Top 5 Metal Albums from the ‘80s, by Mike Score (All Out War)

Photo: Danielle Dombrowski

Late last year, All Out War vocalist Mike Score shared his thoughts on each of his band's first six albums on this very site. Well, the New York metallic hardcore greats are returning to record stores on July 26 with Crawl Among the Filth, their latest collection of filth. Available for pre-order now, the album has been getting a ton of love at No Echo HQ thanks to an advance and you can check out one of my favorite tracks from it, "Judas Always Crawls," below:

Since Mr. Score (he also fronts Below the Frost) is a huge fan of the era and musical movement, I asked him to give his picks for Top 5 Metal Albums from the '80s.


Picking only five metal records from the '80s wasn’t easy. There are so many others that could of made the list. It took me over a week to narrow it down to these five. I tried to stick to five that I remember exact emotions I felt the first time I heard them and to those that I constantly go back to when I’m sitting at home feeling nostalgic or just want to blast great music. — Mike Score

Slayer — Hell Awaits (1985)

Most people would say Slayer’s best record is Reign in Blood. My wife would tell you it was Seasons in the Abyss. Both sides would be wrong. Hell Awaits is Slayer at their best. The album represents all that is evil and vicious implemented in well put together songs that leave you with a sense of terror when listening in the dark. Riffs that make you feel like you are being chased through the woods. Lyrics that make Satan himself bow in envy. As soon as that intro hits, you are hooked.

The speed and power of this record is unmatched. The only downside might be the overall production of the album, song wise though, all killer. My all time favorite Slayer release is Haunting the Chapel, but that was only an EP. Hell Awaits is my go-to Slayer full-length, always. It has it all.

Kreator — Pleasure to Kill (1986)

I’m a Kreator super fan. I couldn’t make this list without including at least one of their records. Mille Petrozza is easily one of my biggest vocal influences and the urgency/aggression of Kreator’s music has always had a huge impact on All Out War. It wasn’t easy for me to narrow it down to just one Kreator album and I switched back and forth between this one and Terrible Certainty for a few days. The intensity and overall brutality of Pleasure to Kill won out in the end.

There is a certain amount of finesse interjected with the heaviness of this album that always impressed me. Something we always tried to capture as a band. All Out War wasn’t the only early '90s metallic hardcore band influenced by Kreator. If you listen to Pleasure to Kill and then listen to certain bands coming out of Brooklyn in the early '90s the influence is obvious and evident. This albums influence on All Out War is also obvious and evident. Simply put, this album rules!

Venom — Black Metal (1982)

Over the years this album may have lost some of its evil qualities when compared to bands that came after them, but at the time I heard this record it freaked the shit out of 12-year-old me. It was the first record I listened to that I thought I was doing something wrong just for playing it. I felt I might be letting something into my life that maybe I shouldn’t. There are very few records that I remember the very first time I heard them and this is one of them.

Sitting in my room, late at night, "Black Metal" and "To Hell and Back" rip through my head phones and all is well, but when the creepy voice that starts off "Buried Alive" kicks in, bam, I’ll never forget that uneasy feeling. It felt like the devil came into my room. It was at this moment I became a Venom fan for life.

Mercyful Fate — Don’t Break the Oath (1984) 

Here’s one that has maintained its evil aspects over the years. You can’t go wrong with any of the early Fate albums, but this one is their best. I remember vividly sitting on the bus in middle school, looking out the window, and seeing some older high school guy walk by with the cover of Don’t Break the Oath painted on the back of his jacket. I never heard them before, but the album art blew me away. I went out and bought the record right away and was sold immediately. Vocals like no other, demonic lyrics, and riffs on riffs on riffs. 

"Desecration of Souls" is still one of my top songs of all time, but it doesn’t end there. "Come to the Sabbath," "A Dangerous Meeting," and "The Oath" are all among my all-time favorites. Long live the King!

Celtic Frost — Into the Pandemonium (1987)

Not unlike most Celtic Frost enthusiasts, I pretend the abomination of Cold Lake never happened, so to me, Into the Pandemonium represents Celtic Frost taking their biggest risk and pushing the envelope. Celtic Frost always had a unique sound. The only person who ever managed to capture that guitar sound was Alan Blake of Sheer Terror/Darkside. This is probably why I became a huge fan of both bands. I loved the Celtic Frost records that came before this release, but Into the Pandemonium is the one that I find myself listening to the most all these years later. Here is another one that I remember exactly where I was when I first heard it. Driving around, skipping school, with some people I just met and hardly knew. Somebody threw this in the tape deck and I remember being really confused with "Mexican Radio," but strangely digging it.

The entire record seemed to be an experiment, a weird dark experiment that was way ahead of its time. The songs were so different from anything that was out prior and even seemed to be so different from each other. "Mesmerized" to "Babylon Fell" to "I Won’t Dance" just to name a few all seemed so different yet somehow connected. Years later, I read an interview with bassist Martin Ain listing all the influences of Celtic Frost and explaining that metalheads needed to realize that there are different shades of black. This album does such a fantastic job of capturing many of those shades on one release. This is such a creative, orginal, and, in my opinion, underrated album. 

Honorable Mentions:
Iron Maiden — Piece of Mind (1983)
Sodom — Persecution Mania (1987)
Metallica — Ride the Lightning (1984)
Dark Angel — Darkness Descends (1986)
Exodus — Bonded by Blood (1985)


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Tagged: all out war, below the frost