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The 80s heavy metal compilations that changed our world

For a generation of rock fans, the cheap, TV-advertised metal compilations of the early 1980s were their way into rock music. We celebrate their shoddy magnificence...

It didn’t matter that the album covers were all toe-curlingly terrible, adorned by the kind of images you might find under the pillow of a 19-year-old on remand for sex crimes.

What mattered was not the album sleeves, but what was inside. The stuff in the grooves.

For many 1980s adolescents, these questionably-designed compilations were their introduction to the world of rock. A Bluffers' Guide to heavy metal. A 33 1/3 rpm masterclass on how to be a rocker featuring a roll call of 80s behemoths. Gillan, Blue Oyster Cult, Slade, UFO, Rainbow and Whitesnake, all wrapped in artwork that invariably featured a shirtless man with an axe, or a bolt of heavy metal lightning, or some blood, or a wanton female in a state of undress, or some sort of mythical creature. If you were really lucky, you got all of those things. Rock on.

You remember them?

Of course you do.

It doesn’t matter how cool you thought you were in the 1980s. The chances are you that if you’re reading this, you owned at least one of these. And, ergo, perhaps you weren’t quite as cool as you thought.

We’ve delved deep into the annals of 80s rock (i.e., our own embarrassing record collections) to find the 10 best/cheesiest/most memorable compilation albums from that era.

Strap yourself in.


1. Axe Attack.

Of course it was called Axe Attack, and of course it featured a bare-chested man (tick), possibly in make-up or with blood on his face (either one is acceptable, clearly) with a guitar (yep) which he is wielding like an axe (naturally) - a not-so-clever concoction of hackneyed rock cliches aimed specifically at persuading your average 14-year-old aspiring metal fan to part with his hard-earned paper round money for this slab of vinyl (ie., me, I had this - and I played it to death).

And even though it’s easy to mock - look at it, for fuck’s sake - look also at the track-listing: AC/DC, Maiden, Whitesnake, Rainbow, Sabbath, Motorhead and a UFO song which I know for sure persuaded one buyer to go out and purchase Phenomenon, which lead on to Strangers in The Night and a love affair that endures 30 years later.

For that alone, thank you Axe Attack.

  1. Rainbow - All Night Long
  2. Gillan - Running, White Face, City Boy
  3. Judas Priest - Breaking The Law
  4. Ted Nugent - Cat Scratch Fever
  5. Scorpions - Make It Real
  6. Girlschool - Race With The Devil
  7. U.F.O. -Doctor Doctor (live)
  8. AC/DC - Highway To Hell
  9. Whitesnake - Ready & Willing
  10. Iron Maiden - Running Free
  11. Aerosmith - Sweet Emotion
  12. Frank Marino And Mahogony Rush - You Got Living
  13. Black Sabbath - Paranoid
  14. Motorhead - Bomber

2. Live And Heavy

This album was apparently so ‘live' and so ‘heavy' that listening to it at full volume reduced the listener to weeping tears of real blood.

Let’s state at the outset, this was not true. There were no bloody tears. I had it. I played it a lot. And even though I played it loud enough for my dad to bang on my bedroom door and shout repeatedly to “turn that bloody rubbish down” it never once made me cry tears of real blood.

But, still, seeing as this was 1981 and a whole new audience of rock fans had missed out on Deep Purple, the inclusion of their Made in Japan version of Smoke on the Water was a welcome touch.

Rocks Off by Def Leppard wasn’t really live but featured some badly-dubbed cheering, and it was nice to see Cozy Powell’s swan song with Rainbow, a live version of All Night Long recorded at the 1980 Monsters of Rock jamboree at Donington. This performance featured Graham Bonnet performing a bemusing whistling routine. “Just call me Percy Edwards,” he joked with the crowd, hilariously, at one point, as he tried - and failed - to cajole the watching hordes to whistle along.

Every bit as excruciating as it sounds.

  1. Deep Purple - Smoke On The Water
  2. Nazareth - Razamanaz
  3. Motorhead - White Line Fever
  4. Def Leppard - Rocks Off
  5. Rainbow - All Night Long
  6. Status Quo - Roll Over Lay Down
  7. Whitesnake - Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City
  8. UFO - Lights Out In London
  9. Gillan - Unchain Your Brain
  10. Black Sabbath - Paranoid

3. Heavy

Sometimes, although this happened rarely, there were no semi-naked ladies draped on the cover of the latest heavy metal compilation album. No shirtless, hirsute chaps in leather waistcoats, swinging guitars at inanimate objects as a bolt of lightning lit up the night sky. No monsters.

Sometimes, the record company would design covers that just looked heavy, like this one, which appeared as if it was made from blocks of molten lead.

And as bad as that sounds, the record itself wasn’t. Flip it over and look at the track listing - Maiden, Diamond Head, Meatloaf’s finest four minutes, Derek and the Dominoes, Journey and a heavily-edited version of Skynyrd’s Free Bird which clocked in, somehow, at around three minutes but was responsible for driving a whole new generation of young rock fans to the record shops in search of the band’s debut album, where they would discover Free Bird wasn’t a natty three minute singalong - it was a nine minute rock anthem, with one of the finest guitar work outs in the history of rock music.

Good work, Heavy album,

  1. Iron Maiden - The Number Of The Beast
  2. Rainbow - Stone Cold
  3. Motörhead - Iron Fist
  4. Girlschool - Don't Call It Love
  5. Tygers Of Pan Tang - Love Potion No. 9
  6. Ian Campbell Band - Only One
  7. Diamond Head - In The Heat Of The Night
  8. Status Quo Hold - You Back
  9. Hawkwind - Silver Machine
  10. Derek And The Dominos - Layla
  11. Joe Walsh - Rocky Mountain Way
  12. Meatloaf - Deadringer For Love
  13. Journey - Don't Stop Believin'
  14. Cheap Trick - If You Want My Love
  15. The Michael Schenker Group - Dancer
  16. Rush - New World Man
  17. Lynyrd Skynyrd - Free Bird

4. Axe Attack II

A year after slaughtering us with the first Axe Attack, 1981 saw the release of Axe Attack II and a cover that featured not one, but two, men in denim and tight vests, hitting each other with generic Fender Stratocasters.

Cool. We were in.

If you liked Axe Attack 1, and, by and large we did, then the second helping, despite its idiotic cover, didn’t disappoint either, showcasing a crowd-pleasing smorgasbord of metal favourites you would only occasionally see on Top Of The Pops and rarely hear on the radio, such as Motorhead (Ace of Spades) , the Scorps (The Zoo), Maiden (Murders in the Rue Morgue) a fresh-from-UFO Michael Schenker and a pre-Maiden Bruce Dickinson on Samson's Earth Mother.

  1. Rainbow - Since You've Been Gone
  2. Motorhead - Ace Of Spades
  3. Black Sabbath - Die Young
  4. Samson - Earth Mother
  5. Michael Schenker - Armed And Ready
  6. Rush - The Trees
  7. Scorpions - The Zoo
  8. Whitesnake - Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City
  9. Iron Maiden - Murders In The Rue Morgue
  10. Def Leppard - Rock Brigade
  11. Ted Nugent - Flesh And Blood
  12. Gillan - Mutually Assured Destruction
  13. Blue Oyster Cult - Godzilla
  14. U.F.O. - Mystery Train
  15. Judas Priest - United

5. Kerrang! Kompilation

There have been, we are reliably informed, many Kerrang! compilation albums - but, much like the mag itself, they seemed to reach their peak somewhere around the mid-80s, specifically with this, a gatefold-sleeve double album featuring the good, the bad and the ugly of mid-80s rock and metal and a specially commissioned Derek Riggs (of Iron Maiden cover fame) sleeve of, well, your guess is as good as ours.

Still, at least it wasn’t a man covered in blood wreaking havoc with a Japanese Strat copy. We were grateful for that.

It seemed to go in order, this, with all the big hitters on the first side, a half decent second side, a not so good third side, and a largely forgettable fourth side.

Rock aficionados noted Lenny Wolf, the future neatly-coiffured front man of Led Zep wannabes Kingdom Come, treading rock water with Stone Fury on side two.

  1. Iron Maiden - Aces High
  2. Kiss - Heaven's On Fire
  3. Whitesnake - Slow An' Easy
  4. Manowar - All Men Play On 10
  5. Scorpions - Rock You Like A Hurricane
  6. Helix - Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'
  7. W.A.S.P. - L.O.V.E. Machine
  8. Stone Fury - Break Down The Walls
  9. Gary Moore - Victims Of The Future
  10. Bon Jovi - Runaway
  11. Alcatrazz - God Blessed Video
  12. Meat Loaf - Sailor To A Siren
  13. Keel - The Right To Rock
  14. Triumph - Follow Your Heart
  15. Tobruk - Wild On The Run
  16. Marillion - Assassing
  17. Warrior - Fighting For The Eagle
  18. Robin George - Heartline (12" Dangerous Mix Version)
  19. Billy Idol - Rebel Yell
  20. Mama's Boys - Don't Tell Mama
  21. Queensrÿche - Take Hold Of The Flame
  22. Armored Saint - Can U Deliver
  23. Krokus - Ballroom Blitz
  24. Madam X - High In High School

Continued below...

Don't Miss...

6. Metal For Breakfast

What are you having for breakfast, young curly-mulleted rock fan? Three Shredded Wheat? Porridge? Smoked kippers?

Of course not. Like any self respecting macho heavy metal fan of the early 1980s, our leather-jacketed hero is having metal for breakfast. A bowl of ball-bearings. With milk, which will no doubt sustain him for a morning of various hard-rocking pursuits.

As befitting the cover, the songs here are 100 per cent metal if not 100 per cent brilliant.

Anvil. Killer Dwarfs. Lee Aaron (remember her?), the never-heard-of-before-or-since Blotto with a song called Metal Head (you can probably hazard a guess at just how bad that one sounds) and then, finally, Ozzy’s Crazy Train, bringing up the rear, which at least ensures that the whole shambles ends on a something of a high note.

  1. Anvil - Forged In Fire
  2. Ted Nugent - Cat Scratch Fever
  3. Killer Dwarfs - Heavy Mental Breakdown
  4. Accept - Balls To The Wall
  5. Mercyful Fate - Black Funeral
  6. Blotto - Metal Head
  7. Lee Aaron - Metal Queen
  8. Saxon - Princess Of The Night
  9. Judas Priest - The Ripper
  10. Quiet Riot - Metal Health
  11. Y & T - Mean Streak
  12. Ozzy Osbourne - Crazy Train

7. Metal Killers

Another double album of good, bad and dubious metal anthems with record company chiefs desperately trying to appeal to all of rock’s emerging sub sets.

So there’s Trad metal - Sabbath, Moorhead, Priest; Death metal - Venom; Emerging metal - Chrome Molly, Tokyo Blade; Teutonic metal - Schenker, Accept; Cliched metal - Thor, Tank; and then Appalling metal with taped nipples - Wendy O’ Williams.

  1. Black Sabbath - Paranoid
  2. UFO - Boogie
  3. Michael Schenker - Armed And Ready
  4. Judas Priest - Rocka Rolla
  5. Motorhead - Ace Of Spades
  6. Twisted Sister - Under The Blade
  7. Girlschool - Demolition Boys
  8. Uriah Heep - Gypsy
  9. Hawkwind - Master Of The Universe (Live)
  10. Accept - Fast As A Shark
  11. Gary Moore - Parisienne Walkways
  12. Tank - Run Like Hell
  13. Venom - Black Metal
  14. DiAnno - Antigua
  15. Tokyo Blade - Night Of The Blade
  16. Wrathchild - Twist Of The Knife
  17. Raven - Wiped Out
  18. Jim Lea - Burning In The Heat Of Love
  19. Hells Belles - Hells Belles
  20. Wendy O'Williams - Bump And Grind
  21. Thor - Start Raising Hell
  22. Chrome Molly - Thanks For The Angst
  23. Waysted - Rock Steady
  24. Diamond Head - Am I Evil

8. Masters Of Metal

It’s 1986 and even if the song didn’t quite remain the same, the risible album covers were sticking to the depressingly macho theme.

Record company executives with precisely no imagination decided to call this one Masters of Metal, complete with a ghostly chap with a constipated expression and a spiked shoulder band - surprising they never caught on, really - swinging a big lump hammer on the cover.

Hello there. Glad you could make it.

And yet, once more, if could grit your teeth and bypass the cover, it was worth it.

Maiden, Scorpions, Whitesnake, Bon Jovi, Motorhead, Dio and Hanoi Rocks’s finest moment.

  1. Iron Maiden - The Trooper
  2. Scorpions - No One Like You
  3. Gary Moore - Back On The Streets
  4. Manowar - Metal Daze
  5. Judas Priest - Deceiver
  6. Whitesnake - Fool For Your Loving
  7. Dio - Stand Up And Shout
  8. Saxon - Rockin' Again
  9. Bon Jovi - In And Out Of Love
  10. Motörhead - Ace Of Spades
  11. Accept - Fast As A Shark
  12. Hanoi Rocks - Tragedy
  13. Black Sabbath - War Pigs
  14. Rush - Spirit Of Radio

9. Metalmania

Welcome to the only genre of music with more skeletons than a busy morgue. Look! Here’s one with red lights for eyes, listening to Metalmania though his headphones!

Not the finest compilation here - despite the inclusion of so many big hitters (Maiden, Purple, Scorpions, two Whitesnake number) - but perhaps one of the most popular.

Released on EMI imprint, Harvest, and despatched to all corners of Europe. And New Zealand.

  1. Sammy Hagar - Love Or Money
  2. Whitesnake - Fool For Your Loving
  3. Iron Maiden - Transylvania
  4. April Wine - I Like To Rock
  5. Wild Horses - Criminal Tendencies
  6. Deep Purple - Speed King
  7. Iron Maiden - Sanctuary
  8. Scorpions - Make It Real
  9. Sammy Hagar - Trans Am (Highway Wonderland)
  10. Atomic Rooster - Do You Know Who's Looking For You?
  11. Riot - Road Racin'
  12. Whitesnake - Medicine Man

10. Maple Metal

Yeah, we have no idea, either.

Everything about this album is a mystery. The bands. Their songs. The inappropriately dressed producer on the cover.

It’s bemusing.

As its title suggests, this compilation was released only in Canada, which might explain why these bands - Apple Viper, Tzar, Harlott Angel - aren't household names. It’s worth noting, however, that Kid Wikkid feature a fresh faced Sebastian Bach - later Skid Row - on vocals.

  1. Apple Viper - Get Up
  2. Galleon - What D'ya Want
  3. Harlott - Angel In The Dark
  4. Havoc - The Warning
  5. Jade - Legends Of A Time
  6. Kid Wikkid - Take A Look At Me
  7. Titan - Burnt By The Flame
  8. Tzar - One Ticket To Paradise
  9. Rue Morgue - Goin' Down' Rockin'
  10. Vigilants - Run For Cover

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