Following is a list of what Angelic Warlord considers the top 50 Christian metal and hard rock albums of the eighties. Please keep in mind that as my personal favorites the selections in question mirror the Angelic Warlord style guidelines. Hence, the exclusion of well-known thrash groups from the time such as Tourniquet, Believer, Vengeance Rising, etc.
Also left out is any type of independent and/or custom cassette demo releases due to their obscurity and difficulty to obtain. Only albums released on vinyl or CD received consideration for potential inclusion.
Note that we use the term ‘Christian’ subjectively in this instance in that the list includes not only what are commonly accepted as ‘Christian bands’, but also those form the time that fell within the ‘band of Christians’ and ‘mainstream act with Christian members’ categories.
50. Various Artists - California Metal
Most ‘best of’ lists do not include compilation albums, but California Metal deserves inclusion for featuring Barren Cross (with the killer track “Deadlock”) in addition to the first CD appearances of soon to be well known acts Deliverance, Guardian, Neon Cross and Mastedon. Hero, lone group of the lot not to sign a deal, was pretty good in its own right.
49. Resurrection Band - Colours
While classic hard rockers Resurrection Band struggled with continuity at times during the early to mid eighties, Colours struck an effective balance between choice songwriting and all out heaviness. “American Dream” remains my favorite song from the group to this day.
48. 100% Proof - Power & The Glory
PATG rates low as it does due to a lack of consistency even though it delivers some all time classic songs, including the bluesy southern flavorings of “Don’t You Know”, AC/DC influenced “Out Of Bounds” and semi-progressiveness to “I’m Going To Win”. Maddeningly, the album has never seen an official CD release.
47. Barnabas - Feel The Fire
Fourth Barnabas album might not rank alongside predecessor Approaching Light Speed, but it includes one of the finer songs from the group’s repertoire in the dramatic “Breathless Wonderment”. Keyboard drenched “Hearts”, on the other hand, is the only thing preventing a higher ranking for this female fronted heavy metal act.
46. Armageddon - The Money Mask
First and only Armageddon release delivers NWOBHM that occasionally touches upon some thrash and speed metal elements. “Night Light” is as catchy and mesmerizing a classic metal track you will find. Three songs find Raven drummer Joe Hasselvander making a guest appearance.
45. Messiah - Final Warning
Dark but epic melodic heavy metal distinguishes debut from obscure Detroit, Michigan based act. Production is somewhat dated (the album resonates an 'old school' feel) but holds its own in comparison to what some acts of the time were doing.
44. Jerusalem - Dancing On The Head Of The Serpent
My favorite of the early Jerusalem albums, DOTHOTS highlights straight on metal and hard rock that showcase the distinct vocals of Ulf Christiansson. Lyrics can best be described as inspired, particularly on musical Book of Proverbs that is “Listen To Me”.
43. Philadelphia - Search & Destroy
No-nonsense traditional metal sophomore release by quartet drawing moniker from Revelation 3:7-13. Musicianship is a force (of worthy note is the double guitar attack), albeit vocals can be an acquired taste. Interestingly, James Griffin, who won a Grammy for his work on the disco song “Ring My Bell” by Anita Ward, produced SAD.
42. Neon Cross - Neon Cross
Non-stop energy melodic metal with high-octane vocals characterize self-titled debut of Los Angeles based Neon Cross. The group gained notoriety in the underground following the release of its Frontline Life demo, which led to it signing with Regency Records.
41. Petra - Not Of This World
A list of this sort would not be complete without at least one Petra album, right? I went with NOTW due to its including some of Petra’s heaviest (and best) material in “Bema Seta”, “Blinded Eyes” and “Pied Piper”. Some delectable acoustic moments round things out.
40. Greg X. Volz - The River Is Rising
Former Petra vocalist Greg X. Volz delivers commercial hard rock and AOR on debut solo release. I enjoy TRIS every bit as much (if not more so) than majority of his work with Petra.
39. Bloodgood - Bloodgood
Solid debut from Seattle, Washington based traditional metal act known for theatrical live performances. Bloodgood includes three of the four songs off the group’s well-known Metal Missionaries demo. Darrell Mansfield did a good job handling production duties.
38. Darrell Mansfield - Revelation
Renowned blues vocalist takes first (and only) stab at classic hard rock and metal and the results speak for themselves. Paul Gilbert (Racer X) guests on a couple tracks, including the excellent “Jesus Will Reign”.
37. ArkAngel - Warrior
ArkAngel comes across in the form of ‘apocalyptic art rock’. First side of Warrior (Wind Face) heads in an acoustic influenced medieval rock direction, while the second (Fire Face) leans towards progressive hard rock.
36. Sacred Warrior - Master’s Command
A bit more commercial and not quite heavy as Sacred Warrior debut Rebellion, Master’s Command still delivers as a work of classic US power metal. Aptly named guitarist Bruce Swift makes his mark as does operatic vocalist Rey Parra.
35. Rez - Silence Screams
After a run of (mostly) up and down releases throughout the earlier part of the decade, blues based hard rock act hits a home run with first studio album after three year absence. Includes a cover of the Eric Clapton classic “Presence Of The Lord”.
34. Motherlode - The Sanctuary
Melodic hard rock with Christian lyrics adds up to debut of Swedish based band. Sonny Larsson (as always) impresses on lead vocals, as does Rodney Matthews with the excellent cover art.
33. Angelica - Angelica
Canadian guitarist Dennis Cameron and vocalist Rob Rock make for a memorable melodic metal and hard rock debut Angelica release. Ken Tamplin ably handles production.
32. AD - Art Of The State
Sophomore AD album sees Kerry Livgren returning to his prime progressive rock songwriting form. “Up From The Wasteland” and “The Fury” represent some of his best songs since his Kansas Leftoverture days.
31. Joshua - Surrender
Partnership between Joshua Perahia (often referred to as “the world’s fastest guitarist”) and Jeff Fenholt (who vocally soars with the best of them) is a winning combination on Joshua sophomore offering. Joshua members Ken Tamplin, Loren Robinson and Joe Galletta later formed Shout.
30. Whitecross - Whitecross
Self-titled Whitecross debut comprises perhaps the best ever group of songs from the group. Rex Carroll of the multiple Heaven’s Metal guitar hero awards also deserves mention. Production, on the other hand, is a bit thin, while the Stephen Pearcy (Ratt) influenced vocals can be an acquired taste for some.
29. Stronghold - Fortress Rock
Upstate New York power trio delivers a quality work of traditional metal, doom and straightforward hard rock. Some seventies influences makes their presence felt as well. The group was way ahead of its time when factoring the year (1982) Fortress Rock was released.
28. Barren Cross - State Of Control
No, SOC might not be as top heavy with great songs (“The Stage Of Intensity” being the lone exception) as predecessor Atomic Arena but brings the better consistency in my opinion. A bit too much polish to production is the lone downside.
27. Messiah Prophet - Master Of The Metal
Straight on heavy metal defined by front to back continuity: With fast songs, slow songs and ballads, the album does not miss a beat. A significant step up in comparison to the erratic debut Rock The Flock.
26. Bride - Silence Is Madness
My favorite of the three eighties era Bride releases delivers dark and menacing but catchy heavy metal. Some of the group’s best songwriting from the time stands out, including a few bluesy moments hinting of the direction to come during the decade to follow.
25. Trytan - Celestial Messenger
Trytan represents one of the first Christian bands to explore progressive metal but with a front man in Larry Dean who is a dead ringer for Geddy Lee (Rush). I never get tired of listening to “It’s War” and “Mr. Electric”.
24. Leviticus - Setting Fire To The Earth
Melodic metal with Geoff Tate-ish lead vocals defines third Leviticus releases. How many songs did the era produce better than “The Suffering Servant”, “Saved” and “Flames Of Fire”? It would rank higher if not for a couple filler tracks.
23. Shout - In Your Face
Vocalist and guitarist Ken Tamplin delivers a quality work characterized by eighties melodic metal hooks galore. Albums title track spotlights a ‘who’s who’ of guitar shredders of the time. Lone downside is the cheesy album cover.
22. Barren Cross - Atomic Arena
I am sure many of you are bemoaning that Atomic Arena is not placed higher, but the album includes a couple skip buttons (my opinion anyway), while production is a bit too refined. Still, it gives prominence to some of the best material ever (“Imaginary Music”, “Close To The Edge” & “In The Eye Of The Fire” among others) from the mighty Barren Cross.
21. Stryper - Soldiers Under Command
It was a tough decision ranking SUC outside the top twenty. However, other albums from the period I like better than the Stryper sophomore effort, which is a more accurate reflection upon the tough competition it is facing. Included is my favorite Stryper ballad in “First Love”.
20. Barnabas - Approaching Light Speed
Barnabas plays what I like to refer to as 'dinosaur metal': Layer after layer of rhythm guitar intermixed with hammer on driven soloing (Brian Belew is one of the overlooked shredders of the time) and fiery female vocals. The occasional progressive moment and apocalyptic feel to lyrics are icing on the cake.
19. Daniel Band - Run From The Darkness
Canadian hard rockers hit their stride on its third (and overall best) record. All aspects of the writing and recording process came together to garner a well deserved top twenty selection. A video of the track “Walk On Water” gained the group some well deserved attention.
18. Bloodgood - Out Of The Darkness
A close second on my list of favorite Bloodgood albums but does not quite have the historic impact of Detonation. Regardless, features the heavier guitar and drum sounds along with two of the best ballads you will every hear (“Top Of The Mountain” & “Changing Me”). Cover art, however, is a bit plain.
17. Saint - Time’s End
A pair of top twenty selections for classic metal act Saint, but who can argue? At least when factoring the crushing guitar riffs from Johan Mahan and Halford-like vocals of Josh Kramer- not to mention a vast improvement over debut EP Warriors Of The Son.
16. Rage Of Angels - Rage Of Angels
Lone Rage Of Angels album represents what the hair metal era is all about: Hook laden songs, stellar musicianship and over the top band energy. It is too bad we never heard from them again.
15. Whitecross - Triumphant Return
I like to think of Triumphant Return as featuring the best combination of songwriting, production and musicianship to grace any Whitecross album. If in the mood for Whitecross this is the first CD I usually pull off the shelf.
14. Deliverance - Deliverance
Groundbreaking album with its joining of melodic speed metal and thrash with high end and soaring vocals. Critics back in the day, as a result, described Deliverance as featuring a ‘Metallica cross Queensryche’ sound. The segue between “If You Will” and “The Call” ranks among the all time great Christian metal moments.
13. Bjorn Stigsson - Together With Friends
I might be placing this a bit high but Leviticus guitarist solo release is painfully underestimated. It finds the artist branching out with some seventies hard rock moments joined with his trademark melodic metal and commercial hard rock. Presence of vocalists Sonny Larsson and Peo Pettersson adds to its appeal.
12. Stryper - To Hell With The Devil
Am I out of line to rank this outside the top ten? Potentially overrated in that how many all time great albums include a couple filler tracks (“All Of Me” and “Holding On”)? Still, it cannot be overlooked the impact TWHTD had on the scene in terms of sales, classic material and unrivaled production (for the era). It also deserves mention how ballad “Honestly” was a MTV top ten hit.
11. Mastedon - It’s A Jungle Out There
Debut solo project of former Kansas front man John Elefante revels in smooth AOR, catchy commercial hard rock and some borderline progressive moments. A wide array of guest musicians and vocalists allow IAJOT to stand out further.
10. King’s X - Out Of The Silent Planet
Two top ten inclusions for King’s X? But who can argue when factoring the cohesion to OOTSP- and not just in terms of the uniform songwriting but also how it represents the groups heaviness work overall.
9. Stryper - The Yellow & Black Attack
Yes, it is an EP and production could use some tightening but let’s face facts: Without TYABA a good percentage of the releases on this list more than likely not happen (such was the impact of Stryper). Besides, it features some of my favorite songs from early Stryper (“From Wrong To Right”, “You Know What To Do” & “Co’mon Rock”).
8. Saint - Too Late For Living
Salem, Oregon based NWOBHM act hits its stride with third and final eighties album. Awesome production, choice musicianship and stellar songwriting- TLFL delivers the total package. Trio of “Returning”, “The Path” and “Through The Sky” form a ‘suite’ based around the Book of Revelation.
7. Rez - Innocent Blood
Is this the best Rez (a.k.a. Rez Band & Resurrection Band) album? In my opinion, it finds the classic hard rocking Chicago natives putting it all together and producing a career defining work. “Where Roses Grow” is quintessential blues based hard rock.
6. Bloodgood - Detonation
Early Bloodgood delivers variety with a traditional metal edge. Hence, moments ranging from melodic to heavier to bluesy to ballad based on Detonation. The theatrical ‘rock opera' of “Crucified” and “Messiah” help garner the album its top ten rating. Great cover art to boot.
5. Guardian - First Watch
Overlooked and underrated Guardian melodic hard rock debut survives the test of time with its endless array of hooks and catchy guitar rhythms (“I’ll Never Leave You” & “Mystery Man” should have been top ten hits). Tony Palacios is a guitar wizard second to only a select few. Oz Fox fills in on production.
4. King’s X - Gretchen Goes To Nebraska
King’s X is at its at times progressive at others metal and hard rocking at others bluesy and others funk and soul based but always creative best on acclaimed sophomore outing. The album represents a bright spot in an era of too much hairspray and spandex.
3. Joshua - Intense Defense
Scintillating melodic metal featuring guitar shredder Joshua Perahia and soaring vocalist Rob Rock. Not a bad track too be found. This would have dominated the airwaves in the US if given the opportunity (Intense Defense only saw release in Europe).
2. Sacred Warrior - Rebellion
I always have had a soft spot in my heart for ‘Ryche influenced power metal with high-end vocals. Hence, the high rating of Rebellion, which (in my opinion) includes the best combination of production and songwriting of the four prime Sacred Warrior releases.
1. Kerry Livgren - Seeds Of Change
No, not metal but also features some of the heavier musical moments of the renowned Kansas progressive rock guitarist and keyboardist. Besides, Ronnie James Dio guests on a couple of tracks- so what could be more metal than that? “Mask Of The Great Deceiver” (in which Dio lends his abilities) is a classic.
Bride - Live To Die
Daniel Band - Running Out Of Time
First Strike - Rock Of Offense
In 3d - No Glasses Needed
Jerusalem - Warrior
Leviticus - The Strongest Power
Petra - More Power To Ya
Rosanna’s Raiders - Clothed In Fire
Article by Andrew Rockwell