Top 10 Debut Rock Albums

What are the best debut albums of all time? Find out the results of this weeks poll here, and let us know what you think of the results.

Ultimate Guitar

What are the best debut rock albums of all time?

That's what we asked Ultimate Guitar readers this week, and it proved to be one of our most popular polls all year.

While many bands take two or three albums to really hit their stride, some of these artists managed to make a mark on both history and the wider music culture with these stunning debut records. Whether you like the band or not, it's hard to deny that every entry in this list has had a huge impact on popular culture - and many of them still sound brand new.

Let's dive into this week's playlist, and let us know what you think of the results in the comments. Enjoy!

10. System of a Down "System of a Down"

Before 1998, the nu-metal sound was all about Ross Robinson and his work with the likes of Korn. But amid any previous genre-defining work, System of a Down dived in and smashed apart any pre-conceptions about the new genre with a refreshingly barmy take on what metal could be.

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9. The Beatles "Please Please Me"

It's fruitless to describe the legacy that the Beatles went on to leave in popular music and beyond, but it's fair to say that their debut shook the foundations of pop music and what it meant to be a rock band. Before this album, performers and songwriters were two very different things - the Beatles were among the first to make the world see them as one and the same.

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8. Jimi Hendrix Experience "Are You Experienced?"

Jimi Hendrix was making all kinds of waves in the London underground before recording this debut album, but it took a collaboration with producer Chas Chandler to take his immense new rock ideas to tape. Along with his fellows in the experience - drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Noel Redding - Hendrix invented the sleaziest rock sound to date.

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7. The Doors "The Doors"

The Doors were originally signed to Columbia to record this debut, but found it difficult to secure a producer and moved on to Elektra where they finally found producer Paul Rothchild and engineer Bruce Botnick who helped shape their timeless recordings. They found room to innovate too; the album was released in both stereo and mono mixes at its launch.

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6. Alice in Chains "Facelift"

The first grunge album to be certified platinum. Alice in Chains were perfectly primed to ride the '90s grunge wave - in fact, they pretty much co-invented it. What's more amazing is that drummer Sean Kinney reportedly recorded all his parts with a broken hand.

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5. Metallica "Kill 'Em All"

Metallica remain one of the most authentically metal bands in existence, but this album almost wasn't to be. Tensions in the band could have forced the band apart, with guitarist Dave Mustaine reportedly at the center of many disputes - but he was replaced with Kirk Hammet, and they went on to write a definitive thrash metal record. Mustaine's contribution to their early songs was still credited, and he went on to form the equally-influential Megadeth.

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4. Guns N' Roses "Appetite for Destruction"

In a world where glam rock and hair metal was becoming an unsightly parody of itself, Guns N' Roses were a welcome addition to the canon of musician stereotypes. They were young, brash, wore torn jeans and best of all played great rock music that had never been heard before. It was a collaboration of great minds, and to this day reminds of us what a great lineup the early Gn'R could be.

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3. Pearl Jam "Ten"

Pearl Jam's debut album was a slow burner - it didn't take off in the same way that their grunge counterparts did. But by 1992, word of mouth and college radio helped propel it to number 2 on the Billboard charts, and went on to sell a stunning 10 million albums world wide, putting its members like Stone Gossard and Eddie Vedder among the most respected musicians in modern rock.

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2. Led Zeppelin "Led Zeppelin"

Say what you like about the rampant theft of black blues musicians on this record - the end result is a triumph. Whether it's John Bonham's stampede of drums, Robert Plant's soaring vocals or Jimmy Page's timeless guitar licks, there's something for everyone on this album - and if you'd rather listen to a grainy old recording which Page reportedly stole riffs from, then go ahead. We'll be turing the volume to 11 with this incredible rock debut.

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1. Rage Against the Machine "Rage Against the Machine"

Rap and metal can go awfully wrong, and there's plenty of examples in music history where that's been the case. But one band, more than any other, showed how it could be marries into not only an original style of rock but an explosive and politically charged force that would echo for decades. It's a remarkable 20 years since this album was released, and yet it sounds like it could have been recorded yesterday - maybe that's why it still manages to resonate with today's angst-charged youth as much as it used to.

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That's the end of our top 10 debut albums list. Do you agree with the results? How would you tweak them, and what is your personal favorite of all time? Let us know in the comments, and hit 'like' to share this awesome playlist to your friends.

334 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Surprised that Black Sabbath wasn't on this list.
    I think the Sabbath obmit was a total brain cramp on their part. It was the first album of it's kind and now look what it helped create. It should be top 3.
    Personally, I'd like to see Boston's debut listed. :/ superb album!
    if i remember right at the time it broke the record for how well a debut record sold; when it was released it was the best-selling debut of all time i could be wrong of course but if i'm right it really does deserve a spot on this list
    you're right. it then lost that medal to guns n roses years later
    I thought Van Halen would be on here. I feel old all of a sudden. There is no Sabbath, VH's debut or Blizzard of Oz which introduced us to Randy Rhodes, but at least Appetite for Destruction made it here
    IMO Led Zeppelin 1, AFD, Kill 'Em All, Are You Experienced, The Doors and RATM are the best albums from those bands. IMO Black Sabbath isn't the best Sabbath album (I prefer Paranoid) and Van Halen 1 isn't the best Van Halen album (I prefer their second album and 1984 to it). Just my opinion. Though Blizzard is the best Ozzy album IMO, though I don't know if it deserves to be on the list. Again, just my opinion.
    Your opinions are definitely valid, great choices. I just want to add that VH's debut--though arguably not their best--was likely their most important album, probably the most important album for that year (1978, I believe?). It was important because they made heavy music radio friendly with that album. I remember all top 40 (which was disco) at that time was on AM, and FM radio was stadium rock--and long songs were typical. Not only was Van Halen's debut radio friendly, Edward started the guitar hero era and I don't mean a video game heh heh
    Predictable, dull, list. I really wish there was a different format for the top 10s because it seems every list consists of the same few bands.
    I rustled jimmies by pointing this out on the voting thread. The only bands from the 90s onwards that ever have a look in are grunge like Alice in Chains/Nirvana or System of a Down. It's the same shit in every poll because the people who want all the old albums to win go through and downvote everything that isn't "old" or what I listed above. Thus, every poll is representing about 20% of the people that actually contribute.
    The old albums are considered "classic" for a reason, though. You can't argue with something that's withstood the test of time as long as it has.
    I do like most of those albums, but I agree it would be nice to have a mixup. Even in the guitar world there's a lot more out there.
    No Tool, Nine Inch Nails, Beastie Boys? Kinda bummed out by half the list.
    License to Ill just won on Rolling Stone's similar poll. No one here really voted for it though.
    Sadly it's probably because it's hip hop, even though most songs on it are either punk or rock. Rappers don't get much love on UG sadly, no matter the quality of their music or the skill of their musicians (especially Public Enemy).
    Very much agree, from 10-6 the list was looking decent but the rest was predictable and boring. Not to say it surprised me though having seem 9/10 lists on here being the exact same thing... Still would be nice to see some different bands sharing the linelight though.
    Didn't vote for any, like 'em almost all. Solid list.
    I agree. Didn't vote but seems pretty solid. I see several 90's bands on here and wouldn't have minded seeing Primus' Frizzle Fry on here. But it would be hard to replace any of these.
    Guns N' Chains
    While I don't think Rage should be number 1, I am more surprised to see Zeppelin at number 2 and not at number 1. Personally, I feel 'Appetite' should be first.
    You forgot to mention that John Paul Jones and his amazing bass work, cause that is also something.
    glad to see system of a down on here!
    UG def giving SOAD some "Sugar"
    My favorite SOAD song. By far. This is definitely their best album, really happy to see it get some recognition. I don't hate Toxicity, but man is it overplayed...
    I'm really happy they included it. System's first album will always be my favorite of theirs.
    Hell yeah! Every time i put "Know" on i sing along with "TOUCH MY BUUUUUTT!!!!! Touch my butt! TOUCH MY BUUUTTTT!!!! WOOOOORGHGH" my favorite misinterpretation of all time
    Until i read the lyrics of "Know" it sounds like "Gott Sei Dank" to me.It`s german and means "thank god".And i still can hear it....
    The first thing I thought of when I first listened to "War?" was "WE WILL SIGN YOUR PIZZA! WE WILL SIGN YOUR PIZZA!" God knows why...
    I think Fugazi's first record deserves some consideration. Also Sunny Day Real Estate's first album could be up there.
    Repeater is my all time favourite album. Also I would like to have seen The Blue album, Antidotes by Foals and Unknown Pleasures.
    Van Halen... Sabbath... System of a Down? Really? They altered any entire generation and approach for music and playing the guitar? Again, Van Halen, Black Sabbath. Two ridiculous omissions.
    I love RATM but placing its debut album above Zeppelin 1, Black Sabbath and Are you Experienced is complete INSANITY!!!
    Even though we got plenty of Beatles haters on this website. It is refreshing to see PLEASE PLEASE ME on the list. I personally think it is a great album.
    Fair enough. Vox populi, vox dei to this, I guess. Still, I'm going to mention some of my favorite debut albums because I have nothing better to do: Tame Impala - Innerspeaker Interpol - Turn on the Bright Lights The Smiths - The Smiths Echo and the Bunnymen - Crocodiles The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses The La's - The La's The Who - My Generation Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention - Freak Out! Built to Spill - Ultimate Alternative Wavers Sonic Youth - Confusion Is Sex Oasis - Definitely Maybe Inspiral Carpets - Life Ride - Nowhere Dinosaur Jr. - Dinosaur Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures New Order - Movement
    I was really a bit disappointed that apperantly almost nobody voted for Unknown pleasures - it's a fantastic album that sadly generally doesn't get the recognition it deserves here on UG.
    They could have all made the list, nice choices. UG tends to lean towards metal, nu metal and classic rock.
    Nice to see a different list on here. Here's mine anyway (queue the dislikes) 10. Gotye - Boardface 9. Primus - Frizzle Fry 8. A Perfect Circle - Mer de Noms 7. Alice in Chains - Facelift 6. Blur - Leisure 5. Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine 4. Tool - Undertow 3. Serj Tankian - Empty Walls 2. Muse - Showbiz 1. Black Light Burns - Cruel Melody
    Oasis - Definitely Maybe?
    I feel like people don't have the slightest idea of how hard this album hit the british culture. Oasis (and others, like Blur) are to the 90s what The Who and others are to the 60s.
    The Who were a big and great band, but I think you mean the Stones and the Beatles.
    My thought exactly. Wasn't it the fastest selling debut album at the time (in the UK)? I understand many people don't like Liam Gallagher or the way the band dropped off towards the end, but Definitely Maybe is a class album and Liam's voice sounds mint.
    Van Halen????? repeat- VAN HALEN?????
    LOL i mean really... why did it even take that long for someone to bring it up? For a generation and beyond of musicians (and non-musicians alike!) that frickin' album is the DEFINITION of "ultimate guitar"... i'm somewhat disappointed that theres no sign of an angry mob with torches and pitchforks heading up the hill to Castle UG LMAO
    Van Halen's first album changed the sound and direction of modern rock guitar. With EVH often cited as one of the most influential guitarists ever, that album should be on this list.
    duane baldwin
    On a guitar site you don't have the first Van Halen album! The album that lauched a billion Eddie clones. What about Boston the best selling debut album of all time.
    This is actually a really, really solid list. HOWEVER, there is a definite lack of Crimson Kings.
    It would have been just about impossible to get them on there though. Great band, but not many people listen to them overall
    Yeah, I knew it wouldn't actually make it. Doesn't mean I can't complain about it, though.
    Van Halen Black Sabbath Pretty Hate Machine Undertow Blizard of Ozz I would prefer all of these over RATM.
    music salvation
    Would have liked to have seen Undertow by Tool, but it's an excellent list nonetheless.
    I'm a huge Tool fan (you might have noticed), but I would have A Perfect Circle's debut on here even before Tool's.
    I have to agree with others, no Boston, No Van Halen. Both of their Debuts are essentially greatest hits albums in their own right.
    and The Clash! The Ramones! The Sex Pistols! You cannot deny the impact all of their debut albums made.
    RATM is great, but certainly it isn't the best debut album ever.
    dude, I know that you think that these comments are pointless but everyone has a right to write his/her opinion - just calm down and relax and if you are not interested in just go away...and one more thing - this is not about "favorite" album but about the "debut" - I guess you meant "favorite debut" and I got so say that my favorite debut is not on the list *crying*
    what's irritating is it gets to the point when people are actually getting upset that an album they like made the list, or one they don't did make it. If you want to talk about your opinions, fine. But getting angry is just stupid and pointless.
    Oasis - Definitely Maybe Hate him or not, Liam Gallagher's voice was unstoppable...
    Would've like to have seen Sex Pistols but other than that it's a solid list
    Agreed. Ramones, too. Can't believe you got downvoted.
    I think it's tough for people to agree with the Sex Pistols being on such a list because Never Mind the Bollocks isn't just their debut - it was their only. It was their first, last, and only album.
    no Van Halen? COME ON. Seriously though, great article. Don't agree with some of the placements or selections, but all great and well-written piece nonetheless.
    especially on a "guitar" website, considering next to "Are You Experienced?" that's probably the most influential guitar album aside from Blizzard of Ozz
    As much as people hate Linkin Park, it must be admitted that their debut was a valiant effort and deserved to be on this list.. It caused a wave in the music industry that few others could match, and the only ones who do match it are on this list..
    What about Definitely Maybe & Whatever People Say I Am Thats What I'm Not?
    get real, this poll was voted by americans who hate themselves, they cant get their head around up beat british music - "up the bracket" & "stone roses" as well for the record
    Not an awful list but how about Boston anyone? Maybe a little band called Van Halen?
    I wonder how they count these votes? Is it by likes or by votes? Cause I clearly remember Sabbath had plenty of likes and also votes. At least way more that The Doors...
    How the hell is van halen I not on here!? My all time favorite record and it changed rock forever
    Great list! No Arcade Fire or Arctic Monkeys, but I like all of the albums on this list regardless.
    I am sure this list is wrong. It was clear that Black Sabbath had many more votes than the Doors and SOAD. On a positive note, glad to see Kill Em All
    I was expecting Iron Maiden to make it, maybe over SOAD, but still a really good list
    Except Iron Maiden's debut album isn't that great, compared to most the others on the list. Remember, there was an Iron Maiden before Dickinson.