2. Heaven and Hell, Black Sabbath. I know Ozzy Osbourne will forever be identified as the one and only lead singer of Black Sabbath, and I'm not saying that assumption is wrong. But for my money, the Ronnie James Dio-fronted Heaven and Hell is Sabbath's best. Neon Knights and Children of the Sea never fail to transport me into a land of dragons and kings, while Die Young, though depressing, is brilliant. The title track is among the finest examples of the soaring heights of greatness metal can reach. Operatic and epic, it ranks alongside Maiden's Hallowed be thy Name in this regard. And Tony Iommi is my personal favorite metal guitarist, with a unique style and a sound that more technically gifted players (Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, etc.) can't touch.
3. Screaming for Vengeance, Judas Priest. I hemmed and hawed over a couple of Priest albums before setting on Screaming, which wins out by a nose due to The Hellion/Electric Eye (best metal album lead-in, ever), and hits like Riding on the Wind, Bloodstone, and of course, You've Got Another Thing Coming. Nobody could sing like Halford at his best.
4. Operation Mindcrime, Queensryche. It's a cliche' to call this the best heavy metal concept album ever, but that's exactly what it is--and arguably its the best concept album across all genres of music (though Pink Floyd's The Wall is perhaps superior). While I don't find the story of Mary and Doctor X quite as compelling as I did as a teen, there's no denying that Mindcrime is a brilliant piece of writing. And it's every bit as good musically--Chris DeGarmo's guitar work and Geoff Tate's soaring vocals are artistically perfect. In 1988, nobody could touch Queensryche. This album reminded me of George Orwell's 1984 set to music, and absolutely blew me away.