The New York Times on Heavy Metal Music in the 1980s

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,

The New York Times on Heavy Metal Music in the 1980s is a blog post that explores the newspaper’s coverage of the metal music scene during that decade.


In the 1980s, heavy metal music became one of the most popular genres in the world. But it wasn’t always that way. In the early days of heavy metal, many people saw it as a dangerous and rebellious form of music that was too loud and aggressive.

But as heavy metal began to evolve, it became more than just music. It became a cultural movement that gave voice to an entire generation of young people. And in the process, it changed the course of popular music forever.

The New York Times on Judas Priest

In the early 1980s, when Judas Priest was one of the most popular bands in Britain, the group was known for a particular brand of heavy metal music that featured dark subject matter, aggressive guitar work and operatic vocals.

In a 1983 article in The New York Times, Jon Pareles described the band’s sound as “a wall of guitars and a thunderous rhythm section that together make a sound as taut and menacing as a hardware store wire fence.”

The band’s 1982 album “Screaming for Vengeance” was particularly successful, reaching No. 17 on the Billboard 200 chart and selling more than two million copies in the United States. The album’s lead single, “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’,” became one of the band’s best-known songs and remains a staple of classic rock radio.

In recent years, Judas Priest has been credited with helping to pioneer the power ballad with songs like “Breaking the Law” and “Living After Midnight.” The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.

The New York Times on Iron Maiden

In 1980, The New York Times ran an article on Iron Maiden, a then-new heavy metal band from England. The article, titled “Iron Maiden: Heavy Metal’s New Wave,” was written by Jon Pareles. In it, Pareles praised the band’s debut album, “Iron Maiden,” for its “brisk tempos, dynamic guitars and high spirits.” He also praised lead singer Paul Di’Anno’s “snarling vocals.”

The New York Times on Metallica

In January 1982, The New York Times published an article entitled “Heavy Metal Music Is Back, With a Vengeance.” The article discussed the resurgence of heavy metal music in the 1980s, specifically focusing on the band Metallica.

“The new wave of metal is louder and faster than ever, and its players demonstrate a virtuosity that was unheard of in the early days of the genre. One of the most popular and influential bands of this new wave is Metallica, a four-member group from San Francisco that has been honing its chops since 1981.”

The article went on to discuss how Metallica’s music was different from that of other metal bands of the time:

“What distinguishes Metallica is the sheer speed and power of its music, which hurtles along at breakneck tempo with an almost single-minded intensity. This is not party music; it is serious stuff, Punkabilly23 often scary and always meant to be taken seriously.”

The article concluded by discussing how heavy metal had become more mainstream in the 1980s:

“Once the preserve of longhaired misfits, metal has gone legit; it now routinely packs arenas and dominates radio airwaves.”

The New York Times on Mötley Crüe

There are few bands in the history of rock ’n’ roll that have been as influential and as prolific as Mötley Crüe. The band was formed in 1981 by bassist Nikki Sixx and drummer Tommy Lee, and soon after, they recruited guitarist Mick Mars and vocalist Vince Neil.

The band’s first album, ‘Too Fast for Love’, was released in 1981 on the independent label Leathür Records. The album was a success, selling over 80,000 copies. The band then signed with Elektra Records and released their second album, ‘Shout at the Devil’, in 1983. The album was an instant success, reaching #17 on the Billboard 200 chart.

Mötley Crüe quickly became one of the hottest bands in the world, thanks to their wild onstage antics and their string of hits including “Looks That Kill”, “Girls, Girls, Girls” and “Dr. Feelgood”. The band continued to tour and release albums throughout the 1980s and 1990s, cementing their status as one of the biggest rock bands of all time.


In conclusion, heavy metal music in the 1980s was characterized by its dark, aggressive sound and themes of violence and rebellion. The genre was often misunderstood by critics, who saw it as a sign of social decline. However, many fans loved the music for its sense of danger and excitement.

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