This may have been the most difficult Top 10 I have ever assembled. The reason is that NONE of these albums are really that great, with perhaps only the top album achieving greatness. They are all good, but none of them are close to perfect, and they all have their weak spots.
In fact, it was tough to exclude the following six albums because they were all worthy of the top 10, but fell a bit short. So, the runners up are:
Helstar – Nosferatu
Fates Warning – Perfect Symmetry
A.S.A.P. – Silver and Gold
Cloven Hoof – A Sultan’s Ransom
Annihilator – Alice in Hell
Enuff Z’ Nuff – Enuff Z’ Nuff
All really good albums, but not quite there, so now on to the top 10:
10. Blue Murder – Blue Murder
More of a hard rock than metal album, John Sykes solo band’s first album is quite good. Of course, there is a Whitesnake feel to it, but since John wrote all the music on the multi platinum self titled album, it’s all good in my book. Valley of the Kings is a great track, and the other songs are good too, but Sykes’ playing is what keeps this record interesting.
9. Watchtower – Control and Resistance
This album is frustrating. Watchtower was capable of making such a better album than this. However, it is still a real good album, and while a step down from Energetic Disassembly, it is good enough to crack the 1989 top 10.
8. Tora Tora – Surprise Attack
1989 was the peak of hair metal. By the end of 1990, the Seattle scene will have all but ruined the career of hair bands. However, by 1989, so real talented musicians were in hair bands, and the song quality was way above the pioneers of the sub genre. So bands like Vain, Enuff Z’ Nuff and Fifth Angel were releasing good quality records, but little did they know their genre was doomed. Any way, this album was the best of the bunch.
7. King Diamond – Conspiracy
Many people believe this record is just as good as its predecessors, but I disagree. Maybe it’s that horrible record cover. Anyway, for me, this is where King’s dominance is over, and his releases decline to mediocrity. Still, Conspiracy is a good album, and worthy of the top 10.
6. Metal Church – Blessing in Disguise
Badlands is probably the track of the year, and the rest of the album is really good too. As I have said before, it is my opinion that Metal Church is the most underrated band for the 1980’s California Thrash scene. They are so much better that Vio-lence, Testament, Exodus and all that other generic thrash.
5. Running Wild – Death or Glory
This was Running Wild’s peak period. Death or Glory has a perfect sound. Some of the songs fall flat, but the majority of them are terrific Euro speed metal, done by the genre’s inventors.
4. Dream Theater – When Dream and Day Unite
The first album from the now legendary New York prog outfit is one of my favorite DT records. While Charlie’s voice is not that great, the band’s playing was very tight, and I think they have lost focus over the years. The album manages to be very progressive, while still being heavy. DT would go on to make a couple albums far superior to this one, but still, despite poor production and less that average vocals, this is a very good album.
3. Rush – Presto
Fanboy? – maybe. While not the greatest Rush record of all time, Presto still has some quality tracks on it like The Pass, Superconductor and the title song. Most of the album is somewhat generic mid-term Rush, but let’s face it, generic mid-term Rush is still pretty damn good.
2. Savatage – Gutter Ballet
Like most of the albums on this list, Gutter Ballet has some great moments, and at other times it falls flat. Criss Oliva’s songwriting and guitar playing here is what makes this album so good. A bit more progressive that their previous albums, but not corny like the albums that would come after, Gutter Ballet is the high water mark for Savatage.
1. The Cult – Sonic Temple
Every so often, an album comes from left field to completely blow me away, and while Sonic Temple is not without its flaws, it is easily the top album of 1989. Ian Astbury’s vocals are brilliantly incorporated into the music, and the additional heaviness compared to their previous albums makes this a hard rock album worthy of inclusion here.