1987 was a good year for music, many good albums came out, and even a few great non-metal albums like Springsteen's Tunnel of Love (my personal favorite Springsteen record) and Pink Floyd's comeback album, A Momentary Lapse of Reason.
Additionally, there were many hard rock albums that came out in 1987 that were good, but to me, not better than the ten albums presented below. These include Def Leppard's Hysteria, Areosmith's Permanent Vacation and the gazillion selling Appetite for Destruction by Guns 'N Roses.
So, the top 10 is.....
10. Celtic Frost - Into the Pandemonium
I like strange stuff, and this album is strange. I still prefer To Mega Therion, but I really like this album a lot more now than I used to, in fact I like it more with every listen. Celtic Frost does some weird stuff here, and for me it works most of the time, Mexican Radio being an exception. There is something for everyone here, a lot of different sounds to be sure. Not for every taste, but I like it.
9. Motörhead - Rock 'N' Roll
Certainly not Motörhead's finest moment, and you can see the ideas starting to dry up a bit, but still Rock ''N' Roll is another solid effort from Lemmy's crew. The first four tracks are great, but the albums fades a bit and the balance of the tracks are less memorable. All in all, the album is a good one, and really a good listen start to finish, including The Blessing.
8. Sanctuary - Refuge Denied
This is the debut from Sanctuary, and the better of their two albums in my book. I am not sure how much Dave Mustaine contributed to this album, but it seems as if he added something to the mix. The riffs and solos on this album keep coming from beginning to end and the songs are well crafted. A good debut for sure, and one of those few albums from an American metal band that you can listen to from start to finish without some cheesy ballad to ruin it.
7. Dio - Dream Evil
Dream Evil is a good album. The metal community seems to dislike this album, and I realize it is not to the level of his first two, but it is still quite good. A slight improvement over Sacred Heart in my opinion, as there is not as much cheese, and the "commercial" song on this album, I Could Have Been a Dreamer, is actually good as opposed to the two commercial efforts on Sacred Heart. There are plenty of riffs here, despite the departure of Vivian Campbell, and the solos are just as good too.
6. Savatage - Hall of the Mountain King
Finally, the pieces started to come together for Savatage. Criss Oliva's riffs, licks and solos are top notch, and really all the music on this album is great, almost brilliant. Unfortunately, Jon Oliva's raspy vocals and over dramatic intonation keeps this album from achieving the level of greatness that it could have with a better singer.
5. Anthrax - Among the Living
This is a fun album. I really don't take Anthrax too seriously, as they are more of a joke than a serious band. This album's tracks include the ridiculous Caught in a Mosh, N.F.L. and Indians (we're dissin' them!!!). However, it all works quite well, and the album, while dated, is a memorable one.
4. Running Wild - Under Jolly Roger
Until this album, Running Wild was another generic European band singing about the devil, hell and the like; however, with Under Jolly Roger, Running Wild made the shift that would define their career. Pirates!! Ironically, this theme really works for this band, and the songs are quite good.
3. Helloween - Keeper of the Seven Keys, Part I
Here is where we separate the good from the great. Helloween's first album with the "classic" line up that included Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen is a non stop feast of German speed metal of the finest vintage. Not at all dated, 19 years later this album still sounds great.
2. King Diamond - Abigail
One of King's finest solo moments, Abigail is the first of King's epic storylines. Normally, I don't like concept albums, but King is the master, and this story of Abigail is fantastic. There are so many great tracks here, A Mansion in Darkness, Abigail and Black Horsemen are my personal favorites, and this album is best listened to as a whole, for the whole is even greater than the sum of its marvelous parts. Lyrically, musically (kudos to Denner and LaRoque) and conceptually, this album truly rocks.
1. Rush - Hold Your Fire
This is not metal; in fact it's barely hard rock. I don't care, it is still great. For me, this is the album where all of the experimentation with electronics and keyboards on the last two albums was perfected. Lyrically, this is one of Peart's finest. Gems like Mission, Tai Shan, Second Nature and Prime Mover all long forgotten by all but the tr00est Rush fans are sonic masterpieces. Underrated and overlooked, Hold Your Fire is Rush's finest of the post Moving Pictures era.