By all rights, the early 1980s heavy metal craze should have been done by 1986, leaving behind only the neon scars, pink bandannas, and bootleg Quiet Riot T-shirts. Instead, an underground armada led by Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer reconfigured metal from the ground up, bringing bullet belts to the masses while injecting energy, integrity, and even some intelligence into its aggression. 25 years later, we are still dealing with the fallout of this year in flux. To help celebrate the year, Ian Christe, author of 'Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal,' picks the 10 most important metal songs of 1986.
"While the thrash barbarians banged at the gates, the metal gods Judas Priest
turned to plastic and microchips. Their synth metal experiment 'Turbo' came at just the time that younger bands were scorning over stylized image and electronic excess in metal. It's like they wanted to be usurped!"
"Touring North America with Ozzy Osbourne
in 1986, Metallica exposed massive audiences to the unhinged energy of thrash metal. Thought it's tempting to think that Ozzy was giving the Bay Area bangers their big break, most kids already knew what was up and Metallica outsold Ozzy in t-shirts on the tour -- the ultimate metal indicator."
"With one less album under his bullet belt than Metallica or Slayer, Dave Mustaine brought Megadeth
up to speed fast, creating a nearly instant masterpiece with the polished 'Peace Sells.' Despite the major label pedigree, Megadeth bared its teeth live with its phenomenal early lineup of Mustaine, Dave Ellefson, Gar Samuelson, and Chris Poland."
"With 'Reign in Blood' in 1986, Slayer shed all its occult dynamics and became a strictly athletic attraction. They were already the unique force they remain to this day, supported by the most single-minded fan base in metal. As only Tom Araya could put it, 'This is because you guys love the speed so well!'"
'Korgull the Exterminator'
"Among the hundreds of thrash albums released in 1986, Montreal quartet Voivod
probably had the most character and unique intensity of any. Sharpening up quite a bit from their quirky debut, Voivod's second album is a lethal visionary triumph. Rarely has something so perfect come out of the ever-changing metal pressure cooker."
"Former Mercyful Fate
frontman stripped down and Americanized his sound, stepping out onto a long-lasting solo career. The amount of self-confidence it must have taken to sing in his falsetto style in Nebraska and Kansas in 1986 is truly inspiring!"
"New York's best hardcore punk/thrash metal crossover act, Nuclear Assault
combined the experience of two ex-Anthrax members with a no-frills streetwise attitude that acted like an aftershock to bassist Dan Lilker's highly influential band S.O.D.
When bands twenty-five later emulate the thrash metal style, if they overlook the peculiar and organic sound of Nuclear Assault, it's their loss."
"Meanwhile, Los Angeles' Cryptic Slaughter
followed the lead of hardcore band DRI and raced off in search of speed for speed's sake. For almost a year, Cryptic Slaughter stood almost unrivaled, until Napalm Death
's 'Scum' stepped in and effectively ended the race for faster metal."
"On the far opposite end of the spectrum, Sweden's gloomy Candlemass
emerged with a slow, mournful approach to metal that reached back through Black Sabbath
and all the way down to some eternal zone of hangmen, graves, and creeping moss. Completely out of step with everything else here, and yet an essential release from 1986."
"All the while that the thrashers were rejoicing their commercial and artistic successes in 1986, the deeper subbasement beneath the underground was already filling with the black pitch of bands like Mayhem
, Morbid Angel
. For the 'Mutilation' demo, singer/guitarist Chuck Schuldiner joined forces with Bay Area drummer Chris Reifert and together they would make metal history in 1987."