The Best of 1980s Heavy Metal Music

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Looking for a blast from the past? Check out our picks for the best of 1980s heavy metal music. From hair bands to thrash metal, there’s something for everyone.

Defining Heavy Metal

Though there are different opinions on what heavy metal is, we can define it as a genre of rock that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It is generally characterized by heavily distorted guitars, lyrics with dark or violent themes, and a thick or “heavy” sound. Let’s take a look at some of the best heavy metal music from the 1980s.

The Birth of Heavy Metal

Heavy metal is a genre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. With roots in blues rock and psychedelic rock, the bands that created heavy metal developed a thick, massive sound, characterized by highly amplified distortion, extended guitar solos, emphatic beats, and overall loudness. Heavy metal lyrics and performance styles are sometimes associated with aggression and machismo.

The first heavy metal bands such as Black Sabbath and Deep Purple attracted large audiences, though they were often derided by critics. In the mid-1970s Judas Priest helped spur the genre’s evolution by discarding much of its blues influence; Motörhead introduced a punk rock sensibility. meanwhile, Santana began experimenting with elements of heavy metal before achieving mainstream success with their 1984 album Supernatural.

During the 1980s, glam metal became increasingly popular with bands such as Mötley Crüe and Poison. Underground scenes produced an array of more aggressive styles: thrash metal broke into the mainstream with bands such as Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax, while other extreme subgenres of heavy metal such as death metal and black metal remain subcultural phenomena. Since the mid-1990s popular styles have further expanded the definition of heavy metal. These include groove metal (with bands such as Pantera) and nu metal (with bands such as Korn).

The Evolution of Heavy Metal

The late 1970s and early 1980s were a period of great change for rock music. Punk rock was at its peak, and bands like the Sex Pistols and the Ramones were household names. But punk was just one of many styles of rock that were popular at the time. Another was heavy metal.

Heavy metal evolved from hard rock, a form of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Hard rock bands like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath defined the sound of heavy metal with their distorted guitars, driving rhythms, and powerful vocal style.

In the 1980s, bands like Metallica, Megadeth, and Anthrax took heavy metal to new heights with their innovative songwriting and musicianship. These bands became known as the “Big Four” of heavy metal, and their influence can still be heard in today’s metal music.

The Best of 1980s Heavy Metal Music


By the mid-’80s, Metallica was the most popular heavy metal band in the world, and their 1986 album, Master of Puppets, was the genre’s undisputed masterpiece. On August 8, 1988, bassist Cliff Burton died in a bus accident while the band was on tour in Europe. After a period of mourning, they returned to action with new bassist Jason Newsted and recorded …And Justice for All, which was released in late 1988.


Formed in 1983 by Dave Mustaine, Megadeth is one of the most successful and influential heavy metal bands of all time, with a long string of hits throughout the 1980s and 1990s. While their early work was marked by a more straight-ahead thrash metal sound, they later developed a more progressive and experimental approach that earned them critical acclaim. Megadeth is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of the genre and an influence on many subsequent bands.


Slayer is an American thrash metal band from Huntington Park, California. The band was formed in 1981 by guitarist Kerry King and drummer Dave Lombardo, who recruited vocalist and bassist Jeff Hanneman and guitarist Jeff Atkins. Slayer’s fast and aggressive musical style made them one of the founding “big four” bands of thrash metal, alongside Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax. Hanneman and King are the only members of the band to appear on every album.

Slayer released a total of twelve studio albums, two live albums, a box set, six compilations, 27 music videos, two extended plays and one cover album. Four of the band’s studio albums have received gold certification in the United States by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), while two have received platinum certification and one has received multi-platinum certification. Slayer has also played at several music festivals worldwide, including Unholy Alliance, Download Festival, Ozzfest (headlining in 2007), Mayhem Festival (headlining in 2010) and Hellfest.

The band has received five Grammy Awards: two for Best Metal Performance (“Eyes of the Insane” in 2007 and “World Painted Blood” in 2010), as well as Best Rock Album for Reign in Blood (1986) and Christ Illusion (2006). Slayer has also been nominated for six additional Grammy Awards. In 2004 Rolling Stone placed Reign in Blood at number 153 on their list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time; it is ranked at number294 on Guitar World magazine’s 100 Greatest Guitar Albums Of All Time list; Kerrang! placed Slayer at number46 on their list “100 Greatest Metal Bands”; VH1 ranked them at number99 on their 2009 special 100 Greatest Artists Of Hard Rock; In 2011 Loudwire ranked them 2ndon their list “Top 50 Thrash Metal Bands”. As of January 2017 Slayer officially disbanded after 37 years due to King’s statements that Hanneman was never going to get better from his alcoholism.[1][2]


Anthrax is an American heavy metal band from New York City, formed in 1981 by guitarist Scott Ian and bassist Danny Lilker. The group is considered one of the leaders of the thrash metal movement of the 1980s. Since its formation, the band has released eleven studio albums, several other albums, and 26 singles.

The band has experienced multiple lineup changes, with vocalist Joey Belladonna and drummer Charlie Benante being the only members to appear on all of their releases. Bassist Frank Bello has played on ten studio albums, making him the band’s longest-standing member aside from Ian and Benante. Anthrax was one of a number of bands that achieved commercial success in the 1980s due to their connection with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement. The band’s biggest commercial success came with their 1987 album Among the Living, which peaked at number seven on the Billboard 200 chart in America.

The band has been diagnosed with several cases of anthrax infection over the years; guitarist Dimebag Darrell was famously shot and killed by a fan during a show in 2004.

The Impact of Heavy Metal Today

It is widely known that the 1980s was the decade of heavy metal music. This was the decade that gave birth to some of the most legendary bands in the genre, such as Metallica, Slayer, and Megadeth. While the impact of these bands is still felt today, the genre has evolved significantly since then. In this article, we’ll take a look at how heavy metal music has changed over the years and how it continues to influence the world today.

The Influence of Heavy Metal

In the 1980s, heavy metal music became one of the most popular genres in the world. From Metallica to Megadeth, Judas Priest to Iron Maiden, metal bands dominated the charts and won the hearts of millions of fans. But what was it about this type of music that made it so popular? And what is its legacy today?

Heavy metal is a genre of rock music that emerged in the late 1960s. It is characterized by its aggressive sound, distorted guitars, and rock- solid rhythm section. Metal bands often deal with dark topics such as death, violence, and fear. This might explain why the genre has always been popular with rebellion – minded teenagers.

over the years, heavy metal has evolved and splintered into subgenres such as black metal, thrash metal, and power metal. But at its core , heavy metal is still all about loud , fast -paced music that gets your adrenaline pumping .

Today , heavy metal is more popular than ever . Even if you’re not a fan of the genre , you can’t deny its influence on pop culture . From movies and TV shows to fashion and art , heavy metal has left its mark on the world .

The Popularity of Heavy Metal

Heavy metal music has been around for decades, and its popularity has ebbed and flowed over the years. In the 1980s, heavy metal was one of the most popular genres of music, with bands like Metallica and Megadeth topping the charts. Today, heavy metal is still popular, but it isn’t as mainstream as it once was. There are still many fans of heavy metal music, and some new bands are beginning to gain popularity.

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