Top Metal Bands of the 80s

The ‘80s was the decade that gave birth to the sub-genres of hair metal and thrash metal among the many popular 80s music genres.  In fact, the ‘80s had more metal rock as a whole compared to any other decade in music history. But for several bands that made waves during the 1980s metal scene, only a few of them were able to stand the test of time and even fewer 1980s metal artist remained in that genre with several of them following the steps of Bon Jovi and Guns N’ Roses who diverted their genre towards rock. In this article, we are going to list the best metal bands in the 1980s who left behind a legacy that changed metal music forever.

Twisted Sister

Twisted Sister was the metal band that was labeled as “glam” metal because of their looks where in fact, they were playing heavier metal music compared to the other bands that they were up against in the glam/hair metal sub-genre. Twisted Sister was formed in New Jersey where they started playing in the local club scene before gaining popularity and scoring some big hits.


The band Anthrax is part of the big four founders of thrash metal along with Slayer, Metallica, and Megadeth. Anthrax was famous for being the only metal group among the four who started on the US east coast. The band faced near constant changes in their line up but rest assured, it was always been held together by its founding member and bassist Scott Ian and the early recruit Charlie Benante. It’s kind of sad to think that Anthrax had the potential of being a bigger band that they are but the constant change in their members left them with no consistency.

Motley Crue

Motley Crue was one of the hottest rising band in the metal genre during the 1980s and they were also the band who bridge the gap between true hard rock/metal and hair metal. bassist Nikki Sixx, drummer Tommy Lee, lead guitarist Mickey Mars, and vocalist Vince Neil all became big personalities that dominated MTV and the live stage with their performance and music videos. Motley Crue was influenced by and was formed on LA’s Sunset Strip. During the start of their career, they faced several criticisms and doubt but the band proved that they were able to work their way into the millennium. They released their last album in 2008 and bid farewell in 2015.


Formed in Bellevue, Washington, Queensryche is a metal band that sold over 20 million records all over the world. Their 1988 album entitled “Operation: Mindcrime”  was considered to be one of the top 100 best albums of all genres. Queensryche was even nominated for three Grammy awards during the ‘80s. During the height of their career, there have been reports that the band often had fights with their label because they wanted them to explore the glam rock genre but the band clearly felt that they were more into the heavy metal genre even if they use the keyboards in some of their songs. It was one of the reasons why Queensryche found less success in the 1990s. But nevertheless, they remain to be a band until today.

Ozzy Osbourne

During the 1970s Ozzy Osbourne’s band, Black Sabbath together with Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, was listed as one of the “Holy Trinity” of the 1970s bands that formed metal rock. But in the 1980s, Ozzy Osbourne broke off on a solo career and released his own albums called Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman. Throughout the 1980s, Ozzy Osbourne was busy being on tour while his albums became one of the best-selling albums of the 1980s even if he didn’t produce any top 40 hits. Ozzy Osbourne and his solo band gained popularity throughout the 1980s.


AC/DC was formed in Sydney and their early albums such as T.N.T and High Voltage became an influence to some 1980s metal band such as Iron Maiden. AC/DC’s hit album Back in Black is one of the greatest metal albums of the 1980s. Angus Young’s punk stage persona and character left a memorable impression on fans watching them live and this contributed to their popularity. After their lead singer, Bon Scott, died AC/DC lay low for a while but moved on anyway and found a new success when Brian Johnson took the role as the band’s vocalist.


Formed by one of Metallica’s original members, David Mustaine, Megadeth was one of the big four founders of 1980s metal along with Mustaine’s previous band. Megadeth was known for developing the thrash metal sub-genre and they focused more on writing songs that have fast rhythms and talks about war and politics. Megadeth became famous and they were able to influence up and coming metal bands. Up until today, Megadeth still performs as a band even though they went through a lot of lineup changes.

Iron Maiden

Even if the band was formed in 1975, it wasn’t until the 1980s when Iron Maiden found their success. The band was finally signed by a record company and they got to release their first album in 1980. The band’s success went on throughout the 1980s and they were able to produce a number one hit single in the United Kingdom with their song “The Number of the Beast” in 1982.


After experiencing backlash over their album art and the topics of their songs, Slayer still managed to become one of the most beloved and influential metal bands of the ‘80s. While Slayer was often credited to be one of the big four thrash metal bands, they are more famous for developing a metal sub-genre called death metal. Up until today, several bands cite Slayer as one of their influence in the music industry.


Metallica rose from underground fame to become one of the world’s biggest mainstream bands. It was during the mid-1980s and Metallica’s fame became steady ever since. Their second album, Ride the Lighting, was released in 1984 and it was their first of many albums that broke into the Billboard 100. After nine Grammy awards and decades of being a successful band, Metallica is still alive and well and still playing their music all around the world.