As we count down another batch of records that celebrate important anniversaries this year, 1990 looms large in the history of hard rock and heavy metal. While the dawn of the nineties saw the United States winning the Cold War against the Soviet Union, in the world of metal the thrash hordes had fought the glam bands to a stalemate. While both sub-genres retained huge followings (for the time being), grunge waited in the wings and a new crop of even more underground bands would take thrash's innovations to even sicker extremes. What's most striking about those records celebrating their 25th, or "Silver," anniversary this year is the sheer diversity of what was considered metal in the year 1990.
No longer a tape trading phenomenon, thrash metal had matured into a major artistic and commercial force with Megadeth issuing their landmark Rust in Peace album and Anthrax putting out Persistence of Time, the final release by the band's classic '80s lineup. Love it or loathe it, in 1990 glam metal was still selling loads of records and a power ballad was the quickest way for a hard rock band to get on the radio and MTV. Interestingly, two of the biggest bands of the era, Metallica and Guns N' Roses, spent the year in the studio working on albums that would shape the following year when they would see eventual release.
[caption id="attachment_308357" align="aligncenter" width="615"] Pantera in March of 1990, a few months prior to the release of Cowboys From Hell.[Photo Credit: Getty Images][/caption]The legacy of the '80s meant that the most important developments in heavy metal in 1990 were happening at its fringes. While the grunge bands gathered steam and inked major label recording contracts, alt metal pioneers Jane's Addiction released their breakthrough sophomore effort, Ritual de lo habitual. But the deeper you descended into the metal underground, the uglier the bands got. Death metal and grindcore groups such as Deicide, Napalm Death and Entombed made their thrash predecessors seem subdued in comparison, with only Slayer seeming unbowed by the upstarts on their Seasons in the Abyss long player.
The most important metal records of the year however might have been the major label debuts of two bands who would influence much of the hard rock and heavy metal of the ensuing decade. Always more overtly metal than their fellow Seattle scenesters, Alice In Chains' Facelift showcased their moody delivery and well-developed songwriting craft while Pantera's Cowboys From Hell delivered classic hard rock riffing with the power of thrash and the Texans would carry the heavy metal torch throughout the '90s. Whether your tastes run to thrash, glam or classic metal, there's no doubt 1990 had a lot to offer fans of the heavy. Check out which records are turning 25 this year and try not to let their silver anniversaries make you feel too old.
[mtvn_player vid="999332" autoplay="true"]