Top Ten Different Concept Albums

By Brent Chittenden

I rather like concept albums. Maybe it’s due to being a Rush fan, but I just like an idea that flows through and entire album be that theme or narrative. But there are a few where the concept is… well… different. Which is saying something considering that 2112 is a science fiction based narrative and it isn’t on this list.

No, this list is presenting to you concept albums that are of the beaten path idea wise. Some of these you’ve probably heard of or maybe even own. Some are rock operas and others just have a consitant theme. Here’s our Top Ten Different Concept Albums!

10.  Donald Fagen – Kamakiri

A futuristic tale about a man’s journeys in a futuristic car. More or less a Steely Dan record but with a plot.

9.  Ween – 12 Gold Country Greats

Ween had a habit of dabbling in various genres before this album but it was kind of the first album where they stuck to just one… country. And not “new country” either, this was a country record in the traditional sense… except it was made by Ween. It takes a solid bit of writing to walk the line between this concept and parody and Ween seem to pull it off.

8.  Fantomas – The Director’s Cut

Avant-garde metal band with Mike Patton (Faith No More) Buzz Osbourne (The Melvins) and Dave Lombardo (Slayer) recorded an album of covers from score and soundtrack pieces from horror and crime films but with more thrash.

7.  Passengers – Original Soundtracks 1

U2 worked with long time producer Brian Eno as a full musical partner on this album of soundtrack pieces… to movies… that don’t actually exist. Yeah, it’s a little artsy.

6.  Pete Townsend – The Iron Man

Townsend is no stranger to the concept album idea, having done Tommy and a few concept albums solo, but what makes Iron Man unique is that it’s a concept album rock opera centered around a huge robot and a boy. Sound familiar? After a stage version was mounted, Warner Brothers like the core concept enough (alough some elements were changed) to turn it into one of the best animated films in the last 20 years, The Iron Giant.

5.  Kiss – Music from The Elder

Yes, you read right, Kiss made a concept album. In 1981, Kiss tried to shake things up a little bit with this concept album about a boy recruited to be part of an organization that fights evil. It kind of follows the “hero’s journey”. Kiss fans… weren’t exactly blown away by it. Kiss doesn’t perform songs from it very often or in some cases, at all and it was the last album to feature Ace Frehley until Unplugged.

4.  Devin Townsend – Ziltoid the Omniscient

Devin Townsend is probably metal’s answer to Les Claypool. Incredibly talented and gifted and not afraid to explore ideas no matter how different they may be. For instance, this album is about an alien named Ziltoid who has come to Earth searching for the perfect cup of coffee. He has one, it turns out to be terrible so he declares war on the planet.

3.  Fucked Up – David Comes To Life

I’m not a huge fan of Fucked Up but honestly, this album is awesome. A punk rock opera, the album features a man named David who loses the love of his life only to discover the narrator may be behind it. It’s very much a story about fiction coming to life. Really worth checking out.

2.  Mastadon – Crack The Skye

I can’t do this justice. I’ll let drummer Brann Drailor explain:

“There is a paraplegic and the only way that he can go anywhere is if he astral travels. He goes out of his body, into outer space and a bit like Icarus, he goes too close to the sun, burning off the golden umbilical cord that is attached to his solar plexus. So he is in outer space and he is lost, he gets sucked into a wormhole, he ends up in the spirit realm and he talks to spirits telling them that he is not really dead. So they send him to the Russian cult, they use him in a divination and they find out his problem. They decide they are going to help him. They put his soul inside Rasputin’s body…”

And there’s more to it than that but I only have so much room in the list.

1. Coheed And Cambria – Every Album They’ve Put Out

While science fiction ideas are not new to concept albums (2112 for example), what is a little different is going through the story through multiple albums which include doing sequels, prequels, comics and a novel. That’s a real commitment to one major concept. The Armoury Wars (as it has been titled) is an incredibly in-depth tale about er…good versus evil… in space… with messiahs… maybe you should just read this.

What should have made this list? I’m talking weird or unknown concept albums. Hit me in the comments sections with your thoughts!

Juliette Jagger

Juliette Jagger is a Canadian music journalist. She is on Twitter @juliettejagger.

5 thoughts on “Top Ten Different Concept Albums

  • March 1, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    Great post.
    I don't know that they are 'traditional' concept albums, but I've always felt that Whale Music by The Rheostatics, and Pinkerton by Weezer are two albums that are…
    -meant to be listened to start to finish
    -have a certain narrative, or story to be told
    -have songs that sound 'right' when listened back to back.

    I'm not sure that makes them concept albums, but, close enough for me.

  • March 1, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    How about Queensrych Operation Mindcrime?

  • March 1, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    Steve: My sentiments exactly. I still listen to Operation Mindcrime regularly. Awesome album and deserves to be on this list.

  • March 2, 2013 at 10:16 pm

    Year Zero – Nine Inch Nails

    The art surrounding this alone does a fantastic job of blurring the album with the real world. So much so, I wonder what is really going to happen in 2022.

    It started with a t-shirt.

    'In February 2007 fans discovered that a new Nine Inch Nails tour t-shirt contained highlighted letters that spelled out the words 'I am trying to believe' ".

    Trent says the media created surrounding the album is "not some kind of gimmick to get you to buy a record – it IS the art form"

    more in the wikipedia

  • March 5, 2013 at 4:23 am

    This post caught our attention because well, we're about to release our debut album this Friday…and yes, it IS a concept album!

    We think it's beautifully amazing how many different forms 'the concept album' can take and have a crazy amount of respect for artists who have the passion to create music around a vision that can't really be captured any other way.

    For those interested in yet another (different type of) concept album, check out Create/Destroy/Create – a 9 track album segmented into triads. C/D/C to us, is a journey of self; 1. The process of creating life, relationships and physical structures only to realize that they don't necessarily make our lives better. 2. The destruction of what we have taken so long to build meticulously, in order start again. 3. The process of creating, once again, life, relationships and physical structures, that actually make our lives BETTER rather than simply hiding what needs to be fixed.

    You can stream the album starting tomorrow, and download it on its release date this Friday! We would love to hear what you think!


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