10 brilliant but overlooked albums turning 40 this year

1983 overlooked albums
(Image credit: Ross Marino/Getty Images/Pete Still/Redferns/Chris Walter/WireImage/ Paul Natkin/Getty Images/Fin Costello/Redferns)

1983 wasn't just a big year for heavy metal, it was the year the genre well and truly arrived in the USA. On Memorial weekend, the 'Metal Day' of the massive US Festival saw over 375,000 fans turn out to watch the likes of Ozzy Osbourne and Van Halen, while then-newcomers Mötley Crüe also made an appearance on the bill months before releasing their breakthrough album Shout At The Devil, ushering in the glam metal of the Sunset Strip that would dominate much of the rest of the decade.  

British bands Judas Priest and Iron Maiden finally found their careers taking off Stateside after some tentative success with prior tours, Priest powered by the radio success of You've Got Another Thing Comin', while Maiden were riding high on the fantasy epic Piece Of Mind. Elsewhere, fresh-faced nobodies Metallica were releasing their debut Kill 'Em All, booting the gates open for thrash metal and a whole new school of extremity that would define the metal underground going forward.

Yet, even amidst the sudden surge of love for heavy metal, some of rock and metal's biggest names somehow slipped through the cracks. That in mind, here are ten brilliant albums that don't get their dues.  

Metal Hammer line break

Quiet Riot - Metal Health

The first metal album to top the Billboard 200 in the US, it's astounding that Quiet Riot's Metal Health doesn't get more of a look in when discussing classic 80s metal albums. For all the acclaim and commercial success the band earned at the time - including going 6x Platinum in the US - things sharply dropped off when the following year's unfortunately titled Condition Critical was a relative flop only shifting a fraction of its predecessors units, while frontman Kevin DuBrow bemoaned the success of the Sunset Strip glam scene as having come through in the wake of Quiet Riot's success. 

The thing is, DuBrow wasn't entirely wrong. Metal Health stands up as a powerful document of glam metal before it succumbed to its own excesses, shades of everyone from Van Halen and early Def Leppard to Meat Loaf and Ozzy Osbourne shining through in its anthemic stylings. Title track Metal Health (Bang Your Head) is right up there with We're Not Gonna Take It as a defiant 80s fist-pumper, while the likes of Love's A Bitch, Breathless and Let's Get Crazy are all about world conquering strut that serves as a clear barometer for the sheer success 80s metal would achieve. 

Heart - Passionwork

Heart had enjoyed massive success throughout the 70s, but by 1980's Bébé le Strange they were in a downward spiral. 1982's Private Audition was their first to fail to reach even Gold status in the US, with the following year's Passionwork suffering a similar fate even with the band's label Epic trying to steer the band back to commercial glory. Heart would make a massive comeback on their 1985 self-titled, but it was Passionwork that lay the groundwork, updating the band's sound and image to meet the glitz and glamour of 80s rock. 

Opener How Can I Refuse? is a classic that still managed to claw its way to the top of the Billboard Mainstream Rock Charts in the US and set the tone for later hits like If Looks Could Kill and What About Love. Elsewhere, Sleep Alone feels like an 80s-sequel to Barracuda - particularly with its shimmering guitar tones - and Together Now touches on the glam-grunge that later defined fellow Seattleites Mother Love Bone, showing that the band were re-finding themselves and branching out after bringing together a new line-up. 

AC/DC - Flick Of The Switch

While nothing could ever truly match the epic glory of Back In Black, AC/DC were still riding high by the time they got to Flick Of The Switch. While the album doesn't feature the enormodome anthems the band had still managed to birth on For Those About To Rock We Salute You - the album's title track and Let's Get It Up cracking international charts - the choice to part ways with Mutt Lange served the bluesier direction the band were returning to, feeling almost like a soft reset back to the Powerage days. 

There's still plenty of arena-friendly sing-alongs to sink your teeth into on Flick Of The Switch; This House Is On Fire and the title-track are all about the classic Young brothers stomp, while Nervous Shakedown feels like a knowing roar-along, but perhaps the album's greatest contribution in that post-Back In Black era is the return of all-out punkish energy on the likes of Landslide Guns For Hire and Brain Shake, bringing back the sweat'n'lightning of Riff Raff and Shot Down In Flames in an oh-so-satisfying way. 

The Exploited - Let's Start A War... Said Maggie One Day

Scottish punks The Exploited already had a hand in helping lay the seeds for thrash and extreme metal as part of the illustrious UK82, but Let's Start A War... Said Maggie One Day marks the moment the band fully crossed over into all-out aural bedlam.

Written against a backdrop of civil unrest, war and political outrage that defined Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government, the album sees The Exploited go from crossover thrash to almost proto-grindcore, making heavy use of samples and news recordings to paint a bleak picture of Thatcher's Britain. 1982's Troops Of Tomorrow might be the album Scott Ian, Dave Lombardo and their like doff their caps to, but Let's Start A War... is the connoisseur's choice for British hardcore punk: scrappy, filthy and utterly fucking furious. 

Lita Ford - Out For Blood

After The Runaways split in 1979, it took four years for guitarist Lita Ford to reinvent herself as a solo artist in her own right. Her 1983 debut Out For Blood was a shock to the system for those expecting more of the glam punk of her former band, Lita trading it all in for studs'n'leather with big hair and even bigger tunes. Sadly, her debut failed to take off and it took a while for Ford to build an audience from scratch. 

Looking back, beyond the culture shock of her new direction, it's hard to see why 80s rock and metal audiences were slow to embrace her solo band. Out For Blood is exemplar of the ultra-sleek, stomping rock'n'roll of the early 80s, Ford taking cues from the Sunset Strip whilst stamping her own guitar god artistry over every song. Between the title track, Stay With Me Baby, Die For Me Only (Black Widow) and On The Run offering epic headbanging tunes, while Rock 'N Roll Made Me What I Am Today and If You Can't Live With It throw back to the sneering strut of The Runaways. 

Motörhead - Another Perfect Day

1982's Iron Fist might have broken the run of unimpeachable rock'n'roll Motörhead had been on since 1979's Overkill, but Another Perfect Day showed that the band only needed some fresh blood to come back firing on all cylinders. The departure of 'Fast' Eddie Clarke opened the doors for former Thin Lizzy guitarist Brian 'Robbo' Robertson to join and in his only studio outing with the band he brings a sense of flair befitting a band that had topped the charts with one of history's greatest live records. 

Compared to the lethargy of Iron Fist, Another Perfect Day is pure greased lightning from the rock'n'roll legends, opener Back At The Funny Farm showcasing Lemmy's oft-overlooked lyrical wit, while the likes of Shine, Dancing On Your Grave and Die You Bastard go hell for leather to show the nascent thrash metal scene how its done. The band even brought back some of the panache of Bomber-era tunes Sweet Revenge and Poison with the album's title track, One Track Mind and I Got Mine, Robbo wailing away like a true guitar god. 

Thin Lizzy - Thunder And Lightning

Thin Lizzy had come a long way from the early folk of their 1971 debut, but while Thunder And Lightning saw the band go heavier, faster and more supercharged than ever before, it also found them at breaking point. Personal problems and drug abuse were rife in their ranks and by September 1983 the band had played their last show, Lynott's death three years later putting the group to rest (for a time). 

So far as swansongs go (for Lynott, at least), Thunder And Lightning crackles with undeniable zeal and energy, new guitarist John Sykes bringing over some of the NWOBHM stylings of his time in Tygers Of Pan Tang to create what is doubtless Thin Lizzy's heaviest album. Between the title-track, The Holy War, Cold Sweat and Baby Please Don't Go there's plenty of neck-bothering anthems to be found as Lizzy go full metal, while The Sun Goes Down maintains the band's softer side, Lynott living up to his icon status as his voice goes from gentle croons to wild-eyed frenzy across the record's run-time. 

Rock Goddess - Rock Goddess

Members of UK heavy metal hopefuls Rock Goddess were still in school when they released their debut in 1983. Tapping producer Vic Maile - fresh off the success of Motorhead's Ace Of Spades and No Sleep 'Till Hammersmith, as well as the first two Girlschool albums - the band's debut broke into the top 100 of the UK music charts, peaking at number 65 and they later went on tour with the likes of Y&T, Iron Maiden and Def Leppard.

Unfortunately, their career stalled almost entirely by the time they released their third record Young And Free in 1987 and the band subsequently split that same year. Their self-titled debut remains testament to Rock Goddess's immense potential however, taking the thump of NWOBHM and approaching it with fresh zeal, the likes of Heartache, The Love Lingers Still and Heavy Metal Rock'n'Roll feeling like overlooked radio anthems while Satisfied Then Crucified feels like a Venom song that never was. 

Bad Brains - Rock For Light

Bad Brains had already become a legendary live act by the time they released their self-titled debut in 1982, their raucous shows and incendiary speed influencing future generations of punks, hardcore kids and metalheads alike. But where Bad Brains and 1986's I Against I are rightly hailed as classics, 1983's Rock For Light is often sorely overlooked. 

Granted, several of Rock For Light's tracks are re-recordings from the band's debut, but nonetheless the album showcases the sheer diversity Bad Brains were playing with at the time, swinging from super-charged hardcore punk to lilting ska, going harder and faster with the hardcore whilst expanding their melodic repertoire on ska tunes I And I Survive, The Meek and Rally Round Jah Throne.

Girlschool - Play Dirty

Girlschool had raced onto the 80s metal scene in a haze of smoke and motorcycle grease with their Vic Maille produced first two albums, even breaking into the top 10 with 1981's Hit And Run. 1982's Screaming Blue Murder had thrown more flair into the band's sound, but failed to match the commercial success of its predecessor, so with its follow-up Play Dirty, Girlschool made a drastic left turn. 

Embracing the full pomp and overblown glory of 80s rock, the band ditched the biker leather 'n' rock'n'roll for tassels and power ballads. It was the band's first to fail to break the top 40 in the UK, but undeservedly so: while early Girlschool fans will bemoan the lack of sneering force, Play Dirty still has some excellent tracks in its coffers: opener Going Under could give Heart a run for their money, Breaking All The Rules and the title-track tap into the Def Leppard sensibility for stadium-sized sing-alongs and Breakout (Knob In The Media) should be right up there with Yeah Right and Race With The Devil as a straight-up Girlschool classic. 

Rich Hobson

Staff writer for Metal Hammer, Rich has never met a feature he didn't fancy, which is just as well when it comes to covering everything rock, punk and metal for both print and online, be it legendary events like Rock In Rio or Clash Of The Titans or seeking out exciting new bands like Nine Treasures, Jinjer and Sleep Token.