10 Best Double Albums
The 45 single was the ideal companion to the 3-minute pop song in the ‘50s and ‘60s, but the rise of the double album in the late ‘60s proved to be a godsend to the world of progressive rock. The elongated time the two pieces of vinyl provided was exactly what the wildly inventive (and long) arrangements of the prog world called for. Groups like Yes embraced the medium, making double albums a common sight in record stores from Duluth to Denmark.
Heavy metal and rock artists have gone the double album route as well, with UFO’s ‘Strangers in the Night' and Iron Maiden’s ‘Live After Death’ among the classic live double albums released over the years. But there are also some crucial studio efforts released in the double album format. Noisecreep thought it was about time we took a look at the 10 Best Double Albums to help guide your music shopping.
“The only way I can describe it is [Pink Floyd’s] 'The Wall' meets [Alice in Chains'] 'Dirt' on steroids,” said Stone Sour singer Corey Taylor in an interview before the release of the ‘House of Gold & Bones’ albums, and he wasn’t far off. Produced by David Bottrill (Tool), tracks like ‘My Name Is Alien’ and ‘Do Me a Favor’ not only help thread the album’s storyline together; they’re also killer songs in their own right.
Dismissed by some of Baroness’ fans as not “metal enough” upon its release, it isn’t surprising that an album as layered and nuanced as ‘Yellow & Green’ would go over some people’s heads. Throughout the album’s 18 cuts, the Georgia-based combo pulls influence from almost every corner of the heavy side of hard rock, and manages to make it all sound effortless. ‘Yellow & Green’ should be experienced on a good pair of headphones for maximum effect.
Grindcore terrorists Pig Destroyer come in next on our 10 Best Double Albums list with 2004’s fittingly titled ‘Terrifyer.’ The first disc of the album features 21 relentless blasts of grind and punk-crusted metal, but it’s the second disc -- recorded in DVD-Audio and mixed with 5.1 surround sound -- solely featuring a doom masterpiece called ‘Natasha,’ that lands it here. Clocking in at over 37 minutes, ‘Natasha’ is the stuff nightmares are made of.
Recorded by Coheed and Cambria in the span of seven months, ‘The Afterman’ albums center around a character named Cyrus Amory and the band's musical experimentations are as adventurous as its storyline. The first Coheed album to include bassist Zach Cooper, the group brings everything from classic rock leaning guitar anthems and pop-minded vocal hooks to orchestral moments to ‘The Afterman.’ When it comes to high concept songwriting, Coheed and Cambria are in an elite class of artists.
Divided into two chapters -- ‘The Glass Prison’ and the title track -- Dream Theater’s ‘Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence’ explores themes of personal struggle, including alcoholism, mental illness and faithlessness. Sure, it’s all heady stuff, but the New York prog-metallers rise to the occasion with some of the best songwriting of their career, including the album’s title cut, which even at 42 minutes never sounds tired of itself. That’s not a feat for mere mortal metal acts.
Boasting songs such as ‘B.Y.O.B.,’ ‘Kill Rock ‘n Roll’ and ‘Lonely Day,’ the track listings on the 1-2 punch known as ‘Hypnotize/Mezmerize’ almost reads like a Greatest Hits collection. Released during the height of System of a Down’s dominance on modern rock radio, the albums are as politically charged and stylistically varied as any of their other releases, but packaged as a double album, ‘Hypnotize/Mezmerize’ is perhaps the band’s boldest statement and a natural fit for the 10 Best Double Albums.
For their ‘Precambrian’ opus, the Ocean called on a cast of guest musicians including members of Converge, Integrity, Cave In and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Based around the Precambrian era, an early period in the formation of Earth, each disc on the album has a distinct vibe. Disc one (‘Hadean/Archaean’) is the heavier of the two, with the second disc (‘Proterozoic’) having more of a moodier, layered feel to it all. Either way, ‘Precambrian’ is a winning proposition.
The most influential albums in the power metal canon, Helloween’s ‘Keeper of the Seven Keys’ saga was originally meant to come out as a double album package, but their label pushed back and separated them into two volumes. Either way, each record is stuffed to the gills with one stellar track after the other, including would-be genre standards like ‘I Want Out,’ ‘Future World,’ and the show stopping ‘Eagle Fly Free.’ The word “essential” comes to mind.
With its balance of melodic hard rock, prog and traditional metal, 1988’s ‘Operation: Mindcrime’ helped make Queensryche arena stars. The album backed the notion that forward-thinking songwriting didn’t have to be exclusively for dudes who worked at music stores. It was also the first time most metalheads across the globe ever heard an opera of any kind. If the second of the two ‘Mindcrime’ albums, recorded years later, was as strong as its predecessor, Queensryche would have topped this list.
Following up ‘Appetite for Destruction’ was a monumental task, and while Guns N' Roses didn’t top it, the ‘Use Your Illusion’ albums are still classics in their own right. Released simultaneously in 1991, the records took the top two slots on the Billboard Album Chart and went on to sell over 15 million copies, combined. This two-disc set allowed the band to expand their musical palette, with songs like the epic 'November Rain' and covers of 'Knockin' on Heaven's Door' and 'Live and Let Die' turning up. Years later, the artistic letdown of ‘Chinese Democracy’ would only cement the brilliance of the ‘Use Your Illusion’ lineup of GNR.