1985 was an interesting year in the field of metal and rock. There were many albums released, and many good albums released, but the overall quality appears to have slipped from the previous year. In fact I have two albums in the top ten from bands whose 1984 efforts were better than their 1985 output, but the 1985 album made the top 10, where the 1984 album, while better, was left off.
So, as a result, the difference between number 10 and number 25 is probably small, because there were so many decent albums that just did not crack the top 10, but arguably they are all so close that I could change my mind about one or another them over time. However, this is not a science, just one man's hobby, so as such I present the top 10
10. Armored Saint - Delirious Nomad
I'll start out by saying, I like 1984's March of the Saint better than Delirious Nomad, that said, Delirious Nomad is a solid album for sure. However, with the Max Headroom style cover and the over polished sound, it seemed that Armored Saint were trying too hard to be liked, and as such, this album suffers a bit.
9. Slayer - Hell Awaits
An improvement over 1983's Show No Mercy, but still not quite there. I really like the longer pieces on this album, especially Hell Awaits and Crypts of Eternity and I wish they had kept to that style. However, this album is not without its holes and sometimes the listener can lose interest. The riffs are great, but sometimes pieces like Necropheliac and Kill Again are monotonous and tarnish the album as a whole.
8. Rush - Power Windows
Not the best Rush album for sure. As a matter of fact, it is my least favorite of all their 1980's albums. However, with 1985 being the year of the mediocre album, Power Windows finds a place in the top 10. There are some great moments here, like Territories, Marathon and Manhattan Project, but other tracks like Grand Designs and Middletown Dreams are boring and make the album as a whole not that enjoyable a listen.
7. Fates Warning - The Spectre Within
This is sort of a bridge album for this band. More progressive than Night on Brocken, but not yet the progressive band they eventually evolved into two albums later. It is still a good metal album with great vocals and guitar harmonies. For me it is a step back from their debut, but this opinion puts me in the minority.
6. Dio - Sacred Heart
Probably a "best of the rest" pick here. The albums after this are all clearly ahead of the 1985 pack. This is the first stop on the downhill Dio express. It's a good album for sure, but certainly not up to the caliber of his first two solo albums (or his work in Rainbow and Black Sabbath). Sometimes, I wonder what he was thinking of releasing campy pop rock tracks like Hungry For Heaven and Rock N Roll Children. The rest of the album is good (with the exception of closer Shoot Shoot), but certainly a step down for sure.
5, Celtic Frost - To Mega Therion
I am not really a Celtic Frost fan, but this album is special. In fact this is pretty much where the 1985 albums become less interchangeable in terms of their placement in my top 25 for the year, and from here in, the albums are of a higher caliber.
To me this album is way ahead of its time, and has some elements of the more technical death metal acts of the late 1990's and beyond. Circle of the Tyrants is a brilliant piece, but it's not the only great track here. The whole album is very creative and different for the time; it's almost avant-garde. Celtic Frost definitely pushed the boundaries of extreme metal with this release.
4. Watchtower - Energetic Disassembly
It is hard to describe this album. It is certainly the first true progressive metal album released. I can hear their influence on dozens of bands today from Spiral Architect to Magnitude 9. I like Jason McMaster's vocals a lot, and the guitar wizardry is fabulous. Add to that a fantastic rhythm section and you have one of the best albums by an American group from the 1980's. The more I listen to this lost gem, the better it gets. It is a truly underrated and unappreciated classic.
3. Yngwie Malmsteen - Marching Out
It was kind of funny listening to this album again for the first time in a while, because the lyrics can be quite silly in places like I am a Viking and Soldier Without Faith. I guess it sounds a tad dated, but it really is a good album. There are so many memorable classics here, and quite frankly, there is not a bad song on this album. The playing is obviously brilliant, as Yngwie is a great player, but the vocals and song structures are good too. By far, this is Yngwie's best album.
2. Helloween - Walls of Jericho
Helloween's first full-length album Walls of Jericho is probably the cornerstone of European speed/power metal. Kai Hansen is a fantastic guitarist and I personally like his singing as well, so for me this album is a real scorcher. Granted, Hansen's songwriting has improved over the years, but there is no denying the blistering power and ferocity of the riffs and other guitar work here. This is a great debut from the pioneers of German speed metal.
1. Accept - Metal Heart
I'm sure this will not be a popular choice. I love this album; really the only 1985 album I would consider great. The only 10 out of 10 of the year. There is not a weak moment here. The riffs are huge, Udo shrieks like a madman, the guitar solos are infectious, even the bass work shines on Teach Us to Survive. Accept's Restless and Wild from 1982 is really their only other good album. As such, it is very ironic that a band with more turkeys in its catalog than you'll find at a Butterball rendering plant, can release such a great album. I would have to say this is in my top 10 albums of all time. Brilliant.