Thursday, December 29, 2005
1986 - Cosmic Jazz, Plus the Singer is an Ugly Guy
The 1986 top 10
10. Helstar - Remnants of War
The second album from Helstar, and to me it was a big improvement from the 1984 debut. Heavier and more consistent than Burning Star, Remnants of War is pre-historic power metal at its finest. The guitar work here is what makes the album, and there are plenty of licks, riffs, and solos to keep the listener interested. A very good album, with no clunkers or turkeys that make you want to hit the "skip" button, and recommended to all metal fans, and power metal fans in particular.
9. Rage - Reign of Fear
This is the (sort-of) debut album by German power metallers Rage. Now in 1986, the sub-genres were branching out, and while close to the vest of traditional metal in the vein of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, Rage still had a sound of their own. Euro speed metal riffs and choruses abound here. Clearly, there are also some weaker moments, but overall a solid and enjoyable album.
8. Candlemass - Epicus Doomicus Metallicus
Here we have another debut, this time from the Swedish kings of doom. I like the sound of this album. It is very dark and gloomy, with dark lyrics and slow riffs. I like this album because it is really genre defining. I suppose one could say Sabbath invented doom, but by 1986, it was a lost art. Candlemass kind of brought it back and gave it a new birth, and they do it quite well here.
7. Metal Church - The Dark
For me, this album was a slight step back from their first. Maybe not a step back, but not a step forwards either. Don't get me wrong, I think it is a really good record, but I guess I was expecting a greater leap forward and I really didn’t notice any evolution from the first album. Still, the riffs and hooks are there and it is a good listen. One thing is for sure; I would put Metal Church's first two albums up against any other American Thrash band's first two albums and come away with the conclusion that the Metal Church albums are better.
6. Motörhead - Orgasmatron
The first Motörhead album with present guitarist Phil Campbell was another solid release by Lemmy and his band. Motörhead evolves so slowly that the changes to their sound are slight and distinct, but the more I listen to this band, the more I appreciate the different subtleties the albums have. This album builds and builds, until it explodes on the last song with the brilliant title track. One of the greatest tunes in the Motörhead catalogue.
5. King Diamond - Fatal Portrait
This album is somewhat underrated in my opinion. While it is not as good as a couple of the subsequent King Diamond released, the difference is not as great as most of the metal community would have you believe. This album certainly has more of a Mercyful Fate feel that the later albums, and to me, that is what makes it so special. In addition to King's great vocals, the twin guitar attack of Andy LaRocque and Michael Denner is great, and that is really what makes this a good album.
4. Fates Warning - Awaken the Guardian
With each album Fates Warning gets more progressive and less traditional metal. In my opinion, this album found the right balance. It is not nearly as progressive as they would become, but the song structures are better than on the previous two albums. The complexity is perfect, no wankery for sure, yet it's not the same heavy metal formula that was so prevalent in the 1980's. This is probably the best Fates Warning album of the John Arch era.
3. Megadeth - Peace Sells…But Who's Buying
Megadeth's second album is a giant leap forward from their first. The quality of the songs on this album is top notch, and the execution is flawless. The album gets a tad stale after repeated listens, but overall it is a really solid album, and a good listen from start to finish. The made popular by MTV title track is still fresh today, as are The Conjuring, Wake Up Dead, and Good Mourning/Black Friday. The balance of the album is not up to that level, and as such I would not classify this as a great album.
2. Metallica - Master of Puppets
Here we have the only Metallica album I would consider great. Really, not a weakness on here, though some moments are clearly better than other. On this album, Metallica manages to have the same aggression as they do on the previous albums, but it is properly balanced with that intangible presence that the really great bands have. For some reason, after this album, they had that intangible, but they lost the aggression and drive that made Master of Puppets a truly great metal album.
1. Iron Maiden - Somewhere in Time
A bit of a controversial Maiden album, as it used the "guitar synthesizers" for the first time. To me, the use of the synthesizer was not overdone, and it textured the album quite nicely. I think this is one of Maiden's better albums, even is it sounds a bit dated today. There are some great songs here, and Adrian Smith really shines as a player and songwriter here. Somewhere in Time, while not Maiden's best, is certainly good enough to be album of the year in 1986.