During the 80’s hard rock ruled the airwaves. Quiet Riot’s Metal Health became the first #1 metal album of all time. Soon after the scene exploded with bands like Motley Crue, Guns N’ Roses, Dokken, Ratt, Warrant, Poison, and many more. Unfortunately, for every success story, there were great bands that got overlooked, suffered from poor promotion, or simply imploded on their own. If you’re a true 80’s rock fan, you’ve probably heard at least some of these bands, and if you’re like me, you bought all of these albums. But for those of you who didn’t….here’s a list of some of the greatest albums that you might have missed
Alcatrazz – No Parole From Rock N’ Roll
Notable for being the major-label debut of Swedish guitar virtuoso Yngwie Malmsteen, Alcatrazz featured former Rainbow vocalist Graham Bonnet and was an impressive debut release. Unfortunately, Yngwie left the band after the release of this album. How did the band follow up after losing Malmsteen? Simple. They brought in Steve Vai and helped launch his career even further. Although the band had a decent following, especially with fans of the guitar maestros, Alcatrazz never seemed to reach the mainstream rock and metal audience that would have propelled them to superstardom.
Anthem – Bound To Break
After Loudness broke through as the first mainstream Japanese heavy metal band, many bands tried to follow their lead. One of the best Japanese bands to hit the scene was Anthem. The band still continues to release new albums, periodically. Bound To Break was the band’s biggest success in the United States, but failed to capture the album buyer’s attention at the same level as Loudness. Highly regarded in Japan, the band has a lengthy discography and deserved far more credit overseas than they received.
Black N’ Blue – Black N’ Blue
Black N’ Blue is one of those bands that you just simply have to scratch your head as to why they never hit the top. The band had top-notch talent and delivered four great albums for Geffen records. Guitarist Tommy Thayer would later go on to replace Ace Frehley in KISS. The demos that led to their debut album were produced by none other than Don Dokken. Every song on this album was great and should have cemented the band as the next big thing. The band reached the pinnacle of their success with MTV airplay for the song “I’ll Be There For You”. The band still performs live and still releases new albums, albeit without Tommy Thayer.
Cold Sweat – Break Out
Notable for featuring former Keel guitarist Marc Ferrari. Cold Sweat was poised to achieve fame and fortune. Featuring a then-unknown vocalist, Rory Cathey, the band often brought comparisons to Dokken. With outstanding vocals, and a guitar virtuoso, the comparison to Dokken was easy to see. Unfortunately, the band failed to reach the mainstream heavy metal and rock crowd in terms of taking the next step to the top. Break Out is currently out of print and is a sought-after collector’s item by metal fans. Marc Ferrari has recently written a children’s book and Cathey now fronts the band “The Fifth”
Dead End – Ghost Of Romance
Another Japanese band that tried to reach the shores of the U.S., Dead End achieved only modest sales with their Ghost Of Romance album. The band received airplay on MTV with the song “Danse Macabre”, but never really achieved the level of success Of Loudness and X Japan. The band had a unique style and image that was often confusing to American audiences, who were right in the middle of the glam metal movement at the time.
In terms of mainstream success in the United States, E-Z-O was probably one of the closest to break through. The band’s video for the single Flashback Heart Attack” received airplay on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball. The band was helped along by Gene Simmons of Kiss and released their debut album on Geffen Records. The band wore leather and black and white makeup that represented the different elements of Japanese folklore. The band was originally called “Flatbacker” and recorded several albums in Japan before changing their name to E-Z-O at Simmon’s request. After the band disbanded, leader singer Masaki Yamada joined Loudness for a succession of albums replacing vocalist Mike Vescera, who had replaced original Loudness vocalist Minoru Niihara. Masaki now plays bass in the New York band Firesign.
Of the best debut albums of the early ’80s was the self-titled album by Fastway. The band’s name was a hybrid of “Fast” Eddie Clarke and Pete Way, who started the band together. Vocalist Dave King often drew comparisons to Robert Plant. The band would go on to record several albums for CBS / Epic Records and performed the soundtrack for the horror movie “Trick or Treat” which featured Ozzy Osbourne and Gene Simmons in cameo appearances. While the band continued to record great albums, none of them reached the level of the debut and the band eventually parted ways. Dave King is currently the lead singer in the Celtic punk band Flogging Molly.
Fifth Angel – Fifth Angel
Fifth Angel was a band filled with incredible talent and great musicians. However, despite that fact, the band never found mainstream success. The band was compared to bands like Queensryche, Fates Warning, and others. Ted Pilot was an amazing vocalist. Ken Mary, former Alice Cooper drummer provided an incredible thunderous rhythm and James Byrd was spectacular as the guitarist. The band releases a second album “Time Will Tell” but eventually disbanded afterward. Rumors have been circulating recently that the band may be reuniting for a new album and live appearances.
Hurricane – Take What You Want
Hurricane is notable for having the brothers of Carlos Cavazo and Rudy Sarzo from Quiet Riot, Tony Cavazo and Robert Sarzo as bassist and guitarist. Kelly Hansen, who now fronts Foreigner was the fantastic vocalist that rounded out the band along with drummer Jay Schellen. The band had the biggest success with 1988’s “Over The Edge” album, but never quite made it to the level of bands like Motley Crue, Ratt, and others that were dominating the L.A. music scene at the time. Recently, Hurricane has reunited with only Sarzo and Cavazo as the original members and have plans to record new material in the near future.
Icon – Night Of The Crime
Appropriately named “Night Of The Crime”, because it’s simply a crime that this album didn’t top the hard rock and metal charts at the time. If any band had everything that it needed to hit the big time it was Icon. One of the best albums to come out in the 80’s it’s criminally underrated. The band seemed to suffer from a lack of exposure problem, which cost them their rightful place as one of the best bands in the ’80s. While bands like Quiet Riot, Motley Crue, Ratt, and Cinderella were getting airplay on radio and coverage on MTV, this Arizona band simply seemed to fall through the cracks. Night Of The Crime is a brilliant album from beginning to end, with outstanding production and talent to spare. The band released several albums after this with a different vocalist, but it just didn’t have the same magic that Night Of The Crime did.
Kick Axe – Vices
Canadian metal band, Kick Axe never seemed to get a fair shake. They were another band that just didn’t receive enough exposure to be well known with hard rock fans. The band released several great albums, with “Vices” being their most widely known album. The band always had great songs and arrangements to make any metalhead go wild, but the band seemed to die a slow death with very little promotion.
King Kobra – Ready To Strike
King Kobra was the brainchild of drummer Carmine Appice, who had played with Rod Stewart and the king of metal, the madman himself, Ozzy Osbourne. The band featured band members that would later go on to other bands like W.A.S.P. and the Bulletboys. King Kobra’s look was unusual, to say the least with all members except for Appice having extremely bleached blonde hair. Ready To Strike was a great album and promised great things to come, but unfortunately the band never quite reached this level again. The band recorded the soundtrack to the movie Iron Eagle” and several other albums but ultimately disbanded. Lead vocalist Mark Free has since changed his gender to female and is now known as Marcie Free. Carmine Appice is currently performing with his brother Vinnie Appice in Drum Wars.
Leatherwolf – Leatherwolf
Leatherwolf released their self-titled album in 1987 which featured a triple axe attack and incredible power metal sensibilities. The band garnered great reviews from fans and critics alike. The song “The Calling” was a great anthemic metal track that propelled this album to reach new fans. Unfortunately, the band could never seem to duplicate the same formula in later releases. The band has reformed in recent years and has released several quality albums since.
Lion came out of nowhere with Dangerous Attraction to deliver one of the most underrated metal albums of the ’80s. Featuring Doug Aldrich on guitar who would later go on to work with bands like Dio, Whitesnake, and currently Dead Daisies. Kai Swan’s vocals were incredibly powerful. In an untimely and unfortunate accident, drummer Mark Edwards suffered a broken neck which lead to the band breaking up a month later. Aldrich and Swan continued on in a new band called Bad Moon Rising. Lion were probably best known for recording the Transformer’s Movie Theme. While the band was on a major label at the time of Dangerous Attraction’s release they were never truly exposed to the large American mainstream metal audience that could have helped them reach the level of bands like Whitesnake, Motley Crue and Def Leppard who were dominating the airwaves at the time.
Malice – License to Kill
Malice hit the L.A. metal scene in the early 80’s and developed a great following. Often compared to bands like Queensryche and Lizzy Borden, primarily because of the high pitched vocals of James Neal. The band featured incredibly talented musicians with License To Kill being their epic album that failed to put them over the top. The band has morphed through different members over the years and still records and performs periodically. Sadly, Guitarist Mick Zane passed away in 2016.
Pretty Maids -Future World
By the time Pretty Maids had released Future World, they were well known throughout Europe. Thanks to MTV the band received video airplay with this album, which exposed them to a larger audience. While mainstream success eluded them in the U.S. market, the band still enjoys a great following worldwide and continues to release great albums to this day. Future World is the best place to start if you’ve never heard the band before, but afterward, check out the rest of their discography for some great power / melodic metal albums.
Racer X – Street Lethal
Racer X’s debut album Street Lethal featured the guitar prodigy Paul Gilbert, who would go on to fame in Mr. Big. Racer X is a true metal band in the vein of Judas Priest. The band enjoyed a great following because of their great musicianship and went on to release many critically acclaimed albums. Racer X sort of became the side project of Gilbert which often ran simultaneously with Mr. Big. While Racer X never reached the same level of success as Mr. Big, the band is notable for being an influence on many musicians who saw the band as the cream of the crop in musical abilities.
Rough Cutt – Wants You
Rough Cutt were managed by Wendy Dio, wife of the late, great Ronnie James Dio. Their debut album got them decent notice and their association with Dio didn’t hurt. The band became an overnight success in Japan. Their second album “Wants You!” saw their exposure improve through MTV and press coverage in rock magazines. While the band looked poised for a full fledged break out, they disbanded when vocalist Paul Shortino joined Quiet Riot, replacing original singer Kevin DuBrow. Shortino only recorded one album with Quiet Riot. Guitarist, Amir Derakh went on to form the glam band Jailhouse and later re-invented himself in the industrial rock band Orgy who had a hit single with the cover of New Order’s “Blue Monday”. Rough Cutt has reformed in recent years and is set to record an all-new album of material in the near future.
Smashed Gladys – Social Intercourse
Smashed Gladys hit the L.A. glam scene and released 3 great singles from their album “Social Intercourse”. The songs”17 Goin’ on Crazy”, “Lick it Into Shape” and “Legs Up” were all great tracks that should have brought the band way more attention and exposure than they did. The band seemed to be another victim of lack of promotion. Rarely seen in rock magazines, on MTV, and with virtually no radio airplay, it’s a mystery what happened with their promotional team. Led by singer Sally Cato, the band released “Social Intercourse as their major-label debut. The band released one more album, years later, which appeared to be early songs and possibly pre-released EP material. It’s a shame that they didn’t receive more acclaim.
Steeler released their debut album with featured Ron Keel on vocals and the first U.S. appearance of Swedish guitar master Yngwie Malmsteen. The brainchild of Shrapnel Records founder Mike Varney brought the project together. Although the band didn’t hold together for very long with Malmsteen departing for Alcatrazz before his own solo career and Keel leaving to concentrate on the band that would ultimately bear his name, this is a great notable piece of heavy metal history. While the band is most famous for having Keel and Malmsteen together, the other musicians were unfortunately overshadowed. Both Rik Fox on bass and Mark Edwards would turn up in other influential bands throughout the 80’s such as W.A.S.P. and Lion.
Sweet Pain – Sweet Pain
Sweet Pain taking their name from the KISS song, signed to Combat Records and released their only album in 1985. Notable for featuring a then unknown Kelly Nickels on bass, who would later go on to join L.A. Guns. The album actually features the recording of the song “Shoot For Thrills (In The Night)” written by Nickels, which would also appear on L.A. Guns self titled album. Sweet Pain were a decent glam rock band that literally disappeared overnight. The album is quite rare and sought out by collector’s since it has long been out of print.
Sweet Savage – Sweet Savage
Sweet Savage were a glam band based out of Texas that just never reached the next level. I’m sure the cover photos of all 4 members appearing shirtless with bleached blonde hair didn’t help their case. Musically, they were considered a little more bubblegum glam than bands like Poison, but had great catchy songs that earned them a following. Their debut EP was produced by none than Dana Strum, who later go on to play bass in the Vinnie Vincent Invasion and Slaughter. They received the most attention with their cover version of Sweet’s “Fox On The Run”.
Sword is an outstanding true metal band that just got lost in the shuffle. Metalized should have brought these guys into the limelight because it’s own hell of a great metal record. It’s outstanding from beginning to end, especially considering it’s their debut release. The band went on to release one more album which also received praise from critics and fans. The band eventually broke up, but has reformed recently and has joined the newly re-formed Combat Records label owned by Megadeth’s David Ellefson. The band is currently working on new material to be released in the near future.
Tigertailz – Young & Crazy
Tigertailz was the U.K.’s version of Poison. Musically their debut was much heavier than Poisons. The band featured vocalist Steevi Jaimz on vocals, who had a more gruff voice that contributed to the band sounding less like a bubblegum glam band and more like a sleaze rock band in the vein of L.A. Guns or Faster Pussycat. Young And Crazy was a fantastic debut, but the band parted ways with Steevi Jaimz after this release. While they continued on with other vocalists, and still do today, they never reached the level that they achieved with the first album. Young And Crazy was one of the best glam metal releases of the ’80s. If you can find this one, you should get it. It’s great on every level.
Warrior – Fighting For The Earth
Warrior released the space-themed album Fighting For The Earth in 1985. For a band that was previously unknown, these guys put together a really solid classic-sounding metal album. Singer Paramore McCarty has a voice that combines gritty and high-pitched screams. Overall, the entire album is well done and shows a maturity that many other bands did not display at the time. McCarty resurfaced as Perry McCarty serving as the lead vocalist for Steve Stevens Atomic Playboys. In 1998 Warrior released the album called Ancient Future with McCarty. The band has also released two other albums which featured vocalists Marc Storace of Krokus and Rob Rock.
White Tiger – White Tiger
White Tiger was notable for featuring former KISS guitarist Mark St. John who played on the Animalize album, only to be released by the band and replaced by Bruce Kulick after being unable to play with acute tendonitis. St. John was a great player, but this album suffers from really poor production that burdens this album throughout. With more support and a clean production and mix, Mark St. John might have re-established himself in the world of metal guitarists, but the album was purchased mostly by die hard KISS fans and virtually no one else. This was the only album released by White Tiger. St. John released a few solo albums independently but never to the level of his previous success. Sadly, St, John died in 2007 from a brain hemorrhage.