When the grunge era arrived in the 1990s, my thoughts were, “This sucks, I’m going to keep liking the bands I’ve always liked” and I did. I must have bought every single album by an 80s group made during the 90s and 2000s.
What I wanted to know for those who continued to dabble or have at least since listened on youtube to later 80s band recordings, or who were even fanatics like me who would buy everything whether it was bad or good, which bands do you think weathered the post-hair metal period the best artistically? Ignoring their commercial impact or lack thereof, were there any albums or songs you heard post-1992 from bands with their heyday in the 80s that you really dug? I know there’s been a lot of great hard rock and metal music since then but I’m not really talking about new bands here, just the old one that fell out of commercial favor but continued to plug away.
For me, one of the best albums from that period was Bruce Dickinson’s Accident of Birth. Bruce had messed around with alternative after leaving Iron Maiden and while the work had some merit, mainly due to his voice, it just wasn’t what his fans were looking for. Accident of Birth saw him roar back onto the metal scene with a modern yet very classic metal sound and it was just brilliant. That being said, Tears of the Dragon from his Balls to Picasso album is just incredible.
Another favorite of mine is Mr. Big’s Bump Ahead. Mr. Big is a band that once there was no longer any real commercial pressure on them went right to their roots and it was an outstanding classic rock effort. Paul Gilbert’s shredding was actually more intense than ever on that album.
Finally, there’s Poison’s Native Tongue. That was the only album with the great Ritchie Kotzen on guitar, and as someone who doesn’t even really like Poison I thought it was just the perfect way to attempt to stay commercially relevant but also forge a new direction that wasn’t too far afield from their roots.
Any other albums or songs from the 1992-2000s period from classic bands that really should get more notice than they’ve gotten?
I assume you are familiar with Paul Gilbert’s extensive solo catalog?
Of course. Back when the pickings were slimmer I used to love them, but nowadays I’m not as interested. Flying Dog was the best of them, IMO.
Yeah, that was decent. I really wanted to like the newer Racer X stuff too, but aside from Fire of Rock it’s mostly just not good.
IMO, Gilbert is an example of someone who actually did not do so well post-grunge despite being very busy. In an environment where there was very little music I liked I bought several albums he was on, but I think a lot of artists did much better work.
Motley Crue’s self-titled 1994 album with replacement singer John Corabi is among the band’s very best.
Enuff Z’Nuff kept releasing albums throughout the '90s-'00s even once their market shrank to primarily Japan. They didn’t make any drastic changes to their sound and there’s no real drop in quality from their first album to the later ones.
I’ll throw in Kiss - Carnival of Souls as well. Even if they were trying to copy Alice in Chains it’s at least an interesting departure, not least because they actually made an effort to write good lyrics for once.
A lot of bands tried to adjust their sound to fit the market, but it really didn’t work for most of them, although that Crue album has aged very well. I wonder if in hindsight they wouldn’t have stuck with Corabi a while longer? Heck, Iron Maiden gave Blaze Bayley two albums, although really it’s not Bayley’s fault that Maiden wasn’t a very good band during the 90s.
Bruce Dickinson made a number of good albums in the 90s and 00s. The only one that’s not that good is Skunkworks. While I like the Blaze years for Maiden, the last few albums haven’t done anything for me.
Judas Priest on the other hand have made a number of great albums in the 00s. I really like Angel of Retribution, Nostradamus wasn’t bad, and the latest one, Redeemer of Souls is really good. I listen to these albums more then I listen to the older ones. I’m not sure where to put 91s Painkiller, but that’s a great album too.
Anthrax has made a few good albums as well. 93s Sound of White Noise is a top 10 album for me. The last two, Worship Music and For all Kings, are both solid albums. As with Priest I tend to listen to the post 90s music a lot more then the early and mid 80s Anthrax.
The last three Accept albums, Blood of Nations, Stalingrad and Blind Rage are all solid albums. They do kind of start to run together, but there are some good solid songs on there.
The one band that has surprised me is Europe. Really only known for The Final Countdown, their first two albums are pretty good. When they got back together in the early 00s their latest albums have all been really good. Start From the Dark and Secret Society are both really good albums all the way through, I was just listening to Secret Society last night. Last Look at Eden is good but not great all the way through. Bag of Bones is the only newer album that I don’t really care for, I rarely listen to it. Their latest album, War of Kings, is another solid album that I have been listening too a lot.
I’ve thought about doing a thread like this, glad someone got around to it.
I also thought of another two bands that did great work: Journey, with Trial By Fire, and Night Ranger.
As for Priest, Rob Halford had some really well received albums by the same guitar mastermind that did Bruce’s solo albums while Ripper Owens was fronting Priest.
Firehouse was like, “Grunge? Who cares about grunge?” and just went and put out a Firehouse album in 1995 and even got a hit out of it. That’s what all the 80s bands should have done, just do what they want to do and see if it works. Too many tried to make alternative albums. Slaughter’s Revolution was an atrocity.
Oh, you know who probably did his best work in the 90s? Yngwie Malmsteen. Seventh Sign, Magnum Opus, and Facing the Animal I think was some of his best work.
Van Halen’s For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge came out in 1991, a couple of months before Nevermind. Balance came out in 1995. Neither album is VH’s best, but both are better than you remember.
At least for the purposes of this thread I don’t really count albums released right into the beginning of the grunge period, because most successful bands did have success with those albums. Albums like No More Tears(Ozzy), Keep the Faith(Bon Jovi), Hold Your Fire(Firehouse), and Adrenalize(Def Leppard), and of course the Van Halen album you mentioned did very well. Nevermind didn’t change everything overnight by itself(after all, what are listeners going to do, just listen to the one album?), but once a critical mass of alternative albums hit the shelves by late 1992 or so the change was complete.
Now Balance, I did like that album although it has more filler than your average Van Halen album. I thought the album with Gary Cherone was also quite good. I think THAT’s the one that’s better than most people remember, whereas Balance probably exists in the public’s mind about where it should given it’s moderate commercial success.
In regard to the four albums I mentioned, it’s fun to look at what those bands did next:
Ozzy- No major changes but did make a darker more downtuned album in Ozzmosis that lacked the more uptempo songs his solo career had been known for.
Bon Jovi- Started to adopt their current sound of more folksy, Springsteenish hard rock, although These Days was a pretty awful start that sent them to the commercial wilderness for a few years.
Def Leppard- went alternative. Total fail. Roared back with Euphoria a few years after that. Slang is another album that seems to be better received now than it was then, but at the time it just looked desperate.
Firehouse- To hell with all a ya, we’re a hair band and proud of it! Top 20 hit as late as 1995! Plus the 3 album actually increased their profile outside the US, something a lot of 80s bands trying to stay “relevant” never thought of. “Hey, we can keep making money in markets that aren’t as fickle as the US market!” Interesting note: Twisted Sister got back together in 2001 for a 9/11 benefit, but figured out they could spend the next 15 years doing huge metal festivals overseas and ignore the US market almost entirely.