50 rock and metal bands whose third album was their best
Every now and then something decent comes along on Twitter that actually catches our attention for all the right reasons. See, it can be good for something other than getting yourself worked up at stupid, idiot, racist politicians…
This time our entertainment came courtesy of music writer Corbin Reiff, when he innocently asked people to name bands whose third albums were objectively the best in their discography, and in doing so sparked quite the debate, even creating a Twitter ‘moment’ in the process. And we’re not gonna lie, we became quite obsessed about it all ourselves.
Because once you start drilling down into it, you soon start to realise how many classics came at that pivotal point in so many rock, metal, punk and alternative band’s careers. It seems that yes, three is the magic number when it comes to a great deal of the artists we love at K!. So, for our money’s worth, here is our list of 50 of the best third albums of all-time.
Nirvana, In Utero (1993)
Raw, ugly, beautiful and perfectly realised in both execution and production, In Utero was the record that Nirvana always had in them. That it would be their swan song only makes it that much more powerful.
Slayer, Reign In Blood (1986)
If aliens fell to the Earth and you needed to explain to them what thrash metal was, you would play them this record. Personal preferences may dictate otherwise, but this is indisputably the definitive Slayer full-length.
Kyuss, Welcome To Sky Valley (1994)
The kings of desert rock truly came into their own with this album. Trippy, ambitious, epic, and laced with riffs designed to make the sky shake, Kyuss produced a record that defined a genre, and did so loudly.
Paramore, Brand New Eyes (2009)
After two great records of catchy pop-rock Paramore got a little darker, a little edgier, and it suited them down to the ground. It doesn’t hurt that it’s full of choruses that lodge permanently in the brain either.
My Chemical Romance, The Black Parade (2006)
Yes, 2004’s Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge was the album that set My Chemical Romance apart from the pack, but this towering opus is the one that really stands out. More than 10 years later it still sounds as fresh and exciting.
Green Day, Dookie (1994)
The definitive U.S. punk record happens to also be album number three from the definitive U.S. punk band, Green Day. From start to finish it’s pure, riotous energy, and it sowed the seeds for an entire genre to grow from.
The Offspring, Smash (1994)
Sneering, brash, and catchy as hell, The Offspring really knew what they were doing by the time it came to making Smash, and they delivered with a vengeance. Packed with hooky singles, it’s a masterclass in raised middle finger pop-punk.
Rancid, …And Out Come The Wolves (1995)
If you want to find the perfect example of ska-infused punk then you need look no further than this record. The Bay Area boys really did deliver the goods across the spectrum, and one of the genre’s finest anthems in Ruby Soho.
The Clash, London Calling (1979)
The Clash are an integral band when it comes to any discussion of punk rock, but none of their albums eclipse London Calling. Possessed of an edgy urgency, it’s the sound of the streets, and the streets weren’t happy.
Smashing Pumpkins, Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness (1995)
You would think it impossible to deliver a 28-track collection that did not disappear up its own anus, but Billy Corgan and co. proved such expectations wrong with this masterpiece, which covers so much sonic territory without ever going off the rails.
Minutemen, Double Nickels On The Dime (1984)
A rich, double album packed with treats across 45 songs comprising a myriad of styles and sounds that isn’t only the San Pedro crew’s best, but one of the finest records of the ‘80s alternative scene.
Coheed & Cambria, Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through The Eyes Of Madness (2005)
No strangers to epic concepts and epic music, Coheed really stepped up their game and delivered their finest work with this album. Its 72-minute running length never seems overly dragged out, with every moment essential to the full picture.
The Stooges, Raw Power (1973)
As rough and ready as it is loaded with energy and anger, Raw Power is a singular release that could have perhaps only emerged at the moment in time that it did. An essential record when it comes to the existence of punk rock, it has lost none of its edge over the decades.
blink-182, Enema Of The State (1999)
Showing flashes of a more serious side in amongst the silliness, blink’s third effort is as lively, catchy and downright addictive as it gets. Their later ambition may have served them well, but they’ve never bettered this for pure fun.
Bad Religion, Suffer (1988)
Lauded by NOFX’s Fat Mike and Parkway Drive’s Winston McCall as an epoch-changing punk record, Suffer really does deliver where it matters. Angry and catchy in equal measure, it’s the perfect vessel for delivering Bad Religion’s diatribes against a broken society.
Iron Maiden, The Number Of The Beast (1982)
Featuring Bruce Dickinson’s debut, this is the record that took Maiden from a decent metal band into the leagues of greatness, and while challengers to this collection have appeared in their discography since none have bettered it.
Thrice, The Artist In The Ambulance (2003)
Boasting a more polished sound and easing up on the punkier side of things worked out well for Thrice. With stronger hooks making the emotion on display that much more potent, this record exists in a unique space between genres that might lay claim to it, and thrillingly so.
Alexisonfire, Crisis (2006)
Arguably the work of one of Canada’s finest exports, Crisis was the record Alexisonfire were always trying to make. With the aggression amped up and the melodies supercharged, it’s a peerless example of post-hardcore executed with uncompromising integrity.
Taking Back Sunday, Louder Now (2006)
Louder Now is the record that really took Taking Back Sunday to the next level, and deservedly so. Packed with anthems that would all sound at home on the radio, it’s a perfect pop-rock record that ticks all the right boxes without ever straying into cynicism.
Tool, Lateralus (2001)
There’s a mere sliver between this and 1996’s Ænima, but Tool’s third album is their most exploratory and in that, their most fascinating. That it manages to be as weird as it is while being loaded with riffs that lodge in your soul, is testament to their masterful songwriting.
Nine Inch Nails, The Fragile (1999)
Proving Billy Corgan didn’t have the monopoly on ‘epic’ Trent Reznor went the same way with Nine Inch Nails’ two-disc third album and delivered something extraordinary. Experimental, hooky and densely layered, it’s a record that stands alone.
Mr Bungle, California (1999)
Say what you will about Mike Patton’s boundless creativity and seemingly endless thirst for ‘side-projects’ away from Faith No More (or is that a side-project itself at this stage?), but Mr Bungle always stands out as special, showcasing a brain on fire with ideas and imagination, captured brilliantly here on the band’s final record.
Faith No More, The Real Thing (1989)
Returning with new vocalist Mike Patton, Faith No More had never sounded better. Recorded before they became a more experimental entity, it’s wall to wall bangers that blend rock, metal and a little funk to perfect affect.
Jimmy Eat World, Clarity (1999)
Having hinted at greatness on their earlier releases, on Clarity Jimmy Eat World flawlessly realised their sound, and it’s one that is as fragile as it is gripping. Rife with hooks and aching with the emotion of Jim Adkins’ voice, it’s emo at its most beautiful.
No Doubt, Tragic Kingdom (1995)
No Doubt had been banging around for a while before suddenly becoming global superstars, and all thanks to this album and its singles. Showcasing Gwen Stefani’s walloping voice, it makes for a great sun-soaked, ska-pop-rock good time.
Refused, The Shape Of Punk To Come: A Chimerical Bombination In 12 Bursts (1998)
Redefining what punk rock could be before bowing out for more than a decade, Refused made a record that would go down in history as one of the most daring of its age. And come on, it has New Noise on it, one of the most undeniable anthems ever.
Bathory, Under The Sign Of The Black Mark (1987)
Like Sabbath before them, Swedish black metal pioneers Bathory’s first six albums are essential, all with creative character and influential importance of their own. But it was on the pitch black Under The Sign… that mainman Quorthon truly nailed his black art. Atmospheric, icy, brutal and fine-tuning the evil darkness of the band’s first two releases into something genuinely overpowering, it is a masterclass in Satanic majesty.
Baroness, Yellow & Green (2012)
Even in a body of work as glittering and near-flawless as Baroness’, Yellow & Green stands as a towering monument to the band’s deep well of creativity. So vast it needed two discs to contain it all, it is a marvellous, beautiful journey through rock music at its most intelligent and articulate, a celebration of the band’s skill and craft.
Cradle Of Filth, Cruelty And The Beast (1998)
Cradle Of Filth weren’t exactly playing around on their earlier full-lengths, but it was on this one that their epic black metal matured. The production might be pants, but there’s no denying the power of these songs.
twenty one pilots, Vessel (2013)
Though featuring a handful of tracks from their previous full-length rerecorded, Vessel demonstrated to the world what twenty one pilots were capable of. Genre-hopping like it was going out of style, this is truly the work of masters in their element.
Code Orange, Forever (2017)
Slamming together elements of metal and hardcore and doing so with a humbling ruthlessness sets this album apart from the masses. It proved that Code Orange were not afraid to step outside of such boxes only makes for a stronger record.
The Promise Ring, Very Emergency (1999)
The Milwaukee emo quartet didn’t put a creative foot wrong in their initial tenure at the tail end of the ‘90s, but this, their third record, saw them distill their best qualities into one joyously timeless, pop-inflected classic.
Cannibal Corpse, Tomb Of The Mutilated (1992)
It opens with Hammer Smashed Face. What, you need more? Building on the nastiness of their first two records the death metal squad upped the ante across the board to deliver a horrifying — and genre-defining — classic.
Helmet, Betty (1994)
Though experimenting a little (and to their betterment) Betty is still dominated by Helmet’s signature sound, and it’s a beast of a record. Massive rolling riffs, squalls of unearthly noise and gloriously nonsensical lyrics make for an unmissable collection.
Shellac, 1000 Hurts (2000)
Steve Albini and co. cranked up the nastiness, unapologetic oddball tendencies and sharpened the edges of their inimitably serrated sonic assault for their third one. Approach with caution.
The Prodigy, The Fat Of The Land (1997)
The album that truly established The Prodigy as the leaders of their field, The Fat Of The Land is an electronic music classic. Boasting the likes of Smack My Bitch Up, Breathe, and Firestarter it’s quality from front to back.
Rammstein, Mutter (2001)
Thickening and opening up their sound, Rammstein got big on Mutter, and it was the best thing they could have done. Titanic mechanised riffs, Till Lindeman’s epic vocals and occasional orchestrations all helped paint a gigantic sonic canvas.
Black Sabbath, Master Of Reality (1971)
Home to some of Sabbath’s finest moments, their third full-length captured them tuning down even lower to make for an even creepier and more brutish sound. They may have come close, but never have they bettered it.
Deftones, White Pony (2000)
Having been erroneously lumped in with the nu-metal movement, Deftones proved their mettle by stepping outside of the box they had built for themselves and making a diverse, daring and thrilling full-length that guaranteed their longevity.
Jawbreaker, 24 Hour Revenge Therapy (1994)
Few can transform their pain into poetic punk rock like Blake Schwarzenbach does. Here, he did so on a towering set of songs, filled with hurt and heartache, alongside that inescapable sense of hope that kills as much as it shines slivers of light into the darkness.
Murder City Devils, In Name And Blood (2000)
Spencer Moody and his grizzled Seattle cohorts hit their artistic peak on this not-a-drop-spilled third outing, oozing atmosphere, pain, catharsis and cemented their place as cult heroes.
Queens Of The Stone Age, Songs For The Deaf (2002)
With Dave Grohl behind the drum kit, Queens Of The Stone Age’s third record got a kick in the arse from the get go. An eclectic collection with a sly sense of humour that is teeming with classic Josh Homme riffs, it demonstrated that they would not be put in any boxes.
Rise Against, Siren Song Of The Counter Culture (2004)
Another record that served to establish a band that had already been making some impressive waves, Siren Song… was the apotheosis of everything they had been trying to achieve to that point. Punk rock, socially conscious, and perfect.
Incubus, Make Yourself (1999)
In ways moving away from their roots and definitively getting more anthemic and catchier with it, Make Yourself caught Incubus in a state of flux, but one in which they really found their feet. A little nu metal, a little alternative metal, a little funk, but altogether compelling.
Marilyn Manson, Mechanical Animals (1998)
And then Mazza decided to get weird. Very much following David Bowie’s muse, after delivering the riotous Antichrist Superstar Marilyn took a left turn and in doing so delivered the most inventive and essential record in his discography.
Electric Wizard, Dopethrone (2000)
“It was just pure hate,” Electric Wizard frontman Jus Oborn once told us of Dopethrone. “We just wanted to make the most disgusting, foul, putrid record that anyone has ever recorded. We camped out at the studio, so it was literally just wake up, consume as much fucking drugs as possible, and then just start jamming.” Job done. An angrier, more violent sequel to 1998’s excellent Come, My Fanatics…, Electric Wizard didn’t just get heavier on Dopethrone, they got nastier.
Limp Bizkit, Chocolate Starfish And The Hot Dog Flavoured Water (2000)
The simple act of turning everything up — bigger riffs, bigger choruses, bigger beats — made Limp Bizkit’s third effort leap ahead of its predecessors. Yes, it still possesses some of the silliest lyrics ever recorded, but it gets by on its charms regardless.
The Wonder Years, Suburbia I’ve Given You All And Now I’m Nothing (2011)
The creative highlight of the Philly gang’s output, marking the peak of their ascent from pop-punk hopefuls to outright scene leaders. What came next for The Wonder Years hit similar levels of quality, but traded some of this album’s charm, edging into over-earnest territory.
Avenged Sevenfold, City Of Evil (2005)
Moving away from the heavier and more metalcore sounds of their earlier releases proved to the best step Avenged Sevenfold could make given the result is City Of Evil. More refined, dynamic, and melodic it’s a truly classic rock album that is proving to stand the test of time well.
Gojira, From Mars To Sirius (2005)
When this album arrived it did so with the force of colliding planets. Overloaded with riffs so big they almost defy comprehension it’a a monstrous collection that made it very clear that in Gojira, France had a band ready to rival the likes of High On Fire and Mastodon.
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