What are the heaviest albums of all time? There is no right answer. In part, because there is no objective definition of musical heaviness. The Acacia Strain bassist Griffin Landa (pictured above, far right) knows this. "There are so many variables that make a record heavy," he told us when we challenged him to put together his list of the heaviest albums ever. Many of those variables are embodied in his own band's crushing, gnarly, atmospheric mind-melter of a new LP, Slow Decay, which is due out this Friday (July 24th) via Rise Records and features guest appearances from Jesus Piece's Aaron Heard, Left Behind's Zach Hatfield, Spiritbox's Courtney LaPlante and others. Landa clearly knows heavy.
Still, he admits, "This is a pretty tough list for me to make." "I grew up on, and am still heavily influenced by Nineties rock, grunge and metal," he continues, "so it's no surprise that most of my favorite heavy albums are from the early to mid-Nineties." Indeed, though Landa gives "very honorable mentions" to Converge's No Heroes, Oathbreaker's Rheia and Cattle Decapitation's The Anthropocene Extinction, his 5 Heaviest Albums of All Time do hail largely from that era — with one notable exception.
Soundgarden - Superunknown
Michael Beinhorn, who recorded Superunknown, once stated that Chris Cornell destroyed the diaphragms of five Neumann U87 microphones — $3,200 new — while tracking vocals. His voice is so powerful! If that is not heavy, then I don't know what is! This record really taught me that the emotional aspect of music is truly what makes it heavy. There are a ton of songs on this record with clean guitars, acoustic guitars, all clean singing — and they are so emotionally heavy! Heaviest tracks on the record, in my opinion: "Fell on Black Days" and "4th of July." Here's a rad interview of Warren Huart and Michael Beinhorn talking about the recording process of Superunknown.
At the Gates - Slaughter of the Soul
Swedish death metal is in a whole league of its own, and Slaughter of the Soul is god. It was released in 1995 and sounds just as heavy and aggressive as anything put out in current times. There really isn't anything else that needs to be said to convince anyone that this is one of the heaviest records of all time. Heaviest tracks on the record, in my opinion: Andy LaRocque's solo on "Cold" and the entire rest of the record.
Alice in Chains - Alice in Chains
This is another "emotionally" heavy record — however, I do think Jerry Cantrell has one of the heaviest guitar tones ever. Along with most of Alice in Chains' material, this one revolves around the ideas of depression, death, drug use ... just to name a few heavy topics. Layne was also heavily addicted to heroin at the time of recording, which I'm sure affected the whole mood surrounding the record. Heaviest tracks on the record, in my opinion: "Sludge Factory" and "Again."
Death - Individual Thought Patterns
It was tough to decide if Individual Thought Patterns or Symbolic should be on this list, but since I mentioned Andy LaRocque's solo on At the Gates' "Cold," let's go with Individual Thought Patterns. This was the only Death record with Andy LaRocque on lead guitars, and first for [drummer] Gene Hoglan. Andy, and Gene, on top of Chuck Schuldiner, is an insane mix. ITP is also the first album that I ever heard from Death. A friend of mine in high school gave me a burned CD that just said "DEATH" on it. I listened to it for months before I even looked up what album it was, or what their other records were like. This was in the early 2000s when you couldn't just type a band name in Google or Spotify and immediately have all information about them. The instrumentation is still top tier to this day. Heaviest tracks on the record, in my opinion: "Overactive Imagination" and "Mentally Blind."
Slipknot - Iowa
I am from Des Moines, Iowa, so this record is probably no surprise to anyone that knows me. This record just sounds like desolation and despair, which reminds me of driving through small towns in Iowa. The whole band together makes this record heavy, but I think what solidifies it for me are Corey Taylor's performances. You can hear the stress and struggles leading up to making this record in his voice. Slipknot definitely gave my friends and I a lot of drive growing up to start our own bands that could hopefully be heard beyond Iowa one day. Fast-forward 19 years ... multiple friends from high school have been in various touring bands and currently still are touring musicians. Heaviest tracks on the record, in my opinion: "The Shape" and "Everything Ends."