For me, 1991 was a strange year in hard rock/metal. 1991 saw a few really good/great albums, and a bunch of marginal releases. Of course, as the years progress, there are more and more metal/hard rock albums to choose from, so compiling a list becomes more difficult. For the 1991 albums, I begged, borrowed and stole almost 30 albums, and many of them were crap (Old Lady Drivers for example). However, most of them were marginal, not really bad, but uninteresting (i.e. Anacrusis and Coroner).
In any case, I have compiled my personal top ten for the year. Many reading this will disagree saying I left out album X or Y, and of course, most people will say that the one glaring omission was done out of a personal distaste for a particular drummer of Danish origin. To that, I say horse-hockey. The record in question is average hard rock/metal by numbers.
10. Dark Angel – Time Does Not Heal
For me this is Dark Angel’s crowning achievement. I would have to say this is a seriously underrated album. When people speak of Dark Angel, the first two records seem to get all the praise, which does not make sense to me, as this one is far better, especially lyrically. Also, as advertised, there are plenty of riffs to sink you teeth into.
9. Blind Guardian – Tales From Twilight World
Speed metal, power metal, whatever you want to call it, this is a good album. Much better than the first two, this disc moves along with great flow and pace. It never gets boring, and while it doesn’t stay with you like the great albums do, it is always good to hear after not hearing it for a while.
8. Rush – Roll the Bones
This is a strange record. While hailed by Geddy & Co as one of their finest moments, I disagree. There are some great tunes on here, but let’s face it, there are some real clunkers too. The great songs are the ones you know, Dreamline, Where’s My Thing? and the title song, but tracks like Ghost of a Chance, Heresy and The Big Wheel are forgettable numbers, and while I can listen to them, I would imagine only only the most devoted Rush fans like these.
7. Metal Church – The Human Factor
This is an underrated album, from an underrated band. The band has become more political, but it’s not really in your face. The music is still Metal Church and while there is no “Badlands” on this record, the whole thing is interesting and the music is still heavy.
6. Motörhead – 1916
Their first studio album in four years, and Motörhead never missed a beat. 1916 is lighter hearted than earlier releases, and while it is undeniably Motörhead, it is still somehow different. No Voices in the Sky and I’m So Bad are among Motörhead’s best tracks ever, and the rest of the albums is a great listen. Highly recommended for tailgates at any metal show, 1916 is a very enjoyable album.
5. Running Wild – Blazon Stone
Running Wild is kind of like AC/DC in that they never change their sound, and while I can see a reasonable criticism for this, Running Wild gets a pass. Why? Because I like their sound. Running Wild are unapologetic for their speed/power pirate formula because it works. Running Wild’s riffs are just so damn good; you can help but like this album.
4. Pearl Jam – Ten
Just because a record sells billions of copies does not mean it is good. However, the masses got it right with this one. Pearl Jam’s first album is so simple, it is brilliant. I think they found the right combination of hard rock and angst on this album. There is such groove and feel to these songs, it seems to have been executed with great passion, and that is what I love about this record.
3. Fates Warning – Parallels
Fates Warning was trying to be more accessible here, but by 1991, no one was interested in 80’s metal with a proggy touch to it. Perhaps if 1989’s Perfect Symmetry were as good as Parallels, Fates Warning would have achieved Queensryche success. However, with the country now mesmerized by Kurt Cobain’s flannel shirt, Parallels would be mostly ignored and forgotten. It’s a shame too because it is a great album, with rich vocals and guitars everywhere. A forgotten gem.
2. Iced Earth – Night of the Stormrider
Iced Earth used to be such a good band, and I don’t understand why more people do not like this album. Sure Greely isn’t the best singer, but this album is so well written. The riffs are huge, and the story is captivating without an element of cheese so prevalent in metal concept albums. This is an example of an album that once you put it on; you have to listen to the whole thing, because it is so captivating and memorable. Iced Earth’s best effort for sure.
1. Armored Saint – Symbol of Salvation
Where do I begin? I can’t begin to explain how great I think this album is, and the frustrating part is, I cannot explain why. Let’s face it, Armored Saint isn’t exactly known for the great songwriting, or brilliant musical chops. Maybe it is the ghost of Dave Prichard that haunts this record, but there is some intangible that makes all these songs great, whether it is the “commercial” Last Train Home, or the blistering Hanging Judge or the thought provoking Tainted Past, it is just a great album start to finish.