... or compilations of recordings that are not exactly an "album" and definitely they are not a "best of" album. In a few cases they are demo recordings that the bands would love to have released as an album when they were recording them (no matter if they don't really believe it now) or compilation releases of specific recordings that mostly didn't make it to any official album or just represent each artist at the moment.
Some of those albums presented herein are considered as "compilations" (and that's correct) while others are considered as "albums" (might not be exactly correct) and one of them was an "album" sometime in the past but not now... Confusing? Might be. But it is also funny.
We don't include:
- "Best of", "Greatest Hits", "The Story So Far" etc. collections - compilations, even if they have an unreleased track or two. For example, Black Sabbath's We Sold Our Souls for Rock 'n' Roll and Iron Maiden's Best of the Beast.
- Re-recorded full albums. For example, Manowar's Battle Hymns MMXI and Twisted Sister's Still Hungry.
- Regular live albums recorded during touring, and live album compilations. For example Judas Priest's Priest... Live! and Saxon's The Eagle Has Landed.
- Unplugged, acoustic and orchestral albums or compilations. For example Blind Guardian's The Forgotten Tales.
- Albums including only cover songs from other artists. For example, Ozzy Osbourne's Under Cover and Six Feet Under's Graveyard Classics.
- Tape/Cassette-albums that were also released on CD and/or vinyl format in later years. For example Apollo Ra's Ra Pariah and Axis' No Man's Land. [There is going to be a feature for similar cases in the future]
In every case, there are people who consider that the specific releases of Warlord or Sorcerer listed below, as their best "albums". In a few of those cases, I am among those people.
written by Andreas Andreou
1. VENOM - The Singles 80-86
If someone will ask me to offer three albums of what Venom were and what made them what they are, I would definitely offer Welcome to Hell, Black Metal and The Singles 80-86. A few of the very best songs of Newcastle's blasphemy appeared in singles only and you have them all here including "Warhead", "Seven Gates of Hell" and "Manitou".
Truth to be told, Venom is probably the metal band with the most compilations ever; we even can write an article like "Top-10 Venom Compilations" and there would be even more! They had already released the double record From Hell to the Unknown... in 1985 including the debut album on disc 1 and a collection of other tracks on disc 2, plus the famous ... Assault releases but the live releases and compilations that followed were so many! I still love a few of them and give them a spin over the years, mostly...
Check also: VENOM - In Memorium
Probably my favourite compilation album ever, including demo recordings, a few "best of" songs, single tracks, alternative versions and unreleased tracks that were first introduced to this release in 1991. The last (new, then) tracks with Tony Dolan on vocals ("If You Wanna War", "Surgery") are massive and never made it to a later album.
2. WARLORD - And the Cannons of Destruction Have Begun...
What a rare case of an album! The '80s recordings of Warlord were always confusing people, starting with Deliver Us. The debut mini LP that had the same running time with Saxon's debut album and more than Bathory's debut, still though, it was always advertised and considered as a mini-LP back then but nowadays most people consider it an EP. [Read more about Albums Vs Mini Albums Vs EPs].
And the Cannons of Destruction Have Begun... is a very special case that was originally considered as a "live" album even if the band didn't perform any live shows in the '80s. The album included an intro, four songs from the debut mini LP and four new songs with two of them released as a single just a few months before ("Lost and Lonely Days", "Aliens").
In 2011, Crystal Logic presented the first interview of Bill Tsamis' return (even if he didn't really know it at that time) followed by the reissue of the Warlord and Lordian Guard catalogue, the new album The Holy Empire and live shows. In that interview, Bill Tsamis explains: "And the Cannons of Destruction was recorded in the studio and then presented as a live Warlord show (a showcase). Unfortunately, a couple of the cameras weren't working. We had the UCLA film school doing the filming as part of a school project. The vocals on the video were lip synced - there was no way Rick Cunningham could have pulled off that vocal performance live."
3. SORCERER - Sorcerer
The band was formed in Sweden in 1988 and recorded the demo tapes Sorcerer (1989), The Inquisition (1992) and then disbanded when bassist Johnny Hagel left to join Tiamat. It took three years until the moment when John Perez of Solitude Aeturnus formed BrainTicket Records and the first release of his label was a CD including nearly all of the demo recordings of Sorcerer. Those demo recordings remain until today as one of the greatest achievements underground epic doom metal ever offered, and those years it was the closest thing to Candlemass' debut album.
Sorcerer's fame in the underground metal scene was highly respected thanks to that CD "album" (that's been re-released a couple of times) and during the '90s and '00s you could see their name mentioned every time someone would speak about the greatest bands of epic doom metal. The Swedish band was reformed a few years later with a different line-up, joined Metal Blade Records and kept releasing albums. The songs from the Sorcerer release were never re-recorded so far and never appeared in any of the Sorcerer albums.
4. REVEREND BIZARRE - Death Is Glory... Now
The album compilation to end all compilations is a collection of all the split, singles, EP recordings of the '00s masters of doom besides their three official albums and the two "EP-albums" (Harbinger of Metal, Return to the Rectory). Taking its place next to the albums, Death Is Glory... Now is a glorious release that a certain member of the band considers as Reverend's greatest release. A must-have release for all fans of doom metal, at least equally with many of the genre's greatest albums. The Finnish doom-an'-gloom mongers along with a few others, served as the gatekeepers of (true) doom metal in a period where the rites of Black Sabbath were claimed by the stoner-desert-sludge heavy music that ruled the media and festivals. In the end, Reverend Bizarre's life and death is a huge part of doom metal's soul.
5. SLAUTER XSTROYES - Free the Beast
Released for the first time in 1998 and widely considered as Slauter Xstroyes' second "album", this is actually a release including the recordings of the second Xstroyes' album that was supposed to be released in 1987, but the sessions were left incomplete. The Free the Beast release includes six tracks of that supposed second album and six more tracks recorded during 1981-1984. Chicago's underground metal legend was a unique band with a sick character and technical over-the-top songwriting and performance ahead of its time. When Free the Beast saw the light of day after a decade hidden in the catacombs, everything was changed. Still though and after all these years, the name of Slauter Xstroyes is always mentioned in conversations that will include bands from the '80s like WatchTower up to the bands of today, like Sacral Rage.
Check also: ENERGY VAMPIRES - Energy Vampires
6. JACOBS DREAM - Jacobs Dream
Nowadays known as Demo '96 or Demo, Jacobs Dream first release in 1996 was spread in the world of underground metal as a self-financed private album. There were already a few different pressings in 1996 since its impact was huge in the underground metal scene, and the one with the cover pictured here had also "Jacobs Dream Records" written in the back, bought from the author of this blog directly from the band those days. Four years later, Jacobs Dream joined Metal Blade Records releasing a self-titled album (the band's second release) and that was presented as the "first" album, so the previous release was "downgraded" to a demo and remained like this since then, even if we knew it in the late '90s, as an "album".
The 2000 Metal Blade release (the debut album as it is now considered) had only one song from the debut release but both of them stand among the best US power metal releases of their time and even more.
Check also: THYNN ICE - Thynn Ice
7. VIRGIN STEELE - The Book of Burning
Despite their iconic '80s albums like Guardians of the Flame (1983) and Noble Savage (1985), after the release of the melodic metal album Life Among the Ruins in 1993, started a period where Virgin Steele became one of the epic heavy metal rulers. After the two parts of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Invictus and the two acts of The House of Atreus, David DeFeis released The Book of Burning in 2002. Until then, he had already re-released Noble Savage and Age of Consent including new recorded songs enough for another album and few of them were better than the songs of the old albums. That's how good he was during the '90s but what about The Book of Burning? Well, it's considered as an album by many people but it is not really an "album". It includes a few new recordings of classic songs from the first two Virgin Steele albums when Jack Starr was the axeman but most important, you can find here the compositions DeFeis and Starr wrote together during a session in 1997 that didn't lead anywhere. Songs like "Rain of Fire", "Hellfire Woman" and "The Chosen Ones", plus a few more, everything re-arranged in order to make a proper sequence that can be presented as a "new album".
8. STEEL ASSASSIN - From the Vaults
While the first official album of Steel Assassin was released in 2007 under the title War of the Eight Saints, it was the From the Vaults compilation album that brought that name back in the underground metal fans' attention in 1997. The "Executioner" song was known from its appearance in the Metal Massacre VI compilation of Metal Blade Records released in 1985 but the name of Steel Assassin remained to obscurity. Rising from the vaults, this compilation album of Steel Assassin is the true spirit of the underground US epic power metal scene. Recorded in the first half of the '80s, that line-up also includes the steel lungs of Doni Escolas and it can only be matched by bands like Tyrant and Omen those years.
Check also: AXEHAMMER - Lord of the Realm
9. RAGE - Lingua Mortis
or Lingua Mortis - Rage and the Symphonic Orchestra Prague, since in 2013 there was also an album using the "band-performers" name Lingua Mortis Orchestra. The difference is that the 2013 release was produced and mostly written and arranged by guitarist Victor Smolski, consisting of new material, while the 1996 release presented here, consists of existing Rage compositions re-arranged with orchestra. It was a matter of time someone doing a metal album with orchestra and Rage managed to be written in the books of history as the first metal band that did it, in 1996. Lingua Mortis is mostly considered as an album and it definitely gave a breath of fresh air for a while, but talking for a release that actually has a "re-arrangement" of previously released songs, it might be something different.
10. MERCYFUL FATE - Return of the Vampire
Originally released in 1992, one year before the release of Mercyful Fate's reunion album In the Shadows, Return of the Vampire is an official release of early '80s demo material that has been bootlegged so much over the years. A few songs were lately re-worked and appeared in the albums, others less ("Curse of the Pharaohs"), others more ("Death Kiss" that became "A Dangerous Meeting), others remained to obscurity ("Burning the Cross"). A few of the sessions were from Michael Denner's band named Danger Zone, where King Diamond and Hank Shermann were helping and led Denner joining Mercyful Fate, along with bassist Timi Hansen and drummer "Old" Nick Smith who was later replaced by Kim Ruzz. The "Return of the Vampire" track was also re-worked and appeared in the 1993 reunion album with Lars Ulrich of Metallica performing drum duties.
Check also: SILVER MOUNTAIN - Before the Storm
What's your favourite "album" that's not really an "album"?