It is the quintessential Rush album. It's the album that ALL Rush fans can agree on (along with Moving Pictures). It's an amazing journey through the first side (the song 2112) with its heavy beginning mellow middle and heavy end. Side two gives us five truly great songs. Like I said the quintessential album.
2. "Hemispheres" - Rush
Quite often Hemispheres is overlooked due to the fact it came out on the heels of 2112. I think that this is a much underrated album and one of Rush's very best. It continues the style of 2112 as the album contains a single, epic song broken into chapters as the first half of the album (Cygnus X-1, Book II: Hemispheres) while the second half contains two more conventionally-executed tracks ("Circumstances", "The Trees"), then is rounded out by the nine-and-a-half-minute instrumental, "La Villa Strangiato" (being one of the best rock instrumentals of all time).
3. "Moving Pictures" - Rush
Being the biggest seller of the bands career most people who have heard of Rush know this album the best and it's signature song "Tom Sawyer". One can see why this album was so popular as "Tom Sawyer" is a powerful opener followed by "Red Barchetta", a catchy melodic rock vehicle, while "YYZ" is considered a masterpiece instrumental. "Limelight" is amazing as it looks on how fame is achieved and how it intrudes on ones personal life. Side two starts with "The Camera Eye" and at 11 minutes it is (as of now) the last epic song from Rush. "Witch Hunt" is a dark gloomy song which looks at human beings in ability to see people for who they are due to prejudice and bigotry. The albums wrapped up by "Vtial Signs" a great song.
4. "Power Windows" - Rush
Keyboards and Synthesizers were nothing knew to Rush when this album came out as they had been using them for 10 years, however this is the album that brought them to their peak with numerous layers and textures. It is definitely an 80's sounding album due to this fact. But damn is it good! It has a recurring theme of power - be it the overt (nuclear weapons) or personal (frustration at one's lack of power). A very melodic and passionate album is has one of my favorite solos by Alex Lifeson on "The Big Money"
5. "Voyageur" - Enigma
The best album by Enigma for me. Voyageur has nothing is common with the first two albums by Enigma which were the biggest sellers for them and had the most exposure publicly. I feel that enigma has only become better with each release and while not the popular sellers like the first two albums this album is such a good album that I feel it is overlooked especially by people who claim to be Enigma fans. If you like wonderful textures with dance beats and ambient over tones along with some nice male and female vocals, then this is for you and I suggest you check it out.
6. "Ride the Lightning" - Metallica
This is the album that did it all for the extreme metal movement. Metallica's second album was a definite change from their ground breaking first album that this is almost like a debut. This is when Metallica was picked up by Elektra records and promoted to rock star status by the insiders (it took the public a little while longer). This was the start of a long career that would see Metallica become one of the biggest bands in rock history and paved the way for other bands to be picked up by major labels.
7. "Reign In Blood" - Slayer
This is the album that is universally considered to be one of the top 3 classics of the Thrash Metal genre. Anyone who is into extreme music who doesn't own this album isn't really into extreme music. With ten tracks of pure speed and adrenaline, it's so intense that at 29 total minutes you're left exhausted but wanting to hear it again and again. Musically it is so good that Slayer has been trying to recapture that essence for the last 22 years and have ended up simply plagiarizing themselves in subsequent releases.
8. "Apollo Atmospheres & Soundtracks" - Brian Eno
This is a great ambient album with a few guitar solos thrown in. That's a simple way of explaining it but its true. The other side to that is it's very mellow and has some great textures. The solos are individual songs that are very melodic and inspiring. This album is another wonderfully mellow album that takes you full circle from beginning to end.
9. "Ocean Machine : Biomech" - Devin Townsend
Devin Townsend is one of the most talented rock musicians around. He is an excellent signer and guitarist but the man can write songs as well. He got his start as lead singer for Steve Vai's band at age 19. Ocean Machine is an album that I would define as on the border between hard rock and heavy metal. One of the things about music that hits me is passion and Devin gives you a ton of that here. I've turned even people who aren't into heavy music on to this album and they love it. This album is a grower. Even after you've heard it 100 times you'll still be wanting more. It's that good.
Into Forever is an album of ambient sounds mixed in with beautiful guitar harmonies. Some have reviewed it as sappy but I find it soothing and passionate. Not may albums give you the all the ambience with all the structure and melody rolled into one. An instant favorite of mine.