Inspired by NWOBHM and Van Halen's success, a metal scene began to develop in Southern California from the late 1970s, based on the clubs of L.A.'s Sunset Strip and including such bands as Quiet Riot, Ratt, Mötley Crüe, and W.A.S.P., who, along with similarly styled acts such as New York's Twisted Sister, incorporated the theatrics (and sometimes makeup) of glam rock acts like Alice Cooper and Kiss. The lyrics of these glam metal bands characteristically emphasized hedonism and wild behavior and musically were distinguished by rapid-fireshred guitar solos, anthemic choruses, and a relatively melodic, pop-oriented approach. By the mid-1980s bands were beginning to emerge from the L.A. scene that pursued a less glam image and a rawer sound, particularly Guns N' Roses, breaking through with the chart-topping Appetite for Destruction (1987), and Jane's Addiction, who emerged with their major label debut Nothing's Shocking, the following year.
In the late 1980s metal fragmented into several subgenres, including thrash metal, which developed in the US from the style known as speed metal, under the influence of hardcore punk, with low-register guitar riffs typically overlaid by shredding leads. Lyrics often expressed nihilistic views or deal with social issues using visceral, gory language. It was popularised by the "Big Four of Thrash": Metallica, Anthrax, Megadeth, and Slayer. Death metal developed out of thrash, particularly influenced by the bands Venom and Slayer. Florida's Death and the Bay Area's Possessed emphasized lyrical elements of blasphemy, diabolism and millenarianism, with vocals usually delivered as guttural "death growls," high-pitched screaming, complemented by downtuned, highly distorted guitars and extremely fast double bass percussion. Black metal, again influenced by Venom and pioneered by Denmark's Mercyful Fate, Switzerland's Hellhammer and Celtic Frost, and Sweden's Bathory, had many similarities in sound to death metal, but was often intentionally lo-fi in production and placed greater emphasis on satanic and pagan themes. Bathory were particularly important in inspiring the further sub-genres of Viking metal and folk metal. Power metal emerged in Europe in the late 1980s as a reaction to the harshness of death and black metal and was established by Germany's Helloween, who combined a melodic approach with thrash's speed and energy. England's DragonForce and Florida's Iced Earth have a sound indebted to NWOBHM, while acts such as Florida's Kamelot, Finland's Nightwish, Italy'sRhapsody of Fire, and Russia's Catharsis feature a keyboard-based "symphonic" sound, sometimes employing orchestras and opera singers. In contrast to other sub-genres Doom metal, influenced by Gothic rock, slowed down the music, with bands like England's Pagan Altar and Witchfinder General and the United States' Pentagram, Saint Vitus and Trouble, emphasizing melody, down-tuned guitars, a 'thicker' or 'heavier' sound and a sepulchral mood.