I was asked by a friend to come up with 12 albums that in some way have influenced me – not necessarily my favourites, but ones that had some kind of impact on me. I though I would turn it into a longer blog to discuss the reasons why. Many of these shaped my own playing and tastes. If you haven’t heard them, check some of these out – you might find a new favourite!
12 influential albums
In no particular order…
1. Duran Duran – Arena
The album that got me into music, and I stand by almost all the music I have ever loved – no trolls or elitists are going to tell me what I can or can’t listen to, thank you very much! Even before I was into metal, it’s the moodier minor-key sounding music I’ve always been drawn to, and Duran Duran, along with Depeche Mode, Howard Jones and Nik Kershaw live in that space. The live version of The Chauffeur is a particular highlight on this.
2. Bon Jovi – Slippery When Wet
The album that got me into rock. Let It Rock – what a way to open up an album! High energy, built for arenas. Chock full of anthems, and even if you don’t like it, this album pushed rock and metal into the limelight, and in its way helped a ton of other rock bands become successful.
3. Ozzy Osbourne/Randy Rhoads – Tribute
The album that got me into metal and made me pick up a guitar. Best live album ever. Possibly best album ever. You can keep your eight finger tapping arpeggios for Youtube, I’ll be listening to Randy Rhoads serving up the perfect blend of classical, blues and vibrant rock and roll energy. If you’re familiar with the studio albums these tracks come from, this album takes them up several levels. Randy’s improvisational embellishments continue to inspire and amaze me to this day.
4. Metallica – …And Justice For All
Along with Tribute, the other album I started learning at 15. Between them they are the cornerstone of my own guitar playing education. Say what you like about the individual members – frankly I’m tired of hearing Kirk and Lars putdowns – the musicianship on this album is incredible, whether it be the tight thrashfest of Dyers Eve, the wickedly chromatic Shortest Straw solo, Lars’ intricate drum patterns on the title track, or indeed Jason’s bassline in the same song (you may have to look up the bass-enhanced mix on youtube to hear it, though!).
5. Alice in Chains – Facelift
A debut album from a band that seemed to come out of nowhere and blew me away with a new style. I saw them support Megadeth before I’d even heard of them and that was that! A deeply dark album with some lighter glam influenced moments before they sunk to new emotional depths on the follow up Dirt.
6. Linkin Park – Hybrid Theory
Metal needed refreshing and this album was packed full of great tunes and high energy. Along with Facelift, one of my favourite debuts. Not one I revisit often, but the tunes are undeniable. The way they mixed heavy with hooks and embellished with raps and extra non-guitar instrumentation made for a massive sound.
7. Dream Theater – Octavarium
Most of their early stuff left me cold but this album proves you can win new fans many years into a career. While hearing their set in the Download tent, Panic Attack was a revelation. Intricate song structures coupled with the greatest live sound I have witnessed punched me in the chest until I too felt I was having some kind of attack. Having since really enjoyed their all their albums since it’s on my list to go back and reevaluate those earlier albums – it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve grown to like things.
8. Megadeth – United Abominations
Not the best line-up but it is a great album. It proved to me bands could come back from low points. (The low point for me was not Risk – that one has some great songwriting on it – again screw what Internet Law tells you. The World Needs a Hero was a weak album and lineup for me. (In contrast, singer Chris loves that album and line-up!) With this one, Megadave was back, and this is just one fine album from perhaps the most consistent and prolific writer in metal.
9. Anthrax – Volume 8
Because I stay loyal to bands that can keep pulling out classic albums long past their supposed heyday/classic lineup. I could have picked many albums from their discog, but this one was criminally overlooked due to poor record company support. Just listen to Catharsis and tell me that isn’t a band on top of their game. Anthrax are a band that stay true to their sound while always sounding modern and fresh and somehow cooler than everyone else. While they may not have had the commercial success of some of their peers, musically they rarely put a foot wrong and continue to be relevant.
10. Testament – The Legacy
Solos – mind blown. If Alex Skolnick could do this in his teens, imagine what he could do now. Ah we don’t have to – from Over the Wall off this gem, to True American Hate off the latest disk, he continues to shine. But it’s not a one-man show – Low and the wonderful Live at the Fillmore with James Murphy proved that. If you think they are Metallica copycats, frankly your ears need a clean out. This album defines second gen thrash for me. High octane, full speed and when it’s not being that, it’s being downright creepy with those clever intros and interludes. Apocalyptic Cityyyyyy….
11. Korn – Issues
The album that made me pick up seven string guitar. I’d like to give honourable mention to the new album The Paradigm Shift too as it’s my favourite of their career. Again, I don’t follow the general consensus that their first album is best, or even that the first 5 are the best. Korn III – Remember Who You Are is another cracker and proves only Korn can deliver that low end groove that makes you move!
12. Marty Friedman – Dragon’s Kiss
The album that ensures there will always be a place in my collection for instrumental music. A beautiful album on many levels from a unique guitar player. Guitar instrumental albums can often disappear up their own input jack, but by combining technical metal, exotic oriental scales and unparalleled lyricism in his expression, this album rises above the glut of 80s shredfests to take the crown. The duet with Jason Becker, ‘Jewel’ is beyond words. Those guys always worked so well together in Cacophony – an instrumental pairing only recently equalled by the Merrow & Loomis collaboration ‘Conquering Dystopia’.