THE 1980s. Where bands ran riot, re­leas­ing a slew of clas­sic al­bums and fight­ing against cen­sor­ship.

It was a time of ex­cess and in­stant clas­sics as metal came of age, de­fied moral cen­sor­ship and ended the decade as one of rock mu­sic’s sin­gle big­gest forces

Metal Hammer (UK) - - March 2019 - Words: dom Lawson

priest and maiden be­strode the planet like gods

IF THE 70S were heavy metal’s for­ma­tive years, the 80s were its wide-eyed and bol­shy ado­les­cence. Thanks largely to Black Sab­bath’s pi­o­neer­ing vi­sion and the art­ful re­fin­ing and stylis­ing of those prim­i­tive ele­ments by Ju­das Priest, our beloved genre en­tered its sec­ond full decade of ex­is­tence with its sonic and aes­thetic iden­tity firmly es­tab­lished, and a global army of ra­bid acolytes ready to de­vour what­ever hap­pened next.

It cer­tainly started well. A quick glance at the al­bums re­leased in 1980 pro­vides one ex­pla­na­tion as to why metal took off with such force and fury in the early days of the decade: Black Sab­bath’s Heaven And Hell, Ozzy Os­bourne’s Bliz­zard Of Ozz, AC/DC’S Back In Black, Motör­head’s Ace Of Spades, Ju­das Priest’s Bri­tish Steel, Saxon’s Wheels Of Steel and Strong Arm Of The Law, Def Lep­pard’s On Through

The Night and, per­haps most im­por­tantly, Iron Maiden’s self-ti­tled de­but.

Read that list again. It’s fuck­ing ridicu­lous. With clas­sics ap­pear­ing al­most weekly, it was no sur­prise that the next gen­er­a­tion of metal mu­si­cians turned out to be so fe­ro­ciously in­spired. Just as the The New Wave Of Bri­tish Heavy

Metal brought the 70s to a close and ushered in a new and no­tice­ably more in­tense era for heavy rock, so the emer­gence of faster, harder and un­de­ni­ably punk-in­flu­enced bands like Venom, Me­tal­lica, Overkill and Slayer gave the 80s a jolt­ing kick­start and the re­ver­ber­a­tions are still be­ing

felt to­day. Mean­while, punk rock had mor­phed into hard­core, as bands like Bad Brains, Black Flag and Cor­ro­sion Of Con­for­mity glee­fully blurred the lines be­tween snotty rage and Sab­bathian heft. Again, the heavy mu­sic world of 2018 would look en­tirely dif­fer­ent with­out the ef­forts of these vi­sion­ar­ies.

Of course, no sum­mary of the decade should ig­nore the enor­mous im­pact of the hair/sleaze/glam metal scene that erupted in Cal­i­for­nia and, thanks to the likes of Mötley Crüe and Poi­son (and with a lit­tle help from MTV), con­quered the en­tire world. Def Lep­pard and Guns N’ Roses both re­de­fined what it meant to be in­sanely mas­sive and Priest and Maiden be­strode the planet like the gods they still are, closely fol­lowed by a young and hun­gry Me­tal­lica. Their 1986 masterpiec­e Mas­ter Of Pup­pets pro­pelled them into the big leagues and is widely re­garded as the great­est heavy metal al­bum of all time. With their Big 4 broth­ers in Slayer, Anthrax and Me­gadeth all en­joy­ing com­pa­ra­ble lev­els of in­ter­na­tional ac­claim and at­ten­tion, the thrash gen­er­a­tion ab­so­lutely set the pace for all heavy mu­sic.

The 80s were not all plain sail­ing, of course. Thanks to metal’s greater pres­ence glob­ally, it be­gan to at­tract the at­ten­tion of pow­er­ful moral ar­biters, most no­tably in the

US. Ozzy Os­bourne and Ju­das Priest were both dragged into high-pro­file court cases re­lat­ing to the sup­pos­edly met­al­in­spired deaths of young fans, and cen­so­ri­ous po­lit­i­cal re­ac­tionar­ies the PMRC (Par­ents Mu­sic Re­source Cen­ter) did their best to de­monise heavy mu­sic (and pretty much any non-main­stream culture) as some malev­o­lent force, lead­ing im­pres­sion­able minds astray. Ut­ter bol­locks, ob­vi­ously, and metal’s evo­lu­tion con­tin­ued un­abated as the years flew by at full throt­tle.

Some would ar­gue that both the tra­di­tional and thrash metal scenes were run­ning out of steam by the end of the 80s, but in truth they had sim­ply been el­bowed aside by younger, hun­grier sub­gen­res. Al­ter­na­tive rock, grunge, death and black metal, metal­lic hard­core, stoner rock, grind­core and many shades of doom all have in­dis­putable roots in those wild and ex­ploratory years be­tween 1980 and 1989. Even nu metal, that de­fin­i­tive bench­mark of 90s cross-pol­li­na­tion, re­ally be­gan in re­sponse to the ef­forts of hip hop cross­over champs Run DMC, Beastie Boys and Pub­lic En­emy. Frankly, it was all hap­pen­ing in the 80s. Metal’s com­ing of age was an ab­so­lute riot.

Ju­das Priest helped to de­fine metal as a genre of sub­tlety

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