Welcome to the fourth installment of The 100 Most Essential Albums of the 80s. If you need to catch up, you can do so here.
This week’s edition is another testament to the diversity of eighties metal, featuring the most traditional of traditional metal, and one of the most extreme records of the decade, if not all time. In between, there’s plenty of death, doom and Satan.
Let us continue.
HELLHAMMER – APOCALYPTIC RAIDS
Tom G. Warrior’s first band was only in existence for two years, and this EP was their only official release, but what a release it is. Apocalyptic Raids is rawer than even a Venom album and took the prevailing philosophy of the day that you had to be a master of your instrument before ever showing your face in public and clubbed it death with distorted guitars. In a day before the extreme sub-genres were defined, Hellhammer influenced them all, from the speedy black metal of “Massacra” to the crawling doom of “Triumph of Death.” Hellhammer paved the way for hundreds of amateur bands to stand up and become something.
Hellhammer – Apocalyptic Raids
7 March, 1984
Killing cut: “Massacra”
TROUBLE – PSALM 9
Chicago’s Trouble was unusual for a couple of reasons. First, Trouble was playing straight up stoner/doom metal at a time when most of the underground was splintering into thrash, death, and black metal. Second, Trouble also wrote about uplifting themes, causing some to label the band as ‘christian’ or ‘white’, in some manner. Regardless, Trouble was devastatingly heavy for the time and this album along with the follow up, The Skull, would go on to have a huge impact upon the legion of bands in the stoner/doom sub-genres to follow.
Trouble – Psalm 9
Released: March, 1984
Metal Blade Records
Killing cut: “Bastards Will Pay”
AUTOPSY – SEVERED SURVIVAL
Autopsy’s music has always sounded, to these ears, like the listener is stuck right in the band’s practice space, which must be some sort of horrific charnel house, where blood seeps from A/C ducts and the night is always clear and moonlit. The band’s drop-dead classic debut marries the hugest thruppp-thruppp-thruppp¬ing bass with an otherwise dry sound, so that you’d swear you can feel Chris Reifert’s spittle at the back of your throat. The songs form a cavalcade of classics, from “Charred Remains” to “Critical Madness” to the immortal title track, but what impresses about Severed Survival down the years is how these songs manage to sound so utterly filthy and depraved, and yet fiercely intelligent. Even at such an early stage, Autopsy had nearly mastered the art of intuitive, dynamic songwriting, which simply makes the butchery cut all the more sharply.
Autopsy – Severed Survival
Released: 24 April, 1989
Killing cut: “Gasping for Air”
ANTHRAX – AMONG THE LIVING
This was the moment when Anthrax completely shed the last of the power metal tendencies heard on their early material and fully refined their brand of heavy thrash metal. Never to be taken completely serious (even when he was serious), Joey Belladonna wailed out lyrics about everything from Randall Flagg (the title track) and Judge Dredd (“I Am The Law”) to the early death of John Belushi (“Efilnikufesin”). But the meat of the band’s sound was the instrumental unit, anchored by Scott Ian’s beastly right hand chops and the masterful rhythm section of Frank Bello and Charlie Benante. Anthrax often gets a bit of grief for not having all too deep of a catalog, but Among the Living was the type of utterly loaded achievement that most bands never approach, and easily one of the high points for the thrash style.
Anthrax – Among the Living
Released: 22 March, 1987
Killing cut: “Indians”
NAPALM DEATH – FROM ENSLAVEMENT TO OBLITERATION
Grindcore is an ugly beast, and few albums were (and are) as gloriously ugly as Napalm Death’s second, From Enslavement To Obliteration. Opening with the Swans-ian industrial march of “Evolved As One,” From Enslavement crawls into being like some primordial monster, bent on crushing weak minds and weaker eardrums. But the pace quickens sharply – from the second track onward, Napalm blasts forth with textbook pure grindcore. Blast beats, dueling low / high screams, punk riffs, blistering tempos, raw and ragged production: All the tenets are in place, executed by a young band helping to create a sub-genre as they went.
Napalm Death – From Enslavement to Obliteration
Released: 16 September, 1988
Killing cut: “Lucid Fairytale”
Napalm Death – Scum
Released: 1 July, 1987
DARK QUARTERER – DARK QUARTERER
If Dark Quarterer‘s debut was only an example of the will of metal triumphing over life’s stacked deck, it would be a winner. But, shit, it’s still so much more. Cut twelve years into the band’s existence due to a lack of recording options in the knee of Italy, their eponymous unveiling presented a sapling with the rare growth rings of depth and dexterity. Before you say it, this wasn’t a curious case of luck. During their decade-long wax exile, Dark Quarterer boned-up on innovations in NWOBHM, speed, power, and prog metal resulting in a set of songs sounding oddly timeless since cliches of the day were always peeled off for the stronger, newer, better, and faster. The evolution was clearly worth the wait, bestowing upon the masses the early album climax “Colossus of Argil,” a song able to namecheck everything from Budgie to Priest to Diamond Head to Fate without making one wish the classics were spinning instead. Oh, you will wish for one thing, though. After navigating its labyrinthine ten minutes, you’ll spend a lot of showers seeing if you’re the next Gianni Nepi. I’ll save you twelve years of toil and say you aren’t.
Dark Quarterer – Dark Quarterer
Label Service Records
Killing cut: “Colossus of Argil”
JAG PANZER – AMPLE DESTRUCTION
Ample Destruction is almost more feral than it had any right to be, considering it was 1984. Most of its jugular-lunging hunger can be attributed to the masterful vocal performance of Harry “The Tyrant” Conklin, who goes from a deep, resonant low tenor to cloud-clawing shrieks at the drop of Rob Halford’s Unleashed in the East motorcycle hat. The Panzer’s “Generally Hostile” is tougher than one hundred of Pantera’s “Fucking Hostile”s, and every other song rips through its template-forging power metal skin with gleeful abandon. Oh, and did you sit back and feel gently massaged by those keyboards in the opening minutes of “The Crucifix”? How did it feel when the rest of the song tore your beating heart straight from your chest, impaled it on ten skyscrapers, and then doused the whole scene in lighter fluid and let it blaze? Pretty goddamn good, right? That’s Jag Panzer for you.
Jag Panzer – Ample Destruction
Released: August, 1984
Killing cut: “The Crucifix”
SATAN – COURT IN THE ACT
Along with Angel Witch’s self-titled debut, Satan’s ripping debut Court in the Act was responsible for taking the crackling, punk energy of the NWOBHM in a distinctly darker direction. That’s not to say Court in the Act is all dour or self-important; in fact, almost every track on this timeless debut is a testament to the raw power of fiery dual guitars and a vocalist who can crack the heavens. Still, “Trial by Fire” considers the nuclear devastation at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and both “Blades of Steel” and “Broken Treaties” consider their respective subject matters (Viking excursions to mainland Europe and the slaughter of Native Americans in the campaigns of Westward expansion, respectively) with more sadness and less pep than the corresponding songs from Iron Maiden’s The Number of the Beast (“Invaders” and “Run to the Hills”). After Court in the Act, the band changed its name to Blind Fury to avoid being associated with more extreme developments in heavy metal. Blind Fury’s 1985 album Out of Reach is also quite excellent, though markedly different from Court in the Act. Though the band put out another album as Satan in 1987, it was a completely different creature. The release of the (frankly) astonishingly good Life Sentence earlier in 2013, however, proves that Court in the Act wasn’t a freak success. The past, it would seem, is alive.
Satan – Court in the Act
Released: June, 1983
Killing cut: “Blades of Steel”
OZZY OSBOURNE – BLIZZARD OF OZZ
There are a few truly great guitarist-vocalist teams, and this was the finest of Ozzy’s career—including Sabbath. Osbourne–Rhodes would become legend, and Blizzard of Ozz hinted at the greatness to come …however brief. Carried by some serious momentum in the iconic single “Crazy Train” and occult nudging ‘Mr. Crowley”, it’s ‘Side A’ heavy for sure — with the massive fuck you of “I Don’t Know”, yearbook-quotable “Goodbye to Romance”, and controversy-generating “Suicide Solution” rounding out the relevant tunes — but every standout track is undeniably enduring, as a rejuvenated Osbourne brazenly began this new chapter of a storied career, hungry once again.
Ozzy Osbourne – Blizzard of Ozz
Released: 20 September, 1980
Killing cut: “Suicide Solution”
Ozzy Osbourne – Diary of a Madman
Released: 3 November, 1981
JUDAS PRIEST – SCREAMING FOR VENGEANCE
The leather-clad lads from Birmingham had already achieved a measure of notable success by the time their eighth album came out, defining a genre barely a decade old. One couldn’t have blamed them for pursuing the more radio-friendly route, but Screaming for Vengeance turned the levels to max and let hits take care of themselves. KK Downing and Glenn Tipton’s guitars shred through leads and riffs with effortless grace, while Rob Halford unleashes his most prophetic lyrics. In an age of ubiquitous digital surveillance, “Electric Eye” grows only more relevant. Vengeance has everything—ballads, hits, attitude, aggression, staying power.
Judas Priest – Screaming for Vengeance
Released: 14 July, 1982
Killing cut: “Electric Eye”
Judas Priest – British Steel
Released: 3 April, 1980
Judas Priest – Defenders of the Faith
Released: 24 January, 1984
That’s forty classics unveiled so far. Next week marks the half-way point in our nostalgic journey and some menacing characters lie in wait. See you then.