Guest Post by Michael Grant
5 GREAT METAL BANDS FROM THE 80s!….
That you need to go and hear NOW!!
Ahh… 80’s Metal!… Actually I hate that term! Why should a group of years define a sound? I like to call it “Heavy metal that is fucking awesome that just happens to be recorded between 1980 and 1989.” I mean really, a great band can carry on the torch of a classic metal sound! Music is music no matter what time of day or what year it is. Still, it was a great decade. So much happened to Metal in such a short span of time.
This was the decade that Metal and it’s followers stopped being afraid of limitations. Evil (and lots of God) came to the front lines. Screams were EVERYWHERE! Guitars went from safe controlled heavy grooves to chaotic assaults that showed no mercy. All of a sudden we saw hair, spikes, leather, Bangs, Tits and ass!…and some cod pieces! (Thanks Manowar!), fake blood, grotesque and sexual riddled themes, Speed, lightning solo’s ,tales of Hell, rebellion, politics, history, motorcycles and the topic of Metal itself. There was loads of controversy, (PMRC anyone??) MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball was our only real outlet.
But mostly we had each other. Who, if true to the Metal Horde, would turn us on to the little guys who would either become big stars, or forgotten by most but remembered and deeply respected by few. This is what this list is. The latter.
This Metal was not refined punk or reinvented 70’s prog. This sound was it’s own. When the 90’s came it was nearly over. Either your band was obliterated by Nirvana and it’s clones and you ended up as a VH1 nostalgia. Or, there were a few survivors who never forgot the true sound of the time and it’s significance to the growth of the metal we know today. I am one of them. So, it is my duty and pleasure to Reawaken a few names that made (and still make) a difference in my life.
These are in alphabetical order. A good sampling of styles is included. Any problems with this list, (and I’m sure there are many!!) can be put in that fun area below called “Comments” I welcome them!
1. CITIES: Remember these guys? Anyone? Yes there was a metal band called Cities and they were awesome. They only had one album released in 1986 off of Metal Blade called “Annihilation Absolute.” It had a raw, real and yet clean production. It employed a minor celebrity in the form of A.J. Pero who was the drummer of Twisted Sister. His drumming is the best of his career here. They had a cool, straight ahead 80’s metal look and attitude. Their album cover was classic nuclear war theme with them painted in front of all the destruction. Guitarist Steve Mironovich came up with great powerful riffs and crafty songwriting. Ron Angel had a power croon with guts and shrieks in the mix. They were technical yet very accessible. Topics never got too deep but sounded serious when presented. The best cuts are “Fight for your life”, “Cruel Sea” and “Deceiver”. I’m still scratching my head why they never lasted. Maybe it’s that name “Cities”. It’s so not metal. In fact it is one of the dumbest names for a metal band ever. True story… I once asked a metal schoolmate if he “knew Cities with Annihilation Absolute” and he replied ” no I do not yet know if Laaz Rockit is stopping here on their tour.” Ah well, for me they will always Burn forever!
2. CORONER: In the eighties, the band “Death” were just too brutal and “Voivod” were just too annoying for me. (Sorry Dan.) But the Swiss band Coroner had something that really caught my attention. They truly sounded like nobody else and yet there were familiar aspects about them. The combo was mesmerizing. I first heard them off a Noise records sampler called Doomsday News and I was hooked. I found two cassettes from them the next day and I still spin them on a regular basis. They were “R.I.P’ and “Punishment for Decadence.” Their sound of German style thrash and a prototype black metal sound was so visual. Now, I love singers who sing but Ron Royce’s unearthly, almost indescribable voice pierced through the mist. A kind of fine charcoal ash sound if you will. Add that to blitzkrieg riffs and chaotic drumming and you got one gem of a band. Special mention goes to the brilliant guitar work of Tommy Baron, one of the most underrated guitarist of all time. Smooth, melodic solos that soared over the warlike sound that blended into a emulsion of timeless metal. Their third record was released during the last minutes of the 1980s called “No More color” that had a bleak yet soulful sound that said farewell to 80s metal. A great record that also looked toward the 90s. Their last three albums (The excellent “Mental Vortex” the so-so “Grin” and contract bound “Coroner”) finished their career. This was due to the change of direction that the 90’s forced on to so many bands. Today, regretfully, they are a shadow of a lost dream.
3.CRIMSON GLORY: This has to be the most tragic entry for this list. Such mystical magic came from these Florida five. In 86, Their first self titled debut emerged off Roadrunner Records (A fine label at the time.) Now, we all have seen some strange that were quite theatrical. Face paint, (Kiss, King Diamond) Shock, (Alice Cooper, Lizzy Borden) and just plain perverted (Venom, Anvil). These guys took the “Greek theater” mask approach. Also, they did not try to shock but rather entrance with their somewhat calm demeanor and fluid brand of metal. The look was a misfire. It made them look ridiculous and from what I hear, very uncomfortable to play live. But such music!! Cuts that ring so wonderfully include “Valhalla”, “Queen Of The Masquerade” and the stunning “Dragon Lady.” Some wrote them off as Queensryche copycats witch I can kind of see but I loved it anyway. Even though they never needed the mask’s they stuck and refined the design to be more “Phantom of the opera” like for their next opus “Transcendence”. They still looked stupid! I was almost embarrassed to admit to people I was a fan of these guys. To this day their fan base still whisper in small circles of their loyalty. The album however is considered to be one of metal’s finest. A perfect slab otherworldly music that will… well…transcend you! Midnights vocal soar to the stratosphere, Guitar themes galore and Jon Drenning’s classic solos. The best cuts are….all of em! It’s a pure diamond. Then it all ended. They got signed to Atlantic, Removed the masks, looked like hair metal and put out the gut wrenching awful “Strange and Beautiful.” Midnight quickly quit, went into a life of abuse from witch he never recovered. (He died last year of kidney and liver failure). Crimson Glory now exists as a ghost of it’s former self. But for those first two records, they will live in Metal’s Eternal World!
4. DESTRUCTION: I crack up whenever I hear band names that are so blatant. Destruction holds that honor for good reason…they DESTROY!! This once three piece, sometimes a quartet were never really big here in the States. Meanwhile they are considered one of the “Three Kings” of 80’s German thrash in Europe (along with Kreator and Sodom). These days they are still around doing what they do which is fine but mostly rehashed material with better production. I like them better when they were more sinew and true instead of being a business model of themselves. Formed around 83’ Their first EP “Sentence of Death” was as raw as it came. Complete with drum fuck ups, broken strings that did not matter and what sounded like one take, full run through vocal tracks (with overdubs on a second track). Who cares. It was visceral, and pure. The album cover photo looks like it was taken by one of their moms with a Polaroid. The sound however was like you were in front of an Uzi. They came into their own and got some money to put out the neck slashing “Infernal Overkill” filled with razor burn riffs and the strangest screams you ever heard from Marcel Schirmer. A metal classic. “Eternal Devastation” followed with an identical yet wonderful style. The tongue and cheek “Mad Butcher” is fine but a bit weak for my taste. Then they added second guitarist Harry Wilkens and recorded their what I considered their masterpiece “Release From Agony”. A mind bending, oil thick metal. So deep and curling are the songs like “Sign Of Fear”, “Unconscious Ruins” and the title track bring a quivering experience. It’s a wonderful and forgotten slab that was followed by the goofy “Cracked Brain”…..that came out in 1990. What is it about that year that seems to destroy great metal? Ah well.. the 80’s Destruction will live Beyond Eternity!
5. FATES WARNING: What a cool name for a band! This is probably the most well known entry but I am making a point to focus on the records during the 80’s. You know, when they were METAL! Sure they always had progressive tendencies but that did not blossom until the fantastic “Perfect Symmetry.” Their ironically and aptly titled 1989 crossover record. Once the 90’s arrived, they became “Prog Fates” which I dearly love mind you. But back to the gritty and 80’s Fates “Metal Blade” years. It started with “Night On Brocken”, whose original cover was a woman being burned at the stake. This was inexplicably replaced with a stock photo of the Moon for the reissue. Primitive sound, yet wonderful with thoughtful cuts like “The Calling” and “Damnation.” Then came “The Spectre Within” Which for some reason feels more raw and under produced than “Night On Brocken.” Still, gotta love that fucking cover!! Then came “Awaken The Guardian” Also a nice cover but don’t know how it relates to the title. This is a special record for it is the most mature so far. Great production and lots of heart went into this recording. John Arch is a very unique singer who has great range, genuine emotion and terrible diction. You will need a lyric card for this guy! Yet he is very respected and rightly so. Songs like “Fata Morgana”, Prelude To Ruin” and the deeply moving “Guardian” truly astound. **Total self brag here** I got to see the duet of this song in Hartford CT with both John Arch and Ray Alder. Fucking bliss! That and witnessing live the Buckner fumble at Shea at game 6! Too priceless! Back to Fates, Ray Alder came into the fold during the “No Exit” disk which was to be their last pure metal record. I loved it! Songs like “Anarchy Devine”, “Silent Cries” and the mammoth “Ivory Gate Of Dreams” stamped into my brain. Don’t get me wrong, I still embrace the “modern” Fates of today. Hell my favorite album, oddly, is “A Pleasant Shade Of Gray.” But I always love going back in time to discover their long time past.
5 honorable mentions..
1. Leatherwolf: They looked kinda like posers but actually RAWKED!! Triple axe attack and complex song structures brought them to a higher level than hair metal. Dumb name but cool band. Horns song: Rise and Fall
2. Sanctuary: They are one of my faves but they have had rediscovery now that Nevermore is everywhere. Still who does not feel the pure steel of “Refuge Denied” and the soul of “Into The Mirror Black?” Horns song: Battle Angels
3. Scanner: A 80’s German power metal treat! Thick accented German vocals, Fun heavy riffs and topics that just make you go Huh? I mean what is a “Galator” anyway? Who cares! They rule! Horns song: From The Dust Of Ages
4. Vicious Rumors: Another tragic loss on this list. Wonderful vox man Carl Albert died tragically after the recording “War of Words” and Geoff Thorpe never found his footing again. Still They had 3 great records from the 80’s (and one from the 90’s that is their masterpiece) that needs to be etched in stone. Horns song: Lady Took A Chance
Toxic: These guys could have been legends but it was not to be. Formed just 3 towns over from me, they had a power thrash assault with the craziest vox you ever heard. Whirlwind guitars and clever lyrics. But they also had two singers, an asshole guitarist and… well… were from the New York suburbs. They vanished in an instant…except from this metal heart. Horns song: World Circus.
Mike is the singer for Crescent Shield