Sunday Sesh: Favorite vs Greatest
Metalheads love lists. There’s just something about a top ranking that drives metal fans batty. Maybe it’s a definitive chance to prove how elite your taste is and how boorish those of other fans are. Maybe it’s a chance to show that you were a fan from the beginning and always saw the potential, man. Whatever the case, the allure of the list is as undeniable as it is pointless. As much we’d like to pretend all those top tens are objective measures of quality, there’s always a little subjectivity involved. We can’t entirely mitigate the effect of such powerful factors as nostalgia or catchiness. Sometimes more than one entry on a personal greatest hits list is there not for how great the album actually is but for how much it meant to us at one point in time. That brings us to today’s question. While there may be an album in a band’s discography that is typically touted as the objective best, that album may not, in fact, be your favorite. This post is for you to share those cases.
To illustrate my point, I’m going to provide three examples.
Exhibit 1: Metallica – Master of Puppets vs. …And Justice for All
Peruse any list of greatest albums ever, and you’ll undoubtedly find Metallica on it. The number of albums varies based on the length of the list, but 9/10 you’ll find Master of Puppets in the top 10, well above any other Metallica records and often either 1 or 2 in the list itself. Just look at Loudwire‘s top 50 ranking. Master of Puppets clocks in as second best, and it’s hard to contest that. MoP features hit after hit and killer riff after killer riff. No moments on that album are wasted, and it remains to this day many a metalhead’s introduction to extreme metal. All that said, Master of Puppets is not my favorite Metallica album. No, that honor belongs to …And Justice for All. The record that got me into Metallica. The record that got me into metal. I’ve written about Justice and the resonance it has with my emotions before, so I won’t go back into that now. Simply put, …And Justice for All is my favorite Metallica album, and on any list I may ever publish of greatest metal records ever, it would be included far more quickly than Master of Puppets.
Exhibit 2: Slayer – Reign in Blood vs. Seasons in the Abyss
Similarly to Master of Puppets, Reign in Blood routinely finds its way into most lists of greatest albums of all time (1986 was a hell of a year). At 27-minutes, Slayer’s landmark record was fast, aggressive, and chaotic. The pseudo-title track remains an eminent show-stopper to this day. And yet… I’ll take Seasons in the Abyss over Reign in Blood any day. While Reign has “Angel of Death,” Seasons has “Skeletons of Society” and a monstrous buttload of killer groove. It showed a slower, gloomier side of the thrash legends unheard on previous records (save South of Heaven), and the diversity on display was a welcome change of pace for a band known for writing a lot of similar records. For slowing it down and hitting like a ten ton hammer at the end, Seasons in the Abyss is my favorite Slayer record.
Exhibit 3: Testament – The Legacy vs. The Gathering
Testament’s debut album (along with third record Practice What You Preach) is, like the other two albums in this article, not just widely considered a landmark in thrash metal but a hallmark in metal’s history. Showcasing Skolnick’s jazzy leads and Peterson’s razor riffs, The Legacy is the perfect vehicle for Zetro Souza to deliver classic headbanger after classic headbanger. That said, Testament’s late 90s revival record, The Gathering features some of my favorite Testament moments ever. Chuck Billy’s massive growls on “DNR” still get the hair on the back of my neck rising every time, and Dave Lombardo’s inhuman precision on “Careful What You Wish For” stands out to this day. This album hits harder, albeit maybe not faster, than anything else in Testament’s discography and remains my preferred work of the band, Skolnick’s inclusion or otherwise.
Those are just some of my deviations from the status quo. Now I want to hear from you. What is your favorite album from a band that is also not widely considered the best? Sound off in the comments below.