The Best 80s Rock Bands for Heavy Metal and Punk Fans

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


A list of the best 80s rock bands that heavy metal and punk fans will love.

Def Leppard

Formed in 1977 in Sheffield, England, Def Leppard is one of the most successful rock bands of all time, with over 100 million records sold worldwide. The band is best known for their hit albums Pyromania (1983) and Hysteria (1987), which spawned such classic songs as “Photograph”, “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, and “Animal”. Def Leppard is considered one of the pioneers of the 1980s’ “hair metal” movement, and their success paved the way for many other bands in the genre.

Judas Priest

One of the most influential metal bands of all time, Judas Priest helped to define the genre with their groundbreaking albums in the 1970s and 1980s. With their signature twin guitar attack and Rob Halford’s powerful vocals, Judas Priest created some of metal’s most unforgettable anthems, such as ” Painkiller” and ” Breaking the Law.” If you’re a fan of heavy metal or punk, then Judas Priest is a band that you need to check out!


Arguably the most successful and influential heavy metal band of the 1980s, Metallica was founded in 1981 by drummer Lars Ulrich and guitarist and vocalist James Hetfield. With their mix of powerful guitar riffs, thundering drums, and aggressive vocals, they helped to define the sound of heavy metal in the 1980s and inspired a whole new generation of metal fans.


Megadeth is an American heavy metal band formed in Los Angeles, California in 1983. The band was founded by guitarist and vocalist Dave Mustaine and bassist David Ellefson, who were later joined by drummer Chris Adler and guitarist Marty Friedman. Megadeth has released 15 studio albums, four live albums, six compilations, 35 singles, five video albums and 42 music videos. They have also received five Grammy nominations. The band’s biggest commercial success came with their sixth album Countdown to Extinction (1992), which peaked at number two on the Billboard 200. Megadeth is considered one of the pioneers of both thrash metal and speed metal. They were ranked as the best-selling thrash metal artist of all time by sales certificates in 2010.

Iron Maiden

Iron Maiden is one of the most iconic heavy metal bands of all time, and they’re still going strong today. They formed in 1975 and rose to prominence in the early 80s with their dynamic blend of hard rock and heavy metal. They’ve released over 20 studio albums, including classics like The Number of the Beast and Powerslave. Iron Maiden is a must-see for any heavy metal or punk fan.


Slayer is an American heavy metal band from Huntington Park, California. The band was formed in 1981 by guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman, bassist and vocalist Tom Araya, and drummer Dave Lombardo. Slayer’s fast and aggressive musical style made them one of the founding “big four” bands of thrash metal, alongside Metallica, Megadeth, and Anthrax. Slayer’s current lineup comprises King, Araya, lead guitarist Gary Holt and drummer Paul Bostaph. Hanneman died of liver failure in May 2013.

Slayer’s first two albums—Show No Mercy (1984) and Hell Awaits (1985)— which were released on Metal Blade Records, received generally positive reviews from critics. However, it was not until 1986’s Reign in Blood that the band gained critical acclaim for their music. Reign in Blood has been described as one of the heaviest and most influential metal albums of all time; it has been cited as a major influence by other bands such as Metallica, Anthrax and Megadeth. The album helped Slayer rise to the top of an extremely competitive thrash metal scene that included artists such as Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax; in doing so, the band became one of the most successful acts of the 1980s.

Since 1986’s Reign in Blood, Slayer has released ten studio albums: South of Heaven (1988), Seasons in the Abyss (1990), Divine Intervention (1994), Undisputed Attitude (1996), Diabolus in Musica (1998), God Hates Us All (2001), Christ Illusion (2006), World Painted Blood (2009) REPENTLESS (2015). The band has also received five Grammy Awards: two for Best Metal Performance (“Eyes of the Insane” in 2007, “World Painted Blood” in 2010) three for best rock album for South of Heaven , Seasons In The Abyss & Divine Intervention .


Anthrax is an American heavy metal band from New York City, formed in 1981. The band’s current lineup consists of founding members Joey Belladonna (vocals) and Scott Ian (guitars, backing vocals), along with longtime members Charlie Benante (drums), Frankie Bello (bass, backing vocals) and Rob Caggiano (lead guitar, backing vocals). Anthrax was one of the most popular bands of the 1980s and early 1990s and are considered one of the leaders of the thrash metal scene.

The band has released eleven studio albums, several other compilations and live discs. They have gone through several lineup changes, leaving Belladonna as the only constant member. Ian is the only remaining original member of Anthrax; he has appeared on every album except for 2011’s Worship Music. Benante has been Anthrax’s drummer since 1992, when he replaced original drummer Greg D’Angelo, who only recorded on the band’s debut Fistful of Metal. Bello has been Anthrax’s bassist since 2007, replacing long-time bassist Frank Bello; Caggiano rejoined Anthrax in 2013.

The band was named after the disease of the same name which Ian saw spelled out in a biology textbook. Anthrax was one of the first bands to fuse hardcore punk with heavy metal into speed metal and thrash metal. They were also one of the first to success with crossover thrash which mixed elements of Metallica-style thrash with more traditional rock song structures and pop hooks.


Formed in 1979, Exodus is one of the earliest examples of the Bay Area thrash metal sound. The band’s debut album, Bonded by Blood, is considered a classic of the genre. Exodus’ second album, Pleasures of the Flesh, was released in 1987 and featured a more polished production style. The band’s third album, Fabulous Disaster, was released in 1989 and showcased a more complex songwriting approach. Exodus’ fourth album, Impact Is Imminent, was released in 1990 and featured a more aggressive sound. The band’s fifth album, Force of Impact, was released in 1992 and featured a more experimental songwriting approach.


Formed in 1983, Testament is one of the most popular and influential thrash metal bands of the 80s. The band has released ten studio albums, three live albums, and two compilation albums. Testament is known for their fast-paced, aggressive guitar work and powerful vocals. heaviness, and speed. Some of their most popular songs include “Into the Pit”, “Disciples of the Watch”, and “Over the Wall”.


Motorhead was a British heavy metal band formed in 1975 by bassist, singer, and songwriter Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister. The band is often considered to be one of the pioneers of the new wave of British heavy metal movement. They released 22 studio albums, 10 live albums, and 12 compilation albums. The band had a string of hits including “Ace of Spades,” “Overkill,” “Bomber,” and “Iron Fist.” They disbanded in 2015 after Lemmy’s death.

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