To uncover the origins of heavy metal in the 1980s, you have to travel back in time to the original era of classic rock. It was a time when rock giants roamed the earth and filled stadiums. A time of private planes and legendary parties and patchouli oil. It was also a time of glam, prog and proto metal, and sounds that coalesced over time to form what became 80s metal.
Here are 10 classic rock albums that paved the way for heavy metal in the 80s.
Uriah Heep – Demons and Sorcerers (1972)
Critically cut on release, demons and wizards is now revered. The interaction between vocalist David Byron and guitarist Mick Box is fluid, accentuated by fantastic lyricism and heavy riffs. Uriah Heep drummer Lee Kerslake would continue to play on Ozzy Osbourne Ozz Blizzard record in 1981, a true 80s metal classic.
Blue Öyster Cult – Tyranny and Mutation (1973)
Blue Öyster Cult led the way through their molten riffs and infectious hooks. Some bands may have generated more radio airplay, but no album exposes BOC’s metal roots better than 1973’s. Tyranny and mutation, and few bands featured a range of musicians as nuanced as Eric Bloom, Buck Dharma, Allen Lanier and Albert and Joe Bouchard.
Nazareth – Hairs of the Dog (1975)
With its crushing rhythms, its enormous guitars and its monstrous voice, Nazareth’s Dog’s hair is an important link between the 70s and 80s. A huge influence on Guns N’ Roses – “If it wasn’t for Dan McCafferty and Nazareth I wouldn’t be singing”, said Axl Rose in 1988 – we can’t only hope the recent passing of McCafferty and guitarist Manny Charlton will alert new fans to the importance of this album.
Budgie – Never Turn Your Back On A Friend (1973)
Budgie’s early albums ushered in a heaviness rivaling only Black Sabbath, but 1976’s Never turn your back on a friend pushed the envelope further by introducing a prototype of speed metal into bread lover. The significance of Burke Shelley, Tony Bourge and Ray Phillips’ masterpiece is best illustrated by Metallica’s cover of the same song, which featured on the B-sides of the 1988 singles. Despair Harvester and eye of the beholderand later on the 1998 compilation album, garage inc..
Led Zeppelin – Presence (1976)
A boatload of attention is given to Led Zeppelin’s first four albums, but we’re betting 1976’s Presence was even more crucial to 80s metal. Listen Achilles’ Last Battleand you’ll hear how the classically inspired epic of Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham lent itself to the more ambitious musings of bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden.
A mix of glam and hard rock, tracks like Somnambulist and Detroit girls are gritty, pop-oriented cuts from Starz’s 1976 self-titled debut album. of the 80s does not happen without them.
Kiss – Kiss (1973)
Kiss barely blew the stage lid with their 1973 debut, but the breakthrough success Living! album in 1975 ensured that early album classics like Devil and Black Diamond would set the standard for melodic hard rock in the 70s. You’d be hard pressed to find a glamorous band that didn’t cite Ace Frehley, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons and Peter Criss as influences. Elsewhere in the department without that, the exaggerated stage shows of the 80s also date back to Kiss.
Aerosmith – Rocks (1976)
Aerosmith made it clear they meant business through their early records, but they took things to heavier levels with 1976. Rocks. Through the moans of Steven Tyler and the riffs of Joe Perry, songs like Back in the saddle and Rats in the cellar laid the sleaze-rock blueprint for Guns N’ Roses and Skid Row to follow in the late ’80s.
Rainbow – Rising (1976)
Featuring vocalist Ronnie James Dio paired with ex-Deep Purple guitarist Richie Blackmore, 1976s Rising hit the reset button for 70s rock. Swarming with envelope-pushing bombs, songs like stargazer and A light in the dark are the forerunners of 80s power metal. And if you’re looking for the blueprint for the latest Dio classics like Black Sabbath heaven and hell and his holy diver, Rising is it.
Van Halen – Van Halen (1978)
The ’80s metal scene was an unholy amalgamation of hotrodded guitars, aggressive riffs, jagged solos, monster drum fills and soaring choruses, and none of that happened without 1978. Van Halen. David Lee Roth, Michael Anthony and Alex and Eddie Van Halen created a musical tour de force through tracks like Jamie is crying and I’m not talking about love, and it’s the one that bands of the 80s would imitate until nausea. If there’s one album that set the stage for 80s metal, it’s Van Halen.