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Influential Metal Albums - Part II

by MetalMike & Sargon the Terrible

In part I of our exploration into the Heavy Metal albums that have influenced artists, songs and albums, Sargon the Terrible and I covered records released before the scene started to splinter into the genres that we have today. With this group of albums, we're starting to see the germination, if not full flowering, of Thrash, Black, Death and Power Metal. Significant moments in the history of Heavy Metal, to be sure. As with the last list, we're talking "influential" not "best" though they are often the same, so don't whine if your favorite isn't here. Things were changing as we approached the mid-point of the 1980s and the albums here tell the story of where Metal was and where it was headed.

Bathory – Bathory/The Return (1984/85)

I'm going to lump these together, since they only came out 7 months apart, and together they make a cohesive statement that was absolutely foundational for Black Metal. Quorthon's primitive production values and raspy shriek set the mold for so much of what has come after, that it's hard to imagine Black Metal without him. A lot of the raw sound of these early works was just due to the cheapness of the equipment he had to work with, but the knack for riffs that made him a major force in metal all his life remains impossible to ignore. So much of what Black Metal strives for in imagery and sound derives from these two albums. Sargon (Review: <Bathory>)

Iron Maiden – The Number of the Beast (1982)

Until Bruce Dickinson joined Iron Maiden (from former band Samson) for 1982's The Number of the Beast, Rob Halford was THE preeminent Heavy Metal singer. With Dickinson, Halford had/has an equal and Iron Maiden was launched into the stratosphere. Dickinson blew away Di'Anno with his range and delivery and even though he received no writing credit on the album due to a contractual restriction with his former band, he's responsible for the vocal lines on some of Maiden's most well-known songs "The Number of the Beast" and "Run to the Hills." The number of bands that have covered those two songs on albums and in the live setting is beyond measure. The vocalist with the high-pitched wail was here to stay. MetalMike (Review)

Omen – Battle Cry (1984)

A massively influential album in the US underground, Omen stripped metal down to the essentials of pummeling riffs and rough vocals. They swam against the rising tide of Power Metal by playing rude and dirty and not having a high-pitched singer. To this day you can hear the sound of this album all over, and despite their unsung status in their homeland, this is not an album you can skip if you want to know where US Metal comes from. Sargon (Reviews: <1> <2>)

Venom – Black Metal (1982)

Sure, the Newcastle trio had released a similar effort a year earlier (Welcome to Hell) but with 1982's Black Metal they solidified their sound and tightened up their songwriting. They carried on the tradition begun by Motörhead with regards to gravelly vocals and showed that songs could be fast, loose and aggressive yet still melodic and in doing so pioneered what would become Thrash Metal. Their satanic lyrics, however tongue-in-cheek, and the title to this album would become ground zero for the Black Metal movement that sprung up a short time later. MetalMike

Hellhammer – Apocalyptic Raids (1984)

Hellhammer may have been the butt of jokes at the time, but like Venom their influence and reputation have only grown with time. Tom Warrior and Martin Ain pretty much invented the protean, bludgeoning riff style that a lot of bands have followed since then, and the fact that this approach is basically the stone tools of metal does not make this any less influential. How many other bands can you remember that are still talked about when they never even made a whole album? Sargon (Review)

Mercyful Fate – Don't Break the Oath (1984) (Review)

I could easily point to the debut Melissa, but Don't Break the Oath is the one most people are familiar with. Musically, Fate weren't much different from a lot of other bands. Where they took things to a new level was with singer King Diamond. Able to growl like Cronos, sing like Dickinson or scream higher than Dio or Halford, King Diamond's performance on these albums (and his subsequent work with his solo band) remain high water marks for vocal performance on a Metal album. MetalMike (Review)

Sodom – In the Sign of Evil (1984)

This was the first EP from Sodom, and is one of those discs where the raw production, primitive instrumentation, and feral energy come together to make more than the sum of the parts. Sodom's early works went on to be a huge influence on later Black Metal bands, and pretty much invented what we call Black/Thrash nowadays. If a band wears bullet belts and spiked armbands, you can bet they own this EP. Sargon

Celtic Frost – To Mega Therion (1985)

Rising from the ashes of the reviled and ridiculed Hellhammer, Tom G. Warrior and Martin Ain took the humiliation of their prior band as a personal insult and roared back with the revolutionary band Celtic Frost. After a couple of EPs, they released their magnum opus, To Mega Therion. Not content to simply thrash, Warrior and a new lineup (Ain had departed by this point) brought influences from symphonic works, opera, jazz and other unlikely partners to metal and molded something that far exceeded the sum of its parts. Genres like Gothic, Death and Black Metal can all trace their lineages back through the mighty Frost and this release in particular. MetalMike (Review)

Possessed – Seven Churches (1985)

The degree of influence this band has can be pretty much summed up by the fact that they called their demo Death Metal, and may in fact have coined the term. Their debut Seven Churches is pretty much the point on the map where Thrash became Death. They took the then-rising Thrash sound and made it meaner and dirtier, and created something new out of the sounds that were knocking around in the underground at the time. Not a lot of bands who produce a few albums and then vanish still make waves more than 30 years later, but this one is inescapable. Sargon (Review)

Yngwie Malmsteen – Rising Force (1984)

Though mainly an instrumental album (only two tracks feature vocals from Jeff Scott Soto), Malmsteen took the shredder mentality and combined it with the deeply emotive playing of Ritchie Blackmore and classical influences like Johann Sebastian Bach and Nicolo Paganini. The resulting shift in focus from simply running fingers up and down fret boards and hammering on to learning not only what an arpeggio was but how to play it was monumental. Guitar players everywhere had to step up their games and the solo has been richer for it ever since. MetalMike

Kreator – Endless Pain (1985)

This was the debut for Kreator, and it was another brick in the bridge being built from Thrash over to Death Metal country. Dirty, low-fi, evil Thrash with Mille's spitting, feral vocals made this very much of a piece with Sodom and Slayer in defining the most extreme edge of the Thrash pool. It says a lot that Kreator have gone on for more than 30 years, but this is still often spoken of as a fan favorite. Sargon

Helloween – Walls of Jericho (1985)

What do you get when you combine the high-pitched wails of Halford and Dickinson, the guitar wizardry of Rhoads and Van Halen, the speed and double-kick drumming of Thrash and the catchy songwriting of Deep Purple and Rainbow? Power Metal. And it pretty much came together with Helloween's full-length debut in 1985. Guitarists Kai Hansen and Michael Weikath traded leads with blinding rapidity and drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg abused his bass drums mercilessly while Hansen's balls-in-a-vice screams rode over the top of bullet-train tracks like "Ride the Sky," "Guardians" and "Heavy Metal (Is the Law)." It took a while for the style to catch on and Helloween was in sparse company for long after the lineup that created this album had scattered to the wind. In the late 90s/early 2000s, however, musicians that looked to Walls of Jericho for inspiration sprang up like mushrooms after a heavy rain. MetalMike (Review)

Exodus – Bonded by Blood (1985)

Exodus are first-generation Bay Area Thrash, and part of why that city was such a focal point for the style back in the early 80s. Exodus have had a long and varied career, but this album still gets held up by musicians and fans alike as their best, and some consider it the best Thrash album ever made. If it sounds overly familiar now, that's because so much of what it did went on to be imitated a million times. Sargon (Review)


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

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