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Influential Metal Albums - Part I

by MetalMike & Sargon the Terrible

What makes an album influential? Is it because it contains something never heard before? Is it the "best" album of a particular genre? Is it the one that gets mentioned most often when giving a reference to a new release in a review? A combination? As a reviewer here at The Metal Crypt I've often employed that last qualification and even explained here and there why I'm using this album or that album to give a reference point but I've never stopped to think WHY that's the case. I then started thinking about those influential albums, and knowing I was missing more than a few I asked Sargon the Terrible to weigh in with his choices. We came up with a dozen each just on the first try, all released before 1985, so clearly there are quite a few that bear scrutiny. What follows is the first in (hopefully) a series of articles where Sargon and I list some of the most influential albums in Heavy Metal history (in roughly chronological order). Now this is a list of "influential" albums, not "best" albums so don't get your bullet belt in a twist because your favorite isn't here. We have thought this out and have given you the reasons why these albums stand out from the crowd, for good or bad, and hope you enjoy what our combined 60+ years of Heavy Metal "experience" have come up with.

Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath (1970)

Arguably the first Heavy Metal album and certainly the first album to popularize what would become "Doom", Black Sabbath's debut has influenced thousands of bands since its release in 1970. From the myriad of bands playing a Doom style in the wake of this release like Candlemass, Solitude Aeternus and While Heaven Wept to an innumerable number of bands that realized you could play "heavy", this album's presence can be felt far and wide. It's not completely formed, as you can hear on "The Wizard" with Ozzy playing harmonica, or some of the psychedelic rock vibe, but songs like "Black Sabbath" and "N.I.B." are templates of Heavy Metal that are still being used today. MetalMike (Review)

Judas Priest – Sad Wings of Destiny (1976)

Another early album that clearly influenced Heavy Metal but wasn't fully under that banner in 1976. With the opening line from the opening track "Victim of Changes" Rob Halford set the bar for high-pitched screams that Heavy Metal vocalists have measured themselves against for over 40 years. There are still some psychedelic elements woven into songs like "Dreamer Deceiver" and some of the "anthems" like "Genocide" and "Island of Domination" aren't well written but you can't deny the shivers down your spine when Halford wails "whisky woman don't you know that you are driving me INSANE! OWW!" MetalMike (Review)

Motorhead – Overkill (1979)

Motorhead, the red-headed stepchild of Hard Rock and bastard son of Punk, had been around for a couple of years prior to releasing this, their second full-length (not counting the On Parole album). It is influential for two reasons. First, Lemmy's love-them-or-hate-them gravelly vocals proved a mellifluous singing voice was hardly a prerequisite for Heavy Metal, opening the doors for bands like Venom, Slayer and Bathory, not to mention Death and Black Metal. Second, the title track featured drummer Phil Taylor banging out double-kick bass drums through the entire song, something that most likely had never been done before. If you don't think that's a big deal, ask a Thrash or Power Metal drummer what it means to them. MetalMike

Ozzy Osbourne – Blizzard of Ozz (1980)

Drunk, out of shape and recently fired from Black Sabbath, Ozzy landed on his feet with his first solo album. First, he proved he could still sing (after a fashion) and inadvertently created the shred guitarist phenomenon by plucking Randy Rhoads from the then-unknown Quiet Riot and allowing him to take Eddie Van Halen's technical wizardry further in the Heavy Metal sphere. There are tracks on the album that are not great from a Heavy Metal view ("Goodbye to Romance" "No Bone Movies") but classics like "I Don't Know", "Mr. Crowley" and the ubiquitous "Crazy Train" with its instantly recognizable opening laugh has had guitar players scrambling to find the balance between technical proficiency and catchy songwriting ever since. MetalMike

Iron Maiden – Iron Maiden (1980)

The NWOBHM had been going on for some time by 1980 when Maiden's debut was released that year but the band's presence on the major label EMI (Capitol here in the States) brought the movement to the world stage with the lads from England as poster boys. Sure, Di'Anno wasn't the best singer and Dave Murray and Dennis Stratton weren't the best guitar players but the band successfully combined the stodgy Hard Rock of Deep Purple and Uriah Heep with the speed and aggression of punk into tightly written but hard and aggressive songs that were supported by the oft imitated, never equaled Steve Harris' galloping bass. The result was a new sound that ushered in the wave of groups that realized you didn't have to be a virtuoso if you could write a tune that was catchy AND heavy. Tracks like "Iron Maiden" and "Running Free" are still frequently in the band's set list and the number of Iron Maiden tribute albums and covers is fast approaching infinity. MetalMike (Review)

Manilla Road – Crystal Logic (1983)

Manilla Road are like a meteor impact – if you want to see their effect on the landscape, you have to dig a little. Long an extremely underground band, with a unique style that refused to chase trends, they never got much widespread notice in the 80s, even though they are one of the longest-running bands alive. But when you read about bands that influenced others to go out and play and create their own music, Manilla Road are a band that keeps turning up. Now we have a bumper crop of young bands who look back to this album as a formative experience. Crystal Logic was where Manilla Road put together their epic style, their acid-rock leanings, and Mark Shelton's distinctive vocals to really find their voice. Sargon (Reviews: <1> <2>)

Slayer – Show No Mercy (1983)

If Seven Churches is the godfather of Death Metal, Show No Mercy is the stepdad. Slayer were a noisy, nasty little band who played Thrash like their fingers were on fire and had lyrics dedicated to being as evil and vicious as possible. This is not a Death Metal album, but it would not be possible to play Thrash that was any meaner without crossing the line, and this is obviously an album that had a huge impact on a generation of Death Metal bands. Sargon (Review)

Queensryche – EP/The Warning (1983/84)

I am combining these, as they came out very close together, and The Warning is very much a development of the sound of the EP. Queensryche may be the most influential melodic metal band ever to come out of the US, as their sound was the perfect distillation of power and progressive, mixing the aggression of Priest or Maiden with a technical edge and a dramatic, almost gothic songwriting sense. On top of that they had an incredible run of high-quality albums that made them an overpowering presence later on. In all the years from 1984 to 1992 Queensryche were omnipresent in the metal underground and even in the mainstream, and it all started here. Sargon(Reviews: <EP> <The Warning>)

Cirith Ungol – King of the Dead (1984)

Doom was a really backwater genre for a while, before Candlemass came out and made it a thing again. But you can't just draw a line right from Sabbath to Candlemass and call it done. A lot of bands from Trouble to St Vitus marked the way from here to there, but most of them vanished without making much of an impression. Cirith Ungol were a strange beast, not quite all Doom nor straight Heavy Metal, but this album had a huge influence on the formation of doom, and this album especially is a groovy mix of Doom and Acid Rock that has people still talking about it to this day. Sargon (Reviews: <1> <2>)

Metal Church – Metal Church (1984)

This really set the mold for so much of what is called US-Metal these days. The bludgeoning riffs, dark atmosphere, and the high-octane wail of David Wayne are really prototypical for bands like Liege Lord, Attacker, and Helstar, but Metal Church made a much bigger impression than their contemporaries ever did. The songwriting on this debut album is amazingly strong for a debut, while still retaining that down and dirty feel and heaviness that characterizes US Heavy Metal. Sargon (Review)


Influential Metal Albums - Part II
Influential Metal Albums - Part III
Influential Metal Albums - Part IV
Influential Metal Albums - Part V
Influential Metal Albums - Part VI

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