12 Great Heavy Metal Albums From The 80’s That Are Under The Radar (Part 1)

Great Metal Albums from the 1980’s That Have Been Forgotten

Still one of the most exciting things for me is to be introduced to great music that I have never heard before. It doesn’t matter if it was made this year or thirty years ago. If you haven’t heard it before, it’s new to you, isn’t it?

I started thinking about bands casual heavy metal fans may be familiar with by name, but not their work with the exception of possibly a song or two.  That lead to the creation of this list. Rather than focus on great albums from well known bands such as Judas Priest, Slayer, Megadeth, Metallica, Anthrax, Iron Maiden, Dio, Van Halen, Testament, Overkill, Exodus or any of the well known bands, these are bands and albums that may have had a brief moment in the spotlight or are known for the wrong reasons, like an MTV video.

So in chronological order, here is part one of twelve albums that you should check out.

1980 – Angel WitchAngel Witch (Bronze Records)

What a debut album should be: songs with one amazing hook after another. Angel Witch emerged from The New Wave of British Heavy Metal looking like they would rise to the top. This trio lead by Kevin Heybourne lead singer and guitarist should have conquered the world. For whatever reason it never happened.  Almost every song on here is a classic in songwriting 101. Technically played to perfection with a melodic lead guitar and great harmonies, this is a sleeper of an album that very few metal fans know about, and a must to add to your music library. Best tracks: Angel Witch, White Witch, Confused, Gorgon, Sweet Danger, Atlantis.

1981 – RavenRock Until You Drop (Neat)

Another three piece band from England featuring brothers John and Mark Gallagher and Rob “Wacko” Hunter. Their first full length album Rock Until You Drop is shrieking vocals piled upon speed. And while Mark Gallagher’s vocals may grate on some, the songwriting is so strong that you can’t help but be impressed by this album. Standouts include: Hard Ride, Hell Patrol, Don’t Need Your Money, Over The Top, Lambs to the Slaughter, Tyrant of the Airways and a medley cover of the Sweet classics Hellraiser/Action.

1982/83 – AcceptRestless and Wild (Brain / Portrait)

The fact that there are some metal fans who are unaware of Accept is a sad commentary on the American heavy metal scene. There are many great German metal bands that should have had a bigger impact on America, like Kreator, Destruction, Helloween,  and Sodom. Accept probably had as much success in the United States as any German band, with the exception of Scorpions. Even with that moderate success, there are many who know the band only through the provocatively titled Balls To The Wall (1984) song and album. The band has re-united in the past couple of years without lead singer Udo Dirkschneider and has put out a new album with former TT Quick singer Marc Tornillo providing the vocals. Restless and Wild was released in Europe in 1982 and the US in 1983. Nearly 30 years later this album holds up as well as any 1980’s metal album. The best tracks are Fast As A Shark; Restless and Wild, Princess of the Dawn, Flash Rockin’ Man, Ahead of the Pack. 

1983 – Twisted SisterYou Can’t Stop Rock ‘N’ Roll (Atlantic)

For those who think of Twisted Sister as some cheesy hair band who had MTV popularity with We’re Not Gonna Take It and I Wanna Rock being the sum of the band are missing the whole picture. The Long Island quintette had more raw power and talent than 9/10 of the bands who were competing for popularity. Yeah they needed a gimmick: wild make-up and over the top videos to catch on with the public, but that belied the fact that they were producing great music before their breakthrough album Stay Hungry in 1984. You Can’t Stop Rock n’ Roll contains one great song after another. Standout tracks: The Kids Are Back, Like A Knife in the Back, We’re Gonna Make It, The Power and the Glory, You Can’t Stop Rock n’ Roll.

1984 – ExciterViolence and Force (Megaforce)

Besides being another three piece outfit, what made Exciter so unique was the drummer Dan Beehler was the lead singer. Poor production values do not detract from Violence and Force. It is a raw album with blistering tracks, the best of which is the title track with its thunderous double bass drum. Other great cuts: Pounding Metal, Destructor and Evil Sinner.

1984 – W.A.S.P.W.A.S.P. (Capitol)

Simply one of the greatest albums in heavy metal history. W.A.S.P. and their first album became poster boys for the PMRC‘s attack against the wicked music industry. The meaning of the name of the band has been debated over the years. But they etched “We Are Sexual Perverts” into the end of the album’s vinyl inner groove after the last song. So that seems to be one solution for the moniker W.A.S.P.. Did W.A.S.P. founder Blackie Lawless think that they would not attract attention with over the top lyrics and a sexually charged live show featuring topless women, chainsaws and gallons of dripping blood? What all that extra stuff did, besides attract wanted and unwanted attention from bored DC housewives and religious groups, was obscure great music to what could have been a wider fan base. There were many metal fans who couldn’t get beyond the ass-baring costumes and wild stage show. This album holds up 28 years later. The production is strong and every track is brilliant with the possible exception of the oddball ballad Sleeping in the Fire. W.A.S.P. never again had sales success like this album did. There was something magical about this particular album and the chemistry of the line-up. Some blame it on the departure of drummer Tony Richards, followed by the departure of guitarist Randy Piper on the follow-up LP The Last Command.  If you are unfamiliar with W.A.S.P. take a listen and prepare to be blown away. Best tracks – all of them.

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2 thoughts on “12 Great Heavy Metal Albums From The 80’s That Are Under The Radar (Part 1)

  1. Johnny Guitar

    Many times, Twisted Sister came to the local rock club on a weekend to play. Sneaking in with fake I.D., I caught their act at least a half-dozen times for like $2 a pop.

    They sucked. The guitarist was horrible. Dee Snyder was meh. Audience members would spit on them. They were one of the worst bands to come through that rock club.

    We went every time though because there would be hot chicks in leather pants with their rose tattoos on their bared shoulders.


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