With decades of heavy metal and rock music at our fingertips, it’s hard to miss some of the biggest fails in music history. However, there are actually quite a few that bands and hardcore fans themselves have deemed a complete fail. Here are the top 12 worst rock and heavy metal albums in music history:
Worst Rock and Heavy Metal Albums Ever
Before we begin, it’s important to note that everyone has their own taste in music, and what may seem unlistenable to us may actually end up being one of your top favorite albums of all time.
1. Metallica – St. Anger
The only right start to this list would be a band that is equally hated as their worst albums. Metallica is the band most hated by its fans, and its album St. Anger is no exception.
Before getting to their musical failures, we must address the questionable acts they’ve carried out behind the scenes. From cutting their hair to suing Napster, there’s nothing that this band hasn’t done to gain the hate from its own fans and also rock and heavy metal fans worldwide.
Not only did the band split in 1991 after the release of their self-titled album Metallica, but their comeback was even worse than the split. Fans were eagerly awaiting their first album St. Anger after the band came back together, but literally everyone on Earth worst what they heard.
With producer Bob Rock playing bass, St. Anger boasts a hissing overall sound, tinny drums, and not a single guitar solo. The songs are harsh, directionless, and repellant enough that someday, some art school nerds might reclaim St. Anger as an avant-garde masterpiece.
2. Rush – Roll the Bones
The Roll the Bones album by Rush was an epic fail, and it was only because the band decided to venture out of their comfort genre and into the rap genre, which they aren’t good at.
The only half-good thing that came from this album was the title track which runs over five minutes long. Most of this track consists of a fantastic beat with great instrumental work from the power trio. Fans listening to the beginning of this song had high expectations for the end.
However, every good thing ends as Rush ruining the song’s last thirty seconds by deciding to try out a rap. It was that rhyme-busting that destroyed the entire song and gave fans a distaste for what was about to come with the rest of the Roll the Bones album.
There is no doubt that Roll the Bones was one of the most unique albums released by the band in the 90s. However, trying out something new wasn’t for everyone, and it certainly didn’t suit Rush. Nonetheless, we commend them for being brave enough to escape their genre.
3. Led Zeppelin – In Through the Out Door
Most people may be surprised to find In Through the Out Door by Led Zeppelin on this list. Although the album sold over seven million copies, it is still one of their worst works.
The issue with this album is that it sounded a little too soft or sanitized. The beats and instrumentals weren’t at the levels that we’re normally used to with Led Zeppelin. In fact, the band’s own members ultimately agreed that this probably wasn’t one of their finest works.
Jimmy Page himself deemed the album “a little soft” and went on to also reveal, “I wasn’t really keen on All My Love. I was a little worried about the chorus. I could just imagine people doing the wave and all of that. And I thought, That’s not us. That’s not us. In its place, it was fine, but I wouldn’t have wanted to pursue that direction in the future.”
4. Judas Priest – Turbo
From their debut in 1974, Judas Priest has created bangers left, right, and center. That being said, they tried a new technique on their album Turbo, which just didn’t sit right with listeners.
In fact, it was one of their worst albums that became the beginning of their downfall. Judas tried incorporating new wave synthesizers and glam-metal flourishes into their sound and overall image. And just like that, they no longer had the fanbase they had a lifetime ago.
Despite being a total flop of an album, it still produced three hits that some would deem a passing rate. “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll,” “Love Bites,” and “Freewheel Burning,” still remain in the rock and heavy metal hall of fame to this day, against all odds.
The band never again scored a platinum album and, come the ’90s, front man Rob Halford would leave and return. The band would later triumph and endure as heavy metal elder statesmen who still produce worthwhile, even great, new music.
5. Mötley Crüe – Generation Swine
If you’ve never heard of this band, we’re not surprised. Mötley Crüe was popular back in the Lollapalooza decade while fronted by vocalist John Corabi, but things soon took a turn.
Mötley Crüe’s original singer Vince Neil returned to the band, and not long after, the band scored a $25 million Electra contract. You would think that this would mean that it’s onwards and upwards from here. However, the worst albums they created was a slap in the face of their history.
Generation Swine is the Mötley Crüe’s bid to catch up with the dominant alternative rock of the day. It employs Nine Inch Nails-style industrial-metal beats and Collective Soul-style gloss-grunge production. However, they did this so poorly that you would think they’d stick to the basics.
Even before getting into the music, the album cover itself is so off-putting that you think ten times before buying it. The band members in business suits with pig masks in front of an American flag just ruins the entire vibe of your day because it looks very confusing.
6. AC/DC – Fly on the Wall
When AC/DC was first released, fans considered it a copy of their previous three albums. However, if that were the case, it would be much better than the mess they actually created.
However, Fly on the Wall also came right after 1983’s hitless Flick of the Switch. Fans were clamoring eagerly for the Fly on the Wall album, but instead, the record just delivered more of the same. As a result, humanity punished AC/DC by purchasing “only” a million copies.
The following year, AC/DC stepped back and came back by way of Who Made Who, a greatest-hits-style soundtrack for the Stephen King cult film Maximum Overdrive featuring the kickass original title track that reinvigorated both the band and its devotees with passion and fury.
7. T.S.O.L. – Hit and Run
T.S.O.L. struggled with its own identity as it tried to copy the style of Poison and other popular rock bands at the time. However, it failed miserably with Hit and Run.
T.S.O.L.’s Hit and Run is the end result of an intense hardcore punk squad that ended up returning with annihilated street cred, and a lifetime’s worth of mortifying band photos—not to mention an album absolutely no one could stomach, then or now.
In the past, True Sounds of Liberty had expanded its combustive punk roots to absorb gothic and death rock elements. Those moves worked, likely because they were artistically motivated, but Hit and Run was a grossly transparent attempt to sell out, only nobody was buying.
Soon after they realized the album was a hot mess, they regrouped and switched members to try to find a better vibe. They ended up creating a lot more records and actually became a popular band for quite some time. They’ve even toured with several other rock bands too.
8. Celtic Frost – Cold Lake
When band members themselves admit that an album sucked, it probably sucked really bad. That is exactly what happened with Switzerland’s metal band Celtic Frost with Cold Lake.
Celtic Frost tried to go glam, but it ended up backfiring. Up until the release of this album, they had consistently been growing and taking up the top spots in the heavy metal genre. However, as quickly as they went up the ladder, they came right back down as the album went live.
They probably thought they could copy Rush, who struggled with going hip-hop but actually did a lot better later on. However, they probably should’ve stuck with what they’re good at, considering they still have the blood of Celtic Frost’s mastermind Tom G. Warrior running in their veins.
“It was the absolute worst I could do in my lifetime,” Warrior once seethed, “[and] an utter piece of s—t, possibly the worst album ever created in heavy music.” The album has since gone out of print, and Tom G. Warrior vociferously aims to keep it that way.
9. Van Halen – Van Halen III
You would think that a self-titled album would mean it’s probably one of the greatest albums they’ve ever released, but this album fails to deliver on all fronts, visuals, and vocals.
Don’t be confused by the fact that this album is titled Van Halen III, as it was certainly not their third album. Although the band’s eleventh album, it introduces vocalist Gary Cherone to the band as the third lead singer, which is how the album got its title, Van Halen III.
From the get-go, David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar each define the concept of a hard rock act to follow. To fill the boots of those California party-metal icons with cold, dark, sober-minded Boston brooder Gary Cherone meant a sudden shift in elemental Van Halen chemistry.
However, the ill-fitting lyrics that were too political to enjoy left a bad taste for several listeners and hardcore fans of Van Halen. In fact, the album cover itself is so unappealing that you would think they’d at least try to promote a bad album instead of just leaving it as it is.
10. The Rolling Stones – Dirty Work
If you’re surprised to find The Rolling Stones on this list, don’t be. While they’ve created some true bangers, it shouldn’t be a surprise that in 20 years they’ve got one bad egg in the bunch. Everything was going well for the band up until the release of Dirty Work, a total mistake.
Recorded amidst escalating tensions between main writers Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, it resulted in some of the blandest songwriting, most brazen singing, and most bizarrely awkward styles of their career. Even Jagger acknowledges its triteness, telling Rolling Stone in 1989: “The album wasn’t that good. It was okay… The feeling inside the band was very bad, too.”
11. Queensryche – Operation: Mindcrime II
One of the biggest mistakes you can make as an artist is creating a sequel for an album that is already a top hit. It is almost always impossible to top something that has already topped the charts. As a result Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime II was one of the worst albums in history.
The absence of guitarist Chris DeGarmo, as does the lack of songwriting from guitarist Michael Wilton, hurts the whole thing. Those distinctions – alongside its uncomfortable recording process– make it feel like a cluttered mess that even a ton of Botox can’t fix.
12. Def Leppard – X
If there’s one thing we’ve realized by creating this list is that even the biggest artists can mess up and it would be the downfall of their careers. As a result, Def Leppard’s first studio album X is no exception, for it was the beginning and the end of their newly launched career.
A drastic departure from forebearer Euphoria, X sacrificed practically everything that made the band stand out in favor of a highly transparent attempt to fit into the early 2000s pop landscape. In other words, they went from being musical pyromaniacs to being a middle-aged boy band.
Justifiably, it disappointed commercially, and Def Leppard never recognized it in concert.