What can I say? This is by far my favorite album of all time. More of a "funeral" doom album than anything and without a doubt the heaviest release by the band, 'Forest of Equilibrium' introduced to me my love of slides and string bends. The music on this album encompasses everything from colossal heaviness to autumnal beauty. I was lucky enough to have purchased this when it was released domestically here in the U.S. over twenty years ago at age 16 and it hasn't lost an ounce of its magic since. Unfortunately I cannot say the same for the band themselves but nonetheless, 'Forest of Equilibrium' will be the album I take to my grave.
2) Celtic Frost - Morbid Tales/Emperor's Return (1984/85)
Back when I was but a wee lad, way before "doom" became a legitimate genre and way before that genre gave way to a various number of "sub"-genres including "stoner doom" and "funeral doom", this was about as slow and heavy as it got, not to mention that the vocals of Tom Warrior were pretty much the most brutal and barbaric thing I had heard yet. Almost 30 years later and this hasn't gotten old yet. Technically, this isn't an album, but a re-release of the band's first two ep's. Nevertheless, my first copy of this was on cassette with both ep's bearing the cover you see to the right.
3) Pestilence - Consuming Impulse (1989)
Not only does this boast one of the greatest vocal performances by a death metal band, but there's not a blast in sight. For my money, 'Consuming Impulse' has probably the greatest sounding down picking of any metal album, death metal or other, not to mention the absolutely stellar production by Harris Johns. To this day, no one has been able to make good on the promise of this album, not even the band themselves.
4) Bolt Thrower - Realm of Chaos - Slaves to Darkness (1989)
Without a doubt, the absolute HEAVIEST fucking album ever!! Had Basil Poledouris been unavailable to compose the score for the original Conan the Barbarian soundtrack, Bolt Thrower would have been the ideal replacement pick. Ungodly.
5) Immolation - Dawn of Possession (1991)
In all likelihood, this is the most hauntingly evil death metal album ever. Rich with gloomy atmosphere and never boring, 'Dawn of Possession' is a landmark in northeastern U.S. death metal.
6) Incantation - Onward to Golgotha (1992)
Along with 'Dawn of Possession', 'Onward to Golgatha' is a testament to that faction of northeastern U.S. death metal that chose not to inseminate each song with breakdown riffs. This album is about as oppressive as it gets. This is easily the soundtrack to a journey through some infernal Greek underworld complete with colossal doom riffs and cavernous atmospherics, this is about as evil as it gets. Legend.
7) Sabbat - Dreamweaver: Reflections of our Yesterdays (1989)
Sick vocals, stellar lyrics and concept overall and just plain awesome death/thrash.
8) Entombed - Left Hand Path (1990)
The album album that opened up the floodgates and ushered fourth the first wave of Swedish death metal. I can honestly say, without a doubt, that not one of them came close to capturing the cavernous brilliance of this album. The band would release one more solid death metal album before abandoning much of the gloomy atmospherics in favor of a more classic rock oriented approach. Fine by me, but 'Left hand Path' remains the one absolutely essential album within their entire catalog.
9) Carcass - Symphonies of Sickness (1989)
Another band that's been to aped to death yet no one has managed to come close to the eerie brilliance of this album. Smoking a joint, opening up the lyric sheet and reading along with each song is sure to blow your mind. While there was indeed a handful of early death and grind bands that were obsessed with gore and horror films, Carcass to it to the extreme by throwing in tons of wordplay and black humor not to mention impossibly technical medical terminology to boot. The pioneering dual vocals of Jeff Walker and Bill Steer are still the best of that style and the Steer's morbid riffing is among the creepiest you'll ever hear in death metal.
10) Therion - Of Darkness (1991)
Despite some of the thrashier sections on this album, 1991's 'Of Darkness' is one of the most "evil" sounding records to crawl fourth from out of the northern wastes of Scandinavia. Cristofer Johnsson's vocals on this record are my absolute favorite by any death metal vocalist before or since and the undeniable Celtic Frost vibe that coats the album is the cherry on top. Therion would release one more album in this vein and then it was all symphony-city from there on out. Not bad in it's own right but my preference lies with the band's older material. Cavernous gloom never sounded so good!
Carnage - Dark Recollections
Accidental Suicide - Deceased
Obituary - Cause of Death
Darkthrone - Soulside Journey