Class Of 1984: 30 Classic Heavy Metal Albums That Are Turning 30 This Year!

  • Anthrax – Fistful of Metal

    [Photo: Sony]

  • Armored Saint – March of the Saint

    [Photo: Chrysalis]

  • Bathory – Bathory

    [Photo: Tyfon]

  • Bon Jovi – Bon Jovi

    [Photo: Universal]

  • Celtic Frost – Morbid Tales

    [Photo: Universal]

  • Cirith Ungol – King of the Dead

    [Photo: Enigma]
  • Deep Purple – Perfect Strangers

    [Photo: Universal]

  • Dio – The Last in Line

    [Photo: Warner]

  • Dokken – Tooth And Nail

    [Photo: Warner]

  • Exciter

  • Fates Warning – Night on Bröcken

    [Photo: Sony]

  • Hanoi Rocks – All Those Waisted Years

  • Iron Maiden – Powerslave

    [Photo: EMI Group Limited]

  • Judas Priest – Defenders of the Faith

    [Photo: Columbia]

  • KISS – Animalize

    [Photo: Universal]
  • Yngwie J. Malmsteen – Rising Force

    [Photo: Universal]
  • Mercyful Fate – Don’t Break The Oath

    [Photo: Warner]
  • Metal Church – Metal Church

    [Photo: Warner]

  • Metallica – Ride the Lightning

    [Photo: Sony]
  • Motörhead – No Remorse

    [Photo: Sony]
  • Queensrÿche – The Warning

    [Photo: Capitol Records]
  • Ratt – Out of the Cellar

    [Photo: Atlantic Records]

  • SaintVitus

    [Photo: SST]

  • Scorpions – Love at First Sting

    [Photo: Universal]

  • Twister_Sister__Stay_Hungry

  • halens

  • Venom – At War with Satan

    [Photo: Neat Records]
  • Voivod – War and Pain

    [Photo: Roadracer Records]
  • W.A.S.P. – W.A.S.P.

    [Photo: Universal]
  • YandT

It may seem like a distant memory now, but at the time 1984 was a very foreboding year. Whether in the dystopian George Orwell novel of the same name or the punk rock exploitation thriller Class of 1984, it had ominous connotations and the reality of it wasn’t much better. The threat of nuclear war between The United State and The Soviet Union hovered in the air, especially that summer when U.S. President Ronald Reagan glibly joked “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” Reagan was the perfect And the soundtrack to such a bleak year, from Zurich, Switzerland to California’s San Fernando Valley, was heavy f**king metal.

1984 was an important year for heavy metal music which had been gaining commercial ground and going from artistic strength to strength since the late 1970s. Well-established acts like Judas Priest, Dio and Iron Maiden were at peak popularity and releasing the last of their classic albums. Seminal metal bands Motorhead and Deep Purple returned from sojourns, both brief and extended, to remind the faithful of their enduring greatness. The genre made significant inroads in the charts as well as glam-metal bands like Ratt and Twisted Sister released their biggest albums, supported by widely seen music videos on the upstart cable channel MTV.

Judas Priest’s Rob Halford performing live in 1984. [Photo: Getty Images]

Cliff Burton and James Hetfield of Metallica on stage in 1984. [Photo: Getty Images]

The enduring legacy of metal’s Class Of 1984 though is what was happening in the metal underground. As the Hollywood bands partied and put on make-up a new generation of malcontents subsisting on cheap beer, buzzsaw riffing and fifth -generation demo tape dubs lay in wait. 1984 was the year thrash metal sent its first shots across the bow as scene leaders Metallica released their crucial sophomore effort Ride The Lightning and Anthrax issued their searing debut album, Fistful of Metal. Deeper into the underground still, Celtic Frost and Bathory issued their first recordings which would help shape the sound and imagery of black metal. Even further afield, Saint Vitus and Cirith Ungol released dark, sludgey doom metal epics whose impact wouldn’t even be felt for another 15 years.

Looking back now 30 years later, there were no less than 30 important heavy metal full-length albums released in 1984 which either sold in the millions or laid the groundwork for the genre’s future evolution. This list doesn’t even take into account important EPs by the likes of Slayer, Overkill and Hellhammer not to mention crucial demos from the tape trading underground. So crack a beer, crank up your favorite metal album from 1984 and check out our gallery of 30 classic heavy metal albums that are celebrating their 30th anniversaries in 2014!