album for East Coast hip-hop and sees the rapper at the absolute top of his game. For any other rapper, Nas' other LPs would be considered great works. Stacked up against Illmatic their reputations have suffered somewhat, and that's a shame.

1. Jimi Hendrix Experience - Are You Experienced?

Everything else was tough to narrow down, but this was one I knew would be on my list. It's not only one of the greatest debut albums of all-time, it's one of the greatest albums of all-time period. Some of Hendrix's most iconic songs are contained on this LP, including "Purple Haze," "Foxy Lady," "Hey Joe" and the title track. When you consider the potency of the songs and the sheer and utter brilliance of the guitar work--I think this is probably one of the two or three greatest guitar albums ever made--its influence is undeniable. When your first-ever album ranks among the most iconic pieces of work in rock history, I'm pretty sure you have to include it on such a list.

The Final Word

As always, the last thoughts come from you, the reader. We're merely unpaid monkeys with typewriters and Wikipedia. Here's what you need to do: List your Top Five for this week's topic on the comment section using the following format:

5. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it
4. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it
3. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it
2. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it
1. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it


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