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5 Often Under-Appreciated Classics Of 80’s American Heavy Metal (Part 2)

Give 'em the love they deserve!

This feature is here to highlight those 80’s American heavy metal classics which, we feel, deserve far more love….and this is just PART 2, there’s plenty more quality 80’s American heavy metal to come!

Presented in order of release as opposed to any kind of ranking….

Cirith Ungol – King Of The Dead (1984)

Cirith Ungol – King Of The Dead (1984, Vinyl) - Discogs

Everything about Cirith Ungol screamed of fantasy/power metal – from their Tolkien inspired name to their worship of old Sword and Sorcery/Conan books – however their sound, particularly on King Of The Dead, had more than a smidgen of doom metal to it, alongside some distinct 70’s prog elements.

All in all, the perfect combination for a little mythical pillaging…. 80’s metal style!

The likes of “Atom Smasher” – with it’s almost NWOBHM style riffing – and the doomy “Black Machine” and “Finger Of Scorn” are amongst the best tracks on offer but the whole album delivers myth metal on a suitably sumptuous scale.

NOTE: If 2023’s Dark Parade proves to be Cirith Ungol’s final farewell, then these cult legends have bowed out in considerable style.


Griffin – Flight Of The Griffin (1984)

Oddly signed to Shrapnel Records (who were renowned for shred as opposed to traditional heavy metal sounds), California’s Griffin were a rough, tough, swords and sorcery act that ably mimicked the pioneers of early 80’s metal.

Hardly original, Griffin were at least 100% dedicated to delivering authentic metal – replete with all manner of mythical beasties and heavy metal thunder – and were convincingly raucous. This was big-balled metal led by frontman William Rodrick McKay, who could shriek like the best of ’em and tracks such as “Heavy Metal Attack”, “Creeper” (a song heavily indebted to early Iron Maiden) and “Fire In The Sky” are indisputable winners, let down by a sub-standard production job perhaps, but winners nonetheless!

Overall, this one holds up rather well…..GRIFFIN, take flight!

Related content: Shrapnel Records’ 6 Greatest 80’s SHRED Releases!


Fortress – Fortress (1985)

Fortress – Fortress (1985, Vinyl) - Discogs

With more than a little glam sneaking into their sound, Fortress stayed just on the right side of the metal fence with 1985’s self-titled debut album.

Like a rough and ready RattFortress had their own “metal meltdown” laced with big ballads, AC/DC-esque stomp and swagger and no-end of unpolished (which is a good thing) big-balled preening.

Big tunes, high on sleaze, sex and sweat; fans of DokkenRattMotley CrueJudas Priest(“She Gives It All” is a cracking slab of melodic Priest worship!) and the aforementioned AC/DC need to rescue this unsung gem from the 80’s gutter of forgotten American heavy metal!


Angel Of Mercy – The Avatar (1987)

Angel Of Mercy – The Avatar (1987, Vinyl) - Discogs

Over 35 years after its ill-fated release, The Avatar still stands tall as a true document of epic metal, a mesmerising blend of magic and high drama, of mysticism and glory and sorrow and triumph. With influences ranging from KISS to RushJudas Priest to Oz and Black Sabbath to Led ZeppelinAngel Of Mercy crafted a highly melodic – yet highly mysterious – sound which could be compared to early Manilla Road and demo-era Anvil Chorus.

At heart, The Avatar is a brilliant example of raw talent and unbridled ambition coalescing into a wild and weird document of glorious times, never to be replicated again.

With a real NWOBHM vibe, the tracks on The Avatar prove to be consistently varied, with enough melody, shred and metallic might (along with the occasional feral scream) to satiate the most discerning metal fan and while The Avatar will always remain a cult curio, Angel Of Mercy were undoubtedly a highly melodic band of skilled musicians.


Liege Lord – Master Control (1988)

Liege Lord – Master Control (1998, CD) - Discogs

Liege Lord’s debut album Freedom’s Rise was very good and their sophomore album, Burn To The Touch, was great but Master Control was an absolute powerhouse of an 80’s American heavy metal album; a pure power metal/speed metal/heavy metal juggernaut, enhanced by the arrival of new vocalist Joe Comeau (future member of East Coast thrash legends Overkill and Canadian thrash royalty Annihilator).

Comeau‘s vocals were a revelation, strengthening Liege Lord’s sound with his Bruce Dickinson on steroids delivery. The results should have been strong enough to propel Liege Lord into the big leagues…..but the world wasn’t quite ready. In keeping with the era, Master Control may have been slightly thrashier than previous material – and would prove to be a fitting swansong (although Liege Lord did reunite in 2013) – but it was an album that arguably perfected power metal way before the world was ready to savour that particular sub-genre’s delights!

Unfortunately, Liege Lord were just a little too early in the game for metal fans who were still addicted to thrash, thrash and more thrash!

Also in this Series:

5 Often Under-Appreciated Classics Of 80’s American Heavy Metal (Part 1)

About Chris Jennings (1955 Articles)
I love metal. Always have. Always will. As editor of Worship Metal - a site dedicated to being as positive about metal and its myriad of sub-genres as possible - my aim is to 'worship' metal through honest reviews, current news and a wide variety of features; offering the same exposure to underground bands as we do to mainstream/well known acts. Our mantra; the bands are partners and we exist to serve the bands \m/

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