Most Important Albums from High School by Matt Cale

Motley Crue

Shout at the Devil

1983

Before they became MTV acceptable, glam rock fairies, they rocked the house with an album that was, for a time, rebellious to have in one’s collection. I remember getting shit from my clueless old man about owning something that contained “devil” in the title; if only he knew that the song “Shout at the Devil” had about as much to do with Satanism as Pac-Man did. From the nonsensical rambling of “In the Beginning” to the butchered madness of “Helter Skelter,” Motley Crue never made an album so tight, focused, and well, blissfully stupid. I mean really, “Ten Seconds to Love?” “God Bless the Children of the Beast?” But somehow, at ten years old, it all made perfect sense.


Judas Priest

Point of Entry

1981

I realize this automatically makes me gay, or at least homoerotically inclined, and I accept that. Listen, I had no idea Rob Halford was gay back in my youth, even with the songs about leather, fire, and glistening chests. I choose this album (and that title???) because it contains the best Judas Priest song ever recorded – “Heading Out to the Highway.” The video is even better, featuring Halford in a tight t-shirt, lesbian haircut, and acting as the starter for some sort of drag race. And then there’s “Desert Plains,” the most emotionally charged love song from one man to another. And “Don’t Go” and “You Say Yes” are just as manly, I assure you.


Guns’n’Roses

Appetite for Destruction

1987

To this day, the only album I listened to at least once for 30 days straight. As a freshman, I knew every lyric to every song and worshipped Axl Rose as I would a god. The more radio friendly songs are great, but I’m partial to the nasty “Rocket Queen” and “It’s So Easy” myself. As much as it might sound like heresy today, I still believe that this is one of a handful of records to be solid from start to finish. One had to at least own this classic to be considered cool, which worked for some, but only increased my isolation from others. It’s as mainstream as I got in the later days of high school, as I flirted with Sepultura, Death, and Laaz Rockit.


Ozzy Osbourne

The Ultimate Sin

1986

Now a dated curiosity, what with all the talk of nuclear annihilation, nuclear winters, and “Thank God for the Bomb” silliness. “Shot in the Dark” is still his biggest hit in many ways, although I’m a bigger fan of “Secret Loser,” one of Ozzy’s numerous odes to alcoholism. And his hair! Never before or since did he look more like a vintage 80s chick. And I believe “The Ultimate Sin” was the video where Ozzy appeared shirtless, in his boxers, and wearing a ridiculous cowboy hat. He’s had better overall work (I guess, as this isn’t Mozart we’re critiquing), but none of his albums remain this listenable after all these years.


Kiss

Animalize

1984

With all the subtlety of never-ending blows to the head with a series of tire irons, 2X4’s, and Louisville Sluggers, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons strut their way through one of the most sexist albums ever recorded. With lyrics like “Let me put my log in your fireplace” and song titles such as “Burn Bitch Burn” and “Murder in High Heels,” Kiss helped young lads such as myself view women as soulless drones fit only for a ride on my virginal (yet willing) cock. And what budding young atheist wouldn’t cackle with delight over “Heaven’s on Fire,” which of course has to do with fucking big-titted women, but might be confused for an anti-religious screed if the parents don’t look too closely at the lyric page.


Metallica

…And Justice For All

1988

The last hurrah for the real Metallica, this album was the equivalent of a world event in my small universe, the sort of thing that would keep me sweaty with anticipation as I rode home on the bus (that, and the porno I had in my duffle bag that I borrowed from that 6’5″ black dude). I started to get a little pissed when I saw jocks and cheerleaders strumming along to songs that mocked the values that kept them in Abercrombie & Fitch, but as I would have loathed them for any reason, I was able to move on. Metallica now seems like the sort of band that might do commercials, but for one brief summer, they kicked the sort of ass that makes high school at least tolerable.


Overkill

The Years of Decay

1984

Yet another band that took its name from something related to nuclear war, Overkill came to prominence with their teen anthem “Fuck You” and the accompanying middle finger shirt. Only with this album, however, did they win my heart, pushing my murderous rage to the brink with the delightful “I Hate,” which still inspires visions of decapitated jocks. It’s just what every teen needs – everyone else is crazy, adults suck, and the world is headed for ruin because of silly rules that keep me from smoking pot and drinking in class. And I still marvel at the lead singer’s inspired perm.


Megadeth

Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?

1986

 

“Whadda ya mean I don’t believe in God? I talk to him every day,” could be interpreted many ways, but my teenage brain always assumed it meant that Christians were schizophrenics who rambled to an imaginary deity. Dave Mustaine and company thrashed through anti-social anthems to the young; tunes that stripped me of hope, caused great depression, and somehow, told me that I’d never get laid, especially if the world was ending in the next 25 years. One of the best of the Reagan era.


Fates Warning

No Exit

1988

With some of the most nihilistic lyrics around, I was an instant convert, although they were a bit pretentious in their concept album pursuits. I have no idea what the concept was, but it had something to do with living in a cold, dehumanized world where loneliness ruled the day, or at least my bedroom. I owned this little gem on cassette, but apparently the band had a budget of no more than $1000, as the recording studio could have easily doubled as an underwater cave.


AC/DC

Blow Up Your Video

1988

Arguably the most sexist band to hit the stage, they rocked because they never once apologized for singing about covering whorish women in oil, or forcing them to perform oral, even when Angus Young reached middle age. This album featured the chestnut lyric “Gimme head, gimme tail” and one of the most memorable opening riffs in metal history (“That’s the Way I Want My Rock & Roll”). I never did understand what the album title meant, but AC/DC never wrote a song that couldn’t be understood by your average fifth grader, so I’m certain it’s nothing clever.


Gothic Slam

Just a Face in the Crowd

1989

Yes, the lead singer does look like Booger from the Revenge of the Nerds movies, and that’s just about the best thing I can say about this band with the most juvenile lyrics outside of a Twisted Sister box set. Everywhere I turn, I’m being implored not to cut my hair or give in to the powers that be, who presumably have nothing more in mind for me than a quick shave and change of clothes. But it’s fascism, man, and Booger won’t stand for it. Not a day passes when I don’t think about where he is now.


Crumbsuckers

Beast on My Back

1988

With classics like “Breakout” and “Charge,” lead singer Chris Notaro — he of the ingesting, chewing, and spitting glass vocals — made me a believer in punk, even if what I heard wasn’t the real thing. I simply don’t know. I found this album at Recycle Records back when $1.99 was a day’s pay, and played it over and over for at least a few days. I later threw it out my car window when I belatedly converted to CD, but I’ll also admit that I sought more from my music than a man who sounded like he had the worst sore throat in the history of the earth.


Forbidden

Forbidden Evil

1988

A solid piece of hard-ass metal, but this record does contain one of the most laughable songs of the 80s, even if you have never heard of it. Called “Off the Edge,” its lyrics aren’t nearly as bad as the delivery, which is impossible to convey in written form. Needless to say, I skipped over this moment of disaster and went back to rockin’ my nuts off. As expected, the group’s worldview was brutal and mean, focusing on the numerous and unavoidable ways one can meet death — bloody, pus-filled death — while ignoring the peace and joy that awaits the open-minded teen with Christ in his heart.


Kreator

Extreme Aggression

1989

A sample of song titles will tell the tale — “No Reason to Exist,” “Some Pain Will Last,” “Don’t Trust,” and “Bringer of Torture.” I was in motherfucking, world-hating heaven, dude. Hard as shit for a boy of sixteen, I played this record numerous times before it dawned on me that I could just as easily walk down to the nearest construction site and experience the same thing. But I didn’t care; I loved Kreator, even if I shouted obscenities every time the bastards failed to include a much-needed lyrics sheet.


Defiance

Product of Society

1989

Passable metal by anyone’s standards, the main selling point was their overt political stances, which ranged from Fuck the Republicans to Castrate the Democrats. Right in line with just about every metal band of the period, they told me not to get a job, hate my parents, defy my teachers, and grow my hair long. While I didn’t obey every rule, I still didn’t feel like a sell out. Defiance put out one more album (which I also purchased), but their time had passed. I had moved on to bigger and better things, like the following masterpiece…


Nuclear Assault

Handle With Care

1989

The album jacket said it all: the earth as seen from space, stamped with the album’s title. This time, they clearly meant business. The “Critical Mass” video featured that big-titted Jessica Hahn chick in a lawn chair, and every other song chronicled our imminent demise at the hands of greedy, reckless, war-mongering assholes. Whether it was “When Freedom Dies” or “Inherited Hell,” this band — with one hell of a bassist, I might add — made hard metal socially conscious without being silly.


Faith or Fear

Punishment Area

1989

How fitting that weeks after George H.W. Bush took the oath, a song should eminate from my stereo with the lyrics, “You have just entered the punishment area.” More posturing than genuine conviction, I did spin this disc around many times nonetheless, largely because I was proud to love a band that no one in my school had heard of. Megadeth, they could understand. Metallica, they could even like. But Faith or Fear? Who the fuck are they? Just some lucky stiffs who managed to be playing when everyone and their mother seemed able to secure a record deal.


Metal Church

Blessing in Disguise

1989

Mike Howe came aboard as a new vocalist and did not fail the test. And shit, they tackled everything under the sun — shady preachers (“Fake Healer”), the sinking of the Titanic (“Rest in Pieces”), alienation (“Badlands”), and more alienation (“Anthem to the Estranged”). The album was a winner from beginning to end, even if the band failed miserably with their next release. I never did learn the origin of their band name, although it was about as religious as I got in those days.


Sanctuary

Into the Mirror Black

1989

I remember being moved by the album cover, speaking as it did to desolation, fear, and looming death. Then again, I saw those images in my morning cereal in those days, so perhaps it wasn’t so powerful after all. I do admit this: for at least three months, this was my favorite album in all the world, played more times than I can even remember. “Long Since Dark,” “Epitaph,” and “The Mirror Black” all spoke to my sadness and despair, dealing as I was with a stable home, loving mother, food to eat, and what I believed was the least experienced cock in all of teenagedom. I also knew that Dave Mustaine loved this band, even producing their first release.


S.O.D.

Speak English or Die

1985

 

Before political correctness, this album was the rawest, most offensive thing I had ever heard. My favorite song was and is “Kill Yourself,” for even if intended as parody, it’s probably the best thing I can think of to tell a suicidal teen. And there’s also “Pussy Whipped,” which just about described every friend I’ve ever had; the charming, melodic “Douche Crew”; the even more charming “Fuck the Middle East,” which just might be the campaign theme song for Bush/Cheney ’04; and the heartwarming title song, which knowingly speaks to the xenophobe in all of us. Billy Milano was always one helluva guy, and this is where I got my first taste of Anthrax buds Scott Ian and Charlie Benante.

About Matt

Matt is the site’s Longest Serving Critic and chief misanthrope. He divides his time between classics of cinema and the most ridiculous movies he can find on Redbox.
Follow Matt: @mattcale52