Hair-metal isn't even close to being the heaviest of the metal subgenres, but it is an idiom that gets unfairly overlooked when it comes to measuring sonic heft. Bands like Mötley Crüe and Twisted Sister aren't gonna melt your face off like Slayer or Cannibal Corpse, but there's a considerable number of surprisingly heavy tracks in the glam songbook.
Last week, we published our list of the 10 heaviest hair-metal songs ever, and then we asked our readers to offer up their own choices. There was some overlap that was to be expected, but also a lot of differentiation that further underscores just how much gnarliness the Eighties pop-metal poster boys packed beneath the makeup. See the top five vote-getters ranked accordingly below.
Beavis and Butt-Head may think their early stuff sucked, but once Winger pivoted away from the glammiest elements, they actually wrote some pretty dark and heavy tracks. "Junkyard Dog" is a gigantic-sounding standout from their 1993 LP, Pull, clearly aping the huge guitar tones of Metallica's "Black Album" and the trudging songwriting style that Jerry Cantrell made famous on Alice In Chains' early material, but in a way that feels uniquely their own.
The opening track from Dokken's Back for the Attack actually rips hard. It's still smeared with the over-the-top reverb that's synonymous with the glam-metal era, but that main riff has some serious meat on its bones and Don Dokken's vocal delivery is gloomy enough to fit the mood. If it veered just a liiittle further to the left here and a few inches to the right there, this might even pass for a mid-tempo thrash song.
While Twisted Sister's flagship anthem, "We're Not Gonna Take It," earned its fair share of votes, another song from Stay Hungry ended up eking out more picks — and rightfully so. "Burn in Hell" has a mean and nasty blues-rock riff that's weighed down with a Sabbathian heaviness, and Dee Snider's tattered voice sounds like an angrier and less triumphant version of Bruce Dickinson's wail. All in all, it packs more punch than you may remember.
Mötley Crüe are in many ways the quintessential hair-metal band, and are therefore used as target practice for every metal purist's qualms with the genre. Maybe a good portion of that flack is deserved, but to pretend that Mötley Crüe don't have riffs is downright wrong. "Live Wire" is the fast and frenetic opening salvo of their 1981 debut, gunning forward with a gusto that rivals Judas Priest and a catchiness that explains how they got so damn big.
It made the cut for our list, and it easily breezed to the No. 1 spot when our readers chimed in. Skid Row sound absolutely fucking gigantic on "Slave to the Grind," the title track from their 1991 opus that pushed metal to the top of the Billboard 200, while also pushing the sound their glam forefathers pioneered into the darker, heavier new decade. The drums on this thing sound like someone revving a motorcycle in a bedroom, and Sebastian Bach has never sounded more bloodthirsty. Hair-metal or not, it's a heavy fuckin' song.