From Hell's Heart
"From Hell's Heart..." is an editorial column written by the Metal-Rules.com team. Every other month or so we
pick a metal-related topic and share our thoughts, feelings and ideas on it.
80's Metal (April 2000)
Welcome to the third installment of "From Hell's Heart..." for April 2000. This is an editorial column written by the Metal Rules team. Every month we pick a metal-related topic and share our thoughts, feelings and ideas on it. This month's column concerns the music that many of us were weaned on - 80's metal!
I came up with the topic for this month's editorial because of comments I've both heard and read from newer fans of metal. I'm sorry to burst your bubble but heavy metal did not begin in 1991 with Metallica's "Enter Sandman" and 80's metal is not only about glam / hair metal (although I'd still take almost any of those hair metal bands over the 90's hip-hop "metal" shit that been poisoning the minds of many and royally pissing off fans of true metal).
There are hundreds of CD's from the 80's that are metal and didn't have anything to do with glam and makeup. Many of the standards were set in the 80's by which many a current band measure themselves against. For example, how many times have you heard people or bands compare something to Slayer's "Reign in Blood"? Probably as many times as people have compared many newer power metal bands to Helloween's "Keeper of the Seven Keys" (pt. 1 & 2).
True Metal cannot really be classified by it's era. Good metal is timeless. Yes, bands and sounds evolve over time but the essence of what makes a band METAL is the same now as it was in the 80's. There are just as many metal bands these days that there were in the 80's. It's just that they are not as in your face as they were in the 80's.
To get an idea of some 80's moments that have influenced me immensely here's a rundown on some (I didn't want to write a book) of the albums that to me defines 80's metal!
Helloween - Keeper of the Seven Keys Part II
Iron Maiden - The Number of the Beast
W.A.S.P. - self titled
Anthrax - Among The Living AND Megadeth - Peace
Sells...But Who's Buying?
I don't really want to preach to the younger crowd who don't understand-yet-how monumentally important and vital the '80's era Metal bands were-and still are. Just keep in mind-those of you who think that metal began with Metallica, et.al., that ten years from now a new generation of metalheads might be dissing some of the bands you so adore right now as well. But you will think them fools.
Still, that said, the '80's era metal-now often pigeonholed as "traditional" metal-set historical precedents, and was/is truly something extraordinary to hear and behold. Of course, the '80's were the heyday, of true metal-the breadth and depth of the talent was enormous and, seemingly, an unrelentless cornucopia at the time. Certainly, those of us who were there to witness it firsthand will never forget the experience, or ever stop hoping we'll be around to experience something like it again.
However, to my mind, most of the "real" 80's metal came from Europe and the UK, for whatever reasons, partly sociological, and partly because the rock press across the Atlantic was much more influential in making a band than the radio and TV, as was/is the case in America (except for the embryonic MTV, which was actually extraordinarily diverse in its play list in the early '80s). Thus, at least during that time period, a band need not have been mainstream acceptable in order to get attention in the UK and Europe. The freshness, and the power and intensity of the movement over there were so strong, and so undeniable, that Americans, too, eventually sat up in their seats and took notice!
Not coincidentally, real metal has never suffered a drastic decline in Europe and most countries other than North America. Grass roots movements in those places were much more important, and, of course, real metal is the ultimate grass roots kind of music. It does not compromise to gain commercial acceptance, but instead stays true to itself. It does not pretend, it does not alienate, it does not contemplate its navel, and it most certainly does not forget where it came from! The Aqua Net trendiness only came into the psuedo-metal picture later, when the American bands started creating their own peacock-feathered highbrid-"glamming" it up and commercializing it to near-extinction. But most of those bands were not true metal bands.
So what do I call "true" metal, then? To start, it is dynamic songwriting and playing. It is fast, aggressive, industrial strength rhythms. It is powerful, emotive, and sometimes snarling vocals. It is tight, harmonic, blistering riffs. It is steeped in passionate, testosterone laced energy and vitality. It is something that must be seen, and felt, for to only hear it would be the wedding without the honeymoon! And it is always, but always, delivered-no holds barred-with authoritative, virtuoso musicianship.
As far as '80s metal, in particular, is concerned, you must remember that, up until that now famous NWOBHM hit the shores of the US with Iron Maiden, Saxon, Def Leppard and the like, the only music mainstream America was hearing was essentially Pop, New Wave and post-modern Punk. It took that exciting convulsion of new and explosive metal bands from Europe to slap everyone in the face and wake us all up from our '70's slumber.
I was fortunate to have begun my rock journalism career just before the ground breaking NWOBHM exploded on America; consequently, I was there to see, hear and analyze what was happening as it occurred. I can definitely say that I was not previously biased to be a metal fan before I began my baptism by fire, as I was raised in corn country USA, where any kind of alternative music was not easily available to an apple pie type American teenage girl like me. Sure I had heard some of the heavy metal forebears like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Nazareth, even Thin Lizzy, etc. And I had also heard of their younger brothers like Scorpions, Motorhead, and Judas Priest. But it wasn't until the that storm of the "New Wave" English metal bands hit that heavy metal really crystallized. Whether you had heard their albums or not, one only needed to see one live show of Iron Maiden, Saxon, Def Leppard, et al, to be riveted for life. (I had certainly never, ever seen or heard anything like it before in my life!) Those bands trail blazed the way for so many other bands, including some of the bands that had come before them, to a broad-based accessibility. Radio was no longer a necessity; it was really the energy, the passion, and combustibility of the live shows that mattered. It was authentic, true to the spirit, and without pretension. And-lest I forget-it was also fantastic, positive FUN!
Of course, true heavy metal is still all those things. So, naturally, I always eagerly await each CD and tour by the bands that have developed, refined and mastered the genre; moreover, I feel gratified and euphoric when a new band comes along that really understands-and grabs you by the throat, reinterpreting the essential elements to its own personality while also remaining faithful to its true metal heart.
However, my hat is off to those great 80's metal bands, especially those that have kept on going, coming up with original material, year after year, when most other bands, especially of other rock/pop genres, just don't have what it takes to have a similar longevity. Like all truly great players, these metal bands play for the love of playing; they don't merely rest on their proverbial laurels or quietly fade away, because it never was just about how many hit records they had, or how much money they could make, or about being "rock stars" in the first place. After all, when you have a burning, inherent passion, and you stay true to yourself, you don't ever really want hang it up or go to pasture for very long. You die with your boots on!
That said, here are five '80's albums I would recommend to the novice, for a sampling of what the vibe and excitement of that period was like-if only you could know what it was like to have seen the contemporaneous live shows!
Iron Maiden - Number of the Beast
The ‘80s are without a doubt the glory years of metal. A few years ago, everyone seemed to be claiming “metal is back!” The truth is metal never died, is just got less popular. The ‘80s is when the world saw metal at its peak, as is evident by the large venues played by metal bands. Look at Anthrax, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest. Back then they could actually fill a stadium (well of course Maiden now can, with Bruce back and all…). I grew up in the ‘80s, so this time period is very special for me because it is when I discovered metal. There were so many bands coming out that were fresh and original, it was amazing, and sometimes overwhelming. The number of timeless albums created in the ‘80s is unimaginable. In fact many of the greatest albums of all time were created back then. Listen to Reign in Blood, Master of Puppets, and Powerslave, among others. Albums like these never lose their magic, no matter how slow Slayer gets, how wimpy Metallica becomes, or how much Maiden stagnates. Of course there have been countless albums released in the ‘90s that are mindblowing. But many of the current bands out there owe themselves to ‘80s metal. In fact the ‘80s was the birth of most forms of metal we hear today…thrash, death, doom, grind, power, and even black metal. As far as I see it, there was only one thing lacking in the ‘80s: good producers. Sure there were some, but album production has come a long way in the ‘90s. But what the hell, even though Eternal Nightmare (Violence), Forbidden Evil (Forbidden), and Show No Mercy (Slayer) sound a little rough, it is what gives them part of the character they have.
My top five favorites from the ‘80s:
Ahh, the ‘80's... I remember them well. Ronald Reagan bombed the crap out of Libya... Brian Mulroney was busy screwing the Canadian economy into the ground... When teenagers spoke of Iron Maiden, older folks thought they were discussing Margaret Thatcher... T.V. evangelists Jim Baker and Jimmy Swaggart were both caught having extramarital affairs (Although, in Baker’s defence I will say that after being married to a dog like Tammy Faye, I can understand how he might’ve mistaken Jessica Hahn as a gift from God.)... Little Manuel Noriega thought he could declare war on the United States and get away with it, but President Bush soon made him see the error of his ways (*Note: Did you know that, according to Rob Halford, "Hell Patrol" from Painkiller was inspired by the U.S. invasion of Panama?)... Let’s see... What else happened in the ‘80's? Hmmm... Ah, yes! The AIDS virus was diagnosed in North America for the first time because a gay flight attendant from Quebec who didn’t know the true meaning of the phrase "sit down and keep your mouth shut" brought it back with him from one of his international jaunts... The Soviet Union collapsed... The Berlin Wall finally fell... The world learned that Dan Quayle couldn’t spell... And the musical force known as Heavy Metal experienced an incredible period of growth and development, as well as exploitation and opposition.
What Metal fan over age 25 doesn’t reminisce about the 1980's without remembering the first time they heard legendary bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Black Sabbath? (Though I’m sure a few of you heard Priest and Sabbath in the ‘70's.) I still remember the first time I heard Priest... A friend of mine played "Eat Me Alive" (from Defenders of the Faith) for me and I didn’t like it at all!!! Of course, I was only around 12 at the time and my metallic tastes were still rather fickle. So I guess it’s not so strange that less than two years later Judas Priest would become my favorite band. (By the way, they’re still my favorite band.) But the first band that caught my ear and sent me in the direction of the "dark path" was Quiet Riot.
The year was 1983 and I was only a few months from my 11th birthday when I first heard "Cum On Feel the Noize" on the weekly radio show "American Top 40 with Casey Kasem". Back then it was commonplace to hear hard rock and metal bands on the radio. You’ll never hear anything like that on the radio nowadays, that’s for sure. It’s almost like people have forgotten what real music is. Hell, even ‘80's pop music is better than the synthesized aural excrement that’s currently dominating radio and MTV. But I guess that’s what happens when art becomes business... It’s molded to appeal to the masses for maximum profit potential. For example, look at what happened to the L.A. scene... Despite the reputation glam has developed over the years, there were a few bands with actual talent to come out of it. But once bands like Quiet Riot, Ratt, Dokken, etc., started to gain popularity, record companies saturated the marketplace with crap like Poison, Pretty Boy Floyd, Kik Tracee, and numerous other no-talents so that by the end of the decade the term "Heavy Metal" was synonymous with lackluster hair bands. And sadly, it’s that image most people who weren’t into REAL metal at that time think of when they think about ‘80's metal.
But despite the overabundance of poseur bands, the opposition from groups like the P.M.R.C., and all the negative media attention, Heavy Metal thrived and continued to set new standards for the genre during the 1980's. When you consider just how many great albums were recorded during that time, it’s impossible to define Heavy Metal’s greatest decade (so far, anyway) with only five albums. So after careful review of my own CD collection, here are my five picks for "Classics of the ‘80's" (in no particular order)...
Judas Priest - Defenders of the Faith
Each of these discs are considered true metal classics and are ones that I still listen to on a semi-regular basis. So if you’re polluting your little brain with stuff like Korn, Limp Bizkit, Marilyn Manson, etc., thinking it’s "metal", then go get these CD’s RIGHT NOW!!! You obviously have no idea what Heavy Metal is or where it came from. And should you still think ‘80's metal "sucks" after hearing these and other great metal CD’s, then at least have enough decency not to refer to Korn et al as "metal"... AND FOR GOD’S SAKE, LOSE THE BAGGY PANTS!!!
Why is it that when everyone thinks of the 80s metal scene all they think about is glam and big hair and guys who wore make up? Cosmetics and theatrics were only a small, albeit more mainstream, part of the metal scene in the 80s. I have to admit to liking some of the glam bands in my early days but it was never the image that drew me but the music. If they were metal then I liked them. What most of the 90s metal fans seem to forget is that there were loads of great bands that came out of the 80s that made groundbreaking music and paved the way for the wide diversity of metal that we all listen today. There were the more well known bands such as Maiden, Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer. But there were also the more under rated yet no less influential groups such as Mercyful Fate, Forbidden, Exodus, Riot, Grave Digger, Accept, Saxon, Celtic Frost, Possessed, Diamond Head, Leatherwolf, Kreator, Venom and a host of others that I don’t have the time to name.
I want to get one thing straight. The "Glam" bands( I hate that term) had their place in the 80s. Who can honestly say that the first band they listened to was Celtic Frost? Most metal fans I know were attracted to the crunchy guitars and heavy beats of bands like Twisted Sister, Ratt, Motley Crue and Wasp. Once they had a taste of metal it was no turning back. Ratt changed to Metallica, Wasp to Megadeth and Motley Crue to Celtic Frost. Now we had metalheads who lived, ate and breathed metal.
And what would 90s metal be without some of these bands. Celtic Frost were the inspiration for hundreds of black and death metal bands that are performing today. Metallica, Megadeth, Kreator and Metal Church have left their mark on classic metal and where would power metal be without Riot, Leige Lord, Helloween and Iron Maiden. The 90s cannot be separated from the 80s easily as the metal that we have today owes a great debt of gratitude to the metal of yesterday.
Some of my favourite CDs of all time were products of the 80s.
Ratt - Out Of The Cellar (1984)
Fastway - Trick Or Treat (soundtrack) (1986)
Anthrax - Fistful of Metal (1984)
Riot - Fire Down Under (1981)
Metallica - Master of Puppets (1986)
80’s music. What a clusterfrick THAT was. My GOD did a lot of bad crap come out back then! Admittedly, 80’s music and 80’s metal did deserve a lot of the bad press that has been written about it. I mean seriously, we had bands back then that make Korn-roast Durst look like a virtuoso (see Poison, Britny Fox, et al). On the other hand…we had Iron Maiden, Kiske-led Helloween, pre-collapse Testament (newly regrouped – yeah!), Dio, W.A.S.P., and some little-known band called that used to kick ass…umm…what was their name…oh yeah, Metallica. Now that ya think about it, 80’s metal wasn’t so bad was it?!?
For my money (which admittedly ain’t much!) the 80’s is when metal really came into its own. Ya sure, you had the important touchstones in the 70’s (Sabbath, Purple, Rainbow etc. – check ‘em out!) but the 80’s was the time when metal established itself as a viable form unto itself. TRUE metal came to the fore with Dio, Helloween, Accept, Maiden, Judas Priest, and the first Europe album (yes, they were metal at one point, trust me). I mean, how in the hell can you argue with a lineup like that? You had the emergence of thrash (Exodus, Megadeth, Metallica, Anthrax) the beginnings of death metal (Slayer, Morbid Angel, Bathory, pre-insanity Celtic Frost) and of course, an abortion called glam-metal. But the true metallers knew better than to drink from that particular trough of mud.
Y’know all those bands that sing of “brotherhood” and “metal warriors” today? Well, where do ya think they got their ideas from? 80’s metal was all about brotherhood. People would go and see a W.A.S.P. concert and spin around and go see Morbid Angel. It didn’t matter who was playin’, so long as they were playin’ M-E-T-A-L. It’s good to see that attitude coming back in the new millenium.
So that’s it. 80’s music wasn’t ALL bad, and there were a shitload of kickin’ bands out there if ya knew where to look and believe me, there’s TONS that I haven’t mentioned yet. So do yourself a favour, read all of the columns in this editorial and search out a least a couple ‘o albums from everyone’s list. Keep the flame burning young metallian.
Waspman’s 80’s Metal Picks
First of all, let me say that Metal Rules, whether it be from the 70's,
80's, 90's or onward into 2000. But 80's metal?????
80's metal is the basis of some of today's great metal bands: Pantera, Gamma Ray, HammerFall, Witchery...way too many to mention. It had elements that I find are missing from today's metal: great vocals, awesome shredding, and most of all MELODY. With vocalists like Halford & Dickinson & shredders like Malmsteen, how could you go wrong???? Even bands like Van Halen & AC/DC, through radio-friendly at times, were an influence. Musicianship like this is not as common in the 90's,vas that type of singing and playing from the 80's seems to be considered a "joke" by some. Shame on you.
What pisses me off to no extent is the fact that some (I won't say all, but you know who you are) people are "embarrassed' to admit they liked "80's metal, or write it off as a joke or hair/glam crap. People seem to forget that some of the greatest releases of all time were released in the 80's:
Slayer - Reign In Blood 1986
ooooh I could go on & on, and on........
As for the glam side of it, sure there were bands like Poison that were a dime a dozen, but a little make-up never hurt anyone, as we saw in the following releases:
Motley Crue - Shout at The Devil 1983
Need I say more????????After all, Pantera & Alice in Chains were a glam band in their early days........
What Does 80's metal mean to me personally??? Nostalgia??? Maybe, as some of this stuff takes me back to high school (don't do the math) and some great times, but a lot of the eighties stuff was a lot more melodic than stuff out today. You can put on Preist's "Screaming For Vengeance" or Maiden's "Peice of Mind" and they still sound ever soooooo fresh (AND AWESOME!!!!!!)
Basically,"80's METAL RULES", and maybe you weren't old enough to experience it first hand. If not, do yourself a favor, and check out some of the classics I've mentioned from that era. You may just discover something you like. If you were a fan back then, don't be ashamed, dig out one of those oldies, crank that mutha & hold your fist HIGH!!!!LONG LIVE 80's METAL.
Top 5 albums of the 80's (not in any particular order)
Metallica - Master Of Puppets
80's metal personally for myself being a underground extremist deals with the cult classic bands such as Possessed, Blasphemy, Exciter, Dark Angel, Slayer, Slaughter, Repulsion, Sodom, Kreator, Celtic Frost, Venom, Destruction, Protector, Rotting Corpse, Razor, Onslaught, Forbidden, Living Sacrifice, Nihilist, Pile driver, infernal majesty, Nuclear Death etc etc.
Without all these bands we could not have what we call DEATH METAL. Without Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Metallica, Megadeth, Black Sabbath, Accept, Wasp, Dio, Ozzy, all those bands then we wouldn't have the origins of Death metal who influenced all those bands. Then of Course We certainly would not have the DEATH METAL LEADERS: Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, Krisiun, Angel Corpse, Hate Eternal, Burning inside, Acheron, and all the rest who support the origins of DEATH METAL/THRASH/SPEED. So It all comes down to a simple Metallic Equation: Without these influences, what variations of Metal would we have? Nothing. Well Except for some great Power Metal bands......
DethHead's Top 5 of the 80's:
Dark Angel - Darkness Descends 1986 Combat