Some years it's a tough call figuring out what the best album of the year is. In 1992 it wasn't even close. Pantera was head and shoulders above the rest of the field. As grunge continued its dominance on the sales charts, radio and MTV, 1992 wasn't a spectacular year for heavy metal. There were some good releases, but in terms of depth of quality it wasn't one of the best years. Here are my choices for the best heavy metal albums released in 1992.
While Cowboys From Hell paved the way, Vulgar Display Of Power cemented Pantera as a massively influential force in metal. They took thrash to the next level with more anger and extremity and harsher vocals. Dimebag Darrell's guitar work was incomparable, and this album found Pantera putting all the ingredients together into a lethal combination that was their strongest all around release.
Following up the classic Rust In Peace was a difficult task, but Megadeth changed things up and went in a more focused direction. The songs on Countdown To Extinction were shorter and also more accessible. Songs like "Symphony Of Destruction" and "Sweating Bullets" are some of their best. The album made it to number 2 on the Billboard charts, and was the band's commercial peak.
The second album from progressive metal legends Dream Theater is arguably their best. Images And Words was the debut of vocalist James LaBrie. The band's combination of catchy melodies and technical musicianship really struck a chord with prog fans. Dream Theater even crossed into the mainsream with an 8 minute song as "Pull Me Under" garnered a decent amount of MTV exposure. "Metropolis" is also a classic song.
After a decade apart, Ronnie James Dio returned to Black Sabbath for one more album. Dehumanizer wasn't a classic like some of Dio's previous Sabbath albums, but it was a very good effort. It was the band's heaviest album in quite a while, and Tony Iommi's riffs are crushing and inspired. Dio also puts on a great vocal performance. This was a step up from Sabbath's several previous albums in the mid and late '80s.
It didn't match the quality of their best from the '80s, but Iron Maiden showed they still had some life left with Fear Of The Dark. It was a step up from 1990's lackluster No Prayer For The Dying. It would also be the band's last album with vocalist Bruce Dickinson for several years. Even though there are a few filler songs, there are also some good ones. "Be Quick Or Be Dead" and the title track are standouts.
When it comes to brutal death metal, nobody does it better than Cannibal Corpse. They've got the controversial song titles and album artwork, but they also have the musical chops. Their third album kicks off with one of their most memorable songs, "Hammer Smashed Face" and doesn't let up. It's a very technical and well played, and Chris Barnes' vocals are really good.
Kyuss was a stoner metal/rock band and this was their second album. Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri from the group went on to join Queens of the Stone Age and had huge commercial success. Blues For The Red Sun was a landmark album that influenced a lot of bands. It blended dark and heavy doom metal with psychedelic chugging riffs and a great groove. The album is a great combination of memorable songs and trippy instrumentals that fans of the stoner metal genre need to own.
White Zombie released a few albums in the late '80s, but this was their major label debut and their breakthrough. It was funky and sludgy with over the top lyrics and numerous samples from cheesy old movies. "Thunder Kiss '65" was a big hit, and the whole album is filled with songs that are heavy, catchy and fun.
After a four year break since their previous studio album, Manowar made a triumphant return. The Triumph Of Steel gets off to an epic start with a 28 minute opening track. There are a lot of solid songs on this album, and even though it's not one of their all time best, it's still a good CD that fans of the band ate up.