Top 10 Best 80s Metal Songs: Ultimate Headbanging Anthems

The 1980s was a transformative decade for metal music, marking the rise of iconic bands and unforgettable tracks that continue to influence the genre today. Metal fans of all ages continue to appreciate the powerful riffs, thunderous drums, and intense vocals that defined this era.

A stage with electric guitars, drum set, and microphone. Crowd of fans with raised fists, headbanging. Bright lights, smoke, and energetic atmosphere

What were the greatest metal songs of the 1980s? This article dives into the top 10 best metal songs from the ‘80s, celebrating the timeless tunes that have stood the test of time. These tracks showcase the diversity and creativity of metal during this golden age, offering a glimpse into what made the decade so special for metalheads.

1. Crazy Train – Ozzy Osbourne

Crazy Train” is one of Ozzy Osbourne’s most iconic tracks. It was released as the debut solo single from his album “Blizzard of Ozz” in 1980.

  • Song Name: Crazy Train
  • Album Name: Blizzard of Ozz
  • Release Date: 1980

Why we included this song on the list:

“Crazy Train” stands out for its unforgettable guitar riff and powerful lyrics. This song marked Ozzy’s successful transition from Black Sabbath to his solo career. Its influence on 80s metal is undeniable, cementing Ozzy’s place in rock history.

Interesting or fun facts about the song:

The song was co-written by Ozzy Osbourne, Randy Rhoads, and Bob Daisley. “Crazy Train” remains one of Osbourne’s most popular and enduring songs, showcasing the late Randy Rhoads’ exceptional guitar skills. It has been used in many films, TV shows, and commercials, making it a staple in rock music culture.

2. Holy Diver – Dio

  • Song Name: Holy Diver
  • Album: Holy Diver
  • Release Date: 1983

Why we included this song on the list

“Holy Diver” is one of the most iconic songs of the 1980s. The title track from Dio’s debut album, it showcases Ronnie James Dio’s powerful vocals and Vivian Campbell’s distinctive guitar work. The song has been praised for its intricate riffs and memorable chorus, making it a staple in metal history.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

The album “Holy Diver” ranked 16th on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time. The official music video for “Holy Diver” has been remastered in HD and is available on YouTube. “Holy Diver” is also noted for its unique mix of fantasy-themed lyrics and heavy metal sound.

3. Pour Some Sugar On Me – Def Leppard

  • Song Name: “Pour Some Sugar On Me”
  • Album: “Hysteria”
  • Release Date: 1987

Why we included this song on the list

“Pour Some Sugar On Me” stands out as an iconic 80s metal anthem. With its catchy chorus and powerful guitar riffs, it quickly rose to popularity. The song reached number 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, cementing its place in rock history. Its influence on the genre is undeniable.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

The song was the last track to be added to the “Hysteria” album. Lead singer Joe Elliott and producer Mutt Lange came up with it during the final stages of recording. Despite being a late addition, it became Def Leppard’s signature song and was ranked #2 on VH1’s “100 Greatest Songs of the 80s” in 2006.

4. Livin’ on a Prayer – Bon Jovi

“Livin’ on a Prayer” is one of Bon Jovi’s most iconic songs. This track remains a staple in rock music history and has cemented Bon Jovi’s place in the 80s metal genre.

  • Song name: Livin’ on a Prayer
  • Album: Slippery When Wet
  • Release date: 1986

Why we included this song on the list

“Livin’ on a Prayer” stands out due to its catchy melody and powerful lyrics. It’s a song that perfectly captures the spirit of the working class, making it relatable and inspiring for many listeners. Its blend of rock and pop elements helped it resonate with a wide audience.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

The song was co-written by Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, and Desmond Child. It reached the top of the charts in multiple countries and became Bon Jovi’s second consecutive number one hit. The music video for “Livin’ on a Prayer” was a major success on MTV, boosting the band’s popularity.

5. Welcome to the Jungle – Guns N’ Roses

  • Song Name: Welcome to the Jungle
  • Album Name: Appetite for Destruction
  • Release Date: September 1987 (UK), October 1988 (US)

Why we included this song on the list

“Welcome to the Jungle” is a staple in 80s metal music. The energy and aggressive sound of the track perfectly capture the wild spirit of the era. The gritty guitar riffs and raw vocals by Axl Rose make this song an unforgettable hit.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

  • The song was featured as the opening track on their debut album, Appetite for Destruction.
  • “Welcome to the Jungle” reached number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US.
  • It was included in the soundtrack for the movie “Thor: Love and Thunder,” bringing it to a new generation of listeners.

6. Rock You Like a Hurricane – Scorpions

Released in 1984, “Rock You Like a Hurricane” became one of the most iconic songs of the 80s metal scene. It was the lead single from the Scorpions’ ninth studio album, Love at First Sting.

  • Song Name: Rock You Like a Hurricane
  • Album: Love at First Sting
  • Release Date: 1984

Why we included this song on the list

This track not only captures the energy and spirit of 80s metal but also showcased the impressive musical talents of the Scorpions. The powerful guitar riffs and memorable lyrics made it a standout hit. The song’s success helped the band gain international fame and solidified their place in rock history.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

“Rock You Like a Hurricane” was written by Klaus Meine, Herman Rarebell, and Rudolf Schenker. The song references their album title in its lyrics. It’s considered the band’s signature song and remains a staple in their live performances. The track reached No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100, despite its album reaching the top 10.

7. The Trooper – Iron Maiden

“The Trooper” is one of Iron Maiden’s most famous songs. It’s on the 1983 album Piece of Mind. It’s known for its fast-paced rhythm and powerful guitar riffs.

  • Song Name: The Trooper
  • Album: Piece of Mind
  • Release Date: June 20, 1983

Why we included this song on the list
“The Trooper” stands out due to its historical references and high-energy sound. It captures the essence of 80s metal with its galloping bass lines and dueling guitar solos. This song showcases the band’s musical prowess and storytelling ability.

Interesting or fun facts about the song
“The Trooper” is inspired by the Charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War. The cover art features the band’s mascot, Eddie, dressed as a British soldier. The song’s live performances often include a British flag and a dramatic stage setup, making it a fan favorite.

Learn more about The Trooper.

8. Breaking the Law – Judas Priest

  • Song Name: Breaking the Law
  • Album Name: British Steel
  • Release Date: 1980

Why we included this song on the list

“Breaking the Law” is one of Judas Priest’s most iconic tracks. It played a significant role in bringing heavy metal to mainstream audiences, especially in the United States. The song’s catchy riff and rebellious lyrics made it an anthem for many fans during the 1980s.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

The music video for “Breaking the Law” is memorable for its humorous bank heist concept. Another fun fact is that the song was often performed live with added theatrics, including chains and a crowbar. The track has been covered by various artists, cementing its place in heavy metal history.

Breaking the Law is widely recognized for its simple yet powerful structure, making it a perfect example of Judas Priest’s impact on the metal genre.

9. Here I Go Again – Whitesnake

  • Song Name: “Here I Go Again”
  • Album: Whitesnake
  • Release Date: 1987

Why we included this song on the list

“Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake is one of the most iconic metal songs of the 1980s. It reached the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The powerful vocals and memorable guitar riffs have made it a timeless classic. Its popularity continues to endure, making it a staple of 80s rock playlists.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

This song was originally released in 1982 but gained more fame with the 1987 version. The music video features Tawny Kitaen, who became a significant part of the song’s visual identity. Additionally, the lyrics express themes of perseverance and resilience, resonating with many listeners.

10. Photograph – Def Leppard

  • Song Name: Photograph
  • Album: Pyromania
  • Release Date: 1983

Why we included this song on the list

“Photograph” is one of Def Leppard’s biggest hits. It is known for its catchy hooks and anthemic chorus. The song helped to push the band’s album “Pyromania” to new heights. Its success on the charts showcased Def Leppard’s influence in the rock and metal scene of the 1980s.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

The song reached No. 1 on the Billboard Top Tracks chart and stayed there for six weeks. Lead vocalist Joe Elliott described “Photograph” as a song about longing for something unattainable. The track’s music video received heavy rotation on MTV, boosting the band’s popularity even more. Check out more about the song here.

The Rise of 80s Metal

The 1980s marked a turning point for metal music with the emergence of key bands and artists and a significant cultural shift. This decade saw the genre gaining immense popularity and leaving an indelible mark on popular culture.

Influential Bands and Artists

The 1980s brought to prominence several influential metal bands and artists. Iron Maiden blew listeners away with powerful tracks like “Wrathchild”. Metallica revolutionized metal with their speed and thrash metal elements, releasing groundbreaking albums like Master of Puppets. Slayer added a fierce intensity with albums like Reign in Blood and tracks such as “Angel of Death”.

Ozzy Osbourne, after parting ways with Black Sabbath, dominated the metal scene with solo hits including “Crazy Train”. Slayer and Metallica continued to push the boundaries of the genre, creating a darker, faster sound. In the late 80s, Chuck Schuldiner, known as the Godfather of Death Metal, established his legacy with classics like “Zombie Ritual”.

Cultural Impact

The cultural impact of 80s metal was profound. The genre’s popularity soared, partly due to the widespread visibility on platforms like MTV, which started airing metal music videos. Fashion also evolved with the genre; spandex, studded wristbands, and long hair became synonymous with metal culture.

Concerts and festivals dedicated to metal saw massive turnouts, illustrating the genre’s growing fanbase. The success of albums like Metal Health by Quiet Riot, which hit No.1 in the US, also showcased metal’s mainstream appeal. The music’s aggressive style and lyrical themes often reflected and influenced youth rebellion and were a response to the political and social climates of the time.

Characteristics of 80s Metal

The 1980s metal scene was defined by distinctive musical styles and innovative sounds, along with bold and memorable visuals that became iconic for the genre.

Musical Style and Innovation

1980s metal was characterized by fast tempos, powerful guitar riffs, and aggressive rhythms. Bands like Metallica brought speed and precision to their playing, while Slayer pushed the envelope with darker themes and intense performances. Heavy use of distortion and guitar solos were common, creating a raw and powerful sound.

Vocals in 80s metal ranged from the high-pitched screams of Judas Priest to the growls of death metal pioneers. Drumming was fast and complex, often featuring double bass techniques. Bands experimented with different subgenres like thrash, glam, and power metal, each bringing unique elements to the table.

Iconic Visuals and Fashion

The visual aspect of 80s metal was almost as important as the music itself. Bands like Iron Maiden and Mötley Crüe embraced bold fashion choices, including spandex, leather, and studded accessories. These items became symbols of the heavy metal lifestyle.

Big hair, makeup, and flamboyant stage outfits were standard, especially in the glam metal subgenre. Album covers were often elaborate and artistic, featuring dark or fantastical themes. Music videos also played a significant role, with bands leveraging MTV to reach a wider audience and showcase their visual style.

The Best ’80s Metal Songs That Still Shred Today can be explored further to understand the lasting impact of these characteristics.

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