The golden age of rock and roll tended to cater more towards the three minute single. As much as it might have seemed like the dawning of a new age of music, most artists were just about making quick and dirty music that made you want to dance. The album on the other hand is a bit of a different story.
Instead of being just your average collection of singles, a lot of these acts had a lot more to say within the span of the time they had on a slab of vinyl or CD. Rather than just throw together a bunch of tracks in the hopes that one of them would get picked up by radio, these masterclasses of sound design set up an entire musical landscape in your mind whenever you put them on, taking you to a place beyond just throwing it in the stereo.
Hell, some of these records proved to be so good that the band were able to eat their cake too, as some bits and pieces wound up on the radio regardless. No matter what kind of way you prefer to hear it, these records were always meant to be run from cover to cover. You can cherrypick your favorite tracks, but you'd be doing it wrong.
10. The Downward Spiral - Nine Inch Nails
Before Nine Inch Nails, the entire industrial boom wasn't exactly setting the world on fire. Even though Trent Reznor's first album Pretty Hate Machine had done decent numbers, it definitely wasn't seeing the same success as acts like Guns N Roses or Nirvana around the same time. Instead of doubling down on more commercial material, the Downward Spiral sent you into the abyss of Reznor's mind.
Compared to the onslaught of hard-hitting songs on Hate Machine, this album is straight up masochistic in places, as Reznor dissects what it means to live as a hedonistic rockstar with no real moral compass to speak of. Though the song Closer eventually rocketed up the charts with its infectious dance beat, it only serves as one snapshot of the terror on display, from the thrash metal stomp of March of the Pigs to the blasphemous diatribe present on Heresy.
Once you take the time to let all of the elements sink in, the whole album runs as a pseudo-story of the titular Mr. Self Destruct, as he nullifies everything in his life only to look back on it after committing suicide towards the tail end of the album. While some artists might construct a feel good story to go along with their record, this is the kind of record that beats the sh*t out of you and then lets you really think about the horror that you just witnessed.