5 Great Metal Second Albums

Black Sabbath, 1970; photo by Chris Walter/WireImage

They call it the sophomore slump. Your band killed it with your debut — you guys had your whole lives to that point to make that album, after all. You won a growing legion of fans, were tapped for a few highly coveted tours opening for big-name bands, and now the metal world is watching. You’ve got that record deal you dreamed of, and now the pressure is on. Many bands crack in this moment, delivering a second LP that, simply put, doesn’t live up. But the great ones? They come through, matching, if not topping, their first offering, and thereby securing their places in the headbanging pantheon. Read on for five of the greatest second albums in heavy-metal history.

Black Sabbath – Paranoid

Recorded just four months after the game-changing release of their self-titled debut, Black Sabbath’s second full-length was a defiant statement of boundless creativity in the face of anyone who thought they might just have gotten lucky the first time out. “War Pigs”?! “Iron Man”?! “Hand of Doom”?! The title track?! And just when you think you’ve got these blokes pegged, the mellow, trippy “Planet Caravan”?! Paranoid is a greatest-hits album in and of itself, and one of the finest metal LPs ever.

Metallica – Ride the Lightning

Yeah, Kill ‘Em All rules, but there’s no denying that it’s a primitive blast of youthful thrash aggression — which is part of the reason why we all love it so much. With its follow-up, Metallica took an almost unimaginable evolutionary leap into epic, politically charged heavy metal complete with symphonic structures and classical-music influences.

Tool – Ænima

Tool’s Opiate EP and debut full-length, Undertow, are brooding alt-metal classics, but with their second album, Maynard James Keenan, Adam Jones, Justin Chancellor and Danny Carey reached beyond darkness and towards something transcendent. Psychedelic, visionary and progressive, it marks the point when Tool truly became Tool.

Slipknot – Iowa

Fans who thought that Slipknot’s raging self-titled debut was the heaviest thing they’d ever heard had no idea what was in store when the Nine dropped their sophomore album. With outrageously ferocious cuts like “Disasterpiece,” “People = Shit” and “The Heretic Anthem,” Iowa is virtually death metal in its unrelenting extremity and disturbingly real in its dark emotion.

Mastodon – Leviathan

Mastodon’s debut LP, Remission, rips, but the Atlantan quartet had bigger fish to fry. With Leviathan, they stepped off the plank into the much deeper waters, crafting a full-fledged concept album based around Herman Melville’s classic novel, Moby-Dick. Did they catch their white whale? Maybe not, but they came awful close with this stormy, ambitious masterpiece.