The origins of heavy metal don’t go back as far as one would expect. Bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath have only been in existence since the late 60s, yet metal has splintered into a gigantic beast with more styles and names than the average fan can count.
So how did metal evolve so rapidly in such a short amount of time and where did metal’s numerous sub-categories actually originate?
Impact Albums is a series of articles that will attempt to answer these questions by arranging metal releases by year. We hope by arranging these “Impact” releases we might be able to educate the average metal fan on past trends, the origins’ categorizations, and possibly even expose you to essential groups you may have missed in your own metal education.
So without further adieu, here are the Impact Albums of the year 1980.
#1: AC/DC – BACK IN BLACK: Having lost their prolific vocalist Bon Scott a few months prior, the debut album of replacement singer Brian Johnson proved AC/DC would survive. The release is packed with classic tracks like: “Hells Bells”, “Shook Me all Night Long”, “Shoot to Thrill”, “Have a Drink on Me” and “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”.
#2: JUDAS PRIEST – BRITISH STEEL: Many consider this to be the greatest Judas Priest album ever released. British Steel marks the perfection of the band’s classic sound and includes hits like “Metal Gods”, “Breaking the Law “and “Living after Midnight”.
#3: OZZY OSBOURNE – BLIZZARD OF OZZ: Fresh from his exit from the legendary Black Sabbath, this solo album established Ozzy as a true heavy metal icon. The release features the awesome guitar work of axe master Randy Rhoads and includes fan favorites like: “I Don’t Know”, “Crazy Train”, “Suicide Solution” and “Mr. Crowley”.
#4: BLACK SABBATH – HEAVEN AND HELL: Many thought Sabbath would never rebound from the loss of original vocalist, Ozzy Osbourne, but the group turned heads when Ronnie James Dio stepped into the fold and delivered this Sabbath masterpiece. This is the band’s 9th studio album and contains classic Sabbath tracks such as: “Neon Knights”, “Children of the Sea” and “Heaven and Hell.”
#5: IRON MAIDEN – IRON MAIDEN: The debut release of the NWOBHM juggernauts. Features the sharp vocals of original Maiden vocalist Paul Di’Anno and contains beloved Maiden tracks like: “Prowler”, “Running Free”, “Phantom of the Opera” and the self-titled track “Iron Maiden.”
#6: MOTÖRHEAD – ACE OF SPADES: Considered by many to be Motörhead’s ‘breakthrough’ album. It was the fourth album by the band and the first to be released in the United States. The album contains Motörhead classics like: “Love Me like a Reptile”, “Jailbait”, “We are the Road Crew” and the famed speed metal anthem “Ace of Spades”.
#7: DEF LEPPARD – ON THROUGH THE NIGHT: With an album cover featuring a semi truck hauling a giant guitar into space, this release is the debut offering of the NWOBHM legends. Although Def Leppard didn’t really break through commercially until 1983’s Pyromania, this release is worthy because it solidified the band’s place in the budding metal scene. Standout tracks on this album are: “Hello America”, “On through the Night”, “Rock Brigade” and “Sorrow is a Woman”.
#8: SAXON – WHEELS OF STEEL: These NWOBHM legends never got the accolades they deserved in the USA but this second album is thought to be one of their best. Full of Saxon fan favorites like: “Motorcycle Man”, “Wheels of Steel” and “Street Fighting Gang.”
#9: THE SCORPIONS – ANIMAL MAGNETISM: The 7th studio release by the band, known for its Storm Thorgerson album cover (of Pink Floyd fame), many consider 1979’s Lovedrive to be the group’s pivotal release. Animal Magnetism is a continued progression of the band’s classic sound and contains Scorpion favorites like “The Zoo” and “Make it Real”. The band’s commercial break though would come just one year later with the release of Blackout.
#10: ANGEL WITCH – ANGEL WITCH: Originally called Lucifer, this is the debut release of a largely unknown participant of the NWOBHM movement. The album is now considered a classic and pre-curser to the “thrash movement” of metal and contains the track “Angel Witch” which was used in the 2009 video game Brütal Legend.
#11: BUDGIE – POWER SUPPLY: Considered one of the first heavy metal bands and a huge influence on the thrash movement as cited by bands like Metallica, who covered the Budgie songs “Breadfan” and “Crash Course in Brain Surgery”. Power Supply is the 8th studio release by the band. Budgie is relatively unknown in America and received limited commercial success in Europe.
#12: DIAMOND HEAD – LIGHTNING TO THE NATIONS: Recorded in 1979 and self-released a year later by the band, Lightning to the Nations is an important release because the recorded music is considered a pre-cursor to “thrash movement” of metal and has been cited by groups such as Megadeth and Metallica as a highly influential release. Metallica has practically covered this entire album, highlight tracks are: “The Prince,” “Sucking My Love,” “Am I Evil?“, “It’s Electric” and “Helpless”.