It never ceases to amaze me that in my 33 years of being a hard rock/metal fanatic I am still finding out about bands and albums that I never knew existed. It’s a testament to just how vast and deep the spectrum of music is when you can barely whittle down your list of obscure bands/albums to 11. The whole point of this series of posts is to try and share the wealth as many people have done for me.
There are so many obscure bands/albums out there that, thanks to my best friend James, I have grouped together by decade. This time around we’re heading into the 80’s. This is where my undying love for hard rock/metal all started. Compiling this list was harder than you’d think as there were so many great releases. This was a fun one for me because I was reminded some truly remarkable albums that for one reason or another I had forgotten about until working them into this article. Finally, why “11”? If you really need to ask that question, why are you here? Ok, because “11” is one louder! Let’s get this ball rollin’!
Paul DiAnno’s Battlezone – Children of Madness (1988)
Battlezone. How did this band not take the fuck off? Paul Di’Anno stepped back into the light after being gone for a while and re-emerged with Battlezone. Instead of resting on his laurels and trying to just cop off of the Iron Maiden sound, he put together a fucking powerhouse band and delivered what I consider to be one of the finest NWOBHM/Power Metal albums. His voice is such fine form and it’s so great to hear him singing with so much power. I can also hear what a huge influence Di’Anno must have been on Geoff Tate as there are so many parallels in their sound. This album, start to finish, is just balls to the wall awesome. This one deserved way more attention than it got without a doubt.
Tank – Filth Hounds of Hades (1982)
Why this band didn’t get more recognition for this album I will never get. What a fucking monstrous album. In my opinion, this is very much the definition of 80’s NWOBHM. Sounding like a cross between Di’Anno era Iron Maiden and Motorhead, Tank delivered a stellar fucking album of in your face punk infused metal. This album is an absolute blast to listen and the title track alone is worth the price of owning this gem. Filth Hounds of Hades is a spectacular piece of metal history but it’s also one of those situations where a band blew their wad on their debut. In my opinion, nothing they did afterwards can hold a candle to this one.
Cities – Annihilation Absolute (1986)
I still remember listening to Metal Shop on the radio once (RIP Tawn Mastery) and one of the exclusive news reports was that Twisted Sister drummer AJ Pero had left Twisted Sister to join another metal band called Cities. I totally remember being sad but at the same time excited to hear what he would be doing. I picked up Annihilation Absolute and I remember my first thought being, “Goddamn he’s such a great drummer.” Cities was a band that totally got lost in the shuffle and while they only recorded one album, it’s a fucking monster of an album. It’s easily one of the most unsung power metal classics. Songs like “Fight for your Life” and “Not Alone in the Dark” absolutely slay and are great pieces of power metal awesomeness. This album is fun, cheesy, corny, and flat out fucking awesome. It’s everything that 80’s heavy metal was supposed to be. It’s a bummer that we never got to hear more from them but this album is one hell of a legacy to leave behind.
Lizzy Borden – Murderous Metal Roadshow (1985)
The thing I’ve loved the most about this editorial is that I have found myself re-discovering albums that I pretty much forgot about. Lizzy Borden’s Murderess Metal Road Show is an album that should have broken this band through the roof in my opinion. The songs are so fucking intense, the playing is unbelievable and Lizzy Borden’s voice is fucking stratospheric. Yeah, it’s cheesy but goddamn is it so great. It’s one of the best sounding live albums I have ever heard and in my opinion this is all you need. I heard some of LB’s albums after this release and they just didn’t do much for me. Maybe it’s because they are such a better live band. I mean, if you hear “Council for the Cauldron” and you don’t fucking have your face melted off there is no hope for you. This is a definitive album and one that I feel every metalhead should at least listen to once in their lives.
Venom – Prime Evil (1988)
I was a huge Venom fan when I was a kid but my love for them pretty much didn’t exceed past At War With Satan. I had no fucking clue that in the late 80’s Cronos had left and that is when Demolition Man came into the fold. You learn something new every day and what I learned was that Prime Evil was the best fucking Venom album since Black Metal. Hell, I’ll even put it beside Black Metal. Everything about this fucking album is epic as fuck. Demolition Man’s bass playing, his vocals, and the songs. “Prime Evil”, “Live Like an Angel, Die Like a Devil”, and the showstopping “Blackened are the Priests”… holy fuck. There is nothing that sucks about this album and I think I speak for the masses (pun intended) when I say that it’s so great to see this line-up back in action as Venom, Inc. Prime Evil is a must have. I can’t even say anything more. Just fucking go and get it and you’ll see what I mean. Epic as fuck.
Witchfinder General – Death Penalty (1982)
So here’s the thing with Witchfinder General. They are not one of my favorites. As a matter of fact, I don’t even really love this album but it’s an obscure album and an important album. Listening to Witchfinder General, you can definitely hear how these guys along with Diamond Head were huge influences on what would eventually be the American Bay Area thrash scene lead by Metallica. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad album at all but much like with Diamond Head, the delivery of the vocals are a bit on the weak side and I often imagine what this material would’ve sounded like with a stronger singer like maybe even with Paul Di’Anno. That right there could’ve been a game changer. Not a favorite album of mine but a very important album nonetheless.
ASAP – Silver & Gold
I’m not sure what it was about this album that totally escaped me the first time but after giving this one another go, man, oh man, was I floored. When Adrian Smith stepped out of Iron Maiden in 1990, Adrian Smith and Project was born featuring some of his former Urchin band mates. The result is a fantastic fucking album that flew completely under the radar. The opening track, “The Lion” alone is worth owning this album but the rest of the album is just full of win. Smith has a remarkable voice and it’s something that completely caught me off guard. This is a fucking great album that has received multiple spins and will continue to do so.
Onslaught – In Search of Sanity (1989)
I’ve been a huge Grim Reaper fan for years and I never had a clue that Steve Grimmett sang for another band. Hell, I had never even heard of Onslaught but when I finally decided to brave it, I was absolutely floored. First off, Grimmett is easily one of the most overlooked metal singers of all time. What a set of pipes on that dude. The songs on In Search of Sanity are so fucking great and what I love the most is that they don’t sound like Grim Reaper. Onslaught is a much more polished sounding band and even their arrangements are a bit more on the proggy side at times. Grimmett’s voice works so well with this kind of material. As a whole, this album is a fucking gem in my book. It’s a perfectly executed, well produced, and sadly overlooked metal masterpiece that I enjoy listening to over and over again.
Tangier – Four Winds (1989)
Talk about a band/album that got lost in the shuffle. These guys were taken on the road by Cinderella back in 1989 as part of their headlining Long Cold Winter tour. Four Winds is an album that, in my opinion, should’ve been huge at the time. Not all of the songs hold up really well but the ones that do (Mississippi, Four Winds, Southbound Train, Good Lovin’) more than make up for them (which are still really fucking good). The album sounds so fucking good today but it also serves as a reminder that, at this time, this kind of music was hard to make. Cinderella morphed into this kind of band after experiencing some success while Tangier came out guns blazing and not giving a fuck. I still really enjoy jamming this album and it also makes me wish that this line up would’ve at least tried to keep it together and deliver more music. This album was just the tip of the iceberg and sadly, we’ll never know what they were truly capable of.
Zebra – Zebra (1983)
If you were a hard rock/metal kid growing up in New Orleans in the 80’s you were a Zebra fan. I mean, Zebra was the fucking shit and their debut album was and still is a timeless classic. Sounding like the lovechild of Led Zeppelin and Rush, Zebra’s Randy Jackson’s songwriting was heads above many of their peers and this debut album still holds up today. “Tell Me What You Want”, “As I Said Before” and the classic “Who’s Behind the Door” still rock my face to this day and hell, even Dream Theater expressed their fandom of Zebra by covering “Take Your Fingers from My Hair.” This is a timeless album that never got the respect that it so deserved and it’s an album that still does it for me.
Babylon AD (1989)
This band should have been huge. I know a lot of people say that about bands but this band was so fucking off the charts good. While they had a couple of minor MTV hits, Babylon AD pretty much flew under the radar and this debut album is so fucking rad. Derek Davis had one of the most distinct voices on the scene and the musicianship in this band was so fucking amazing. Unlike many of their sleaze rock peers, this album actually has a timeless quality to it and it still sounds fucking amazing. It’s a fun album to listen to and it’s one that any fan of great, melodic hard rock music should own for sure. Their follow up was just as amazing but it was a 90’s album so it didn’t make this list. Just get this one and thank me later.