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Old 02-13-2015, 03:46 PM   #891 (permalink)
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18. Great White Great White 1984 (EMI)
Glam Metal

The white shark consumes the dirty ratt.

The Lowdown

The shark consumed the ratt and ended up with indigestion as far as commercial sales went, might just be a perfect way to describe the fortunes of LA band Great White and their debut album after it flopped on its release. The band had started out many years earlier and were a real live spark on the LA scene, where they known as covers band that covered mostly blues rock and Led Zeppelin tracks. Within this time and like a lot of other fellow west coast metal bands, there was a huge shifting of band members in and out of the band and it was only band leaders vocalist Jack Russell and guitarist Mark Kendall that remained ever present. By the time of their 1983 Don Dokken produced EP Out of the Night the band had veered their sound into something more radio friendly. They had literally gone from being a bar hard rock outfit (albeit a covers act) to a band that sounded amazingly at times like fellow LA glamsters Ratt, as well as a host of other similar hair metal bands around this time. They had also supported Dokken on that band’s 1983 US Tour and Dokken producer Michael Wagener would soon be on hand to produce their debut album in 1984. The Great White debut might not exactly be a metal classic or even a must listen to album, but what it does have is ten quality tracks over a almost 40 minute period, that the band feel extremely comfortable playing. The album opens with “Out of the Night” and every time I hear this song I still think it’s a Ratt song, but most importantly the song sets the tone for the other nine songs that follow and they all tend to carry the same speed and energetic feel in one way or another. Other tracks of note include the voluminous “Stick It” probably the best known track on the album and there are wholesome metal chunks like “Bad Boys” “On You Knees” “Streetkiller” and “Nightmares” the last song here, kind of reminds me of the direction that Alice Cooper would take by the end of the 1980s. Of the other tracks “Hold On” is one of those typical 1980s type sounding singles that normally went down a storm on MTV especially with an accompanying video, strangely enough though it wasn’t even a single from the album. The album also includes a cover of The Who song “Substitute” it’s a tricky cover but the band get it right by largely taking the Quiet Riot approach to the song. “No Better Than Hell” is worth a mention, as it’s the most ambitious track on the album and a left-of-field track especially with its ‘British new romantic’ style blended in with the heaviness of the band and “End of the Line” could easily be a Scorpion’s song. The band might not have anything as addictive sounding as Ratt’s “Round and Round” Dokken’s “Just Got Lucky” or Black N’ Blue’s “Hold on to 18” in their locker, but what they do have over these glam metal rivals (all have been reviewed this year) is greater level of consistency song for song and for that reason alone, Great White have found themselves placed higher on this year’s list, which may be a surprise given the album’s lukewarm reception when it came out in 1984. Given the fact that the album was produced by Michael Wagener (one of the producers to have at the time) it should’ve been destined for some kind of commercial success, instead in turned out to be a major flop, so much so that the band would be dropped by their label EMI and would have to wait for Capitol to pick them up in a few years time, in the meantime and throughout 1984/1985 the band toured as support to the likes of Whitesnake and Judas Priest. Overall the Great White debut is going to appeal to anybody into what I call ‘sure bet’ glam metal material and it probably sits somewhere in between Ratt’s Out of the Cellar and Dokken’s Tooth and Nail in terms of sound and style.

Jack Russell- Vocals
Mark Kendall- Guitar
Lorne Black- Bass
Gary Holland- Drums

Production- Michael Wagener

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Metal Wars

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Pounding Decibels- A Hard and Heavy History

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Old 02-15-2015, 04:00 PM   #892 (permalink)
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17. 220 Volt Power Games 1984 (CBS)
Heavy Metal

A firefall of power chord metal from the north.

The Lowdown

Power Games was the second album by Swedish metal band 220 Volt and it was a distinct improvement over their shaky sounding eponymous debut that came out the previous year. Around the mid-1980s Swedish metal along with German metal, would be right at the forefront of the European heavy metal scene in terms of the amount of bands from the non-English speaking European countries. Both these countries would largely be responsible for putting out a large amount of melodic metal albums of quality around this time, that really helped to establish each country’s respective metal scene. Swedish metal with its future death metal scene, would go onto become a pillar of that particular sub-genre, but before that bands like 220 Volt who were probably one of the very best melodic metal bands from that part of the world, put out the impressive Power Games album and for that reason makes this list. Swedish metal also had a somewhat distinctive sound as well, as characterized by one of its best known metal bands at that time in Europe. Europe of course would go onto stellar heights in just a few years with their Final Countdown album (love it or hate it) But two years before that, 220 Volt were putting out a sound very similar to that of Europe, but in a far less polished style which had a rough around the edges feel to it and I even saw one review which likened the band to American metal band Riot (who have quite a few reviews on these pages) On Power Games the band are particularly at their best on tracks like “Firefall” and “Airborne Fighter” which are both full of rocking power chords and both sound so euro-metal in their execution, but their gruffer edge kind of sets them apart from some of their fellow Swedish bands making the album a cut above some of their rivals. Some of the tracks on the album are also done in a bleaker sounding way, as can be heard on “Night Without End” and the grinding “Child or Beast” two tracks that most reviewers like on the album. In fact there is only one real exception to the previous two styles of the band and that comes on the most polished and accessible track on the album in “Over the Top” which even has a classic disco vibe to it a la “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” by Kiss, it doesn’t particularly sound like the Kiss song but it does have some of its essence. 220 Volt across Power Games display the typical Swedish way of playing metal at this time and that was with heavy driven riffs, but always with a strong emphasis on melody and hooks. Now in regards to this 220 Volt don’t disappoint but what they do have in their locker, is the already mentioned gruffer approach to their material which is noticeable on the album and most of the songs on the album also happen to be about wars and apocalyptic outcomes, showing that this type of material just wasn’t in the domain of thrash metal. Guitarists Mats Karlsson and Thomas Drevin take the K.K Downing and Glen Tipton of Judas Priest approach to playing and Jocke Lundholm sounds like a Swedish vocalist should. At the end of the day, albums by bands like 220 Volt, Europe and a lot of the other Swedish metal scene bands at this time, are really only going to appeal to listeners that appreciate ‘euro-metal’ which mostly means melodic metal with a European touch and not exactly a world away from European power metal. If you don’t really dig this metal style, then 220 Volt is probably not going to shock your senses.

Jocke Lundholm- Vocals
Mats Karlsson- Guitar
Thomas Drevin- Guitar
Mike Larsson- Bass
Peter Hermansson- Drums

Production- Thomas Witt

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Pounding Decibels- A Hard and Heavy History

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Old 02-19-2015, 04:06 PM   #893 (permalink)
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16. Dio The Last in Line 1984 (Vertigo)
Heavy Metal

Are you evil, simply just divine or the last in line?

The Lowdown
How do you follow up on one of the best heavy metal albums of all time in Holy Diver? Well the answer is usually one of three possibilities when this kind of situation arises. Firstly the artist can try and do something very different, secondly the artist releases something not as good or thirdly in rare cases the artist matches the quality of that previous album. In the case of Dio, the artist here falls firmly into category two but at the top end of that category in terms of quality. The Last in Line the band’s second album, was largely an attempt to replicate the brilliance of Holy Diver and keep the band’s winning formula intact. The Last in Line is actually a very good album but not the masterpiece that Holy Diver was, but across its nine tracks it’s obvious that the material is cut from exactly the same cloth as Holy Diver, even if they’re not cut as pristine this time around. Ronnie James (as he’s referred to here as Dio was also the name of the band) must’ve been glad that the current line-up that he had assembled here was looking compact and most importantly would stay together for a time, as he’d had a history of being in bands where the line-up was constantly being changed. The only new face in the band was that of French keyboardist Claude Schnell who was largely there to flesh the band’s sound out on keyboards. One thing that is evident about The Last in Line album, is its epic approach to metal where opening track “We Rock” which despite being being a brother track to “Stand Up and Shout” from the previous album, clearly sets out the band’s intention for the epic metal approach, it’s something that’s always been in Ronnie James’ metal locker anyway. Title track “The Last in Line” after its soppy start quickly emerges into a pounding rocker, the type of track in my mind that perfectly showcases the vocal capacity of Ronnie James. The album remains at mid-tempo for third track “Breathless” just the kind of poppy track I really like and its jumpy vibe is a real winner here. “I Speed at Night” then does the right thing and lifts the speed of the album up, but the problem is that despite its speed it’s not a particularly great song. This track is followed by the extremely generic sounding “One Night in the City” which again is nothing special and is largely carried by the vocals of Ronnie James, who can often turn an average song into something special anyway. “Evil Eyes” picks up the poppier theme once again that was found on “Breathless” and it opens the second side of the album. Next comes “Mystery” a super commercial track and one of my favourites from the band, quite simply for its poppy and enchanting keyboard effects that are provided by keyboardist Claude Schnell and in many ways this is the perfect feel good track. The album closes out with the hard rocking “Eat Your Heart Out” and “Egypt (The Chains Are On)” and the latter here is a strong track that is really highlighted by its haunting ambient section, that is very similar in places to a certain soundtrack on a certain survival horror film. The best summary that I can give The Last in Line, is that on occasional listens it’s a great album as are some of its songs, but on constant listening it can become somewhat tiresome as you notice the glitches in its material, that are totally absent on Holy Diver which of course makes that album a timeless classic. The Last in Line though is a must hear album for Dio fans and some of its songs will have you running to do a Dio karaoke, but general metal listeners may just find the whole thing a bit too clichéd for their ears to really enjoy the album.

Ronnie James Dio- Vocals
Vivian Campbell- Guitar.
Jimmy Bain- Bass
Claude Schnell- Keyboards
Vinnie Appice- Drums

Production- Ronnie James Dio

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Pounding Decibels- A Hard and Heavy History

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Old 02-19-2015, 04:38 PM   #894 (permalink)
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"The Last In Line" soppy? Pshaw! It's his most epic song since Black Sabbath's "Children of the Sea". Top notch epic metal.
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Old 02-19-2015, 04:48 PM   #895 (permalink)
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"The Last In Line" soppy? Pshaw! It's his most epic song since Black Sabbath's "Children of the Sea". Top notch epic metal.
I said it has a soppy start BUT yes the rest is epic.
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Old 02-19-2015, 04:52 PM   #896 (permalink)
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I said it has a soppy start BUT yes the rest is epic.
And I say **** you. The beginning is beautiful... in a cheesy metal way.
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Old 02-24-2015, 12:32 PM   #897 (permalink)
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15. Venom At War with Satan 1984 (Neat)
Heavy Metal

Lucifer smiles and the creature laughs in return.


The Lowdown

If the band’s insidious debut album Welcome to Hell would end up as being one of the most influential metal albums of all time, then their second album Black Metal would actually go one better, by giving birth to a completely new metal sub-genre in black metal and now we go onto their third effort At War with Satan. At this time the Frankenstein monster that was Venom was still lurching around in the basement and the band’s limelight as a force of evil had certainly been supplanted by the aggressive thrash explosion that was taking place in California, with bands like Metallica and the even harder edged Slayer leading the way. If the first two Venom albums had been their proto-thrash and black metal statements, the band clearly felt that they now needed to write some proper songs (those that adhere to what most people view as songs) rather than their basic inclination to simply just express their satanic meanderings in the loudest and meanest way possible, which could be viewed as an almost sonic ordeal for some listeners. At War with Satan which of course is a glorious title, is probably my favourite album by the band (bear in mind that I’m not much of a fan) for the simple reason that the band have attempted to not only improve the structure of their songwriting, but have also gone in for an improved musical playing style and a better production (even though there were complaints about the production) which of course makes the album more enjoyable for my ears. BUT most Venom fans and even some critics would disagree with this, for the simple reason that the Venom they love, is the Venom from their first two albums, which of course had a band totally dedicated to playing in the realm of Hades, with all the applicable gloomy trappings! Now At War with Satan keeps within the confines of the band’s satanic agenda, but just does so with a more melodic and commercial approach (the album was seen as a potential breakthrough release by the band) the end result though could well be seen by some listeners, as a product that probably delivers the same amount of cheese as say a Manowar album! On the previous Black Metal album the band had finished up with the “At War with Satan (Preview)” track which of course was just a prelude for this album and this album now opens up with the same track. “At War with Satan” this time around is a very different kettle of fish and instead of being a 2 minute track, the band have gone in for a monstrous 20 minute metal epic that takes up the complete first side of the album and they were clearly inspired here by what Rush did with their 20 minute “2112” progressive rock opus several years earlier. The track fully encompasses all the facets of the band and can be seen as the true creative highlight of the band and imo their best ever track. By the time we get to the second track “Rip Ride” the speed is at full momentum and this track along with “Genocide” are two tracks that easily could’ve done Slayer proud. By the time the band get to tracks like "Cry Wolf" and "Stand Up (And Be Counted)" there is certainly clear evidence of how they had matured as songwriters and both these track give over to repeated listens. Overall and bear in mind that I’m not a musician but for me on this album Mantas and Abaddon and Cronos sound pretty mean with their instruments and Cronos never sounded better vocally either. "Women, Leather and Hell" has them entering into Motorhead territory and album closer "Aaaaaarrghh" is a bit of fun to close the album. At War with Satan results in being an almost cartoonish example of early extreme metal with an epic title track as its crowning achievement and it was around this time that some critics were calling them the greatest heavy metal band in the world, many of the the same critics were calling Manowar the loudest.

Cronos- Bass/Vocals
Mantas- Guitar
Abaddon- Drums

Production- Venom


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Metal Wars

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Pounding Decibels- A Hard and Heavy History

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14. Manowar Hail to England 1984 (Music For Nations)
Power Metal

The Isles of the blessed shall lay waste before us.


The Lowdown

The kings of celebration metal and all its established clichés really hit the big time on their third studio album Hail to England, for the simple reason this was their first album to actually chart anywhere (based on the info that I have) where it reached a modest 83 spot on the UK album charts (probably helped by its title and glorious album cover) the album title was surely inspired as a nod to their metal heroes across the Atlantic. As a band Manowar were so influential on 1980s metal, where they can probably be seen as the principal motivators of the power metal genre, a fact that was already evident on their previous two studio albums Battle Hymns and Into Glory Ride. The former Battle Hymns can be seen as a kind of basic ‘roots power metal album’ largely due to its meandering “Dark Avenger” and “Battle Hymn” tracks, which was the direction that the band would take on Into Glory Ride. Into Glory Ride was very much an album of epic proportions that can best be described as a ‘celebration of norse mythology’ and at the same time it helped to evolve the ‘power metal’ genre. By the time of Hail to England the band were more focused on combining the elements of the previous two albums into a more receptive metal dish and the album can be viewed as a fusion of success in that respect. The tracks again are mostly penned by bassist Joey DeMaio and the album opens up with “Blood of My Enemies” which carries straight over from the previous album Into Glory Ride style wise. The album though takes on its own character by its second track the bass heavy “Each Dawn I Die” which is truly one barbarian badass track and one of the definitive Manowar tracks out there. “Kill with Power” is meat and drink Manowar and this is the type of metal track that easily inspires a bout of metal listening gluttony in me. The title track “Hail to England” is a celebration track and lyrically sounds like the usual American fantastical view of England. “Army of the Immortals" is my favourite track on the whole album where Eric Adams sounds very akin to Rob Halford and the track is the kind of great driving melodic metal that I love and as Eric Adams sings ‘metal makes us stronger“ the song just bows out on epic proportions. The inevitable instrumental in “Black Arrows” was always due to arrive and evokes memories in places of Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption”. The album closes with the 8 minute epic “Bridge of Death” and like the opening track easily could’ve have been on Into Glory Ride. Overall Hail to England might well be a better known album than Into Glory Ride but it doesn’t come across as as innovative or as epic as that release (that album cracked the top 10 of my 1983 list) but what it does achieve, is to shorten down the band’s lengthy tracks from the previous album to a more palatable length, making the compositions sound tighter and at the same time issue out what could be coined as the first true ‘quintessential power metal album’ certainly in a European context anyway, because despite being an American band these New York barbarians sound quite European on a lot of this album. Needless to say vocalist Eric Adams with his multi-octave voice shines across all the tracks and it’s clearly evident that he’s influenced by iconic vocalists like Ian Gillan and Rob Halford, and he certainly has the power and talent to live with those two. On top of all this, the band's lyrics must be some of the most brilliantly penned cheesy lyrics to ever grace metal and that alone makes Manowar always a great listen. The breakthrough of Hail to England quickly ushered the band to record their fourth album Sign of the Hammer which also came out the same year as this album, but ended up being as poor as this was great and most reviews agree with that as well. Hail to England was produced by Canadian Jack Richardson who had some interesting works already in his CV by the way of Alice Cooper, Max Webster, Badfinger and Moxy amongst others. As far as Manowar go though, this again is another salute to glorious metal and yet again Manowar do that kind of thing better than most.

Eric Adams- Vocals
Ross the Boss- Guitar
Joey DeMaio- Bass
Scott Columbus- Drums

Production- Jack Richardson

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Metal Wars

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Pounding Decibels- A Hard and Heavy History

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13. Van Halen 1984 1984 (Warner Bros.)
Heavy Metal

A timeless jump in metal history.


The Lowdown

Like the Manowar album before it this is another album that has a measly 33 minutes of playing time to its credit, but then again short albums were something that Van Halen seemed to specialise in, as their longest to date had actually been their debut which clocked in just around the 35 minute mark. Up until their fourth album Fair Warning every Van Halen album has been featured on these ‘best of lists’ which was fitting considering that they were the premier metal act in the USA. The only album to have not featured was their previous Diver Down which had consisted of ludricous covers and a couple of dour sounding original tracks, even though I really dig the sinister sounding instrumental “Intruder” from that album, something that easily could've been on 1984. 1984 released in January 1984 would go onto become not only the band’s biggest selling album ever, but would also turn the band into a household name around the world largely thanks to the single “Jump” and its colourful accompanying video, both a song and video which seemed to appeal to everybody out there regardless of their musical tastes and for that reason alone, the “Jump” video can really be seen as a crowning achievement of what MTV style videos were all about. The album though of course, is just as famous as also being the final album with dynamic frontman David Lee Roth until 2012’s A Different Kind of Truth, as ‘Diamond Dave’ clearly felt that he was now bigger than the band and could do even better by himself (for anybody interested dig out his solo career which begins on the mind-numbing EP Crazy from the Heat, even though “California Girls” has a groovy video) Other facts of note at this time state that Van Halen were actually the highest paid metal band in the world and Eddie Van Halen was certainly the highest profile metal guitarist around, which was surely helped by his guitar solo on Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” the previous year. The nine tracks on 1984 can more or less be split between their premier sounding synth driven efforts and the more traditional hard rocking tracks. The former of course is what qualifies the album for its placing on this year’s list, as these tracks are the ones that are indebted to the band’s use of synths which have now been moved to the forefront of proceedings, whereas before the band had largely used synths in a texturing fashion. The album opens in the most synthy way possible with the atmospheric instrumental “1984” and its striking circular sounding synths then dominate the already mentioned uplifting “Jump” the showcase track from the album. Next track “Panama” in my mind is actually closer to the spirit of the band than "Jump" with its darkish and sleazy vibe, just check out that video and David Lee Roth’s trademark drawl and then of course there's “Hot for Teacher” which could easily be its sister track and the whole song actually feels like some crazy instrumental with a few singing sections inserted, and in many ways both “Panama” and “Hot for Teacher” are the perfect summary of Van Halen at this time. My personal favourite here though has to be the synthy “I’ll Wait” the type of chilly sounding synth driven track that I really love and something uniquely of its time and the song would prove to be the strongest pointer of where the band would go on their next album. The heavier tracks on the album, which I refer to as the ‘hard rocking tracks’ are actually the tracks that I feel the band spent less time working on and these include “Top Jimmy” “Drop Dead Legs” “House of Pain” and “Girl Gone Bad” the first three I can take or leave, but “Girl Gone Band” is a pretty damned great hard rock track. The biggest characteristic of 1984 is probably the band’s ever growing use of poppy synthesizers, which was something that was a growing trend in metal/rock around this time and ZZ Top' s Eliminator album is the perfect example of this. Bands at this time would employ an outside synth player to do the business on a song or two like with “Mystery” from Dio’s The Last in Line album and in some cases like with Van Halen it was an inside job where Eddie Van Halen took over the responsibility. Synths in metal were now seen as a way of really enhancing a metal band’s sound in an easy way and a band could opt to use them or not, rather than going the whole hog and being an integral part the band’s identity as with Deep Purple for example. This would be the direction that Van Halen would take on their next album and other premier metal bands like Iron Maiden would also move into this direction as well. Finally 1984 is a timeless and very much an iconic metal album of its time and perfectly displays the cohesive ability that the band had in dishing out sexy sounding metal with poppy hooks, but always with enough macho metal in mind to keep metalheads interested.

David Lee Roth- Vocals
Eddie Van Halen- Guitar/keyboards
Michael Anthony- Bass
Alex Van Halen- Drums

Production- Ted Templeman

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Metal Wars

Power Metal

Pounding Decibels- A Hard and Heavy History

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Old 03-07-2015, 10:52 AM   #900 (permalink)
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13!!! Did you do this to drag me out of the woodwork, it should be number 1!!!

Hot for Teacher, Jump, and Panama walk over anything that is on Maiden's Powerslave.

Van Halen - 1984 Diamond = (10 or over 10 platinum records)
Iron Maiden - Powerslave = (1 Platinum record)
Scorpions - Love at first sting = (3 times platinum)

There is a reason why Eddie Van Halen is one of the greatest guitarist of all time

This is an injustice lol! I express my dissent!!!
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