The 80’s are considered to be the decade when Heavy Metal evolved and reached it’s pinnacle. Yes, the 70’s set the table, but the 80’s finished the job as Metal branched out like nobody could have imagined. If you were just starting a collection, what albums should you have? Well, if you asked 100 Metal fans you’d probably get 100 different answers. We tried to break it down with a little mix of Classic and Heavy Metal. They may not be your personal favs but they’re all pivotal in some regard to the genre.
So in no particular order, here we go.
Iron Maiden – “The Number of the Beast” (1982)
Iron Maiden’s “The Number of the Beast” is the band’s third studio album, released in 1982. It is widely regarded as one of the most influential and iconic heavy metal albums of all time. “The Number of the Beast” is a landmark album in Iron Maiden’s discography and remains a classic in the realm of heavy metal music.
“Children of the Damned”
“22 Acacia Avenue”
“The Number of the Beast”
“Run to the Hills”
“Hallowed Be Thy Name”
The album marked a shift in Iron Maiden’s sound, as it was the first album to feature vocalist Bruce Dickinson. The album is known for its epic songwriting, powerful vocals, and intricate guitar work. It solidified Iron Maiden’s status as one of the leading bands in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement and helped popularize the genre worldwide.
“The Number of the Beast” was a commercial success, reached number one on the UK Albums Chart. It was also the band’s first album to chart in the United States, peaking at number 33 on the Billboard 200.
The album’s title track, “The Number of the Beast,” generated controversy due to its lyrical themes, which some interpreted as satanic. However, the song’s intent was actually to criticize religious fanaticism and blind faith.
Metallica – “Master of Puppets” (1986)
“Master of Puppets” is the band’s third studio album, released in 1986. It is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential Thrash and Heavy Metal albums of all time. It’s seems like every time they put out a new album it’s instantly compared to this classic.
“Master of Puppets”
“The Thing That Should Not Be”
“Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”
“Master of Puppets” showcased Metallica’s evolving sound, combining aggressive thrash metal with complex song structures and progressive elements. The album received widespread critical acclaim and is often hailed as a masterpiece. It has been praised for its overall maturity of the songwriting.
While “Master of Puppets” didn’t achieve significant mainstream chart success, it remains Metallica’s most successful album critically and has been certified 6x Platinum in the United States.
Judas Priest – “British Steel” (1980)
Judas Priest’s “British Steel” is the sixth studio album by the British heavy metal band, released in 1980. It is regarded as one of the most important and influential albums in the history of heavy metal.
“British Steel” marked a pivotal point in Judas Priest’s career, representing a shift towards a more streamlined and accessible sound while still retaining their roots. The album featured several successful and enduring songs, including “Breaking the Law,” “Living After Midnight,” and “Metal Gods.” These tracks became staples of Judas Priest’s live performances and have remained fan favorites over the years.
“British Steel” achieved commercial success, reaching number four on the UK Albums Chart and peaking at number 34 on the Billboard 200 chart in the United States. It became Judas Priest’s first platinum-selling album in the US.
“Breaking the Law”
“You Don’t Have to Be Old to Be Wise”
“Living After Midnight”
“British Steel” is often considered a classic and essential heavy metal album. It helped define the sound of Judas Priest and contributed to the development of the “New Wave of British Heavy Metal” movement. The album’s impact and enduring popularity have secured its place as a landmark release.
Dio – “Holy Diver” (1983)
Dio’s “Holy Diver” is the debut studio album by the DIO, released in 1983. “Holy Diver” marked Ronnie James Dio’s first studio album after departing from Black Sabbath. “Holy Diver” achieved decent commercial success, reaching number 56 on the Billboard 200 chart in the United States. It remains Dio’s highest-charting album in the US.
“Holy Diver” featured the tracks “Rainbow in the Dark,” which became one of Dio’s most well-known songs and still a recurrent track on Rock Radio formats. The title track remains one of Metal’s most influential songs as well.
“Stand Up and Shout”
“Caught in the Middle”
“Don’t Talk to Strangers”
“Straight Through the Heart”
“Rainbow in the Dark”
“Shame on the Night”
“Holy Diver” solidified Ronnie James Dio’s solo career and set a high standard for his future releases, perhaps the only album that rivals this one was 1984’s “The Last In Line”. The album’s artwork, features the iconic “Murray” character, that instantly recognizable and synonymous with Dio’s music.
Anthrax – “Among the Living” (1987)
Queensrÿche – “Operation: Mindcrime” (1988)
Queensrÿche’s “Operation: Mindcrime” is the third studio album by the Power Prog Metal, released in 1988. It is widely known for being one of the greatest concept albums of any music genre and helped set the tone for Metal, especially in Europe during the 90’s and beyond.
The concept of the album album that tells the story of a drug-addicted political revolutionary named Nikki, who becomes involved with a corrupt organization. The album covers subject matter such as political manipulation, mind control, and personal redemption.
“Operation: Mindcrime” did not achieve significant mainstream chart success, but it has achieved enduring popularity and critical acclaim over the years
“I Remember Now”
“Spreading the Disease”
“Suite Sister Mary”
“The Needle Lies”
“Breaking the Silence”
“I Don’t Believe in Love”
“Waiting for 22”
“My Empty Room”
“Eyes of a Stranger”
“Operation: Mindcrime” is a landmark album that showcases Queensrÿche’s abilities as musicians, storytellers, and one of the founding fathers of Prog Metal. Its compelling concept, intricate compositions, and emotional depth make it a standout and enduring work within the genre.
Scorpions – “Blackout” (1982)
Scorpions’ “Blackout” is the eighth studio album by the German band, released in 1982. In today’s standards it’s not as “Metal” as some of the others on the list, but it’s influence on Heavy Metal in the early 80’s is quite substantial. Thanks to the single “No One Like You” it also propelled them to a more mainstream status as the song is still a staple on Rock radio.
“Blackout” was a commercial breakthrough for Scorpions, reaching number ten on the Billboard 200 chart in the United States. It was also certified Platinum in multiple countries, solidifying their status as one of Germany’s most successful rock bands.
“Can’t Live Without You”
“No One Like You”
“You Give Me All I Need”
“When the Smoke Is Going Down”
“Blackout” is notable for its absence of guitar solos, as guitarist Matthias Jabs had broken his hand prior to recording the album. However, the album’s songwriting and energetic performances compensated for the lack of traditional guitar solos. You’d be surprised how many people notice the lack of soloing on the album.
Helloween – “Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I” (1987)
Helloween’s “Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I” is the third studio album by the German Power Metal band, released in 1987. It didn’t really achieve much attention in the United States, but it was instrumental in creating the genre “Power Metal”, a sub-genre that is still prevalent around the world today.
Queensryche’s “Operation: Mindcrime” actually came out a year after this album. “Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I” is also a conceptual story with interconnected songs that tell a story about a protagonist on a journey to find the seven keys to unlock a mystical door. The album explores themes of self-discovery, spirituality, and the struggle between good and evil.
“A Little Time”
“Twilight of the Gods”
“A Tale That Wasn’t Right”
“Follow the Sign”
“Future World,” “Halloween,” and “I’m Alive” are among the album’s most notable tracks. Part of a Two-Part Saga: “Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I” is the first installment of a two-part saga, with “Keeper of the Seven Keys Part II” released the following year. Both albums are highly regarded and considered essential power metal releases.
Saxon – “Wheels of Steel” (1980)
Saxon’s “Wheels of Steel” is the second studio album by the British heavy metal band, released in 1980. “Wheels of Steel” is considered a breakthrough album for Saxon, propelling them to success and helping to establish their reputation as one of the leading bands of the NWOBHM movement.
“Wheels of Steel” didn’t chart in the United States, but it reached number five on the UK Albums Chart and becoming Saxon’s first album to enter the charts. It remains one of their highest-charting albums in the UK.
The album was a good mix of raw Metal Anthems, but also showed off the more melodic side of the band with songs like “Suzie Hold On” and “747 (Strangers In The Night)”. It’s quite possibly their most well-rounded album.
“Stand Up and Be Counted”
“747 (Strangers in the Night)”
“Wheels of Steel”
“See the Light Shining”
“Street Fighting Gang”
“Suzie Hold On”
Despite big radio hits, Saxon has always been known for having exceptional live shows that have helped solidify them as one of Metal Metal’s all time greatest bands.
Accept – “Balls to the Wall” (1983)
Accept’s “Balls to the Wall” is the fifth studio album by the German heavy metal band, released in 1983. “Balls to the Wall” achieved significant commercial success, reaching the top 40 on the album charts in various countries. It remains Accept’s highest-charting album and a best-selling release in their catalog.
Often accused of sounding like AC/DC and Judas Priest, the album helped them gain their own audience, especially in the United States. Udo Dirkschneider’s distinctive raspy vocals helped define their sound, but they also had exceptional writing and musicianship to back it up.
“Balls to the Wall”
“Fight It Back”
“Head Over Heels”
“Losing More Than You’ve Ever Had”
“Turn Me On”
“Losers and Winners”
“Guardian of the Night”
Accept and Udo Dirkschneider have continued to put out great Metal over the years, mostly as separate entities. U.D.O. consistently put out albums from the late 80’s until current times. Accept have continued with a new singer as guitarist Wolf Hoffman has keep the train moving along.