1984 was a great year in the hard rock/heavy metal world. When an album like Grace Under Pressure by Rush is not in the top ten, you know you have a good year. Again, we see a fair number of debuts, but the veteran kings of metal would produce the cream of a very good crop.
10. Sinner - Danger Zone
Boy this one comes dangerously close to hair metal, but the guitars are so friggin' huge here that it falls outside that realm. The lyrics are something that Poison would be proud of, nevertheless, the music here is what counts and it really is great. Sure, it's dated, but it is effective. Guitarists Stoner and Shirley have the chops that the California players like Deville and Mars could only dream of, and they incorporated them into this 80's style hair metal, except that the music is actually good.
9. Metal Church - Metal Church
For some reason, this band tends to be overlooked when discussing the American metal scene of the 80's. People always speak of Anthrax, Slayer and the mighty Metallica, but Metal Church gets left behind. Too bad for them, because this album is better than anything Anthrax has ever done for sure. The instruments here are all well played and the vocals, while a little too Olivaesque for my liking, fit the band quite well.
8. Deep Purple - Perfect Strangers
Deep Purple's "reunion" album so to speak. Often times financially driven reunion albums are weak, but this one is an exception. There are some great tracks here (Knocking at Your Back Door, Mean Streak, Perfect Strangers) and the so-called "fillers" are also good. Blackmore's guitar work is still in fine form and Gillan's vocals give it a tremendous vibe.
7. Fates Warning - Night on Bröcken
Not a very popular album among Fates Warning fans for some reason, but I like it a lot. It has a more traditional heavy metal vibe than their progressive sound of today and it is clearly under produced. There are some great tracks on here in particular the last three Shadowfax, Damnation and Soldier Boy. This album has been accused of Maiden and Priest cloning, and there is no denying the influence of these two legendary bands on this album, but it is not cloning. A very underrated album.
6. Mercyful Fate - Don't Break the Oath
The second album from the Danish pseudo Satanists is not quite as good as the debut, but it is a very good album nevertheless. A few turkeys here keep this album from the status of greatness, but classics like Gypsy, Come to the Sabbath, and A Dangerous Meeting assure it a spot in the top 10.
5. Queensrÿche - The Warning
It is safe to say, that after the brilliant first Queensrÿche EP, I was expecting a great deal from The Warning, and while it didn't quite meet my expectations, The Warning is a very good metal album. Queensrÿche almost invented progressive metal as we know it today, and here we see the first album of this sub genre. They would go on to expand their musical horizons later in their career, and achieve the holy grail of commercial success with Empire, but in my opinion, they had a better overall sound here than almost any other time in their career.
4. Metallica - Ride the Lightning
As I stated in my 1983 top 10, I have a personal distaste for Metallica. That being said, it is hard to deny the quality of this album. A couple of weak moments keep this from the elite albums of 1984, but it is clearly the best of the rest. Creeping Death and Trapped Under Ice show the potential this band had, and would eventually achieve on a more consistent basis with their subsequent album. However, some other moments here are drab and forgetful, such as the overrated Fade to Black (Emo anyone??) and Fight Fire With Fire.
3. Dio - The Last in Line
Dio's second solo effort was almost as good as his first. This is another great album from Dio and his band. Unfortunately, after this release, the quality of Dio's work would slip significantly, never to rebound, but let's not dwell on that. The Last in Line featured many great tunes (almost all nine really), and only toward the end of the album did things slip just a tad. In another year, this easily could have been the best, but the two biggest metal giants put out some of their best work that year, putting Ronnie in the three spot.
2. Judas Priest - Defenders of the Faith
Really more of a 1A, than 2. With the exception of the last two tracks, this is a flawless Priest album. It opens with Freewheel Burning, which is fast and heavy, and the Hot Leather Dude and Co. don't let up until the obligatory, ridiculous rock anthem. Other standout tracks include The Sentinel, Some Heads are Gonna Roll, and the great ballad Night Comes Down. I really can't say enough great things about this album. Probably my second favorite Priest studio album behind Stained Class.
1. Iron Maiden - Powerslave
I know that Maiden has occupied a top 4 spot now for the last 5 years, but they are the best hard rock/metal group ever, so it is only fitting I guess. Powerslave is one of Maiden's finest moments. With four essential, legendary classics like Ace's High, Two Minutes to Midnight, Powerslave and Rime of the Ancient Mariner, that would be enough to consider it a great album, but the four remaining tracks are also great (well really good). The greatest album of a really great year.