Top 40 darkest rock albums Part 2
Off we go with the 2nd installment of my list of the darkest albums ever made. Click here to read Part 1 if you haven’t already, so you can see what you’ve missed.
If you want to preview or purchase any of the entries, clicking on the album name (highlighted in blue) will you take you to iTunes, and clicking on the album cover image will take you to Amazon if you prefer cd.
29. This Is Hardcore (Deluxe Edition) – Pulp (1998)
[amazon_image id=”B003066HQM” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]This Is Hardcore Deluxe Edition (2 CD )[/amazon_image]
“Hardcore” took Pulp’s sardonic social commentary to murkier waters, with vocalist/songwriter Jarvis Cocker ruminating on aging, loss of virility and the damaging aspects of drug culture and pornography. The title track and “The Fear” best represent this amazing piece of work, with Cocker’s lyrical genius at his level best.
[amazon_image id=”B0000040UW” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Bryars: The Sinking Of The Titanic / Barnett, Bryars Ensemble, et al[/amazon_image]
One of the most intriguing concept albums ever recorded, it centers on the recollection by Titanic survivors that the ship’s band played a hymn as the boat sank. Bryars’s album plays this hymn (“Autumn”) on 11 tracks, slowly adding sound elements throughout which give the aural sensation of sinking, until it concludes with the music sounding fully submerged. Very haunting.
27. “Undertow”-Tool (1993)
[amazon_image id=”B000025L6U” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Undertow[/amazon_image]
None of Tool’s albums are chipper. But even their landmark album “Aenima” is relieved by darkly humorous interludes. “Undertow” lives up to its title, as dark classics like “Sober” and “Prison Sex” remain unrelentingly bleak. Maynard James Keenan’s pessimistic societal commentaries are given weight by his band’s muscular riffing. *Available on Amazon only, Tool are anti-Mp3.
*Maynard’s other band A Perfect Circle are equally adept at darkness. Their sophomore album “Thirteenth Step” is a prime example.
26. Mezzanine – Massive Attack (1998)
[amazon_image id=”B000T00PE2″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Mezzanine[/amazon_image]
Our second trip-hop entry, this album still sounds contemporary. Full of hushed whisper-raps by members 3-D and Daddy G, and guest vocals by Cocteau Twin’s Elizabeth Frazer, it’s full of foreboding unease. And the production still sounds fresh with its mix of electronic and organic instrumentation. Highlights are the classic “Angel” (with vocals by the great Horace Andy), “Teardrop”, the ambient/metal mash-up “Dissolved Girl” and the hypnotic middle eastern grove of “Inertia Creeps”.
25.The Idiot – Iggy Pop (1977)
[amazon_image id=”B000000WH7″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Idiot[/amazon_image]
This David Bowie produced album is full of dark, angular weirdness, with elements of funk and krautrock making for an awkwardly bewitching listen . The disjointed nightmare that is “Sister Midnight”, is one creepy album opener, with Pop’s inimitable delivery augmented by Bowie’s falsetto. It also has the original version of “China Girl” which is far more left of center than Bowie’s cover. Perhaps the most influential tune is “Nightclubbing” a dark disco by-way-of-vaudeville groove that proved so iconic that Trent Reznor sampled its beat for “Closer”.
*Bowie’s “Low” and “The Man Who Sold The World” are pretty dark in their own right.
24. …And Justice for All – Metallica(1988)
[amazon_image id=”B000002H6C” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]…And Justice For All[/amazon_image]
Metallica’s last “great” album is also their darkest. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given it was recorded after the tragic passing of bassist Cliff Burton. His death isn’t reflected overtly in the lyrics, but it surely inspired the subject matter. Whether dealing with nuclear war (“Blackened”), a husband murdering his family (“Harvester of Sorrow”), or their classic “One” (based on “Johnny Get Your Gun”, Dalton Trumbo’s ultra-bleak novel), this album is a heavy proposition. Is it any wonder they went lighter after this?
23. Murder Ballads (Remastered) – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds(1996)
[amazon_image id=”B004ZEXQEE” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Murder Ballads (2011 – Remaster)[/amazon_image]
Cave may have the best grasp on gallows humor than any other musician ever. “Murder Ballads” is a simple concept perfectly executed (pun intended). Each song deals with a different murder told in a style like a short story all from the POV of the killer or victim. Highlights include the tale of a vile old-west murderer (“Stagger Lee”), or the dark crime of passion ballad (“Where The Wild Roses Grow”) where Cave’s lyrical gifts shine:
“And she lay on the bank, the wind light as a thief
And I kissed her goodbye, said, “All beauty must die”
And lent down and planted a rose between her teeth ”
22. Killing Joke (Remastered) – Killing Joke (self titled-1980)
[amazon_image id=”B0009RRRC8″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Killing Joke[/amazon_image]
Picking the darkest KJ album is damn near impossible; their unrelenting musical assault has always been harrowing (check out my review of their new album). So let’s just start at the source. Their début album is a classic, a call to arms against Thatcherism and consumerism, powered by their groundbreaking fusion of metal, punk and electronic dance. It doesn’t get much more awesomely dark than the sledgehammer anthem “The Wait” or the dystopian unease that is “Tomorrow’s World”. Epic album cover too.
21. Black One – Sunn O))) (2005)
This is one weird band, composed of 2 guitarists who play their down-tuned instruments through bass amps. They dress in hooded robes and play a dark, sludgy drone that lands somewhere in-between ambient music and metal. Tracks are either instrumental or have indecipherable vocals (by a variety of guest musicians). It’s unsettling to say the least. Songs like “It Took The Night To Believe” and “Bathory Erzsebet” are truly horror films for the ears.
20. Wings of Joy – Cranes (1991)
[amazon_image id=”B000UTOQHY” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Wings of Joy (Reis)[/amazon_image]
The Cranes are a one of a kind band that fell under the radar. Stark gothic/shoegaze arrangements with a vocalist who sounds eerily childlike (Alison Shaw), they veer between delicate and brutal to dynamic effect. All of their albums are dark, but “Wings Of Joy” has a starkness that sets it apart. From the haunting piano of “Tomorrow’s Tears” to the shrieking feedback of “Starblood” this is a band that deserves deeper appreciation. I’m assuming “Joy” was used in an ironic sense?