Angel Witch — Angel Witch
I went in for a root canal procedure at the dentist’s office and I was given a small pill called halcyon and a glass of water. I woke up at my house dazed and confused at how I had got there (good thing I had a ride home) and a stack of CD’s I had ordered off eBay. One CD was from a band I had previously heard a song from on an old NWOBHM comp; my mouth was swollen and sore and I still felt as though I was under a thick and dreary cloud of sedation. I took the Angel Witch CD out of the shrinkwrap and popped it in the player, leaning back heavily in my chair in a half-conscious state.
The music started and I was instantly floored by Angel Witch. The frantic energy of the album’s title track, Kevin Heybourne’s banshee wail, his murderous, screaming guitar licks and those eerie yet perfectly-executed backing vocals. I was completely won over by the ghastly “White Witch,” the apocalyptic “Atlantis” and fucking spellbound by the eternally haunting “Sorceress” and that was just the first half of the record. By the time I got to the sinister pulsing of “Angel Of Death,” I was certain I had stumbled upon one of the best kept secrets in all of heavy metal.”
Lost Horizon — Awakening The World
I can’t remember why in the hell I had originally ordered this disc in the first place. There was not that much hype circulating Stateside when this came out, I can tell you that. I must have read a positive review in MetalHammer or Terrorizer and taken note but I do recall that I hadn’t heard a single note by them when Awakening The World eventually turned up in my mailbox. After the short rumbling introduction track “The Quickening” came the galloping powerhouse of an ass-kicker “Heart Of Storm.” My head nearly exploded from the combination of Daniel Heiman’s insanely powerful vocal range complemented by guitarist Wojtek Lisicki’s magical melodies and shredding prowess.
I could really connect with the ideology of a song like “Sworn In The Metal Wind” or “World Through My Fateless Eyes.” It’s difficult to put over how great of a record this one was. Even over a decade later, I still consider this pretty much as close to perfect as a debut effort could ever aspire to sound like.
Manowar — Kings Of Metal
This album was pretty much my introduction to the mighty Manowar. From the second I popped in the CD to my car stereo and blew my fucking head off to the sounds of the blazing “Wheels Of Fire” I knew I had just scored a killer metal album. I also loved the band’s motto: “Other band’s play, Manowar kills!,” as heard on the title track. It’s a bit strange in hindsight recalling Kings Of Metal as my introduction to Manowar. After all, this album saw the band experimenting musically to some degree, incorporating more theatrics than ever before with the spoken word bits on “The Warrior’s Prayer” or the pipe organ and “Stand and Fight” group chants on “Heart Of Steel.”
In essence, this album wasn’t as straightforward as the band’s earlier output I would come to find out, but that made little difference to me considering “Kings Of Metal” contained “Hail And Kill” a metal anthem tour de force of crushing steel. “Rip their flesh, burn their hearts, stab them in the eyes, rape their women as they cry, kill their servants, burn their homes, till there’s no blood left to spill, by divine right Hail and Kill” screamed Manowar vocalist Eric Adams and I don’t care who you are, whether your a hardcore punk rocker all the way down to a corpse-painted servant of Satan, you just don’t get meaner, more hateful and full of rage, ruthless even…than the supreme ass-kicking dealt forth on “Hail and Kill.” You can consider yourself aurally murdered by the metal greatness of this track.
Yngwie J. Malmsteen — Marching Out
You know, I really liked Rising Force, the debut solo effort by Yngwie J. Malmsteen. Especially the instrumental opener “Black Star” but I believe that Marching Out was when I really realized “Holy shit, this guy is totally the greatest neo-classical heavy metal guitarist of all time.”
Rising Force finds the Swedish guitar god’s talent ascending to new heights with the smoldering fret scorching of “I’ll See The Light Tonight,” “Disciples Of Hell” and “I Am A Viking.” This album also has so much more attitude to offer than it’s predecessor. The debut had six instrumentals and two tracks with vocals where as Marching Out had only three instrumentals and eight songs featuring the well-honed pipes of Jeff Scott Soto.
As a result, this feels as close to a band effort as possible, yet firmly and appropriately centered around the astounding speed and virtuosity of Yngwie. The man, although often copied, is yet never duplicated and really set’s the bar to which every shred enthusiast aspires towards on Marching Out.
Skid Row — Skid Row
Skid Row’s debut album was perhaps the most life-changing record on this list for me. I was but nine years old in 1989 tuning into MTV’s live feed of the “Moscow Music Peace Festival” when I saw Skid Row take the stage with a hell-raising fucking cover of “Holidays In The Sun” by Sex Pistols.
By the time “Youth Gone Wild” was introduced into the band’s brief set I had destroyed my living room, I had a new favorite band, and I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. (I never looked back) I picked up the self-titled cassette a short time later, played it over and over to death in my cassette walkman and even witnessed the band open for Aerosmith in March of 1990 in what would be my first concert experience. I still love that fucking album.