Best Heavy Metal Albums Of 1981

After all the groundbreaking albums that were released in 1980, the following year was a bit of a letdown. 1981 was probably the weakest year of the eighties as far as the number of quality metal releases. The year's number one metal album wouldn't have cracked the top 5 in most other years of the decade. Still, there were some very good albums released in 1981, and these were the best.
01
of 10

Motley Crue - Too Fast For Love

Motley Crue - Too Fast For Love
Motley Crue - Too Fast For Love.

Even though it's probably not good enough to have made it to number one in any other year of the '80s, Motley Crue's sleazy debut album was very influential. The songs are raw, and there are some classics like "Live Wire" and the title track.

They would become more polished and evolve more toward the hair band genre as time went on, but this album had more of an edge, both in attitude and production value.

02
of 10

Iron Maiden - Killers

Iron Maiden - Killers
Iron Maiden - Killers.

Iron Maiden's best album would come one year later, but this one was nearly as good. It was their second album, and the last with singer Paul Di'Anno. It was a definite progression from their debut, with heavier and faster songs that still had plenty of melody. "Wrathchild" and "Twilight Zone" are a couple of the album's most memorable songs.

Fans of the Di'Anno era are well aware of this album, but more recent fans should go back and listen to how Maiden sounded pre Bruce Dickinson.

03
of 10

Saxon - Denim and Leather

Saxon - Denim and Leather
Saxon - Denim and Leather.

In 1980 and 1981 Saxon released three great albums. This was the third of those, and unfortunately the band started a gradual downhill slide from there. When this album was released Saxon was at the top of their game.

It's packed with NWOBHM anthems like the title track and "Princess Of The Night." They were on equal footing with Iron Maiden and Judas Priest at this time, but would soon be surpassed. Saxon did rebound, and their last few albums have been very good.

04
of 10

Venom - Welcome To Hell

Venom - Welcome To Hell
Venom - Welcome To Hell.

There were a bunch of metal albums released in 1981 that were really good, but not quite as good or influential as those released by the same band in either 1980 or 1982. That was the case with Venom.

Their debut album was truly groundbreaking. It would usher in a whole new genre called black metal. The production is poor and the musicianship questionable,but there is no questioning the impact Venom's extreme metal with evil lyrics would have.

05
of 10

Raven - Rock Until You Drop

Raven - Rock Until You Drop
Raven - Rock Until You Drop.

Raven were part of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, and their debut album was also their best. They were always overshadowed by their contemporaries like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, but the British trio put out some excellent albums in the early '80s.

They played fast and raw, and could almost be classified as speed metal. Lars Ulrich of Metallica was one of the band's early fans.

06
of 10

Def Leppard - High 'N Dry

Def Leppard - High 'N Dry
Def Leppard - High 'N Dry.

Def Leppard's second album was the one that got them started on their path toward chart domination and superstardom. MTV was brand new in 1981, and their extensive play of "Bringin' On The Heartbreak" helped them immeasurably.

The album's first song "Let It Go" is a great track as well, but often gets overlooked because it wasn't a chart hit and the band later had so many.

07
of 10

Ozzy Osbourne - Diary Of A Madman

Ozzy Osbourne - Diary Of A Madman
Ozzy Osbourne - Diary Of A Madman.

Ozzy Osbourne's second solo album didn't have the chart hits of some of his other albums, but it has more moments of pure musical brilliance than any other. Randy Rhoads' guitar had gotten even better, and his playing on this album was nothing short of spectacular.

A couple weak tracks and the lack of a memorable single makes this album not quite as good as his debut, but it really holds up well to the test of time.

08
of 10

Black Sabbath - The Mob Rules

Black Sabbath - The Mob Rules
Black Sabbath - The Mob Rules.

This was Black Sabbath's second album with Ronnie James Dio, and it would be a long time before Sabbath released an album as good as this one. Dio was more comfortable the second time around, and had a greater influence that is reflected in the album's lyrics and sound.

There are some really solid songs on this record including the title track, "Voodoo" and "Turn Up The Night," but Sabbath had several albums that were better than this one.

Riot were a New York based metal band who got their start in the mid '70s. This album was their best, and after this one the band's vocalist Guy Speranza left the band, and they were never the same.

Riot are a band that never had much commercial success and many metal fans aren't aware of them. Their early catalog is worth exploring, especially this album, which is slick and melodic with a lot of arena rock style anthems such as "Swords and Tequila" and the title song.

10
of 10

Tygers Of Pan Tang - Spellbound

Tygers Of Pan Tang - Spellbound
Tygers Of Pan Tang - Spellbound.

After this album was released it looked like Tygers Of Pan Tang would become one of the top NWOBHM bands, but they soon faded into obscurity. John Sykes was the band's guitarist at this time, and later was a member of Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake and Blue Murder.

Everything came together for the band on this album in terms of personnel, great songwriting and a combination of memorable metal songs and a power ballad or two.