Top 10 Albums of the 1980’s

The 1980’s were the decade of metal. Smashed in between the bellbottom era of hard rock in the 1970’s and the flannel sporting grunge of the 1990’s, the 80’s belonged to the sound of screaming guitar solos, madness inducing rhythm sections, and legendary vocalists. Be it traditional, thrash, glam, or any number of sub-genre’s on the scene, heavy metal rocked the airwaves from Berlin to London to Los Angeles. Of all the myriad albums released during the decade of metal, what are the definitive top 10 albums of the decade?

Just for you I have scoured the darkest, dingiest, dankest dungeons of the interwebs to compile the final list so that we can finally put this debate to rest. What follows are the generally accepted top 10 albums of the 1980’s. You may not find your favorite gem on the list and your personal top 10 may differ, but in a worldwide vote of headbangers, this would likely be the conclusive and recognized greatest albums of the decade list.


Dio-Holy Diver (1983)

Fed up with Black Sabbath, Ronnie James and drummer Vinnie Appice struck out on their own in 1982 to form Dio. Enlisting the help of axe slinger Vivian Campbell and bassist Jimmy Bain, “Holy Diver” jammed straight through the heart of metal heads in 1983. On the success of hit singles “Holy Diver” and “Rainbow in the Dark”, and with other stand out tracks like “Stand Up and Shout,” the album is unquestionably deserving of a seat atop Mount Olympus along with the rest of the metal titans.



Megadeth-Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying (1986)

Following his departure from Metallica, Dave Mustaine plotted his revenge by creating a band that was faster, heavier, and bigger than his former Bay Area quartet. With the release of “Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying” in 1986, he proved he could do just that. From the start of “Wake Up Dead” until “My Last Words,” Megadeth conjure a furious set of thrashy delicacies that has stood the test of time as one of the greatest thrash metal records ever unleashed on metal heads the world over.



Slayer-Reign in Blood (1986)

Speaking of thrash masterpieces, Slayer’s seminal album “Reign in Blood” was heralded by Kerrang! Magazine as the “heaviest album of all time” upon its release. Short, fast, and unrelenting, “Reign in Blood” set a new standard of brutal, in your face metal that changed the genre for all time. It is without much stretch of the imagination to say that Slayer’s groundbreaking third studio album set the stage for the rise of death metal in the few years followings its explosive arrival into record store shelves the world over.



AC/DC-Back in Black (1980)

Following the release of “Highway to Hell” in the summer of 1979, AC/DC were set to conquer the world. That was until February 19th, 1980 when a drunken bender ended with the death of singer Bon Scott. With their future in doubt, the rest of the boys from Sydney could have taken a long break and contemplated their next move. Luckily for us they forged ahead, hiring English vocalist Brian Johnson, and the rest in history. “Back in Black” is chock full of high voltage rock n’ roll from the classic opener “Hells Bells” to closing chords of “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”.



Black Sabbath-Heaven and Hell (1980)

Usually, when you replace a singer, especially when that singer is as iconic as Ozzy Osbourne, it can be disastrous. Unless, of course, that singer is Dio: the man, the myth, the legend. Already forcing his way onto this list previously with his first solo release, Dio’s first album with Black Sabbath “Heaven and Hell” crafted a whole new worthwhile chapter in the legacy of the band from Birmingham. With Sabbath classics “Neon Knights,” “Die Young,” and the indomitable title track, “Heaven and Hell” is a band reborn from the ashes of their lackluster success in the latter half of the 1970’s.



Motorhead-Ace of Spades (1980)

“Trick question,” the quote from the film “Airheads” goes, “Lemmy is god!” Lemmy’s rise to omnipotence solidified on Motorhead’s 1980 breakthrough release “Ace of Spades.” Shunning the moniker of heavy metal, Motorhead’s brand of rock n’ roll hits its stride on “Ace of Spades.” With Lemmy’s grizzled vocals belting out classics like “Love Me Like a Reptile,” “Jailbait,” and the classic title track, the band known as Motorhead would forever etch their names on the history books following this release.



Ozzy Osbourne-Blizzard of Ozz (1980)

Following the deadly trajectory his life was speeding on, Ozzy came back with a vengeance as a solo artist on 1980’s “Blizzard of Ozz.” Enlisting the help of former Quiet Riot guitarist Randy Rhodes, “Blizzard of Ozz” resurrected the career of the self-professed prince of darkness, and solidified a new burgeoning sound that would influence the sound of heavy metal throughout the rest of the decade on classic shredders like “Crazy Train” and “Mr. Crowley.”



Metallica-Ride the Lightning (1984)

The 1980’s were the decade of Metallica. After a solid debut release, Metallica upped the ante tenfold on 1984’s “Ride the Lightning.” Utilizing the basics of musical theory taught to them by bassist Cliff Burton, the band took their thrash style to new found heights with tracks like “Creeping Death” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” establishing themselves as the premiere band of the newly birthed sub-genre. “Ride the Lightning” hit heights thrash had yet to see up to this point, but Metallica were not finished raising the ceiling just yet.



Metallica-Master of Puppets (1986)

Following their move to major label Elektra, the final album featuring Cliff Burton is arguably the most celebrated thrash record of all time, and its influence continues to infect the metal youth nearly 35 years after its release. Songs like “Battery,” “Leper Messiah,” and “Damage Inc.” set the standard for all that was to follow, and Metallica’s enduring success owes as much, if not more, to “Master of Puppets” as it does to the black album. With back to back epic releases, “Master of Puppets” fully established that Metallica was a major force to be reckoned with.



Iron Maiden-The Number of the Beast (1982)

There is only one band would could possibly supplant Metallica with the number one album of the 1980’s, Iron Maiden. Nearly every Maiden release in the decade came close to making it onto this list, but only 1982’s “The Number of the Beast” managed to do so, capturing the unopposed title of album of the decade. Infused with a new energy thanks to addition of former Saxon vocalist Bruce Dickinson, “The Number of the Beast” is a beast of an album, and nowhere is that more evident than on songs like “Run to the Hills” and “Hallowed Be Thy Name.” While many other Iron Maiden albums can claim the title of being great, only “The Number of the Beast” is great enough to be called the best.


Schreck is the host of Panzerschreck Armory on Alloy Radio airing every Saturday at 9pm EST on the Alloy Armory channel.

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