Self-titled albums have a lot to live up to. Ideally, they should serve as testaments to a band's greatness and encapsulate everything they stand for for musically, lyrically and visually. Whether they serve as mid-career recalibrations or stake-in-the-ground proclamations that emblazon a band's debut, the best self-titled albums are definitive statements. Below, are the 10 greatest eponymous LPs in all of heavy-music history.
Avenged Sevenfold have traversed many a genre throughout their career, but they've never sounded as at-home as they do here. The snarling groove-metal of "Critical Acclaim" and "Scream," the thrash wizardry of "Almost Easy" and "Afterlife," the operatic insanity of "A Little Piece of Heaven" and the tear-jerking balladry of "Dear God" — this is A7X at their most eclectic and electric.
Arguably the single most important hardcore record ever, the Bad Brains' frantic and captivating debut created the blueprint that raging punk renegades would build upon nationwide. The D.C. expats' codified their chin-scratching mixture of back-flipping punk rock and reflective reggae on this release, with blazing cuts like "Banned in D.C." and "Big Take Over" setting the bar for hardcore charisma and power — a mark that few, if any, bands have ever crossed
Way to make a statement: Not only does Black Sabbath's earth-shaking debut LP share the group's name, but so does the album's band-defining opening salvo. From that iconic song's stormy intro — the rain noise, the tolling bells, that demonic tritone riff — to the record's end, Ozzy, Iommi, Geezer and Ward introduced the world to the unholy sounds of Sabbath and of heavy metal itself.
"Your favorite band's favorite band" is a cliché that's been applied to any number of cult acts, but it truly applies to U.K. industrial-metal and post-punk pioneers Killing Joke. And they've never sounded more revolutionary than on their self-titled debut, which paved the way for big-name acolytes to come: Metallica would cover album standout "The Wait," Nirvana would rip Killing Joke off, Nine Inch Nails remix them, and TOOL handpick them as tour mates.
"Are you ready?" Jonathan Davis roars to kick off Korn's self-titled debut, as if challenging the world to wrap its collective mind around the game-changing sound and aesthetic the Bakersfield trailblazers were ushering in. Korn would make bigger albums (see TRL smash Follow the Leader), but their first LP laid the groundwork for the whole nu-metal genre, and for many fans, represents the pinnacle of both the band and the style.
While it's better known as the "Black Album," the thrash OGs' star-making 1991 swerve is in fact their self-titled album, and fittingly so. Metallica didn't so much define the band, as redefine them: no longer the biggest metal band in the world, now one of the biggest bands of any genre. Old-school fans may have bristled at the accessible sound of singles like "Enter Sandman" and "Nothing Else Matters," but really, the songs' power is just undeniable.
Rage Against the Machine
Practically any lyric on Rage Against the Machine's incendiary 1992 debut could serve as their mission statement. "Fuck you, I won't do what ya tell me." "We gotta take the power back." "What? 'The land of the free'/whoever told you that is your enemy." "If we don't take action now/we'll settle for nothing later." On Rage Against the Machine, the band sparked an eternity's worth of underclass struggle into a fiery blaze that's been burning bright ever since — now more urgently than ever before.
Slipknot had it all put together from their very first record — the eye-catching look, the menacing attitude, the pulverizing sound and the fist-in-face messaging. "Fuck it all! Fuck this shit, fuck everything that you stand for," Corey Taylor bellowed during "Surfacing," a war cry of apoplectic rage and unyielding animosity that would resonate with millions of Maggots worldwide, priming the Iowa Nine for a hostile takeover of metal's A-list.
Crossover legends Suicidal Tendencies have made a career out of uniting metalheads and punks (and others) with their hyper-caffeinated rants, and it all started with their 1983 self-titled debut, a punk album too good for the long-hairs not to love — from the iconic "Institutionalized" to the gleefully sick "I Saw Your Mommy…" All Mike Muir wanted was a Pepsi; all he made was a timeless classic.
System of a Down
System of a Down's 1998 debut is a primer on all the tricks the band would pull going forward. Crushing death-metal breakdowns detonating moments after carnival-esque jaunts? Sure thing. Grad-school-tier socio-political analysis ping-ponging between the mouths of two unusually nasally singers while knotty riffs and convulsive rhythms veer left and right? Yup. Does it all add up to beautiful, transcendental, headbang-able organized chaos? You bet.