1984 was a triumphant year for heavy metal and hard rock, as many of the genre's most important stars took big steps forward or even released career-defining albums.

After years of steady growth, artists such as Sammy Hagar, Scorpions and Twisted Sister exploded into the mainstream with albums propelled by hit singles such as "I Can't Drive 55," "Rock You Like a Hurricane" and "We're Not Gonna Take It."

Twin metal icons Judas Priest and Iron Maiden also released highly successful albums in 1984, with Maiden arguably peaking with Powerslave and its enduring anthems "2 Minutes to Midnight" and "Aces High."

It was also a good year for comebacks, as Deep Purple's most famous lineup returned for the first time in a decade with Perfect Strangers, and Kiss cemented their climb back from an early decade commercial wipe-out with Animalize and its hit single "Heaven's on Fire."

Although they were secretly on the verge of a blowup, Van Halen's original lineup reached new heights both creatively and commercially by bringing keyboards to the forefront of their sound on 1984's hit singles "Jump" and "I'll Wait."

The success of those keyboard-based songs would tempt many of the genre's biggest bands - including Priest and Maiden - to add the instrument to their next records, one of many changes that would soon alter the genre.

From a completely different direction, Metallica's masterful second thrash metal album, Ride the Lightning, served early notice that new kings of metal were marching furiously towards the throne.

See our list of 1984's Top 20 Heavy Metal and Hard Rock Albums below.

Top 20 1984 Heavy Metal and Hard Rock Albums

It was a triumphant year for the genre, but changes loomed on the horizon.

Gallery Credit: Matthew Wilkening

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