The Best Metal of 1987

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In 1987, heavy-music scenes were strictly divided and definitely did not play nice with each other. But looking back on such a landmark year some three decades later, we can now appreciate the influence of Guns N Roses’ Appetite for Destruction alongside the impact of Death’s debut and the bombast of Candlemass—because not only can those records be seen in a clearer context, they also proudly share some of the same fans. And that’s the beauty of time: things marinate and evolve. Ideas change, mentalities change, landscapes change. But when it comes to the heavy-metal revolution that was happening around the world 30 years ago, what was rad stayed rad—and that’s what we’re celebrating with this playlist.

Thrash adheres to the same face-ripping formula today as it did back then, and those who are into it are still completely stoked to be caught in a mosh. Monster ballads are now less polarizing to Beavis and Butthead types because most of us decided it’s not only okay to have guilty pleasures, it actually might be a lot cooler if you did. And yeah, there might still be some purists who will forever ignore the fact that Whitesnake’s finest hour came at the same time as Napalm Death’s (and who think the two bands have no business being on the same playlist), but the variety of heavy music and abundance of killer guitar solos that define 1987 are actually pretty impressive to see in one place.

It was a year where you could venture deep into the darkness with Sodom and Bathory, glimpse the future of extreme music with Death, scale the highest heights (and notes) on King Diamond and Helloween’s most iconic albums, or maybe even get a little emotional with Def Leppard’s biggest commercial hit. You also got essential records from one of the greatest metal singers of all time (Dio), one of doom’s most prolific bands (Candlemass), one of extreme metal’s sacred godfathers (Celtic Frost), not to mention a few of thrash’s big guns (Testament, Anthrax, Death Angel, Overkill). It wasn’t all just happening then; much of it was still emerging then, taking shape and branding its scorched mark on heavy and popular music worldwide. Here’s a 30-year flashback of all the awesome varieties of metal from 1987.