10 Greatest Metal Songs of 1983
The year 1983 was a landmark one for heavy metal. Not only did the year usher in the debut album releases of Metallica, Dio and Mercyful Fate, it also marked the first time a metal act hit the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 when Quiet Riot’s ‘Metal Health’ topped the chart in November. That feat helped prove that metal could hold its own commercially against all of the pop and new wave acts of the period.
1983 was also the year the US Festival drew a record crowd for "Metal Day," thus serving up the metal genre's true coming out party. With so many killer releases hitting stores that year and metal truly staking its claim in the music world, Noisecreep is paying tribute with our list of the 10 Greatest Metal Songs of 1983.
‘Shout at the Devil’ is the sole album in the Mötley Crüe catalog than can truly be labeled as “heavy metal.” Released as the album’s third single, ‘Too Young to Fall in Love’ is a brooding, mid-paced anthem driven by a main guitar riff that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on an early Scorpions record. Another standout moment during the song is when frontman Vince Neil’s vocal melody counters the guitar part right before the track’s arena-ready chorus. It’s the little things that mean so much.
Written by late guitarist Jeff Hannemann, ‘Die by the Sword’ certainly isn’t one of Slayer’s fastest tracks, but it is one of the jewels of the thrash behemoth’s early discography and deserving of a spot on the 10 Greatest Metal Songs of 1983. Its chorus is a menacing one, comprised of a spiraling guitar riff and driving drum pattern that sounds like it was custom made for headbanging, windmill style.
Originally recorded in 1981, Queensrÿche’s sole demo was eventually released as their self-titled 1983 EP. ‘Queen of the Reich,’ the EP’s opening cut, introduced the world to Geoff Tate’s piercing siren of a voice around 24 seconds into the track. Written by ex-Queensrÿche guitarist Chris DeGarmo, ‘Queen of the Reich’ served as the perfect vehicle to not only show off Tate’s four-octave vocal abilities, but also to usher in a new dawn of American metal mastery.
It took seven albums, but ‘Headhunter’ finally broke Swiss rockers Krokus in the States. Much of the album’s commercial success came on the back of ‘Screaming in the Night,’ a smoldering power ballad featuring the kind of show stopping chorus record companies used to hire guys like Desmond Child to write. The track powered 'Headhunter' to gold sales status and the band's biggest returns to date.
Opening with arguably guitarist Jake E. Lee’s most recognizable riff during his two-album tenure as Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist, the title cut to ‘Bark at the Moon’ set off the album in grand fashion and is deserving of its spot on the 10 Greatest Metal Songs of 1983 list. This track helped prove that the Prince of Darkness could bounce back after the tragic death of Randy Rhoads and continue to thrive.
With lyrics written by their manager Gaby Hauke (under the pseudonym “Deaffy”), ‘Balls to the Wall’ is Accept’s most recognizable song and an absolute classic in the heavy metal canon. Taking on the timeless themes of rebellion and human rights, the German stalwarts lay down a marching groove for gravel-throated singer Udo Dirkschneider to snarl threats like “You better watch the damned / They're gonna break their chains” over.
The most overtly commercial selection on our 10 Greatest Metal Songs of 1983 list is the inclusion of Def Leppard's ‘Photograph.’ However, the track’s unlikely marriage of gritty, AC/DC-like guitar riffing and pop-crusted vocal melodies is undeniably irresistible. This song was the giant breakthrough that paved the way for Def Leppard to make 1983 one of the biggest years of their career.
Metallica's ‘The Four Horsemen’ is a guitar riff orgy, featuring one slab of six-string gold after the other. While most of the other material on ‘Kill ‘Em All’ falls under the speedier, Motörhead-inspired side of the spectrum, the slower pacing of ‘The Four Horsemen’ suits it well, lending the track enough space to let each section of the song shine on its own. It’s no surprise Metallica have kept ‘The Four Horsemen’ in their set list to this day.
Based on a battle that went down during the Crimean War in the 1850s, ‘The Trooper’ is one of Iron Maiden’s most beloved songs. Whether it’s Dave Murray and Adrian Smith’s momentous twin-guitar harmony work or Bruce Dickinson’s battle call of “You’ll take my life / But I’ll take yours too / You’ll fire your musket / But I’ll run you through" near the beginning of the track, ‘The Trooper’ has the power to transform a sold-out stadium packed with metalheads into a massive, sweaty sing-along.
‘Holy Diver,' the lead single to Dio’s debut album of the same name, is a monster and tops our list of 10 Greatest Metal Songs of 1983 list. Featuring a typically commanding performance from Ronnie James Dio, the song’s slithering groove comes courtesy of under-appreciated rhythm section Vinny Appice and Jimmy Bain. Future Def Leppard axe man Vivian Campbell’s guitar solo is just the cherry on top.