Top 11 Power Metal Albums of the 80s

The idea to present some of the Top Power Metal Albums of the 80s started a long time ago. The article was partly written during the first period of Grande Rock and now it has been re-written with the addition of a few more albums. All the album reviews were written by Alex, except for Leatherwolf, Titan Force & Viper, which were written by Thanos. There will be several objections about the specific list, so it’s quite possible to come back with a Vol. II tribute at some point.
Top 11 Power Metal Albums of the 80s pic

 

VIRGIN STEELE
“GUARDIANS OF THE FLAME”

(1983)
 
Virgin Steele - Guardians of the Flame coverIt’s good that this album has been finally released in CD, as metal fans have been deprived of one of the best power records for years (the LP was a collector’s item). Steele in this second album doesn’t have the sound of their later ones (especially from “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” onwards), rather present a more straight forward approach. Heavy, epic tracks with the former guitarist Jack Star delivering some old-fashioned riffs, bridges and solos. Defeis’ lyrics are characteristic and expressive once more, making the songs even more powerful. I’m sure they didn’t understand what kind of masterpiece they delivered then and how much inspiration it caused to the next generation. Don’t forget that in 1983 power metal was still unknown – with the exception of Manowar. That’s the reason the album has many rock and straight metal elements, but songs like the self-titled, “Don’t Say Goodbye (Tonight)” and “The Redeemer” outlines the epic feeling to the maximum. Despite the troubles, the band keeps delivering amazing albums until now.
 

 

MANOWAR
“HAIL TO ENGLAND”

(1984)
 
Manowar Hail to England coverMy goodness, I feel so little when trying to describe Manowar’s music of the first four albums. The only reason that “Hail to England” is presented here is that it is my favorite; otherwise I find it equal with “Battle Hymns”, “Into Glory Ride”, and “Sign of the Hammer”. What I wrote for Helloween, stands for Manowar as well: they created a whole new genre by itself. No one had ever played this way before (and according to my humble opinion no one ever did): you have the feeling that you are going to battle, that the roar of the fighting is next to you... you can smell the blood of your enemies spilled! DeMaio’s compositions are eternal, Eric is one of the best singers in heavy metal history (and possibly the one with the best articulation), Ross inspires the army with his leads and Scott demolishes all enemies’ shields. I never understood their later obsession to prove how “true” they are and the alteration of their music. Brothers you have led us to victory once and we keep our swords sheathed for when you call us to war again. You have nothing to prove to anyone. Until then “Each Dawn I Die”… Hail!
 

 

QUEENSRYCHE
“THE WARNING”

(1984)
 
Queensrÿche The Warning coverThis album represents the premature period of the band, which evolved to one of the best prog groups ever. And it proves that Ryche have been good in whatever they did. Lyrical, powerful, sentimental power metal, with Tate reaching the stars with his voice! Almost all the songs here are classics, with the hymn “Take Hold of the Flame” haunting most Ryche fans even until now. I know that there are places in Europe where fans have raised huge placate asking from the band to play it in their shows... with the band responding to their will. The album has this unique quality to make your soul ascend. The melodies make you feel complete. Of course, the band didn’t ever play again this kind of music, as they kept trying to evolve their sound with each record. So, “The Warning” is a unique sample Ryche power metal material.
 

 

WARLORD
“...AND THE CANNONS OF DESTRUCTION HAVE BEGUN”

(1984)
 
Warlord And the Cannons of Destruction Have Begun coverOne of the albums I would chose if I had to take only ten albums with me in a deserted island. The only reason that this album is preferred here over “Deliver Us” is because it has more tracks, giving thus a more complete presentation of the band. People familiar with the Grande Rock e-zine, know that when it comes to Warlord for me words seem to lose their meaning. I just cannot describe the majesty of their music. I doubt that any other band managed to produce so much lyricism via its songs. Feelings of ascension, deliverance, nostalgia, hope, redemption, fear of the unknown, failure, and success flood every song. The singer plays a secondary role to the music. Here the case is the constant battle between the guitarist Bill Tsamis and the drummer Mark Zonder – the best drummer in the universe – which makes the solos of the album an experience for life. Unfortunately Warlord has been disbanded after this album, for various reasons, leaving a huge gap behind it. Luckily they reunited after a long time period but nothing was the same as before…
 

 

HELLOWEEN
“KEEPER OF THE SEVEN KEYS I & II”

(1987 & 1988)
 
What can I write about these two albums now? Helloween in those two concept albums accomplished something that other band’s work a carrier for: they created their own genre in metal music, filled vast arenas in their shows, reached the ultimate limits of artistic creation and much more. You power metal fans, never forget that what you listen to nowadays (especially in Euro-power metal) might have never existed if it wasn’t for Helloween. They were the first ones who used the double bass drum this way, the hymnical guitar melodies, the high vocals and eventually this noble feeling of ascension that is born inside us when we listen to “Eagle Fly Free” for example. The fact that they didn’t become the new Iron Maiden – as they were called back in 1988 – is one of the biggest wrongs in the history of music. But unfortunately, it seems that they didn’t know then what they had in their hands. Pumpkin fly free!!!
 
 Helloween Keeper of the Seven Keys II coverHelloween Keeper of the Seven Keys cover

 

SAVATAGE
“HALL OF THE MOUNTAIN KING”

(1987)
 
Savatage Hall of the Mountain King coverPerfection in the middle of the madness! For sure it would need some “twisted” musicians to create this insane, haunting masterpiece. After the silly “Fight for the Rock”, Sava took themselves seriously and realized that they had responsibilities to the metal music community. Paul O’Neil’s contribution here is beneficial, as he managed to release all this power and inspiration the band held inside. So Sava composed one of the most delirious, paranoid power metal masterpieces. The rhythm section of Middleton & Wacholz plays for the first time in a Sava album a significant role, leading the tracks. Criss’ (R.I.P.) riffs-manifestos and thunderous solos are as if conceived in the mind of a lunatic, genius fairy. Criss has been one of the most talented and inspired guitarists the metal scene ever had, something that made his loss unbearable, knowing how much more he could offer. But above all stands John's delirious voice, as if it belongs to an elfin in despair. After this album Sava changed the direction of its music, providing us with a series of monumental albums, yet away from the plain power sound. However “Hall of the Mountain King” still stands (along with “Transcendence”) as an album coming from a different dimension.
 

 

LEATHERWOLF
“LEATHERWOLF”
(1987)
 
Leatherwolf coverWhat an album! Even if it still confuses some fans due to the fact that it has the same name as their debut, in reality, it has nothing in common with their first release. The band took all the good elements of their debut and sky-rocketed them with the addition of multi-layer vocals, splendid melodies, killer solos & epic atmospheres. “Rise or Fall” and “The Calling” right after won’t leave you time to breathe. They grab you by the balls in minutes. Michael Olivieri’s amazing performances will almost haunt you from song to song. Especially when he sings “If we could see what tomorrow brings”! Oh my God what an astounding power ballad... among the top 10 of all time! I still get shivers when I play this album. It’s hard to believe how amazing it is in every part. Greatly produced with incredible orchestrations. It’s a pity that this band and especially this album didn’t get the gratitude they deserve. Whenever someone asks me what to listen to so as to have a taste of metal music, this is the album that I suggest most of the times. Wanna know why? Huh! Just play the damn thing and everything will be clearer for you…
 

 

RIOT
“THUNDERSTEEL”

(1988)
 
Riot Thundersteel coverIf you wanna make history you’ve gotta be bold right? No guts, no glory! This is exactly what Mark Reale (R.I.P.) did back in the late 80s. He dismissed his previous line-up, brought over the unknown (back then) but amazing vocalist Tony Moore, the bassist Don Van Stavern (ex-Narita, ex-S.A. Slayer) and the drummers Mark Edwards (ex-Kuni, ex-Lion, ex-Steeler) & Bobby Jarzombek (ex-Juggernaut, Spastic Ink, Fates Warning, etc.) in order to make something diverse & majestic at the same time. That’s the actual music evolution! He “wedded” the US power metal along with the European one. What Mark did on “Thundersteel” was meant to Mark a whole new metal generation! Amazing heavy riffs, fantastic solos & divine vocals. The songwriting is simply astonishing! Even the production, for that era, is punchy & heavy. It’s impossible to pick any favorites cuz’ “Thundersteel” is a classic album… but “Bloodstreets” is a unique piece of lyrical melodic heavy metal! I know that Johnny won’t be back again, since he joined the Big Heavens Band… but we would be eternally grateful for offering us so great albums and songs!
 

 

CRIMSON GLORY
“TRANSCENDENCE”
(1988)
Crimson Glory Transcendence coverThe title of the album says it all: the music must have been transcended here by somewhere else, beyond our galaxy! The mysterious atmosphere is supported by the fact that no one had seen the faces of band’s members as they used to wear silver masks (in this second album they covered half their face). The artistic perfection of the band was scary for 1988, the rhythm section resembled heavy artillery, guitar riffs, harmonies and solos were so “twisted” and lyrical, but possibly the most telling thing was the singer: Midnight. A remarkable voice, one of the best we’ve ever heard in the metal scene in general that had the ability to move from the highest to the lowest scales in no time with the effect to haunt you forever. The album received unexpectable success, but unfortunately record labels’ games disoriented the band with bad results in their next effort. “Lonely in Love”!!!
 

 

TITAN FORCE
“TITAN FORCE”
(1989)
Titan Force coverHow easy is it to release a new “classic” with a totally new band when you have left from the previous great act that you had also made great things? Well, for Harry Conklin that thing was not impossible as he did so with Jag Panzer & Titan Force. The band got in touch with Harry after several years of their creation when they had the chance to pen for Jag Panzer back in the day. Harry’s distinctive & unique voice gives the appropriate dimension to all the songs so as to shine. Certainly, the songwriting is top-notch and the choruses, the leads & the ideas are all excellent. The powerful & clear production of the album is still considered great up to our days. This is a brilliant paradigm of how an outstanding US power metal album should be like. The melodic, aggressive, prog & heavy elements are all being blended together so harmonically that makes you wanna scream out of joy. According to me, “Titan Force” is among the best power metal releases of all time but it’s also Harry’s top moment…
 

 

VIPER
“THEATRE OF FATE”
(1989)
Viper Theatre of Fate coverThey started out in 1985 by the Passarell brothers (Pit and Yves – bass and guitar respectively) along with the later famous singer Andre Matos. Yeap, the same Andre that formed Angra in 1991 and gave us another diamond but that’s a different story to be told. I still remember when I first played the vinyl on my record player... that small intro and then… Matos’ almost angelic voice came out of the speakers! Mostly based on the European power metal, these Brazilians came up with a pure melodious, power metal (with sympo-prog touches) dynamite. I honestly cannot tell if they had completely understood what they had achieved back in the day. Andre was somehow Kiske’s (Helloween) equivalent. Matos expressive & emotive performance on “Moonlight” (a cover on Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”) can send chills down your spine… while the tempo changes on the outstanding “A Cry from the Edge” shows that there were lots of progressive tendencies into the band’s blood. Unquestionably, “Living for the Night” is the absolute highlight of the album. It’s impossible not to sing along with Andre… “I’m living for the night though we have to fear it…” play it loud dudes…
 
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