Top 40 Darkest Rock Albums Part 4
*Before reading make sure you’ve checked out part 1, part 2 ,and part 3 to see what you may have missed.
Okay here we are for the final installment of the Darkest Rock Albums. We have just 10 more to go!
If you want any of these in your music collection you can download/preview from iTunes by clicking on the album title (highlighted in blue, or you can get a hard copy off Amazon by clicking on the album image.
10. Dummy – Portishead-1994
[amazon_image id=”B000001FI7″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Dummy[/amazon_image]
I’ve mentioned before why vocalist Beth Gibbons is amazing, but let’s give credit to all involved. Producer/musician Geoff Barrow and guitarist Adrian Utley expertly created the moody, dour architecture that supports her impassioned wailing of love’s lost, giving their dark hybrid of r&b and spy movie themes that worn vinyl groove . Tracks such as “Roads”, “Mysterons” and their hit “Sour Times” are still being ripped off by lesser talents. They haven’t made a bad album yet, but “Dummy” remains their landmark.
[amazon_image id=”B005NPC2YE” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Wish You Were Here (2011 – Remaster)[/amazon_image]
Pink Floyd have made many glum concept album masterpieces, but this album kicks it up a notch. Mainly because songwriter Roger Water’s primary focus is his former band mate Syd Barrett, who they lost to mental illness early in their career. The epic 2-part “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” is the greatest tribute to Barrett, and “Welcome To The Machines” a song about the dark side of the music business, feels like a dystopian sci-fi score. And the plaintive title track is still touching, with David Gilmour’s simple yet effective guitar work used to excellent effect.
8. First and Last and Always (Remastered) – The Sisters of Mercy(1985)
[amazon_image id=”B000002H2J” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]First And Last And Always[/amazon_image]
One of the Gothiest (hey I just made up a word!) albums ever, “First” is propelled by Andrew Eldritch’s undead baritone, Wayne Hussey’s ghostly guitar arpeggios and Craig Adams’s heartbeat bass lines. Songs like “Marian” and “Walk Away” are so atmospheric you expect fog to start pouring out of the speakers.
*Honorable mention: Their 1987 follow-up, the more electronic tinged “Floodland” is also excellently icy and well worth your time.
7. D.O.A. The Third and Final Report of Throbbing Gristle (Remastered) – Throbbing Gristle (1978)
[amazon_image id=”B005SM8VTC” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]D.O.A.: Third & Final Report of Throbbing Gristle[/amazon_image]
This band was one of the progenitors of industrial rock. This album is so unsettling that it feels tangible, like a worm burrowing into your ear. “I.B.M” sounds like a distress signal from hell and “E-coli” is truly the aural equivalent of food poisoning. This is an album that can actually make you queasy, esp on “Hamburger Lady”, possibly the creepiest song ever. Seasick, oscillating frequencies highlight a nurse’s recollection of a burn victim.
6. Seasons In the Abyss – Slayer (1990)
[amazon_image id=”B000062YB1″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Seasons in the Abyss[/amazon_image]
Slayer’s short but sweet slab of rage “Reign In Blood” remains their pièce de résistance, but this album has moodier overtones and is more sonically diverse. Songs like the title track and “Dead Skin Mask”, an ode to serial killer Ed Gein, still gets under the skin (pun intended). And “War Ensemble” and “Temptation” keep their shred pedigree intact.
5. Danzig 4 – Danzig(1994)
[amazon_image id=”B003O5MOHU” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Danzig 4[/amazon_image]
“4p” remains Danzig’s finest hour, even if hardcore fans often dismiss its artier aspects. Taking a cue from his former band, Samhain, he mines the goth side, but producer Rick Rubin gives more rich definition than that band’s muddier production. Between songs of bondage/submission (“Little Whip”, “Sadistikal”), epic dirges (“Going Down To Die”) and one of the spookiest bonus tracks ever made, “4p” remains a dark delight. (Available on Amazon only).
*Honorable mention: “Samhain’s” November Coming Fire”.
[amazon_image id=”B000042O1H” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Unknown Pleasures[/amazon_image][amazon_image id=”B00002DE4E” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Closer[/amazon_image]
How to choose between the icy isolation of “Closer” and the dark, sonic churn of “Unknown Pleasures”? I don’t think you can. Each offers insight into a dynamic band and frontman Ian Curtis, whose knack for channeling the dark side unfortunately ended in suicide. Closer has the funereally diffuse anthems “Passover” and “Isolation”. “Unknown Pleasures” rocks harder, and has the dark dance classics “She’s Lost Control” and “Shadowplay”, and the goth anthem “New Dawn Fades”. 2 dark sides of a beautiful coin, they compliment each other perfectly.
[amazon_image id=”B00150W1K6″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Downward Spiral – Deluxe Edition [Explicit][/amazon_image]
Trent Reznor is a master of the dark, and this album remains his masterpiece. From the epic tales of self loathing (“Mr. Self Destruct”, “Hurt”) to tales of romantic deceit (“Reptile”), this is one black classic. The production remains amazing, especially on “Eraser” which piles on the corroded anger and misery ever so slowly, compounded by his defiant wail of “Smash Me, Erase Me, Kill Me!”. Many fans seem disheartened that today he seems happy and working as a film composer but I think it’s a relief. He couldn’t go any darker than this.
2.Dirt – Alice In Chains (1992)
[amazon_image id=”B0000028M7″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Dirt[/amazon_image]
Many 90’s albums were darkly autobiographical, but this cuts the deepest. Chronicling late vocalist Layne Staley’s drug addiction, this is one long dark night of the soul. “Junkhead” and “Godsmack” are fearlessly transparent. The album is the epitome of self-help therapy. It’s tragic that it didn’t work. It’s now a man singing his own epitaph, making it even more unsettling. “Them Bones” which was actually written by Jerry Cantrell, forecasts Staley’s future all too well:
“I believe them bones are me
Some say we’re born into the grave
I feel so alone
Gonna end up a big ole pile a them bones ”
Grunge Report has done a piece detailing Layne’s early years. It’s nice to see more than just the tragic side of his life.
1. Pornography – The Cure (1982)
[amazon_image id=”B0007XT8AS” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Pornography [Deluxe Edition][/amazon_image]
No one can do bleak as well as Robert Smith, and “Pornography” remains his darkest hour.
[amazon_image id=”B0030U1TLQ” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Disintegration (Deluxe Edition) (3CD)[/amazon_image]
Endless overdubbed guitars, bass lines and keyboards create a tapestry that’s darkly rich, with amazing production. The swirling guitars of “Last Dance” are the epitome of haunting and the piano drenched “Homesick” is one of their most beautiful songs to date.
The title track has some of Smith’s best lyrical navel gazing: “Dropping through sky, through the glass of the roof, through the roof of your mouth, through the mouth of your eye, through the eye of the needle, it’s easier for me to get closer to heaven than ever feel whole again.” You can forgive Smith the lighter touch of their hit single “Love Song”; you have to come up for air sometime.
So that wraps up the Darkest Albums in rock! I hope you’ve enjoyed these works of despair (I don’t find that ironic), and that I’ve listed some of your faves as well as turned you on to some you may not have heard of before. What would be your favorite dark albums? Sound off below:
You might also enjoy my Best Halloween Party Music Playlist and my Rainy Day Playlist.
And for those Goth fans, check out Darkwave on the Sirius/XM channel 1st Wave which plays a great selection of tunes every Sunday night. You can order from the link below.