The importance of compilation albums in the history of heavy metal cannot be overstated. Many labels' first releases were compilations (Metal Blade, Shrapnel, New Renaissance, Ebony etc..) There are also countless bands who built enduring careers starting with just one or two compilation tracks (SLAYER, OVERKILL, METAL CHURCH, HELLOWEEN etc). METALLICA and MALICE did not even exist as permanent bands prior to recording their tracks for the first Metal Massacre LP. Even the obscure compilation-only bands often have connections to the majors if you look close enough (e.g. Dennis Stratton in REMUS DOWN BOULEVARD).
In addition to the historic importance, there are also lots of great obscurities that you'll never hear anywhere else. It's also worth mentioning that compilations are often overlooked by collectors and therefore even the best and rarest are relatively cheap. That is, if you can find them! Of course there are exceptions but even the most expensive rarities barely break $100 (e.g. Chicago Metal Works).
What is included?
While this is obviously not complete list of all metal compilations, we hope that it represents a large enough cross section of different albums that would be of interest to fans and collectors of obscure 80s metal. Some albums from the 70s and 90s are included and a wide variety of styles is covered, from hard rock to death metal. The only restrictions are that every album must have at least 3 bands (though some 3 band compilations could technically be called splits, how could we leave out an album like Roksnax?) and must include at least one exclusive track (thus avoiding all those pointless cash-in compilations on K-Tel etc..)
What is "exclusive"?
I think it's important to clarify this here, since the term exclusive can mean different things to different people. In this list, exclusive does not mean that the song was never released in any other format! A song may have been released on a demo or even another compilation and still count. Of course, alternate and rerecorded versions count as separate tracks. However, sometimes it is hard to tell the difference so any corrections are welcome. Also, some of these recordings have later turned up on band anthologys or as bonus tracks on reissues. If so we try to supply this info in the comment field, but to catch your attention the tracks are still highlighted as 'exclusive'.)
The index is divided into two main categories: Metal and mixed genres. Metal compilations obviously include albums that are, at least in intent, focused on metal. Of course, many of these will still have one or two AOR tracks or other misguided inclusions but generally they will be around 90% or more metal. Mixed genre compilations are those that did not have a specific genre in mind (typically showcasing artists from a particular area instead) but happen to include one or more metal songs. A large portion of these are compilations sponsored by radio stations (mostly seen in the US) or local music organizations (more common in Europe), often in conjunction with some sort of local artist competition. A very useful resource for the US radio albums is Radio Use Only. Unfortunately, there are so many of them and it can be hard to tell which ones have any relevant content. That's where we come in.
....For more V/A-obscurities, you might also want to have a look at the old article on Swedish Mixed Compilations.
Curious ears? Check out our series of Compilation-compilations featuring some of our favourite choices from the releases reviewed!
August 22 , 2015 Update!
To celebrate the 500th addition to the Compilopedia, here's the 4th volume in The Corroseum's Compilations Compilations!
...and don't miss out on the 3 previous now-legendary volumes:
The previously "unofficial" volume, as presented on the forum in 2013 has now been un-unofficialized thanx to the fact that all featured compilations are now added to the site.
All selections by Keir + sleeve design by bigfootkit.
Cheers & creds to the following who have lent/ripped/scanned/co-reviewed records for this list:
The 2nd volume, published 2011-03-04
The 1st volume, published 2009-10-30
Stefan Mattisson, Rob Preston, Patrik Carlson, AlaNightsblood, Joakim Westerlund, Mattias Rubarth, Kristian Knutsson.
...and some exta-special Hails! to Patrik of the awesome musikon.se
website for invaluable help with the php-coding of the search function!