Heavy metal derives primarily from blues-based hard rock. However, when the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal arose in the mid-to-late ’70s, most of the blues aspects of heavy metal music were toned down in order to give way to a faster and even more aggressive sound. Nevertheless, before and after this change of style, some bands put out some great bluesy metal albums.
Here are Blues Rock Review’s top 10 bluesy metal albums.
10. Elf (1972)
Although not exactly a heavy metal album, at least by today’s standards, this overlooked record features the one singer who would become metal’s most iconic frontman, Ronnie James Dio. And, in addition to great blues rock, this work contains a few equally great proto-metal jams. A must-listen for fans of both genres.
9. I & Dog Days (2004) – Goatsnake
Goatsnake is an American doom metal band, (doom metal is a slower, heavier, and down-tuned subgenre of metal) with some blues influences. This is a compilation album that puts together their debut ep and first full-length work. It’s dark, heavy, but also bluesy and features an amazing cover of Free’s “Heartbreaker.” If you want some really heavy blues, you got it.
8. Vincebus Eruptum (1968) – Blue Cheer
Regarded by many music historians as the first heavy metal album ever, (even though this is disputed), this release took the world by storm by delivering a distorted sonic assault of heavy power blues. The fact is that few, at the time, played the blues with such ferocity as these three gentlemen and because of it, they put their names in history, as well in our list, of course.
7. The Devil And The Almighty Blues (2015)
This one is a hidden gem. Hailing from Norway, this band plays a mix of bluesy hard rock, doom metal, and psychedelia (this combination is often called stoner metal). The music is mostly slow, dark, and gloomy, providing sensations of obscure decay. It’s the very same mood some early delta blues give the listener. Enjoy this album with a bottle of some good old whiskey, preferentially.
6. Lucifuge (1990) – Danzig
Glenn Danzig, of horror-punk fame, incorporated many blues and rock & roll aspects in his solo work. This album is the best example of this great formula because even though the music and lyrics are mostly dark and satanic, the songs are incredibly catchy, making this record a satisfying and fun achievement, I must say.
5. South of Salem (2011) – Witch Mountain
Another hidden gem for our list, this female-fronted (at the time) doom metal band offers an album that is as bluesy as crushing heavy. Also, lyrics tend to dwell in the occult (as the album and band name suggest), reminding us that one common trait of blues and metal is the affinity with the supernatural. It’s a superb album that surely deserved more recognition.
4. Lock up the Wolves (1990) – Dio
The father of the horns makes another appearance in our list. Drifting away from the faster and more commercial formula of before, Dio takes a slower, bluesier, and harder approach here (even though there are still some high-speed tracks on the album). His voice is as great as usual and he’s backed by a very tight band, especially 18-year-old guitar player Rowan Robertson, that displays some mature and rich bluesy heavy rock playing. But don’t take my word for it, check out the album yourself.
3. Kingdom Come (1970) – Sir Lord Baltimore
A masterpiece from early metal unsung heroes. Guitarist Louis Dambra steals the show here by putting out one bluesy monster riff after another, with lots of distortion and power but, of course, the rhythm section, being so greatly handled, provides the needed support making sure that Dambra can fly with wind beneath his wings. But let’s not forget about the vocals, which are also performed with energetic passion. Do yourself a favor and add this album to your collection.
2. Led Zeppelin (1969)
Led Zeppelin needs no further introduction, but it’s important to evoke the fact that they were crucial to the development of what we call heavy metal today and their debut shows why. It combines incredible English folk, American blues, and hard rock. In addition, tracks like “Communication Breakdown” and “Dazed and Confused” are widely regarded as early heavy metal benchmarks. As a result, this album has elements that make it very enjoyable for either a blues or heavy metal fan and this speaks volumes about how good the mighty Zep is.
1. Black Sabbath (1970)
Although heavy music was being played before, Black Sabbath’s debut took it to the next level by playing even heavier and meaner and adding occult lyrics and imagery, influencing directly or indirectly pretty much every metal band that came after. However, make no mistake, this slow and doomy metal masterwork is also bluesy as hell. Bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward offered a bluesy foundation that highlighted guitarist Tony Iommi’s blues rooted colossal riffs and solos and Ozzy Osbourne’s high and wailing vocals. Ozzy, by the way, also played some great blues harmonica in the track “The Wizard”. Besides, it’s because of Sabbath that doom metal exists in the first place and sounds so bluesy. This is the ultimate heavy blues album, at its darkest and gloomiest best.