Time for another list! I’m making my way through the 1980s and publishing my personal favorite hard rock and heavy metal albums from each year. I have already published my top ten albums for ’80, ’81, and ’82. Now it is time to tackle 1983! Keep in mind, these are not the top twenty albums of 1983, just my top twenty. I’ve based this list on which albums I have enjoyed the most over the years. It’s that simple.
Note: I expanded the list to twenty-four albums in November of 2012.
24. Def Leppard – Pyromania
These days, its hard for me to even gauge what I really think of the Pyromania album. Since about half the songs on Pyromania are such well-worn, omnipresent radio staples, I have no urge to hear them ever again. Unfortunately, I don’t get any enjoyment out of Foolin’, Rock Of Ages, Too Late For Love, or Photograph anymore due to their ubiquitous over-saturation. I can only rely on my hazy memories of youth and judge Pyromania by how much I enjoyed these songs when they were fresh in my ears. Nowadays, my visitations to Pyromania are few and far between, and pertain almost entirely to my lust for the rousing album opener Rock Rock (Till You Drop), a track that radio has mercifully let be. Nevertheless, one can’t deny Pyromania‘s place in the hard rock lexicon; a blockbuster release that will live on as an enduring classic as long as rock has any relevance left. My score: A-
23. Heavy Pettin – Lettin Loose
Heavy Pettin’ was a young, cocky, and very talented Scottish band. Big things were expected of this band when they debuted with Lettin Loose in 1983 (Polydor Records). With a major label contract, and a very accessible “American” hard rock sound, it looked like Heavy Pettin’ were going to be huge. Not sure why Lettin Loose didn’t make a bigger splash, but I guess that’s how it goes.
Lettin Loose was co-produced by Queen’s Brian May. Though members of Heavy Pettin would later express disappointment in the final product, I think the album sounds just fine. There are nine tracks on Lettin Loose, and not a stinker among them. This is just solid, very enjoyable commercial hard rock/metal. While many compare Heavy Pettin to Def Leppard, I don’t reach that conclusion when listening to Lettin Loose. Certainly both bands had a radio-friendly sound built for American audiences, but the two bands did not sound very similar to me. If anything, one could say that Heavy Pettin were a bit more talented and consistent than the Leps, but the Leps had more “big hits” in their arsenal. Maybe that’s the only thing Heavy Pettin was missing on Lettin Loose; a breakout “smash” single like Photograph or Rock Of Ages. But the consistency of Lettin Loose is something to be admired. Just push play baby! (Note: the U.S. version of this album was re-mixed and released by Polygram records. Titled Heavy Pettin, the album had a different cover, shown here.) My score: A-
22. Fastway – Fastway
Ex-Motorhead guitarist “Fast” Eddie Clarke formed Fastway with ex-UFO bassist Pete Way. As it turned out, Way did not stay with the new band and left before Fastway came out. This was fortunate for me, because Way instead formed Waysted, another great hard rock band! (Waysted’s debut album Vices also appears on this list!) So instead of one awesome band to worship, I’ve got two!
Fastway kicks off with the free-wheeling Easy Livin’. The album maintains it’s grip with raunchy rock characterized by a touch of heavy blues, dirty guitars, and the commanding vocal presence of Dave King (who sounds like a meaner, jacked up version of Robert Plant or Jack Russell). Not a lot of variety but that’s okay. Personal favorite is Give It All You Got. My score: A-
21. Manilla Road – Crystal Logic
Somewhere out in the abyss, there are a dedicated few who get all boned up by these Wichita, Kansas cult legends. Manilla Road have always been firmly entrenched in the heavy metal underground. The Road’s independent spirit, geographical isolation, and unique sound have all contributed to their invisibility to the eyes of the mainstream. And once you hear that first vocal note from Mark Shelton, you’ll understand why Manilla Road have never, and will never, be something suitable for mass consumption. It’s as if Shelton is singing with a clothes pin on his nose. Even after all these years, I still can’t say that his ridiculously nasal voice is any more agreeable to these ears. Yet still, Crystal Logic has found a way to worm deeper and deeper into my skull with every spin.
With the exception of the out-of-place Feeling Free Again, all the tracks create an atmosphere of epic fantasy. The Road were not unlike Manowar in their swinging of broadswords, yet Shelton tried not to be overtly cheesy, opting instead for what is at least an illusion of smartness (re: a better vocabulary). No matter, the songs rock righteous in their evocation of all things grand and all things METAL! Personal favorite is the weighty The Riddle Master.
Crystal Logic was originally released on the band’s own imprint Roadster Records. In 1986, the album was re-released by the French label, Black Dragon Records (on blue vinyl). My score: A-
20. AC/DC – Flick Of The Switch
Just another solid AC/DC album. At this point in their career that had yet to disappoint in the least. That being said, Flick Of The Switch does not contain any one song that stands up against AC/DC’s long list of “classics”. That is to say, there isn’t a “hit single” on the album. Yet Flick Of The Switch is a very consistent effort, and probably AC/DC’s “heaviest” record. The Young brothers gave us another collection of remarkably simple, catchy riffs. In the hands of any other band these riffs would sound shitty, but AC/DC were masters at framing and executing riffs.
This would be the last album in which Brian Johnson still had some semblance of a voice left. After Flick Of The Switch, he never sounded good ever again. His lyrics seem to have tailed off considerably in the creativity department, as well. I guess he ran out of ways to cleverly insinuate that he wants to ejaculate from his penis.
Flick Of The Switch has become one of the forgotten AC/DC albums. None of the songs get played on the radio anymore, and AC/DC haven’t played anything live from this album in a very long time. Not sure why it doesn’t get love because it rocks HARD! Flick Of The Switch was certified platinum in 2001. My score: A-
19. Dio – Holy Diver
After breaking up with Black Sabbath, Ronnie James Dio employed the services of a fine young heavy metal guitarist named Vivian Campbell for his new band. He also brought along hard-hitting drummer Vinny Appice from Black Sabbath. The music they recorded together (along with bassist Jimmy Bain) resulted in the Holy Diver LP, a record now referred to as a “classic” by many a metal aficionado.
The style of music on Holy Diver is a very clean, very lean form of heavy metal. I think this has a lot to do with the recording’s great instrument fidelity, the understated single guitar approach, Appice’s precise drumming (with great, authoritative, fills), and Dio’s crisp, commanding vocals. In many ways, Holy Diver is the quintessential “traditional” metal album. None of the many metal sub-genres really apply here. Holy Diver is one of those albums at the very sun-center of the heavy metal galaxy (of which all sub-genres orbit). And though accessible, it is not commercial. Any album with Stand Up And Shout, Holy Diver, and Rainbow In The Dark is absolutely essential. Arguably Dio’s finest hour. My score: A-
18. Virgin Steele – Virgin Steele II: Guardians Of The Flame
Virgin Steele’s second LP was released on the independent, New York-based label Mongol Horde Records (awesome name). The cover presented on the left was the original cover on the Mongol Horde pressing. Guardians Of The Flame was released in the U.K. by the Music For Nations label with a different cover.
Guardians Of The Flame was a great improvement over Virgin Steele’s rather shaky debut Virgin Steele (1982). The guys decided to venture further into the cod-piece metal that they only hinted at with the debut. About half the songs embrace this more epic tone, while the other half are straight-forward rockers. A scan of the writing credits reveals why. Vocalist Dave DeFeis was the man behind the bare-chested, Manowar-ish, epic tunes, while guitarist Jack Starr wrote all the more aggressive old-school metal songs. The push and pull of the two styles (and egos) made for a pretty well-rounded album. Starr’s best number, in my opinion, is Life Of Crime, while DeFeis delivers with the album’s best track Don’t Say Goodbye (Tonight), and the emotive album-closing ballad A Cry In The Night.
While Virgin Steele may have had aspirations of royal purples and regal golds, unfortunately the cheap production values on Guardians Of The Flame find them draped in dungeon grays. Oh well. Such was the same malady suffered by other he-man warriors of the day; Manilla Road and Manowar. My score: A-
17. Ozzy Osbourne – Bark At The Moon
There is a lot of bullshit that has followed this album through the years. It was a tumultuous time for the Ozzy Osbourne band. Randy Rhoads was dead and Ozzy’s substance abuse problems were mounting. He hired Jake E. Lee on guitar (he almost hired George Lynch), and he brought back Bob Daisley on bass. (Note: Daisley’s contributions to Ozzy’s career cannot be understated. He was the secret weapon behind much of Ozzy’s success, but Ozzy continues to screw him over royalties to this day.) Interestingly, Ozzy Osbourne gets sole credit for all the writing on this album; a complete and utter fallacy. Word is Lee and Daisley wrote pretty much the whole album, but Ozzy either stole credit or, more likely, bought the songs from them. These days its pretty well-known that Ozzy didn’t write very much at all. Tis a shame he doesn’t give credit to those who made him what he is today. Furthermore, in 2002 Bark At The Moon was re-issued with a different mix. Despite being a remix, there was no indication on the package of the CD to indicate as such. Unsuspecting fans were subject to a recording that deleted certain elements from the original, or downplayed certain instruments. Jake E. Lee’s playing (particularly his solos) were pushed down in the mix. A really cheap move by the Ozzy folks. With this review I concern myself with the original recording.
I love all of Ozzy’s studio albums right up until 1995, and Bark At The Moon is just another example of “classic” Ozzy. The title track is a scorcher. I remember seeing the cool video for this song on Friday Night Videos; a network program my mother would record on VHS. (We didn’t have cable back then, and I was way too young to stay up late.) Actually Bark At The Moon was one of the first tapes I ever owned. I just loved that werewolf cover pic! Another fave is Centre Of Eternity; a driving metal stomper with a really eerie intro. I will say this; Bark At The Moon is not an undisputed masterpiece like the two Ozzy albums that preceded it, but there ain’t a single track that I skip when I listen to this old chestnut. I should also mention that two B-sides that Ozzy released during the Bark At The Moon period are worth tracking down. The first is Spiders, the B-side to the Bark At The Moon single (and actually an album cut on the U.K. version of the Bark At The Moon LP, replacing Slow Down). The other is called One Up The B-Side, an infectious little gem that appeared on the B-side of the So Tired single. My score: A-
16. Y&T – Mean Streak
For the second straight year, Y&T has made my list. This time its Mean Streak, another ballsy hard rock record, and another KILLER album cover!
Chris Tsangarides does a superb production job here. The album is crystal clear and loud, with a heavy bottom and some superb harmonized vocals. (Tsangarides also produced Thin Lizzy’s Thunder And Lightning, which also appears on this list.)
Mean Streak is pretty much flawless on all fronts for the first six tracks. Mean Streak and Straight Thru The Heart are the swaggering metallic rockers. Midnight In Tokyo, Breaking Away and Hang ‘Em High are the smooth, melodic songs. Lonely Side Of Town is a cool ballad-esque tune. Truth be told, Mean Streak stalls a bit on the last three tracks. Take You To The Limit and Down And Dirty sound a bit too generic, and the ballad Sentimental Fool is just “okay”. Nevertheless, Mean Streak matches up real well with ’82’s Black Tiger; the two albums that I see as quintessential Y&T (with ’81’s Earthshaker just a hair behind). Cheers to lead vocalist and lead guitarist Dave Meniketti; a great talent indeed. Leonard Haze was certainly no slouch on drums, either. My score: A-
15. Waysted – Vices
Waysted was a band led by ex-UFO bassist (and bad boy) Pete Way. Vices was Waysted’s debut. It came out on Chrysalis Records. This album rocks hard in a gritty, boozy way. Vocalist “Fin” has a rusty voice that sounds road-weary, cigarette-stained, and whiskey-soaked. He and the Waysted lads plow through this awesome set of loose and lively rockers.
Two songs stand out as exceptional in my opinion; All Belongs To You and Right From The Start. But really, seven of the nine tracks are, at minimum, highly enjoyable. The only real stinker is Women In Chains. Then there is the cover of Somebody To Love. I always skip this one. After having seen Jim Carrey’s disturbed (and hilarious) rendition of this tune in the movie Cable Guy, I can never take this song seriously ever again. For that stripped-down dirty rock sound, Waysted was the genuine article. My score: A-
14. Metallica – Kill ‘Em All
This is probably the most important album on this list in terms of impact. This is where it all started for Metallica, arguably the most famous heavy metal band of all time. Kill ‘Em All is distinguished because it was the first pure thrash LP ever released. Bands such as Exodus and Overkill were also playing thrash at the time, but Metallica beat them to the punch when it came to getting a record out.
Of course, every metal fan should have Kill ‘Em All proudly taking up space in the “M” section of their CD shelf. It’s an important piece of metal history, and holds up quite well some thirty or so years later. The only drawback would be the album’s lousy production (even for 1983).
This album, like anything Metallica has ever done, has been examined, re-examined, and basically talked into the ground by fanboys, critics and naysayers. Nothing polarizes the modern metal fan more than the subject of Metallica. Remember, haters gonna hate, but there isn’t even a discussion unless people care. The reason why everyone cares starts right here with Metallica’s groundbreaking debut.
Well, enough with the history lesson. All the matters is what I feel in my ears and my brain when I slide my scratched-to-hell copy of Kill ‘Em All into the CD player and press PLAY. Certified triple platinum. My score: A
13. Trance – Power Infusion
Trance! As far as I am concerned, there is no justice in a world where Trance is not a famous heavy metal band. Trance’s Power Infusion album embodies all that I love about ’80s metal, and is exactly the kind of lost metal album to which this website is dedicated. Power Infusion was Trance’s second LP (Rockport Records). This German metal band featured the shrieking vocals of Lothar Antoni poured over sizzling guitars, rock-steady bass lines, and pounding drums. I liken Trance to another German fave of mine, Gravestone. Both packing a lean crunch, head banging grooves, and a pure metal conviction. Intensity is the key, and Antoni’s emotive voice and genuine lyrics show a true, heartfelt passion for music. It’s as if Trance needed to play heavy metal. I guess the cover says it all, doesn’t it? An arm plugged directly into a Marshall stack. Metal as sustenance. Is there any other way to live? That’s the kind of attitude Antoni and Trance convey on Power Infusion. Highlights include the rousing album opener Heavy Metal Queen, the exquisite Rockstar, and the soaring Burn Your Lies. My score: A
12. Twisted Sister – You Can’t Stop Rock ‘N’ Roll
This album always gets me fired up. There are no less than four magnificent fist-pumping anthems on You Can’t Stop Rock ‘N’ Roll (Atlantic Records); The Kids Are Back, I Am (I’m Me), We’re Gonna Make It, and You Can’t Stop Rock ‘N’ Roll. It was obvious that Dee Snider and Twisted Sister had a fire in their collective belly after years and years paying their dues on the club circuit in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut (where they were no less than legendary). The never-say-die attitude of the band really comes across genuinely on this album. Basically, Dee Snider wrote songs to himself, trying to will his way to the top and trying to remind himself to “stay hungry”. Indeed, Twisted Sister did reach the top a year later with Stay Hungry. You Can’t Stop Rock ‘N’ Roll set the stage for their assent. It was Twisted Sister’s first major label album and it eventually reached gold certification. My score: A
11. Iron Maiden – Piece Of Mind
An essential Maiden release, Piece Of Mind was the band’s fourth overall and second with Bruce Dickinson. The album consists of nine tracks, seven of which are kick-ass. On the more vicious end, we have the galloping Maiden “classic” The Trooper and the banging Die With You Boots On. Piece Of Mind also contains two particularly notable atmospheric tunes; Revelations (written by Bruce) and Still Life. The later gets my vote as the creepiest Iron Maiden song of them all. Maiden often tried to be foreboding and/or dark but usually came off a bit silly or over the top, but Still Life was the real deal in my opinion.
The two tracks I usually skip are Quest For Fire and To Tame A Land, but I still think Piece Of Mind is one of three best Maiden albums (along with The Number Of The Beast and Powerslave). Piece Of Mind is certified platinum. My score: A
10. Thin Lizzy – Thunder And Lightning
The final Thin Lizzy album was also the band’s heaviest. Ex-Tygers Of Pan Tang guitarist John Sykes joined Lizzy for this album. Sykes later went on to Whitesnake and then his own band, Blue Murder, making him a key figure in no less than four significant bands in the ’80s! The young Sykes may have been an adrenaline shot to the old war horses in Thin Lizzy (although he only gets one writing credit on the album, so it’s difficult to say how much of a spark he truly was). Well regardless, something got into Phil and the result was a swan song worthy of the attention of any ’80s metal fan. While the spirit and soul of Thin Lizzy remains in tact, the steroid injection makes for a white knuckle ride. Favorites include the title track, This Is The One, The Holy War, Cold Sweat and Bad Habits. The album closes with an eerie foreshadowing of Phil’s death some three years later in the form of a song called Heart Attack. Listen to the lyrics. Seems Phil didn’t think he had too much longer to go. My score: A
9. Chateaux – Chained And Desperate
Ebony Records released a handful of NWOBHM albums in 1983, the label’s second year of existence. The two most “famous” albums were See You In Hell by Grim Reaper, and Loose ‘N Lethal by Savage. But for me, the real jewel of Ebony’s ’83 NWOBHM output was Chateaux’s Chained And Desperate. Interestingly, Grim Reaper’s lead singer, Steve Grimmett, was also the lead singer for Chateaux on Chained And Desperate. Comparing these two Grimmett albums, it’s my opinion that Steve gives a much better performance on Chained And Desperate than See You In Hell (he’s much less “campy” and “cartoony” on Chained And Desperate). And to compare the two albums in general, See You In Hell sounds rushed and sloppy while Chained And Desperate sounds loose and lively. There’s no hiding that Chained And Desperate was recorded on a shoestring, but the rough edges of this recording seem to accentuate Chateaux’s searing, off-the-cuff, metal style. Jacked-up metal jams like Son Of Seattle and Shine On Forever highlight the album. The two tracks actually make me think of “grunge” music, which became popular about a decade later. I could imagine a band like Mad Season recording something akin to Shine On Forever. Tim Broughton’s in-your-ugly-face guitar playing and Grimmett’s outstanding vocals make this album a NWOBHM must-have! My score: A
8. Witchfinder General – Friends Of Hell
Friends Of Hell was Witchfinder General’s second album (Heavy Metal Records). These Stourbridge dope smokers were part of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. Friends Of Hell houses tons of titanic riffs that reflect the band’s obvious reverence for Tony Iommi’s work with Black Sabbath. Lyrically, Friends Of Hell is a bit more serious in tone than Witchfinder General’s debut Death Penalty (1982). This time around, the tales of drugs, Satan, and suicide seem less tongue-in-cheek than those on Death Penalty. Vocalist Zeeb Parkes’ words seem a little more bleak and black-hearted this time around. Faves include Love On Smack and Requiem For Youth.
Witchfinder General also tried to expand their breadth ever so slightly with the inclusion of a radio-friendly tune called Music. This track was released as a single. I actually love this song. It just sticks to my brain like peanut butter! Lyrically, it shows that Witchfinder General were just kids with a love for making records. Another departure was the acoustic ballad I Lost You. This song paints a truly desperate and soul-destroying picture. Vocal-wise, Zeeb is way out of his league here, as he struggles with his timing, but the song succeeds at conveying his emotional wreckage. And what’s not to love about that album cover? Boobage galore! Giggity! My score: A
7. Grand Prix – Samurai
Grand Prix are sometimes classified as a NWOBHM band, but I consider that label to be erroneous. It seems any guitar-driven band that came out of the U.K. in the early eighties gets slapped with the NWOBHM label these days. Truth be told, Grand Prix played the kind of high-brow AOR that most NWOBHM bands were railing against. But I digress, this Chrysalis Records release was the last of three for Grand Prix. Featuring a splendid vocal performance by Robin McAuley, Samurai is a classy and pristine chunk of AOR. At times I think of April Wine when I listen to this. Maybe even a little whiff of Queen? (Or am I just drunk?) If you have a taste for well done “pomp” rock, you really can’t go wrong with Samurai. There are plenty of divine vocal harmonies and gorgeous melodies to be found. Faves include 50/50, Give Me What’s Mine, and Freedom. Then, of course, there’s the matter of the title track Samurai. It is pompous, overblown, and pretentious — but GOD DAMN IT’S BRILLIANT! I love it! My score: A
6. Warlord – Deliver Us
An air of mystery has always hung over this epic American band (actually no more than a studio project). Deliver Us was on of the earliest Metal Blade Records releases. This six-track mini-LP is quite the tasty metal breakfast. I previously posted a detailed review of the album here. Bottom line: Every song is a winner! If ever angels from heaven do battle with demons from hell right here on Earth, I want Deliver Us blaring on my headphones while I pop a squat, chow down on some Doritos, and watch the shit go down. My score: A
5. Wildfire – Brute Force And Ignorance
Vocalist Paul Mario Day appeared on the album Warhead by More in 1981. During the recording of More’s follow-up, Blood And Thunder, Day left the band to go forth and form his own band called Wildfire. Wildfire’s debut Brute Force And Ignorance was one of the earliest releases from the German label Mausoleum Records, and was one of the few NWOBHM albums that appeared on that label.
I thought that the More album that Day sang on was pretty average. It’s not that Day was a bad singer, it’s just that the centerpiece of More was guitarist Kenny Cox, and as such the songs were more about riffs, grooves, and solos than about melody and vocals. It should come as no surprise then that Day’s Wildfire was a better showcase for his singing and his big ass melodies. The album opens with the ripping metal of Violator. The second cut is Victim Of Love, which is a more like hard rock, and has a massive chorus. Other faves include the exquisite Redline and the short (but sweet) Wildfire. Easily one of the best NWOBHM offerings of 1983 (the tail end of the movement). Excellent playing and singing all around. Not a “classic” in the traditional sense, but definitely a classic in my house. As the years go by, I love Brute Force And Ignorance more and more! Trivia note: Paul Mario Day was once a member of Iron Maiden. My score: A+
4. Quiet Riot – Metal Health
For me, this was my gateway drug to the world of heavy metal. Quiet Riot’s Metal Health hit it big when I was at a young, impressionable age. The album achieved that all-important “crossover” status and become a national phenomenon, reaching #1 on Billboard. Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY knew about Quiet Riot and their two hits Metal Health and Cum On Feel The Noize. A dubbed copy of Metal Health even found its way into my tape deck somehow, and an instant fan was baptized in the name of Satan and heavy metal.
The title cut simply RULES! To this day it still gives me a little nostalgic chill when I blast it into my increasingly deafened ears. Cum On Feel The Noize is also just a fun, stupid, knockout of a tune. It’s a cover, yes indeed, but not of a song that everyone knows, which is the best kind of cover in my opinion. I have only ever heard Slade’s original version come on the radio once in my life. Nine out of ten people probably think it’s a Quiet Riot original, which is EXACTLY what a band should shoot for when picking a song to cover (not that Quiet Riot picked it, they were “forced” to do the song). No sense in covering a song like Purple Haze (like Winger did, like Coroner did) when there is not much of a chance anyone is going to like it better than the “sacred” original. In fact, many will hate it. That’s just human nature. People can be douches sometimes.
Then we have Slick Black Cadillac. Now this song actually sounds like it could have been a cover. It has the feeling and melody of something from maybe an early ’70s rock record, but in fact it is indeed a Quiet Riot original (actually their second time using the song on an album). Slick Black Cadillac is just a really fun song that shows Quiet Riot’s goofy charm. A long time favorite of mine.
Let us not forget the last song on the album, the ballad Thunderbird. This song usually gets blasted by reviewers. Everyone seems to hate it; calling it cheesy and stupid. I could not DISAGREE more! Am I alone here? Am I the only one who has ever driven down a lonely stretch of road with Thunderbird blaring from the car stereo, screaming the lyrics at the top of their lungs with eyes tightly closed and tears streaming down their face? Seriously? No one? Hmmmmmm… well screw you then! I LOVE THIS SONG! AND I CAN HIT ALL THE NOTES TOO, YOU ASSHOLE! Apparently the song is about original Quiet Riot guitarist Randy Rhoads. Although this seems a little bit odd to me when Kevin DuBrow sings the line; “Leave your nest. Oh baby leave the best thing…”. Kind of weird to use the word “baby” there, isn’t it?
RIP Randy Rhoads and Kevin DuBrow. Metal Health is certified 6 x platinum. My score: A+
3. Zebra – Zebra
By the time Zebra released their self-titled debut album in 1983, the trio had already amassed a sizable fan base due to years of gigging in their native New Orleans, and their adopted stomping grounds, Long Island. Brisk sales greeted Zebra upon its arrival. Eventually Zebra was awarded gold certification.
To me, Zebra is one of those Sunday morning hard rock albums, because even a hangover requires a soundtrack when your life demands heavy metal and hard rock 24/7. These rich, textured songs have a way of soothing the soul. With the exception of one dud (a cover), this album is absolutely superb. The melodies are striking and the execution is flawless. This is some well-crafted, timeless hard rock.
I previously posted a more detailed review of Zebra here. Check it out. My score: A+
2. Accept – Balls To The Wall
Damn! That cover is dangerously close to being a full-on pubic assault! Balls To The Wall was released in Europe in 1983 (first on Lark Records). The U.S. release (via Portrait Records) did not occur until 1984.
For yours truly, Balls To The Wall represents the apex of Accept’s glorious career. The production on Balls To The Wall has become somewhat of a template of sorts for how to make a heavy metal record sound accessible yet still as heavy as hell. The twin guitars blaze, the bass thumps, and the drums explode with simple ferocity. Croak throat Udo screams tales of the oppressed and persecuted from under the bridge where he lives.
Killer tracks? They are everywhere. This sack is full, my friend. The only less-than-godly track is Turn Me On. Personal faves include the title track, London Leatherboys, Head Over Heels and Love Child. This one is a pant load of testicular fortitude and cracking nuts; essential to any metal collection. Went gold in the States. My score: A+
1. Europe – Europe
When I started thinking about doing my top twenty favorite albums for 1983, I had to keep asking myself “which album do I listen to and enjoy the most?”. In the end, I realized that it was Europe, and album that has never been considered a classic in the United States by any means. But I am deadly serious when I say this is a great hard rock/heavy metal album, and, in my opinion, the best album to come out of Sweden in the 1980s (no small feat considering Sweden brought us the likes of 220 Volt, Heavy Load and Candlemass).
Those of you who may only know Europe from their third album, 1986’s The Final Countdown (the first Europe album to be released in the United States), may not be aware that prior to their more glamorous “hair” era, Europe were a galloping, epic hard rock band that released two albums of glorious Euro-metal. Just look at the cover; no perms or makeup, just baby-faced kids! Really, Europe were a different beast entirely in 1983. If you need proof, go find the song Seven Doors Hotel from the Europe album and give it a listen.
Europe was originally released in Sweden on Hot Records. The original cover is depicted above. Europe was also released in other European countries and Japan (some versions had a different cover), but in the United States, Europe was not released until 1989! Tragic!
Europe is loaded with rich, quasi-gothic tunes that are refreshingly different from the fashionable heavy metal of the day. Smooth, effortless vocals by Joey Tempest match up perfectly with the tasteful and tuneful axe work of John Norum. Favorites include In The Future To Come, Farewell and Children Of This Time. Yet, the absolute highlight for me would be the aforementioned Seven Doors Hotel, a song that retells the plot of the 1981 horror film The Beyond. My score: A+
Go back to the Top Ten Albums of 1982
Continue to the Top Twenty Albums of 1984