1991, 30 years ago, the dawn of the ‘90s in music, for a lot of people was the worst because of grunge, but definitely an important one because there were loads of bands that either showed up, or established, and a lot of important albums that shaped the future.
Want some examples? “Black Album”, “Nevermind”, “Ten”… but also, “Slave To The Grind”, “Human”, “Arise”, “Use Your Illusion” and more…
In the world “Desert Storm” in the Gulf War begins, USSR dissolves, civil war starts in Yugoslavia, the European Council decided the economic and monetary union of its country members to take place in 1999, “Terminator 2” (the soundtrack of which features Guns’n’Roses) is a game changer is sci-fi movies, Freddie Mercury dies….
So, without further delay check out the 30 albums from 1991 our editors picked below…
21/1 Motörhead 1916
I remember that, when it was released it did not get much praise. Perhaps the people were very concerned about the final departure of Phil Taylor just after its release. The truth, however, is that today, “1916” is recommended as an excellent album, one of the best Motorhead’s albums of the post-Eddie Clarke era. Just take a look at the Motorhead concert setlist where you will find “I m So Bad (Baby I Don’t Care)”, “The One To Sign The Blues”, “Going To Brazil”, “No Voices In The Sky ”and“ R.A.M.O.N.E.S.” and you will understand how important a release the band itself considered it. Moreover, in “1916”, we had Lemmy’s first attempt at a (kind of) ballad, “Love Me Forever”, a fact that, as far as I can remember, “scratched” many fans.
4/2 Saxon – Solid Ball Of Rock
That’s one of the several Saxon’s resurrections. After a controversial album (“Destiny”) and just before a mediocre on (“Forever Free”) you will find this gem! The tenth album from the NWOBHM survivors is one of the best ones. No fillers in this one.
From the title track to “Crash Dive” the classics come one after the other. “Requiem (We Will Remember)” should be considered as a career highlight, dedicated to dead rockers. Finally, this is the first album featuring Nibbs Carter on bass, replacing original member Paul Johnson and actually opens the floodgates for the “change of guard” that was going to take place later…
19/3 Paradise Lost – Gothic
They had not yet denounced their previous and virginal effort “Lost Paradise”, since “Gothic” was essentially its evolution, which means a very good Death Metal album. As much as “Gothic” was loved and continues to be adored by many people, the band from Halifax not seem to “listen to” it and the sequel did not have much to do with its sound until then. Proof of this is the fact that Paradise Lost rarely plays a track from this album in their concerts, with the exception of its title track. However, it seems from their course until today, it seems that their tendency towards even a partial, devaluation of this sound probably justified them, even though they turned a blind eye to it a couple of times …
21/3 Mr.Big – Lean Into It
I don’t think there is a person on this planet that haven’t heard “To Be With You” at least once. That was the band’s passport for their big international success. This was their first and last No.1 they had in the American charts that gave made them a house hold name both in the US and in Japan.
“Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy (The Electric Drill Song)” is one of the album’s characteristic moments with virtuosos, Paul Gilbert and Billy Sheehan experimenting with power drills on their guitar and bass respectively. Other hihlights of the album include “Green Tinted Sixties Mind”, the other huge ballad “Just Take My Heart” and “Never Say Never”.
2/4 Sepultura – Arise
When it comes to death/thrash metal, it all starts with the guys who put Brazil on the metal map for good. Among most of the band’s fans, “Arise” is usually in the first place along with “Beneath The Remains” (1989). Here, of course, the Seps have clearly evolved. The relentless rhythms of the past give way to a different style of songwriting. More technique, more rhythms, more experimental in points as well as the first tribal/groove elements that would later be the main ingredients of their music. The album was featured on the charts of many countries, in the tour that followed they gave 220 shows and it was certified platinum worldwide. Not bad, right? And it features one of the best covers ever made: “Orgasmatron” by Motörhead.
2/4 White Lion – Main Attraction
Most White Lion fans consider “Pride” and “Big Game” to be the absolute peaks of the band’s illustrious catalogue. For me though, White Lion’s most artistic and mature effort was definitely “Mane Attraction”. This is where Vito Bratta came up with his most inspired guitar melodies (just listen to “Warsong”) and Tramp wrote some of his most thought-provoking lyrics. And all these combined with a crystal clear production by the mighty Richie Zito. Unfortunately, White Lion came to an unceremonious end after a short tour and Bratta vanished from the music world. Luckily for all of us, Tramp is still around delivering the goods.
2/5 Morbid Angel – Blessed Are The Sick
Did you know that Morbid Angel’’ second album (or third for some) reached number 26 on the Greek charts? Me neither. Differentiating themselves from the much more aggressive debut “Altars Of Madness” (1989), the Floridians present a significantly slower album. The bizarre guitar work of their (Greek-born) leader Trey Azagthoth (real name George Emmanuel) is influenced by classical music and he has dedicated this album to Mozart. The drumming of “the father of blast beats” Pete Sandoval is seminar level and in general, “Blessed Are The Sick” is one of the top releases in the history of death metal.
14/5 Armored Saint – Symbol Of Salvation
I don’t know what the symbol for salvation is. And the band seems to wonder about the same thing through the lyrics of the same titled track. What I do know though, is that this album is proof that through tragedy one can emerge even stronger than before. Producer Dave Jerden captures the very essence of the band even more accurately than the giant of the 80s Max Norman and binds masterfully all the elements of a truly special album that went through some very rough patches before reaching completion. Armored Saint remove their 80s armor and enter the 90s with a lowered gaze but with elevated artistic and creative value.
11/6 Skid Row – Slave To The Grind
What Skid Row achieved back in 1991 is inconceivable! As a matter of fact, some would go as far as to characterize this decision of their as commercial suicide! Nevertheless, Skid Row proved them all wrong and after a hugely successful debut record, the quintet from New Jersey didn’t rely on its laurels and brought forth a metal juggernaut with “Slave To The Grind”. Skid row had absolutely no intention of taking any prisoners and despite the fact that “Slave To The Grind” had few things in common with the hair metal movement of the late 80s, every detailed list out there include it…in the top 5 spots!
18/6 Van Halen – For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge
Although I must admit I am a fan of the Roth era in Van Halen, I cannot deny the majestic moments Sammy Hagar gave Van Halen. This album doesn’t work though. No wonder the Red Rocker left after the next one.
Still, even on the worst Van Halen album, except from “III”, you will find some great stuff. So, here we have “Runaround”, and of course “Right Now” where the band express its sensitivity on big social issues. On the other hand just like Mr.Big did a few months before, EVH is using a power drill on “Poundcake”, while the initials “F.U.C.K.” was Hagar’s idea, who wanted the album to be called “Fuck” just to have a go against censorship in music.
25/6 L.A. Guns – Holywood Vampires
Three out of three surely ain’t bad, right? After the debut masterpiece and the impressive sophomore effort “Cocked & Loaded” the grandfathers of sleaze rock n’ roll hit us with the equally majestic “Hollywood Vampires”. Yes, I know…it was not as commercially successful as its two predecessors. True. But it included some really kick ass, in your face tunes. From the opening off the wall “Over The Edge” up to the beautiful ballad “Crystal Eyes” and the frenzy “Wild Obsession” (with the “Toys In The Attic” licks n there), “Hollywood Vampires” is a pure classic. Everything would change after that point…
29/6 Bathory – Twilight Of The Gods
The change that took place with “Hammerheart” is equal, if not greater than that of “Heaven and Hell”. Here again, Quorthon makes an epic journey into the land of the Vikings, and speaks again to the hearts of all Metalheads. Mid tempo, with many acoustic guitars, barbaric melodies, he defines Epic Doom Metal once again, as with its predecessor and his compatriots Candlemass a few years ago. 30 years since its release, “Twilight of the gods” stands arrogant, always ready for battle, always with its soul up there in the mountains.
2/7 Alice Cooper – Hey Stoopid
I take it for granted that whatever Alice Cooper released after “Trash” would be a success, commercially at least. Such was the success of this album that it was impossible not to drag along any subsequent releases he attempted, simply because of the momentum he gathered. I don’t know if (the great) Peter Collins could have done more, mainly in the field of production, but the absence of Desmond Child, who only participates in the composition of “Dangerous Tonight”, is more than obvious. “Hey Stoopid” is a very good album, but I believe that if it had been released in the place of “Trash” two years ago, things might not have been as they are today for The Prince of Darkness …
2/7 Tom Petty – Into The Great Wide Open
This is one of the most important albums for the American troubadour. His eighth album finds him at the peak of his career with “Learning To Fly” reaching Billboards’ No.1 and Johnny Depp starring on the video along with Faye Dunaway and Matt LeBlanc.
E.L.O.’s Jeff Lynne played a very important role producing the album, just like on “Full Moon Fever (1989), which was Tom’s first solo attempt. His work was amazing on all levels making this album a nominee to be Petty’s best ever with his loyal Heartbreakers.
12/8 Metallica – Metallica
Metallica’s desire to write simpler songs compared to their past, their unprecedented inspiration, Bob Rock coming in, and perfect timing; the planets aligned back in 1991 and the result was none other than the ‘Black Album’. It is the moment of Metallica’s arrival and establishment in the mainstream world (it came to them, not the opposite), it is an explosion through sonic perfection. The band had written other masterpieces before; this one was equally important, yet different. ‘… And the earth became their throne’.
Judging from their previous Blackened recordings box sets, I dare not dream of what the reissue of ‘Metallica’ could possibly feature.
27/8 Pearl Jam – Ten
As I recently wrote as part of our ‘MTV Unplugged’ review, featuring an incredible performance by Eddie Vedder – About ‘Ten’: Very simply put: One of the masterpieces that came out in 1991, one of the three most important records to come out of Seattle, one of the ten most important ones for the entire 90s decade, one of the best rock albums of all time.
The generic term ‘rock’ is purposefully chosen, as I believe this material to be deserving of ecumenical approval, independently of one’s personal preferences in subgenres.
Only ‘Appetite for Destruction’ comes close in terms of a debut album that could easily be confused with a ‘greatest hits’ compilation.
3/9 Overkill – Horrorscope
Overkill enter the 90s with their most extreme work and for the first time as a 5 piece band led by a twin axe attack. This renewal of the line-up brings a certain kind of freshness to their sound as the band appears more edgy and aggressive. Cuts like Coma, Infectious, New Machine, Thanks for Nothin’ and Horroscope became the backbone of the concert setlists for years to come. As for the majority of the fans, this is considered as the best second era Overkill album (although I am personally having a very hard time picking between this one and W.F.O.). The fact that Horroscope is the best-selling Overkill album and achieved some strong U.S. Billboard presence is no random thing either.
17/9 Ozzy – No More Tears
The supposed last album of the madman, followed by the supposed last tour “No More Tours”. But definitely the last really great album of his solo discography. When the songs were still written by the musicians who played in it, plus the God himself Lemmy (R.I.P.) in a few, and not various dudes who had nothing to do with the band. Where every song is top (what an unforgettable bassline in the self-titled) and six of the eleven of the original version are considered amongst the most classic in the journey of Double O. In America it went four times platinum, only behind the debut “Blizzard Of Ozz” (1980).
17/9 Guns’ n ‘Roses – Use Your Illusion I&II
I don’t think I am the only one who thinks that “Use Your Illusion” could have been just one, and not two albums, but whatever…
The thing is that compared to “Appetite For Destruction” it shows a band that brings more dimensions to its sound and compositions giving us some great tunes like “Civil War”, “November Rain”, “Estranged”, making their own rules, not giving a shit about trends. Actually, they became a trend that managed to stand the test of time ever since.
“The most dangerous band in the world” remembers how to put the pedal to the metal (“You Could Be Mine”), while it has no second thoughts to cover even Bob Dylan and make “Knocking On Heaven’s Door”, as well as “Live And Let Die” its own. Yiannis Dolas
23/9 Gamma Ray – Sigh No More
Kai Hansen left Helloween in 1988, the band he created. “Heading for tomorrow” was the natural continuation of the huge “Keeper” albums. And somewhere there, in 1991, with a more hard rock approach, always with optimism and great melodies, he easily made the 2-1 against his former band. With a new line up, Scheepers again behind the microphone, “Sigh no more”, contains epic songs such as “Dream Healer”, “One with the world”, “Father to son”. The score would change again along the way a few times, but “Sigh no more” remains a beacon of a power metal release in a difficult year for Metal, when everything changed.
24/9 Soundgarden – Badmotorfinger
How is it even allowed for people to consider a scene or a band to be responsible for heavy metal’s demise, when there are records like ‘Badmotorfinger’ around, where literally every single riff reeks of Black Sabbath from a thousand yards? One must be deaf. I do not know if this is Chris Cornell’s best performance, there are many candidates when you’re the seminal voice of an entire generation, it is Kim Thayil’s best though, without a shadow of a doubt. Kudos to Terry Date (Pantera etc.) for his brutal production. What about songs you say? Guys, the album begins with ‘Rusty Cage’, ‘Outshined’ (please mister Mustaine, don’t ever butcher this again), ‘Slaves & Bulldozers’ and ‘Jesus Christ Pose’.
24/9 Nirvana – Nevermind
In the late 80s, the Pixies’ ‘loud-quiet-loud’ may have given Nirvana the blueprint for how to make an explosive rock album, but not the voice to become stratospheric. Then, with 4 clean power chords in F, Nirvana became unreachable distortion heroes overnight. The pop world was missing something, and Cobain’s primal voice connected with teenagers around the globe who were looking for a new way to annoy their parents. ‘Nevermind’ was the band’s attempt to bring Beatlesque tune-sensitivity to punk insolence, and it worked. Though the whole grunge movement disappeared almost as quickly as it became a buzzword, ‘Nevermind’ remains a unique statement: no other album sounds like it. It also led to the pop sound eventually moving away from heavy to other genres, tired of the countless grunge-lite imitators and depression-on-demand culture appropriators.
Michael Murphy Grammatopoulos
24/9 Red Hot Chilli Peppers – Black Sugar Sex Magik
Here is confirmation that you can be a fan of an album, but not the band necessarily. BSSM is, of course, a masterpiece; everything that came after was basically them capitalising on this one great work. They became huge, have had several number one songs, and are well on their way to Rolling Stones longevity. What they haven’t done is match the imagination, creative flow and uniqueness of this here shooting star. Surely, Rick Rubin played a big role drawing it out of them, before he got too bored to actually be present at recording sessions for bands he was producing. But the real force here is John Frusciante, who seems to have blossomed into a genius during the recording, before he decided it was all too much for him and quit. And then rejoined. And quit again. Whatever. Geniuses are crazy that way.
Michael Murphy Grammatopoulos
4/10 Savatage – Streets: A Rock Opera
One could say that Paul O’Neil ’s vision for Savatage had been completed with the unsurpassed “Gutter Ballet”. But that is not the case. Savatage may have conquered the top, but they had set their sights on another world of their own. This time, always with the help of Paul, they released “Streets A rock Opera”, based on a book of his own, where the story of DT Jesus was to define them as a band of the heart for Europeans and even more perhaps for Greek fans. “Tonight he grins again”, “If I go away”, “Believe” are some of the haunting moments that made history from this wonderful album.
18/10 Motley Crüe – Decade Of Decadance
What an ideal way to close the first chapter of this mega successful period of the Crue mania! After all, this was the band that kickstarted a whole movement down in Sunset Strip. Two tracks selected from each studio album, different remixes, an unreleased live song and most importantly 3 brand new recordings (two original compositions plus 1 cover tune) comprised the corpus of this compilation. Just for the sheer presence of “Primal Scream” (the superb song that bridged the gap between “Dr. Feelgood” and the 1994’ self-tiled opus), makes “Decade…” a must have for any collector out there…
22/10 Death – Human
No one has influenced death metal as much as Death and Chuck Schuldiner (R.I.P.). “Human” put the band in a new era and for many their best album. The melodic and the technical parts introduced in “Spiritual Healing” (1990) that preceded acquire even greater scope… and technical death metal was born, as it should be played. Music of high technique and intelligence, without unnecessary demonstration of abilities and without losing aggression. Lyrics away from the gore themes of the first records and probably the best line-up they have ever had with Paul Masvidal (guitars), Sean Reinert (R.I.P., drums) and Steve DiGiorgio (bass). It is the best-selling from their discography and one of the most influential in extreme metal sound in general. And as bonus, a cover of “God Of Thunder” by Kiss. Simply a masterpiece.
29/10 Fates Warning – Parallels
I can hardly listen to any of the albums before “Perfect Symmetry”, the first releases of Fates Warning are a bit old school for my ears. I consider “Perfect Symmetry” as a starting point for the Americans and “Parallels” just came to emphatically confirm the band’s capabilities and place it high in the preferences of the metal world. They had not yet received the … anointing of progressive, but they had a very clear metal sound and endless inspiration for great songs. All eight of them are special moments and I will dare to label them Immortal! “Parallels” is in my opinion the best album of Fates Warning and I have no problem listening to it every day. It’s my Point Of View
1/11 Iced Earth – Night Of The Stormrider
I have a very strong recollection of myself as a kid, standing outside the local record store, gazing upon the impressive cover of this album without having a single clue of its musical content. It took quite a while and lots of courage to spend those valuable 3.000 drachmas from my allowance in this blind buy that eventually turned to gold and introduced me to one of the most cherished albums of my entire life. This is where the band made the decisive second step and offered one of the most celebrated power metal albums of the 90s. Everything is present in its superlative form. Compositions, musicianship and sound, they all align in a unique conjuncture that results to a perfect 10.
12/11 Entombed – Clandestine
This is the second album of one of the most important death metal bands in history. Together with their debut, it was the two records that put Europe in the map of the genre and became the compass for their peers. Although facing a crisis with Petrov leaving the band, only to return for the next album, “Clandestine” manages to be significant, but still cannot be compared with “Left Hand Path”.
Not the biggest death metal fan of them all – I have to admit, I listened to the band’s work because of Nicke Andersson’s presence, who except of the drums is also singing lead vocals and designed the back cover, and found it interesting. Not as much as “Wolverine Blues” that is closer to my likings.
31/12 Monster Magnet – Spine Of God
Listening to ‘Spine of God’, which came out in ’91 in Europe and the following year in the States, I think few people could predict that the band would evolve its songwriting to such a degree and manage to write masterpieces of the ‘Dopes to Infinity’ and ‘Powetrip’ caliber.
Here however, in songs such as ‘Zodiac Lung’, lies the seed, the first indications of Dave Wyndorf’s unique idiosyncrasy – the 90s and our lives in general would be significantly less interesting without his deliciously sinful charm. Thirty years later, the title track remains a live staple more effective than most drugs.