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Influential Metal Albums - Part III

by MetalMike & Sargon the Terrible

As the decade of the 80s wore on and the 90s approached it was becoming clear that many bands were starting to either repeat themselves or fall by the wayside as the commercial aspects of the music business, which had initially opened up to Heavy Metal once they realized the monetary potential, pushed them to change their core sound. Independent labels, once the lifeblood of the movement stepped back to the fore once the majors stopped snapping up bands and this allowed adventurous musicians the opportunity to stretch the boundaries. "Extreme" metal was starting to become a thing and new subgenres were forming. Like the pioneers, bands were releasing albums that would stand the test of time with just as much frequency as had happened just a few years earlier.

Death – Scream Bloody Gore (1987)

Possessed and Slayer may have given birth to Death Metal, but this album defined it. Never before had anyone heard anything as vicious, as aggressive, and as murderous as this album. Incredible that Chuck Schuldiner had only been playing guitar for three years when he recorded this, because with catchy choruses and barbaric riffs he laid down the blueprint for a whole new genre. Sargon (Review)

Candlemass – Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (1986)

I will admit to passing this one by back in '86 when I first became aware of it but I certainly didn't miss the following albums, Nightfall, Ancient Dreams and Tales of Creation. These Swedes took the Black Sabbath blueprint, gave it an update to bring the sound into the 80s and fleshed it out over an entire album. Black Sabbath had usually included a couple (if not more) of upbeat and hard rock tracks on most of their releases, a trend that increased as the 70s wore on. Not Candlemass. They were in it for the Doom and nothing but the Doom. Their version of the classic style is the one still prevalent today with no one making any significant improvements. MetalMike (Review)

Bathory – Hammerheart (1989)

One of the most massively influential albums of all time. It's not often a single album can be pointed to as the founder of an entire subgenre, but Hammerheart is ground zero for Viking Metal, full stop. Quorthon took his Black Metal base, added in the epic stylings he had been experimenting with on Blood Fire Death, and made it all about Nordic myth and history. It set off an earthquake in the underground that has yet to really stop. Sargon (Reviews: <1> <2>)

Slayer – Reign in Blood (1986)

Somehow, this satanic-themed Thrash band teamed up with Rap/Hip-hop producer Rick Rubin and took their sound to a whole new level. Slayer had always played fast and sung about disturbing topics but now instead of slicing like knives the guitars shredded like chainsaws and instead of screaming, vocalist Tom Araya growled as if possessed by the devil himself. Venom sung about Satan and Celtic Frost made extreme vocals chic but not until Reign in Blood were they so completely and expertly combined. There isn't a Death Metal musician alive who wasn't directly or indirectly influenced by this record. MetalMike (Reviews: <1> <2>)

Savatage – Gutter Ballet (1989)

Savatage were a great band that never quite broke as big as they deserved. After their peak with Hall of the Mountain King they changed direction and produced the dramatic, symphonic follow-up Gutter Ballet. Other bands had toyed with orchestral elements before, but not to this degree. Pretty much every band who call themselves "symphonic" anything owes a great debt to this underrated album. Sargon (Review)

D.R.I. – Crossover (1987)

A lot of people point to Suicidal Tendencies as the band that brought skate punk, hardcore and metal together but D.R.I. jumped right into the fray with the aptly titled Crossover and thrashed while Suicidal was still fooling around trying to decide what they wanted to be. Speedy and aggressive, Crossover didn't try to be cute (though they kept a sense of humor), it was simply a fist in the face. MetalMike

Morbid Angel – Altars of Madness (1989)

One of the foundational albums of Florida-styled Death Metal. Morbid Angel had to go to Europe to find a label to sign them, and then they proceeded to knock the underground flat with their thrashing, slashing debut album. Altars of Madness was just faster, more intense, and more satanic than any other Death Metal band of the day. Trey Azagthoth's insane lead playing set a new standard, and marching armies of imitators continue to sprout like the children of the hydra's teeth to this very day. Sargon (Review)

Queensrÿche – Operation:Mindcrime (1988)

Queensrÿche has always been lumped into the Progressive genre but that's only due to their songwriting style, which skews a little more complex than your typical traditional band. That's not to say their style isn't unique, something that couldn't be more effectively displayed than on their masterpiece, Operation:Mindcrime. A fantastic blend of heavy, rocking anthems and slower, thought-provoking passages underscores the brilliant lyrics and story of a drug-addicted youth gone wrong. It all came together for Queensrÿche on this one, a double LP, concept album that never once bogs down or gets boring. Instead it is a roller coaster of emotion that is so compelling you want to listen again and again. Any band looking to write a concept album need only look to Operation:Mindcrime to see how it's done. MetalMike (Reviews: <1> <2>)

Bolt Thrower – Realm of Chaos (1989)

After the NWOBHM tide receded in the mid-80s the UK metal scene kind of dried up. It had also never been much for extreme bands, thus it is doubly surprising that such an influential Death Metal band came out of Coventry. Realm of Chaos is the prototypical Bolt Thrower album, laying down the band's formula of ruthless heaviness and churning riff work, topped off with lyrical themes of war, war, and war. Their slower, punchier style really made them stand out in the speed-obsessed 80s, and to this day this band is a star death fans steer by. Sargon (Review)

Voivod – Nothingface (1989)

Once a Venom/Motörhead cover band whose debut album resulted in one reviewer renaming them "Avoidvod" these Canadians soldiered on, tinkering with their sound until their fifth album, Nothingface. A directional change was hinted at with the prior release but no one was prepared for Nothingface. Gone were the harsh vocals and much of the thrash riffing, replaced with spacey compositions like "The Unknown Knows" and a cover of Pink Floyd's "Astronomy Domine." Pink Floyd? Yes, and Voivod made it work. The lesson here is that a stylistic change doesn't have to mean losing your core fans and bands have Voivod to thank for pointing that out. MetalMike (Review)


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

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