24 Albums We Love Hearing Over and Over Again

Co-written with Viola da Voce.

The other night, we were driving on our way to go out to dinner. Viola had the album Damnation by Opeth playing in the car. The CD reached its last track and then restarted. Viola said that she didn’t mind listening to the album again, even though she had just listened to it in its entirety earlier in the day. Damnation is one album which both of us can listen to over and over again. And this led us to a discussion of which albums we love to hear again and again. We ended up talking all night long, and this is the list we came up with. We hope this might lead you to some new musical discoveries, and we’d love for you to share your favorite “repeat” albums with us.

12:5 – Pain of Salvation. The progressive rock band’s live, acoustic album has beautiful arrangements of songs from previous albums. 12:5 captures the band’s great live energy and showcases Daniel Gildenlow’s brilliant voice.

Ænima – Tool. This band really doesn’t disappoint, but this album is considered as the band’s best. It is as much beautiful as it is angry, experimental and profound.   Contrapuntist took a few listens to “get” the album, but once he did there was no stopping the repetitive moments of absorbing Maynard’s vocals, edgy guitar riffs and syncopated grooves that were all nicely woven into close to 80 minutes of blissful metal.     

…all this time – Sting. This is a live concert recorded on September 11, 2001, which lends a unique emotional dimension to the performance. The band played the song “Fragile” in memory of the World Trade Center bombing, and the sorrow in Sting’s voice brings tears to the eyes. The album includes popular Sting and Police songs such as “Every Breath You Take” and “Roxanne” arranged for jazz band.

Animals As Leaders – Animals As Leaders. The debut album from this instrumental progressive rock band is a kaleidoscope of undulating melodies and intricate technique.

Back in Black – AC/DC. When Back in Black came it was impossible to predict its success, especially since it was Brian Johnson’s first album replacing the recently deceased Bon Scott.  But the album combines remorse, anger, rage, and sex into ten raw and brilliantly written songs.  Thirty years later, the album continues to influence countless bands and considered one of the best rock albums ever.  So leaving this off would be a crime against good music.  

Best of the Beast – Iron Maiden. The legendary band has produced a number of songs with unforgettable riffs that get stuck in your head thanks to the powerful vocals by singer, Bruce Dickinson.  This album literally features the best from the band, prior to Brave New World.

Big Ones – Aerosmith. This compilation of Aerosmith songs includes some of the most repeatable songs recorded in rock history with songs like “Angel”, “Crazy”, “Livin’ on the Edge” and more.  So including this album on this list is a no brainer.   

Black Album – Metallica. By the time Metallica had released this album, they were already a household name to metalheads all over the world.  But the Black Album pushed the band to the top, cementing their place in history and as a metal God/icon. Some fans will argue that this isn’t their best album, but it is the most repeatable.  Given that this album went straight to number one worldwide, stayed there for several weeks, sold more than 15 million copies worldwide, spawned several legitimate singles, and earned the band several awards, it is hard to argue against choosing this album.  We’ll give honorable mention to Master of Puppets.

Damnation – Opeth. This Swedish band started out with death metal and gradually transformed itself into a progressive metal band. For some, lead singer Mikael  Akerfeldt ‘s mixture of clean and growling vocals can be offputting. Damnation shocked many longtime fans because unlike previous albums, it is mellow and uses completely clean vocals. The melodic lines and gorgeous harmonies evoke an intimate mood.

Dirt – Alice in Chains. By 1992, grunge had firmly planted the seed that caused the metal world to implode.  Contrapuntist was in the middle of high school when this album came out, and as a teen tormented by high school life, it was an album the resonated with him.  It was as if Jerry Cantrell and Layne Staley understood the grief and angst of youth.  Staley’s drawl and Cantrell’s guitar riffs combined to create a painfully, beautiful amalgamation that intoxicates the listener.

An Evening with John Petrucci and Jordan Rudess – John Petrucci/Jordan Rudess. This is a live album performed by Dream Theater members John Petrucci (guitar) and Jordan Rudess (keyboards). The musical style steps away from Dream Theater’s progressive rock/metal style and showcases the artists’ jazz chops.

Falling Into Infinity Demos – Dream Theater. The progressive rock band reached a difficult place between 1996-1997. Their record company was involved in a merger, their managers were splitting, and several of the band members were grieving for family members who had passed away. While waiting for the record company to stabilize, the band churned out a demo with almost 2 albums worth of new material. The label pressured the band to produce more mainstream hits, and the songs on the album were dissected and reassembled for mass appeal. Neither the band nor hard-core Dream Theater fans were pleased with the result. Several years later, DT drummer Mike Portnoy released the band’s original demos for the album. It allows the listener a chance to hear the band’s true artistic representation of the songs, as well as some previously unreleased gems including “The Killing Hand” and “Speak to Me” (which happens to be one of Viola’s favorite songs).

Hysteria – Def Leppard. Released in 1987, this album is still considered one of the best albums by Def Leppard.  This also marked Contrapuntist’s entrance into the rock ‘n roll realm as his first rock album ever, so it has some sentimental value.

Images and Words – Dream Theater.  The second release, but the first with singer James LaBrie.  This album set the stage for a 20+ year career for a band that has pushed musical boundaries album after album.

Mutiny Within – Mutiny Within. The debut album from this young New Jersey band explodes with technical expertise, killer riffs, and fantastic orchestration. Lead vocalist Chris Clancy’s voice alternately screams and soars over the music which has surprises for the listener at every turn. Viola is currently addicted to this album and tries to avoid putting it in her car, or else she will listen to it for weeks at a time.

The New Order – Testament. Blistering thrash metal at its best. Released in 1988, this album was a bit more melodic than the band’s debut album.  Songs like “Disciples of the Watch and “Trial by Fire” feature Alex Skolick’s signature guitar style and Chuck Billy’s seductive, gravelly voice.

Night is the New Day – Katatonia. Released in 2009, the album was hailed by critics as one of the best of the year, including us.  Rich music textures layered under haunting, alluring vocals made the music easy to keep playing over and over.  This album marked our introduction to Katatonia and we have since worked our way backwards through the band’s catalog, but this is the album we continue to return to.

Pretty Hate Machine – Nine Inch Nails. Released in 1989, this album rocked the foundation of alternative rock/metal.  Igniting Trent Reznor’s career, the ten songs were derived completely by using synthesized sounds which combined guitars and drums to add texture.  Reznor’s vocals and lyrics brought a layer of humanity to dark subject matter that focused on the angst of youth.

Rapid Eye Movement – Riverside. This album from the Polish progressive rock band consists of a hypnotic blend of mellow vocals over constantly shifting irregular time signatures. Listening to this album takes the listener to a place which causes the outside world to fall away.

The Real Thing – Faith No More. When “Epic” came out, Contrapuntist was blown away by the combination of rock and rhyme.  But after buying the album, Mike Patton’s hypnotic voice against an eclectic mix of beauty and rage made it irresistible.

Red Revelations – Jace Everett . Best known for “Bad Things”, the theme song to HBO’s series True Blood, Everett has created a masterpiece blend of country, rockabilly, and blues. Everett easily adapts his baritone/bass voice to reflect lust, love, and joy.

Revisions – 3. The band describes this album as tapping “the rich history of 3 by re-examining some of the earlier songs that made us who we are today.” Some songs come from early live bootlegs, and others originally existed only on cassette. The songs are bright and upbeat, with complex rhythms. It’s a great album for a sunny day.

Rust in Peace – Megadeth. Guitar shredding at its best, this was the first album that featured the guitar combo of Dave Mustaine and Marty Friedman.  This year marks the 20th anniversary of Rust in Peace, and the band is celebrating by playing the album in its entirety on their current tour.  The album firmly placed the band in metal history when the new record hit the top 25 debut on the Billboard charts. Since its release, Rust in Peace has been hailed as one of the greatest and most influential heavy metal albums of all time.

Songs from the Sparkle Lounge – Def Leppard. The songs for this album were written in a backstage area which the band called “The Sparkle Lounge” during their 2006 tour. The album resembles an updated Hysteria, filled with catchy, well written songs

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