Top 11 Metal Albums of the 1970s
To celebrate National Metal Day on 11/11 (as declared by VH1), Loudwire is examining the past 40-plus years of the genre's impact with a look at the top 11 metal albums of each decade. While an act like Led Zeppelin was certainly influential on the metal movement, the band was too bluesy and spiritual to be categorized as metal. Most fans agree that the first real metal band was Black Sabbath, an angry, working class batch of musicians with a sound born from hate, not love, darkness, not light.
Here, we kick off the week with the 1970s, a period in which metal evolved out of the progressive blues movement and into its own storming genre that was derided by critics and voraciously consumed by music fans. Without further ado, here is Loudwire's list of the Top 11 Metal Albums of the 1970s:
By the end of the ‘70s, Germany’s Scorpions were finding the niche they would fully capitalize upon over the next few years with albums like ‘Blackout’ and the blockbuster ‘Love at First Sting.’ Vocalist Klaus Meine sings with equal parts aggression and emotion and lead guitarist Matthias Jabs makes his debut mark with a string of fleet-fingered, melodic solos that complimented Rudolph Schenker’s songwriting.
Judas Priest’s 1974 debut ‘Rocka Rolla’ had its moments, but it lacked the firepower to put the band in league with fellow Birmingham rockers Black Sabbath. However, sophomore disc ‘Sad Wings of Destiny’ is epic and groundbreaking, featuring classic tracks like 'Victim of Changes' and 'The Ripper.' Employing a gripping twin-guitar lead attack, the album helped lay down the foundation for the New Wave of British Metal.
Some might question Alice Cooper’s inclusion on a list of top metal albums. True, Cooper’s music is theatrical, punky and somewhat progressive, but some of it rocked hard. Cooper himself has said he first heard the word heavy metal used to describe his music. With bruising songs like the title track and 'Public Animal #9' and creepy fare such as 'Blue Turk,' 1972’s ‘Schools’ Out’ is a classic album.
The final Rainbow album to feature Ronnie James Dio, ‘Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll' was a bluesy metal powerhouse that expanded upon the work guitarist Ritchie Blackmore did in Deep Purple. The title track is among the band's most triumphant numbers, while songs like 'Kill the King' and ‘L.A. Connection’ demonstrate that even at the end of the line, Dio and Rainbow had a mystical chemistry.
Ask any member of the thrash elite and they’ll cite Motorhead as a primary influence. From the double-bass drum rumble of the title cut, ‘Overkill’ takes no prisoners, lashing out with Lemmy Kilmister’s whisky ravaged vocals, roaring guitars and ear-singing leads. Bluesy and barbaric, this album’s highlights include 'No Class,' 'Stay Clean' and 'Damage Case,' but you can’t go wrong with any of these 10 bruisers.
The last AC/DC album to feature frontman Bon Scott, who suffered “death by misadventure” (alcohol poisoning) shortly after the disc’s release, ‘Highway to Hell’ is a powerful farewell to one of hard rock’s greatest frontman. The album is sleazy, stomping and bluesy; songs like the title track and 'Touch Too Much' adhere to the band’s trademark sound, but somehow standing out from many of their earlier efforts.
The band didn’t go supernova until ‘Alive’ came out in 1975, but Kiss started out with a bang in 1974 with one of the best self-titled debuts in hard rock history. Raw, melodic and bluesy, ‘Kiss’ combines the attitude of the Rolling Stones with the melody of the Beatles and the glammy heaviness of the Sweet. The album features some of Kiss’ best-loved tunes, including 'Strutter,' 'Deuce' and 'Black Diamond.'
In addition to featuring the simple, but undeniable 'Smoke on the Water' riff, Deep Purple’s ‘Machine Head’ stands the test of time as one of the best rugged rock albums. Guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and keyboardist John Lord are both in fine form, each playing off the other’s compositions on classic tunes like the propulsive 'Highway Star,' the hazy buzzing 'Space Truckin’ and the funky, keyboard-saturated 'Never Before.'
Released just four months after Black Sabbath’s self-titled debut, 'Paranoid' is just as culturally significant and features more popular songs, including the sludgy 'Iron Man,' 'War Pigs' and the anthemic title track. It’s amazing that the album was recorded in just days and featured songs written on the spot in the studio. ‘Paranoid’ is the sound of a band raging against the world and screaming to be heard.
Judas Priest’s ‘Hell Bent for Leather’ (released as ‘Killing Machine’ in the UK) is rugged, fierce and explosive. Frontman Rob Halford sounds a biker on his first Harley and the songs ring out with equal parts savagery and chant-along melody. Unquestionably, this was the blueprint for bands like Iron Maiden and Saxon, who would take Priest’s formula and run with it in their own destructive direction.
Black Sabbath injected their debut disc with the ugliness and chaos of life in post-war Britain. The opening thunderstorm and chiming bell set the tone, and when Tony Iommi kicks in with the devil’s tritone on the title cut, it’s clear that something new has risen from the darkness. ‘N.I.B.’ is equally malevolent, with Ozzy Osbourne crying out, “My name is Lucifer.” All told, the album is murky, ominous and unbelievably heavy.