Judas Priest, Defenders of the Faith
While not a classic of the scope of Screaming for Vengeance or British Steel, Judas Priest’s ninth album was an instant success. Vengeance had established the band as a commercial success, and singles like “Freewheel Burning,” “Love Bites” and “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll,” continued the band’s hit streak. It was also the last album before their two-album experiment with synthesizers.
Spinal Tap, This is Spinal Tap
Is the soundtrack of This is Spinal Tap really one of the most essential metal albums of 1984? Nah, not particularly. However, the movie of the same name is one of the most essential movies about metal ever. Before Metallica had a black album, the soundtrack was released with the same all-black cover as Smell the Glove, the album in the film. And while the mockumentary sending up rock and metal cliches was a great movie in its own right, the songs were actually pretty great too. The multi-bass intro of “Big Bottom” is classic, “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight” is fun, and “Stonehenge” probably calls to mind a midget dancing around a minuscule replica of the monument.
Van Halen, 1984
While Van Halen is really more of a rock band than a metal one, the lines were pretty blurred in 1984, when they released the album of the same name. David Lee Roth’s last album with the band until 2012’s A Different Kind of Truth, the band’s sixth album found Eddie Van Halen abandoning his guitar for the synthesizer, and “Jump” and “I’ll Wait” were huge hits. He didn’t totally give up the guitar, however, which is why “Panama” and “Hot For Teacher” are classics to this day. The band’s videos, especially “Hot For Teacher,” were iconic as well.