The Most Important Heavy Metal albums of the 80's Jul 20, 2013 9:21:27 GMT -5
Post by Erik Rupp on Jul 20, 2013 9:21:27 GMT -5
There is no question that the golden era of Heavy Metal was the 1980's. While the genre certainly went over the top as it became more and more successful commercially (and often lapsed into unintentional self-parody at times), there were a ton of great Heavy Metal albums released in that decade.
In the late 1970's Heavy Metal was viewed as a fad that had passed. The genre hadn't really even fully developed it's identity (1970's Metal ranged from Black Sabbath and early Judas Priest to KISS, Aerosmith, and Ted Nugent - all of those bands were identified by the media and the fans as, "Heavy Metal"), but as the decade wound down the commercial success of most bands identified as Heavy Metal was waning. Various Rock magazines had cover stories asking, "Is Heavy Metal Dead?"
And then 1980 rolled around. Everything changed.
In April, Black Sabbath released Heaven And Hell, their first album with new singer Ronnie James Dio. It was not only their best album in years, but their most successful. It was a game changer as it influenced countless Metal bands that followed. Sabbath's sound was streamlned by Ronnie's presence and songwriting style. They became leaner, more polished, and heavier. At the same time their music also became more melodic on Heaven And Hell due to Ronnie's singing and songwriting. It was a groundbreakng album that still resonates to this day.
Also released in April was the first Iron Maiden album. It was a self-titled album that set the stage for a huge, amazingly influential career to come. While the album wasn't a hit in the U.S. it was a huge hit in the U.K. where it reached #4 on the top albums chart. Iron Maiden (the album, and the band at the time) combined Punk's energy and raw power with the musicality of Progressive Rock, creating a new kind of Heavy Metal. While the band would become no less heavy as time went on, they became more sophisticated and a little more polished on albums to come as they would be one of the most dominant Heavy Metal bands of the 1980's.
April, 1980 was a huge month for Heavy Metal as Judas Priest also released their breakthrough album, Britsh Steel. This album found Judas Priest simplifying their trademark style (well developed after five previous studio albums) and writing songs with stronger hooks than had previously been included on Priest albums. The result was a commercial success, paving the way for Judas Priest to become one of the most iconic Heavy Metal bands of the decade (and of all time, really). Their image became synonymous with that of Heavy Metal - the leather and studs look that they had been developing was fully formed by this time, and it became the standard by which bands that self-identifed as, "Heavy Metal," would follow for years to come.
In July, AC/DC released what many consider to be their greatest album, Back In Black, and it became a phenomenon. The sales success of Back In Black (one of the most successful albums of all time both in the U.S. and worldwide) changed the view of many people within the industry of how commercially viable Hard Rock and Heavy Metal could be. Even though Back In Black is considered to be a Hard Rock album today, in the early 80's AC/DC (and this album in particular) were squarely identified as being, "Heavy Metal." It is a great album, with every aspect of the album working perfectly (songwriting, performances, sonic producton and mix of the album). Back In Black was without question a game changer.
In September, Ozzy Osbourne released his first album, Blizzard Of Ozz. It was orignally intended to be a band album (with the band being called The Blizzard Of Ozz), but for marketing reasons (due to Ozzy's fame as Black Sabbath's singer) it became a solo album, launching his solo career. Featuring the late, great Randy Rhoads on guitar, Blizzard Of Ozz was another game changer. Randy brought some neo classical bits to the table [most notably on, "Revelaton (Mother Earth)"] that gave the album a unique sound and musical style. Randy's combination of Classical influenced playing and early to mid 70's Glam Metal style (he was hugely influenced by those bands, as well as bands like Boston, Mountain, and the orignal Alice Cooper band) made him unique. His technical ability and skill as a guitar player clearly placed him in the elite group at the time. He was touted as the next Eddie Van Halen (with whom he shared a club stage many times while Randy was a member of Quiet Riot). Bringing the whole album together were Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake, a pair of seasoned pros who both had several albums under their belts. They helped bring Randy's riffs together in fully formed songs (they did most of the arranging on the album, and wrote parts of many songs on Blizzard). They also gave fantastic performances as well. The end result was an album that showed just how strong Heavy Metal could be musically.
Below is a list of the albums we believe to be the most important Heavy Metal albums of the 1980's based on their musical quality and/or impact on the genre.