We’ve endeavored to assemble the most comprehensive, least-fuck-with-able list of metal’s 25 best album openers — a series that kicks off today with numbers 25 to 21.
25. Opeth, “The Leper Affinity”
Considered Opeth’s crowning achievement, Blackwater Park is a near-perfect release that transcends all of metal’s conventions and experiments with acoustic passages that shift dramatically into guttural displays of death metal dazzle. The record’s first track immediately informs the listener, letting them know exactly what it is they are about to hear: Something beautiful, something dastardly, and something wholly majestic.
24. Burzum, “Dunkelheit”
After the stellar Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, Varg chose to expand the songwriting dynamic of Burzum. He picks up thematically where “Tomhet” left off as the closer on the previous effort. No stranger to synthesizers and ambient music, Varg marries this with his freezing black metal mastery to induce a hypnotic state. His vocals turned to a more gravelly rasp, he compliments his new buzzsaw guitar tone well. Though I love the earlier Burzum albums, “Dunkelheit” immediately shows us what Varg does best as a musician of both the black metal and ambient strains.
23. Cryptopsy, “Crown of Horns”
Cryptopsy unleashed the controversial None So Vile in 1996 and changed the course of death metal. While Blasphemy Made Flesh hinted at a more savage death metal approach, “Crown of Horns” kicked off one of the most maniacal death metal albums ever released. It begins with the signature distorted roar and the line “I do that rather well, don’t you think?” then a quick drum fill and a frenzied shriek from Lord Worm. With every riff as memorable as the last, this song sets the tone for an album that came to be widely influential to the brutal death metal scene with bands like Brodequin, Orchidectomy, and Wormed. Suffocation were no longer the only band to rip off in this subgenre.
22. Megadeth, “Holy Wars…The Punishment Due”
Megadeth polished up their act and displayed their chops with the technical masterpiece, Rust In Peace. Mustaine’s voice became stronger and actually likeable, but what really matters here is that this dude can fucking shred. The song serves as an overture to the rest of the album, brilliantly highlighting all the elements to be heard later on. Prior to this album, Watchtower were really the only ones that had delved into this realm of technical thrash with such grace. What “Holy Wars” does is blend the straight up riffing elements of thrash, melodic hooks, and wild guitar solos to create a unique sound that only Megadeth truly owned.
21. Godflesh, “Like Rats”
Streetcleaner is one of my top 10 albums of all time, in no small part to the crushing opener, “Like Rats.” The song opens up with some minor feedback, setting up the hellish atmosphere of sulfur and dust that this album is. Broadrick’s pitchshifted 19 year old voice starts as soon as the music does, coming off as barbaric and intimidating. The clunky bass tone of G.C. Green locks into an undeniable pit groove as Broadrick carefully places each note to texture the inferno. From the get-go, Broadrick defines the genre in four and a half minutes, never to be replicated or topped.
Let us know what you think of the picks so far in the comments as well as your Top 5 Album Openers!
Tomorrow we’ll take a look at #16-20.
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