Get to know your thrash metal: the '80s

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Motorhead

Western would have been a much bigger place during the ’80s: big hair, big amps and big cars.

Heavy metal music was reaching a mass audience by the late ’70s. If a band had the right image and music to back it up, it could become an overnight success as labels were trying hard to cash in on this new, angry form of rock. Even the established heavy metal bands at the turn of the decade had to adapt, becoming faster and more aggressive to compete with the emerging genres of speed and thrash metal.

There was such a wide variety of metal in this golden age that it’s almost impossible to analyze all the types metalheads would listen to, so here’s a list of albums no true banger on campus could object to:

Motörhead
No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith
Motorhead was one of the first of the New Wave of British heavy metal bands, playing it fast and loud for thousands of fans in the UK and North America. From the late ’70s until the mid ’80s, it released album after album of great music. No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith was one of the first in a great legacy of heavy metal live albums, with only metal having the rare ability to explode off the plastic and make you bang your head like you’re right in front of the stage.

Venom
Welcome to Hell
One of the first bands to try and see just how extreme it could be, Venom’s first album has the raw, rough sound embraced by so many aspiring bands as a sign of their trueness. This album is hard to categorize between the earliest black metal and a grungy part of the New Wave of British heavy metal. Venom was definitely an extreme group for its time, being one of the very first bands to make satanic and violent imagery a staple of its songs.

Metallica
Kill ’Em All
Kill ’Em All is lightning-fast music by talented young musicians. Thrash takes the speed and energy of hardcore punk and mixes them with heavy metal technicality; while the lyrics are almost always angry, they range from social or political issues to just being in the mood to mosh it up. Kill ’Em All has such killer guitar work " even by today’s standards " that you can imagine how this would have been a bombshell back when it first came out.

Helloween
Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 1
One of the great speed metal bands was at its creative peak in the late ’80s, creating lightning-fast upbeat music with soaring falsettos distinctive of the time. Its obsession with technical and classical musical styles and fantasy lyrics would later influence future power metal releases.

Stormtroopers of Death
Speak English or Die
A side project of some of the members of thrash band Anthrax that wanted to get closer to its New York hardcore roots, it ended up creating the genre called “Crossover”; its surprise popularity made kids want to “thrash ‘til death” and forget about any semblance of musicality. The album title and lyrics seem intentionally offensive, but on closer inspection showcase Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian’s sense of humour.

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