20. Witchfinder General - Death Penalty (1982)
(Revolver UK Records)
Unlike many of their New Wave of British Heavy Metal peers who injected their music with a certain punk attitude, Witchfinder General drank strictly from the Black Sabbath fountain. Their 1982 debut, Death Penalty, is a celebration of all things Sabbath -- from the plodding rhythms of "Burning a Sinner" and "R.I.P." to the early-Sabs intro of "No Stayer," and even the band's rocking "Paranoid" knock-off, "Free Country." Singer Zeeb Parkes' range is rather limited, but that never stopped Ozzy Osbourne, and his mostly satanic lyrics are especially amusing on the cryptic-sounding opener "Invisible Hate," which eventually resorts to shouts of "more beer." Despite similarly silly lyrics, the song that bears the band's name is definitely the album's highlight, thanks to its engagingly ferocious main riff.
Burning A Sinner
19. dISEMBOWELMENT - Transcendence Into The Peripheral (1993)
*My Own Summary*
One of the mightiest doom/death records ever imagined. It's a trip to your deepest darkest nightmares and back. Choking despair and brutal savageness all in one. If you gave funeral doom steroids this is what it would become.
The Tree of Life and Death
18. Earth - Earth 2 (1993)
Subtitled "Special Low Frequency Version" on the front -- and if one opens up the CD, the reverse of the booklet shows a wide selection of pills -- arguably Earth and its stoned and droned appeal in a nutshell. If Carlson and his bassist du jour, in this case Dave Harwell, weren't quite Sub Pop's answer to the ranges of U.K. guitar extremism from the likes of Godflesh, Main, and Skullflower, Earth still came pretty darn close to it, creating a record even the Melvins would find weird. Consisting of three long instrumentals edited together as one long monster slam of feedback and howling, Earth 2 dedicates itself to the proposition that there's no such thing as too loud, trudging, or doom-laden. Opening track "Seven Angels" does show that for all the semi-chaos, things are still based around riffs, or at least one key riff endlessly repeated and drove directly into the ground through layers of hum and delay. Had Tony Iommi written it, nobody would have blinked an eye, but not even Sabbath gave itself over so thoroughly to the power of the amplifier -- and all this without drums. Without even a slight pause, "Teeth of Lions Rule the Divine" takes over, namely all 27 minutes of it. With a more paced, clock-chime-from-damnation melody leading the way deep into the track, stretching out and getting even more end-is-nigh as it goes, it's a bizarre but strong, weirdly fascinating performance -- ambient music completely and totally suffused with threat and fuzz.
Teeth of Lions Rule The Divine
17. Reverend Bizarre - In The Rectory of the Bizarre Reverend (2002)
Curiously, of all the major heavy metal subgenres (black metal, death metal, power metal, folk-metal) steadily embraced by Finnish bands starting in the early '90s, doom seemed to be the last to arrive in a significant way. Whether this was a matter of simple coincidence or because it's much more difficult to stay warm when playing music so damn slowly, all this Scandinavian country could muster before the turn of the millennium were obscure funeral doom trawlers Skepticism and the heavily gothic-leaning Shapes of Despair. At last, Lucifer said "Let there be Reverend Bizarre." This Sabbath-worshipping trio's 2002 long-form debut, In the Rectory of the Bizarre Reverend, championed vintage doom of the highest order: you know, the kind that comes with very large crosses, much standing around in snow-covered graveyards, frequent references to Aleister Crowley, and -- most important of all -- very large and scary goats, as seen on the cover detail taken from Francisco de Goya's Witches Sabbath. This proves the perfect framework for monolithic tracks like "Burn in Hell!" and "Sodoma Sunrise," where the bandmembers treat every majestic mega-riff as though it's both the first and last they'll ever play, and where Albert Magus' semi-operatic vocals (he doesn't bother with deathly grunts until second-to-last track, "Doomsower") don't quite challenge a Messiah Marcolin, but still prove more melodramatic than a Bobby Liebling or even Ozzy himself. "In the Rectory" recalls Cathedral for sheer slow-crawling concentration and, for its unmitigated sense of imminent dread, the especially sorrowful "The Hour of Death" recalls Electric Wizard. And it's a testament to the strength of Reverend Bizarre's power chords and melodies that things don't even get all that preposterous until the final snail-paced grind of the 21-minute "Cirith Ungol" (no relation to the L.A. band). Packed into a CD-busting 75 minutes, it's no wonder these six tracks were enough to announce Reverend Bizarre -- and really Finland's -- true arrival on the international doom stage.
16. Winter - Into Darkness (1993)
(Southern Lord Records)
Winter assured themselves instant cult status with many doom/death metal enthusiasts when they unleashed their indescribably bleak debut album, Into Darkness, in 1992. A towering monument to uneasy listening, the album is metal at its most unpalatable and indigestible, but it's so purposeful and convincing that it naturally transcends most accusations of, well, just plain sucking. The fact is, tracks like "Oppression Freedom," "Goden," and "Eternal Frost" appear composed of the basest elemental building blocks of audible sound -- their creeping rhythms, grainy guitar chords, and bowel-shuddering grunts merely hinting at tunefulness, while leaving only claustrophobic oppression in the wake of their destructive paths. The same is true for the Celtic Frost-tinged "Servants of the Warsmen" and epic-sized testimonials such as "Destiny" and the title track, all of which actually manage to pick up the pace for short spells, but only barely long enough to circulate the blood and keep the body warm -- not quite reanimate the corpse. Simply put, Into Darkness remains unique in its extreme, uncompromising inaccessibility, and its inspiration clearly dies on (get it?) in the works of future sonic-depth explorers like Thorr's Hammer, Sunn 0))), and Unearthly Trance.
15. The Obsessed - Lunar Womb (1991)
(Meteor City Records)
After fronting Californian doom gods Saint Vitus throughout their most fertile career phase, in the second half of the 1980s, lead vocalist Scott "Wino" Weinrich decided to throw in his towel, dust off his long-in-disuse guitar playing talents, and resurrect his original retro-metal power trio, the Obsessed. Unfortunately, the band's first eponymous album from 1990 (there had been an EP -- the legendary Sodden Jackal -- way back in 1983) was patched together from ancient recordings and contained disappointingly few outstanding songs to recommend it, and it wasn't until the following year's sophomore Lunar Womb that Wino (here also acting as producer) really gave some cause for fans to celebrate his departure from Vitus. Backed by an all-new rhythm section featuring bassist/co-producer Scott Reader (future Kyuss, Unida, etc.) and drummer Greg Rogers, Wino seemed to find his songwriting legs again with instantly memorable numbers like "Brother Blue Steel," "Bardo," and "Back to Zero," even as the years of rust visibly fell away from his sharp and dynamic guitar work (watch for prime solo breaks in "Kachina" and "No Mas"). Elsewhere, "Hiding Mask," "Jaded," and "Endless Circles" are all superlative samples of bite-sized doom -- a Wino specialty (most of his contemporaries being prone to epic waffling) that is abandoned only at some risk by the still quite successful six-minute title track. But then, the appearance of a sub-two-minute hardcore blast in "No Blame" (another trademark of most every Wino album, and revealing of his Washington, D.C., roots) tilts the scales in the other direction, and helps make Lunar Womb about as balanced an album as the Obsessed ever recorded. So much so that it led to their signing by major label Columbia before next effort The Church Within, which, as it turned out, fell well short of Lunar Womb's lofty standards.
Back To Zero
14. Katatonia - Brave Murder Day (1996)
(Century Media Records)
The first of two Katatonia discs to feature Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth subbing for regular vocalist Jonas Renske, Brave Murder Day is perhaps the most thorough and accomplished first-phase release from the Swedish death/doom outfit. The music is simple, almost trance-like gothic metal topped with Åkerfeldt's signature shouts and growls. Dynamics aren't exactly places at a premium on Brave Murder Day, but quieter moments on tracks like "Day" are a nice touch. These softer spots never really hint at the band's coming genre shift, and unlike later outings, there are no borderline alternative rock moments on Brave Murder Day. This should delight fans of Katatonia's earliest recordings. Consistent and committed to its gloomy theme, this 1997 Century Media offering represents the metallic high-water mark from an ever-evolving group.
13. Pentagram - Relentless (1985)
Relentless is a well-chosen name for Pentagram's belated first album, as it was only through relentless determination that vocalist Bobby Liebling -- a fixture of D.C.'s club scene since the early '70s -- managed to persist long enough to see its 1985 release. And though it is hampered by the usual sonic limitations you'd expect from an independent recording, from a musical standpoint, the album more than lives up to pent-up expectations. A raw, untainted slab of pure doom metal, Relentless is a time tunnel straight to heavy metal's very inception at the hands of Black Sabbath -- largely thanks to its lo-fi recording, ironically. Guitarist Victor Griffin is an obvious disciple of Tony Iommi's fretwork, and the eerie similarity between Liebling's and Ozzy's vocal styles simply must to be heard to be believed. Together, they lead the band through grim anthems of depression and social ostracism, including the excellent "Dying World," "Sign of the Wolf (Pentagram)," "You're Lost, I'm Free," and "Sinister" (whose leaden backbeat is punctuated by what sounds like iron stakes being driven through a vampire's heart). Hardly a masterpiece, but well worth the wait, Relentless instantly confirmed Pentagram's position alongside Saint Vitus and Trouble in the American doom metal elite.
12. Asunder - A Clarion Call (2004)
(Life Is Abuse)
*My Own Summary*
The greatest funeral doom album I've ever heard. While most funeral doom just settles for despairing atmosphere and never really tries to be menacing and heavy. This album is one of the few in the genre that actually does that. Heavy as shit throughout, while also making you feel its sorrow.
Crown of Eyes
11. Candlemass - Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (1986)
During the mid-80's, the European heavy metal scene was dominated by countless thrash, death, and black metal bands playing at breakneck speeds and screaming in a high-pitched frenzy. So when Candlemass released their debut, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus in 1986, its songs (featuring slow, lumbering riffs straight out of the Black Sabbath handbook and vocals delivered in a baritone, operatic style) offered up a stylistic curve ball of shocking proportions. After disposing of its deceptively optimistic introductory acoustic guitar, opener "Solitude" develops into a complete monster, replete with lyrics of suicidal depression and churning with the most colossal, down-tuned guitar riff since Sabbath's "Iron Man." And that's just the beginning, as succeeding tracks "Demon's Gate," "Crystal Ball," and "Under the Oak" (later re-recorded in its definitive version for the band's fourth album Tales of Creation) trudge by with deliberate, immutable doom. Although the group's vision was startlingly well-conceived and unique for its time, bassist, songwriter and all-around group leader Leif Edling had yet to find all the right components. And despite offering the strongest, most consistent songwriting of the band's career, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus was let down by vocalist Johan Lanquist, whose performance failed to deliver with the power and command of his immediate successor Messiah Marcolin. A pillar of classic '80s metal nonetheless, this album will satisfy all doomsters.
Under The Oak
Well now it's done to the top ten.
And Thanks for the comments Brutal, Sep, and Slap!