1986 was an unbelievable year for heavy metal. With all due respect to 1980, this was probably the best year of the '80s when it came to great albums. Two of the finest metal albums of all time were released in 1986, and it's a shame that one of them had to be number 2. In almost any other year Reign In Blood would have easily been number one, and in reality it's more 1-B than 2. Here are our picks for the best metal albums of 1986.
Metallica's third album is their best. It doesn't have the radio singles and MTV videos as some of their later releases, but is a musical tour de force. From the trademark thrash of "Battery" to the instrumental stylings of "Orion," it's a sound of a band on top of their game. The songs are diverse and the musicianship is simply incredible.
This is one of the top 3 thrash metal albums and one of the top 10 metal albums ever. Many publications have named it the best metal album ever. This is speed metal at its finest, with compact songs jam packed with riffs and head banging intensity. The lyrics are also filled with dark and disturbing images. Slayer released several fantastic albums, and this is their masterpiece.
What a top 3. Three thrash bands who all released their best albums in 1986. Megadeth really hit their stride on this, their second album. It's a speed metal classic with great songs like "Wake Up Dead," "Devil's Island" and "Peace Sells." The band's songwriting improved quite a bit from their debut album and 20 years later it still holds up extremely well.
The German thrash band's second album is one of their best. Everything about it was a huge improvement over their debut. It was more brutal and aggressive and had some unbelievable riffs. 1986 was the year of thrash, and this is an album that sometimes gets overlooked because of everything else that was released that year. But this album showed Kreator was a thrash and speed metal force to be reckoned with.
For the sixth time in the '80s Iron Maiden once again made the top 10. For Somewhere In Time they used synths to add even more atmosphere to their sound. It worked. "Stranger In A Strange Land" and "Wasted Years" were very catchy singles and this was a very commercial sounding album. It wasn't one of their all time great albums, but was still a very good release.
While everybody else was playing at breakneck speed, the slower riffs of Candlemass really stood out. Their debut album was a groundbreaking one and paved the way for a flood of doom metal bands. The weak link in the band was vocalist Johan Lanquist, who did a serviceable but not memorable job. That would change with the addition of Messiah Marcolin on their second release. But even with average vocals, this album deserves a lot of respect for helping open the doom metal gates.
Watchtower was a progressive metal band from Texas whose debut was outstanding, but they never really did much after that. The band's frontman was Jason McMaster, who later went on to form Dangerous Toys. This album is unbelievably complex and technical with superb musicianship. The production isn't the best, but this is a band who helped pave the way for the prog metal genre.
Fates Warning's third album was the end of a musical era. It was the last with original lead singer John Arch and also the last of their more metal albums before they went in a much more progressive direction. There is a definite progressive influence, but you can still hear the vestiges of a traditional metal band. The songs are complex, and Arch's voice is outstanding.
Cro-Mags were a pioneering band who were one of the first to combine metal with hardcore. The Age Of Quarrel was an intense barrage of short songs that were aggressive punk and hardcore infused metal. The music is angry and intense with a punk attitude and metal riffs. Unfortunately after their debut a series of lineup changes would hamper their progress and success, but this one is a must own.