Top 10 Concept Albums Ever

The best concept albums ever, as voted by you, makes for an awesome weekend playlist. Listen to the winners right here.

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What are the best concept albums of all time? That's what we asked Ultimate Guitar readers in our poll this week.

Concept albums take records to another level, where art and music almost combine with literature and storytelling to reach a whole new level of creativity. Sometimes it can seem indulgent, and other times it works with such mastery that you can't help but be wowed with the result.

This is list is full of examples of when a concept album really works to make a body of art that only works when you hear it from start to end. That's the mark of a great concept album: it survives as a whole, making the sum greater than its parts.

It's interesting to note which albums kept their place in the top 10, compared to the last time we ran this question in 2012 - the Who, QOTSA, Tool, Mastodon, Dream Theater and Pink Floyd all stayed up there. Let's see if they stand the test of time.

What's your personal favourite concept album ever? Let us know in the comments. Meanwhile, enjoy this incredible weekend playlist!

10. "Thick as a Brick" by Jethro Tull

With the album art packaged as a newspaper cover, "Thick as a Brick" is a single-track which spans the length of the full album. So really, this is the greatest concept single ever.

9. "The Amory Wars" by Coheed and Cambria

A story set in Heaven's Fence, a fictional galaxy where the characters Coheed and Cambria battle against the Archmage. The album tied in with a series of comics.

8. "Colors" by Between the Buried and Me

An ambitious concept album which glues wildly different genres together in what the band described as "adult contemporary progressive death metal." If you think that's original, just wait until you hit play.

7. "Lateralus" by Tool

A glorious reinterpretation of Fibonacci's famous Golden Ratio, where drum beats and guitar rhythms explore polyrhythms in harmony with lyrics that explore humanity's incredible awareness of the universe.

6. "Tommy" by The Who

The story of a boy who overcomes severe disabilities and hardships to become a Messiah-like figure with a love for pinball.

5. "Crack the Skye" by Mastodon

A deeply spiritual record which travels through the universe on an ethereal plane. Never has so much metal travelled through so many wormholes in time and space.

4. "The Downward Spiral" by Nine Inch Nails

The protagonist, loosely based on NIN frontman Trent Reznor, sees their life go on a downward spiral through all of lives vices, to a bitter end.

3. "Metropolis Pt.2: Scenes From a Memory" by Dream Theater

An ambitious sequel to a song which played part 1 to this story where a man goes into hypnosis, only to learn about a past life which leads towards a thrilling ending.

2. "Songs for the Deaf" by Queens of the Stone Age

This merry wagon of rock songs are glued together as songs that appear on a radio during a drive across America to see the Joshua tree. It's a loose connection, but qualifies the record as perfect driving material.

1. "The Wall" by Pink Floyd

Roger Waters' stunning live show started as an elaborate concept album based on the character Pink who gradually becomes locked away from society within a metaphorical wall. It's a remarkable record, and one that Waters continues to tour today with fantastic live effects.

Here's a live version as the original album isn't available for free streaming:

That's the end of our list of the top 10 concept albums. If you liked this list, let us know below, and hit "like" to share the page and give your friends a musical education. Enjoy the playlist over the weekend!

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259 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    azrael667
    This list proves that UG users use every excuse to put QOTSA on any list.
    connor494
    personally i think its ridiculous that the album, as good as it is, has been voted the 2nd best concept album of all time, i mean come on its barely a concept album let alone one of the best
    s7peterson
    yeah! where the crap is Seventh son of a Seventh Son!?? Where's the Maiden!!??
    UniformRecon
    Yeah, even though I love ...Like Clockwork, I saw that someone put it in the voting pool, which is absolutely ridiculous.
    KerNeL_KLuTcH
    this, I mean it's a good album, but top concept album no. UG do you even Prog? QOTSA is one of my favorite modern bands but the bandwagon from Like Clockwork is annoying.
    seance
    Hey man, the users dig their moderate cheese rock. Let them have it. High fives?! Ok
    Gexzilla
    For some reason Crack the skye and Lateralus always appear together on UG's top-10 lists..
    TheRevLives
    Glad to see BTBAM, would of been cool to see Kezia too.
    jsp16
    No 'Operation Mindcrime' by Queensryche makes me a sad panda
    GuitarRhiger
    I didn't know Kezia had a concept, what is it?
    FirstMateJepeto
    "There are two ways to explain the concept behind "Kezia": the literal meaning of it and the deeper meaning behind it. The simple explanation is that you have three characters on the album who all describe a certain situation from their point of view, which is the execution of a woman. We chose a priest, a prison guard who's also the executioner and the woman in question, Kezia. They all have three songs to tell their story. In the first song they paint a general picture, the second track explains how the character feels connected to Kezia and the third one is their view on the shooting of Kezia. The last song on the album brings us as a band into the picture, although the lyrics are written in the form of Kezia's last words. The deeper meaning of the concept is the gradual downfall of our society. We tried to make the lyrics timeless, so the story could be situated in any time period. There are also political and social critical messages in it. Not that we bluntly say that we hate Tony Blair or George Bush, but more in general comments on the fact that religion and power are getting more intwined every day. The album is also about the responsibility that everyone has as a member of our society. It's your civil duty to act when you need to." - Rody Walker (found on Wikipedia)
    travislausch
    That's a really good concept that I never really picked up on. Thanks for that!
    mrageinthename
    Thursday-War All The Time....nowhere to be found on this site. Did ANYONE actually listen to the album? It was truly amazing.
    fortytew
    ive listened to that album, not many people have. what its really missing is THE MARS VOLTA DELOUSED IN THE COMATORIUM
    osiris12
    I heard a couple songs on that album when it first came out. Some pretty good shit, but I didn't know that was a concept album. Then again I'm not a huge fan of Thursday
    EpsilonX
    I know i'm in the minority, but i've always thought Colors was overrated. Not saying it's a bad album, just overrated
    Deliriumbassist
    The blurb for Coheed could have done them a bit more justice- The Amory Wars is told across 5 albums, has a 2 album 'origin' story, and other albums exploring some characters further in depth. They are very much a concept band.
    DEG_III
    Yeah, UG made "The Amory Wars" sound like an album title. In terms of the depth of concept and real artistic merit, Coheed are fantastic.
    SaltyMcnaulty
    I agree, as a die-hard Coheed fan, I was like "WTF?! That's not a singular album. Since ALL their albums are concepts, and even though IKSSE:3 is my favorite, their best album is subjective.
    EarlofSandvich
    Good list. I would have liked to see Rush on it though
    rockfreak611
    The original Top 10 Concept Albums list from last year was SO much better than this one. UG seems to be running out of ideas for Wednesday questions and it's starting to get annoying. 2112 was on the original one, as were The Wall, Animals, Dark Side, and Wish You Were Here all listed together as the #1 entry. Far better list than this one from today.http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/news/ente...
    KerNeL_KLuTcH
    hahaha UG deleted the page, wow, I guess they are embarrassed.
    kratos379
    I think the link just went bad. I searched it again and found it. The old list also had Green Day and the Beatles, who are nowhere to be seen on this list.
    metaldalz
    THIS!!! This wan an OLD question!!! And the other list was WAAAAAY Better!!!
    robo37
    But the last one didn't include the best concept album of all time... The Downward Spiral.
    The_Dayman
    Personally I'd rather not have a Wednesday question than have it repeated. Don't have one until you come up with something new, at least.
    peachesenregali
    Rush have never released a concept album. Why do people refuse to see this? 2112 was 1 track out of a 5 track album. The other 4 had nothing to do with the concept of the first track.
    Machallideth
    Clockwork Angels is absolutely a concept album. Why do people automatically jump to 2112 when mentioning Rush as a concept album.
    Maiden95
    Absolutely, Clockwork Angels is a concept record and a damn good one at that. 2112 has a concept piece on it, but it is not a concept album, as good as it may be. We may as well include both A Farewell to Kings and Hemispheres for sharing Cygnus.
    travislausch
    It's not even their best epic.
    third(-)eye
    Agreed, Hemispheres is a much better song as a whole, IMO.
    Maiden95
    Does La Villa Strangiato count? Probably my favorite Rush track.. scratch that.. maybe my all time favorite track.
    AlexRibeiro333
    La Villa is also my favorite concept Rush song, but not my favorite instrumental though(YYZ).
    third(-)eye
    2112 isn't even a concept album. The songs are in no way related. It's just that the first song is half the album.