The early 1990's were not a terrific period in metal, but by 1994, there was some light at the end of the tunnel. Quite honestly, my picks for 6-10 are only average albums, but because this was another bad year, they cracked the top 10.
For some sub-genres (Black Metal in particular) this was a decent year, but since I am not a BM fan, Burzum and Emperor, despite critically acclaimed releases in 1994 did not make my list.
10. Axel Rudi Pell - Between the Walls
Flying the banner of 80's metal well into the 90's, Axel Rudi Pell gave us a solid release here. Again, it is nothing all that memorable or different, but real solid nevertheless.
9. Stratovarius - Dreamspace
It is a good album. A lot of speedy stuff and some cool melodies. This was probably the high point for this group, as subsequent releases were too watered down, and not as heavy.
8. Amorphis - Tales From the Thousand Lakes
Kind of Progressive Death Metal-ish, I guess. This is a really cool album, but unlike Opeth, whose debut is still a year away, the songs here do not stay with you long after you listen to the album.
7. Mercyful Fate - Time
The second post reunion album. Not as good as In the Shadows, but better than subsequent releases. Mercyful Fate didn't jump the shark, they slowly climbed over it, and while this is still a good album, this is probably where they should have stopped.
6. Black Sabbath - Cross Purposes
This was really the last gasp for Sabbath. Geezer Butler returned and the result is a competent but not really brilliant post Dio era Sabbath record. A couple of really cool songs bring up the album as a whole which is sadly mostly filler.
5. Orphaned Land - Sahara
OK - here is where it gets good. The debut from Israel's Orphaned Land is a really good album. Even here you can tell they have not begun to realize their potential (they still have not, but I digress). This is a great band with some really cool ideas.
4. Running Wild - Black Hand Inn
This is another in a string of good albums by Running Wild, who were one of the only bands to consistently make sold metal records in the early 1990's. Black Hand Inn is perhaps a notch below Pile of Skulls, but still one of their best.
3. Fates Warning - Inside Out
This is my personal favorite Fates Warning album. It is consistent, with flashes of brilliance. They balance the progressive with the heavy, and keep it interesting and flowing.
2. Dream Theater - Awake
Awake was a big disappointment coming off of Images and Words, but still a really good album. I like it more now than I did when it first came out (mostly because my expectations were so high). Unfortunately, things would continue to decline for Dream Theater.
1. Stone Temple Pilots - Purple
This is really a cool album. Maybe a tad dated now as it reeks of the grunge era, but it is easily one of the best if not the best grunge album of all time. 12 Gracious Melodies. What else is there to say?