Top 40 Darkest Rock Albums Part 4

Top 40 Darkest Rock Albums Part 4

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.


9. “Wish You Were Here”-Pink Floyd (1975)

[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”.


4. Unknown Pleasures (Collector’s Edition) – Joy Division/Closer (Collector’s Edition) – Joy Division

[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.


 3. The Downward Spiral (Deluxe Edition) – Nine Inch Nails (1994)

[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.

It starts off with a death knell in the opening lyric; “It doesn’t matter if we all die” which kicks off the jack hammer beat and tweaked guitar lines of “100 Years”. The tribal drums give “The Hanging Garden” a militant push that offers no relief, and the isolated narcotic haze that lingers over “A Strange Day” and “Cold” fill your head with images of the rainy woods, where you’re lost in the fog with no way home. The stark production also makes this a harsher listen than their later albums, but that just ratchets up the despair.
But, Smith’s gift with the dark side didn’t end with this album. I tossed and turned as another album of their’s could just as easily be number 1, only slight edged out by “Pornography’s” nihilistic jabs.

Honorable Mention:

Disintegration (Deluxe Edition – Remastered) – The Cure (1989)

[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.

Click here for Albums Revisited: The Cure’s Disintegration Turns 20

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.

Sirius Satellite Radio Inc.


About SLIS

Middle Aged Gen-Exer obsessed with Alternative rock, metal, cult movies, comic books and cable TV.

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45 Responses to Top 40 Darkest Rock Albums Part 4

  1. Greg July 13, 2012 at 5:07 pm #

    What a great concept and even better execution. Of course, it may just be that I’m largely in agreement with your top 4. (o:

    Thanks for sharing. I look forward to more!

  2. SLIS July 13, 2012 at 11:04 pm #

    Glad you enjoyed! Nothing more satisfying than a misanthropic set of tunes lol. The rain this week has helped set the mood 🙂

  3. Timaaaaathy July 15, 2012 at 3:06 am #

    Great list. “Get off my lawn” lmao

    • SLIS July 15, 2012 at 10:48 am #

      Glad you enjoyed and liked the tagline lol!

  4. Dave Dierksen July 15, 2012 at 9:34 am #

    i’ve been sitting here thinking for a week, “there better be some Dirt and Downward Spiral.” but of course there was. foolish to doubt.

    • SLIS July 15, 2012 at 10:51 am #

      Yeah they were must haves. I only deliberated on a few, which is why I should’ve made a top 50, but I thought it might drag on for too long. I wanted to include a Ministry albums (I thought “Terrible Thing To Taste” was best given some of their albums have a bit of humor), Concrete Blonde’s ‘Bloodletting’, and I kinda wanted to go with Beck’s ‘Sea Change’, but it didn’t seem too overtly dark, just a little dismal like some of Nick Drake’s stuff.

      And I really wanted to do a tie for the Cure. Those 2 albums are both perfect. But I thought that would be anti-climactic for a #1.

      Which one’s would you have added?

      • Aidan October 22, 2012 at 11:02 am #

        GIven the name of your site, I can only assume it was due to an inexplicable oversight that Nirvana don’t make this list.

        Either that or you’ve purposely omitted them on some other basis, which I would genuiniely be interested to hear.

        I hope you don’t think I’m bashing your list, as that isn’t the case and I actually agree with most of it, it’s just I can’t imagine making a “Top 40 Darkest Rock Albums” list and not putting In Utero on it.

        • SLIS October 22, 2012 at 11:43 am #


          I’m afraid you’ve busted me. Perhaps it’s because Cobain was so clever as a writer that he was able to marry such misanthropic lyrics to melodic song structures and most of my choices are more minor key and dissonant in nature or the fact that I’m one of those who prefer ‘Nevermind’, but regardless ‘In Utero’ should’ve been a 41st entry. It’s truly dark as hell. Glad you like some of my other choices though and thanks for reading :)!

  5. SLIS January 17, 2013 at 1:19 am #

    And I really have to put Swans ‘The Seer’ near the top of this list. Best (and darkest) album on 2012…

  6. Jeff January 17, 2013 at 1:21 am #

    I think ‘Disintegration’ should take the top spot, for the production alone. Excellent sleepy-time music and an amazing mood. Nonetheless nice list!

  7. carzy May 13, 2014 at 4:37 pm #

    Without a doubt best list on the subject, I knew dirt would be on here this list features a lot of diversity as opposed to NME’s mediocre list. An argument can be made for the hopeless Alice In Chains self-titled but Dirt put you in the depths of the bleak introspective of the legendary Layne Staley. Great list.

    • SLIS May 13, 2014 at 5:18 pm #

      Thanks for the kind words! ‘Dirt’ is such a masterpiece. My 2nd favorite of theirs would probably be ‘Sap’ which is also pretty wonderfully dark.

  8. Maria Godwell April 9, 2015 at 9:04 am #

    The darkest album has to go to The Holy Bible by the Manics!

    • SLIS April 12, 2015 at 4:02 pm #

      I’ve never been that into the Manic Street Preachers, but I’ll have to seek this out now!

  9. du May 25, 2016 at 11:44 am #

    VIVIsectVI by Skinny Puppy is actually their darkest album it’s a true masterpiece. I would also consider Vitalogy by Pearl Jam too. good list tho

    • SLIS May 25, 2016 at 3:11 pm #

      Glad you enjoyed! Vitalogy is an interesting pick! I’ll have to revisit that sometime.

  10. Kevin March 7, 2017 at 4:12 pm #

    Nothing wrong at all with your list, but the 1st 3 albums by Public Image Ltd. blows half this stuff away if you’re going to just talk about “Darkness” as a concept.

  11. Anon July 12, 2017 at 7:19 am #

    Lou Reed Berlin & Scott Walker last three albums needs to be on this list

    • Kevin July 24, 2017 at 7:52 pm #

      I just listened to “Soused” by Scott Walker & Sunn 0))) – The thing that really struck me was how much it resembles Lulu~!

      • SLIS July 25, 2017 at 4:46 pm #

        Soused was a crazy album! I forgot Walker was involved with Sunn O))).

  12. The Mouth July 24, 2017 at 2:29 am #

    I’ll second the Holy Bible by the Manics. Far darker than most on this list, a genuinely unsettling record.

    • SLIS July 24, 2017 at 7:48 pm #

      @The Mouth: Well, look like I need to revisit the Manics! I was never overly familiar with them. And good call @Anon on Lou Reed’s Berline! & Scott Walker is another artist that I know of, yet have heard very little.

      • The Mouth July 24, 2017 at 9:36 pm #

        Nor was I. I always loved Motorcycle Emptiness but never listened to any of their albums until I went looking for an album similar to The Downward Spiral and came across The Holy Bible. Different genres but they share a similar feeling of nihilism and despair. Very bleak stuff, especially given the circumstances surrounding the album and the subsequent disappearance of Richey Edwards.

        Good list btw. Glad the see The Doors in there 🙂 I’m surprised that De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas by Mayhem didn’t get a mention either. The music itself is creepy enough but if you take into account their twisted history and the characters involved, Mayhem top them all in terms of darkness.

        • SLIS July 25, 2017 at 4:45 pm #

          Thanks! Mayhem is another band I’m not well versed in, besides their dark reputation.


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