My Top Ten Metal Albums, Part 1

I've been reminiscing lately on iTunes listening to all my old favorite metal bands from the 80s and early 90s. So I decided to write my top ten list. Yeah, I know. Not a new idea. But still, everyone has a unique experience, and I think my list is somewhat unique. For me, and for a lot of us, the music we listened to in our teens is inextricably linked to our memories of those times. When I listen to music, I can't help but flashback to certain scenes and events, some good, some not so good. So in doing that, I felt compelled to journal a bit about it.

Remember, this is a list based on 80s and early 90s METAL. U2 doesn't fit in here. In fact, I hated U2 growing up. I thought their music was wimpy. So there. And this is only "Part 1" of the list. I have "Part 2" already done, but I'm saving it. :-)

10. Tribute - Ozzy Osbourne (1987)
Randy Rhoads was amazing (RIP). The guitar solo on "Mr. Crowley" is worth the price of the album by itself. These live recordings, released five years after the fact, showcase Ozzy and Randy at their Blizzard/Diary height. Ozzy had a way of surrounding himself with the best musicians. Randy was perhaps the best of all. As much as I love Sabbath, and with all respect to Ronnie James Dio, "Ozzy rules". At one point growing up I was living in a Methodist Children's Home and there was a talent show coming up that I wanted to be in. So I auditioned lip syncing "Goodbye To Romance" from this album. I had just been dumped by my girlfriend there at the home, and I so badly wanted to get on stage and "sing" that song to her, win the talent show, and win her back. But what were the chances of an Ozzy song passing the audition at a Methodist Home? None. So I had to do a Larry Norman song instead, "Why Don't You Look Into Jesus". I actually played keyboards and sang it live. I didn't win.

9. Under Lock and Key - Dokken (1985)
I was in an adolescent psychiatric treatment facility when I first saw the video for "In My Dreams" on MTV. The water splashing on the drums... the George Lynch tapping solo... There's an emotional attachment there because of where I was and what was happening to me at the time. I can picture the couches in the dayroom, the window into the nurses station, me sitting there escaping into the dream world of Headbanger's Ball. I still think Lynch had the greatest metal guitar tone. Thick and heavy. The standout track for me is "It's Not Love". The clean spanky finger plucking guitar intro is great. I love any song that asks "Why baby, Why?"

8. Night Songs - Cinderella (1986)
A great album. I remember buying it at the record store just because I thought the band looked cool on the cover. It was while listening to this album recently that I got the inspiration to write this post. I had forgotten what a good album it is. I have fond memories of riding in Curt's old Dodge Dart (the Hellmobile) listening to this cassette over and over. We were probably high at the time, which could be why I forgot until now! "Somebody Save Me..."

7. Reign In Blood - Slayer (1985)
I'm torn over this one. Took me a while to get used to it. Made me want to be a Satanist. Loved that Kerry King played "No Sleep Till Brooklyn" for the Beastie Boys. The original cassette had the full track listing repeated on both sides. Listen to the whole album, then turn it over and listen to the whole album again. I still have most of the lyrics memorized. There was something magnetic about listening to the hardest fastest band around. And it expanded my vocabulary. I had no idea what necrophobia was until Slayer came around. But all things considered, this is Slayer's best work by far, and Slayer stands as one of the top three thrash bands of all time, and I love thrash. So there you go.

6. III Sides to Every Story - Extreme (1992)
Perhaps one of the most underrated and under appreciated albums of all time. This concept album tells the three sides that every story has: Yours, Mine, and the Truth. Nuno Bettencourt is one the most proficient and soulful guitarists I have ever heard (a combination not easily found). But his songwriting, arranging, and production talents on this album are at genius level. Rock, Metal, Prog, Funk, Blues, Acoustic, Orchestral... it all gets tied together in a masterfully sweeping collage, one song transitioning and transforming into another, building and growing with each successive track. And on top of it all, the lyrics are very strongly influenced by Christian thought. The album is full of questions about God and man, our struggles with sin and doubt... the Bible is quoted throughout this record, Old Testament and New Testament, especially on side three, The Truth. Perhaps more than any record on my list, THIS is the album you MUST have. Forget what you think you know about Extreme. Their popular acoustic hits "More Than Words" and "Whole Hearted" do not even compare to this artistic achievement. And when you get it (do it now), sit down in front of a great pair of speakers and listen to it from beginning to end, as a concept album is meant to be listened to. You'll be blown away.

Did I forget your favorite? Stay tuned for "Part 2".


David Golden said...

This is such a great post. I've never been interested in any of these bands, and you make me want to give 'em a listen, just for my own musical education. One theory I've had, after decades of going to concerts, is that every single band has at least a few fans out there who have every word memorized.

Ken said...

Isn't that funny. I spent so much time as a teen listening intently to lyrics and trying to understand them all... sometimes reading the uber-tiny print on a cassette insert. It was so important to me for some reason...

Anonymous said...

learning the lyrics makes you a better player.
when my parents would let me here the radio i got into Robin trower.
Triumph, great white, white snake, Ratt, Ozzy, led zep. Kingdom come.
Europe, Kix, styx, reo, Rush,tesla,
Billy squire for sure, i love his no bs effects sound.
to bad about the norman song losing the comp.
lol I won a church comp playing stairway to heaven with one of the high schoolys playing the flute with me.
I was told after about the back masking.
I said that i would only play it forwards.

Anonymous said...

Well, I spent 4 years of the 80s in Sudan and Soamlia. I took 5 cassetts with me "Led Zeppelin The Song Rains The Same" /"Bad Co. Burning Sky" / "The Eagles Greatest Hits" / "Sevie Ray Vaughn Texas Flood" and "Rush Hemisphers"
So when I came back All my high school friends were into punk & goth & such... Blah.
As far as yer list Ken? hmm can't hang with ya cept fer Ozzy, I do however have 80s guilty pleasures such as Poison, Motley Crue, The Bangles Billy Idol, 38 Speacial, Bryan Adams "Cuts like a knive rocsk!", Cheap Trick, the Fixx, INXS, Night Ranger, Pat Benatar, REO Speedwagaon , Prince, and Duran Duran (lol) But from the 80s the most influencial band I'd say VAN HALLEN Brother!!!
Jean D.

Ken said...

Garth, the backwards masking is hilarious! I think the probably sold even MORE records after that came out!

Ken said...

Jean, I agree on Van Halen. But they may or may not make my top 5. 1984 is such an incredible album, the guitar playing is Eddie's best. The track list is practically a greatest hits album all by itself... "Jump", "Panama", "Hot For Teacher", "I'll Wait"... Too bad this was their peak. It was all downhill for Van Halen from there.

Mark said...

Challenging topic Ken, there are so many metal bands that left their mark, it's really hard to narrow it down to 10, but here's the 10 that came to my mind almost immediately:
Ozzy/Blizzard of Oz(1980), AC/DC/Back in Black(1980), Scorpions/Blackout(1982), Judas Priest/Screaming for Vengence(1982), Dio/Holy Diver(1983), Ratt/Out of the Cellar(1984), Dokken/Tooth and Nail(1984), Van Halen/1984(1984) ...if Van Halen I had come out in the 80's that would have been my pick..., Metallica/Master of Puppets(1986)...although Kill em All and Ride The Lightning are very close behind Master..., Queensryche/Operation Mind Crime(1988)...Rage for Order very close behind... and of course, one that I didn't get into as much as most of the people I know, but you can't leave off Iron Maiden/The Number of the Beast(1982)

Ken said...

Mark, right on brotha! This reminds me of that night with Turpin at Applebees. Holy Diver is a great album. I guess AC/DC could be considered metal. I definitely loved Back in Black, but I think Angus is a blues/hard rock player more than a metal player. I posted a comment on Part 3 where I list several more of the albums that you mentioned, rounding out my Top 25 or so. I have never owned a Queensryche album, but I like all the singles like "Eyes of a Stranger", "Jet City Woman", Empire", and "Silent Lucidity". Do you remember when they wore the crazy makeup?