In the 1980s, popular rock diversified. This period also saw the New Wave of British Heavy Metal with bands such as Iron Maiden and Def Leppard gaining popularity. The early part of the decade saw Eddie Van Halen achieve musical innovations in rock guitar, while vocalists David Lee Roth (of Van Halen) and Freddie Mercury (of Queen as he had been doing throughout the 1970s) raised the role of frontman to near performance art standards. Concurrently, pop-New Wave bands remained popular, with performers like Billy Idol and The Go-Go's gaining fame.
American working-class oriented heartland rock gained a strong following, exemplified by Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger, John (Cougar) Mellencamp and others. Led by the American folk singer-songwriter Paul Simon and the British former progressive rock star Peter Gabriel, rock and roll fused with a variety of folk music styles from around the world; this fusion came to be known as "world music", and included fusions like aboriginal rock. Also, more extreme forms of rock music began to evolve; in the early eighties, the harsh and aggressive sounds of thrash metal attracted large underground audiences and a few bands, including Metallica and Megadeth, went on for mainstream success.
By the mid to late 80's, the teen band Renegade coined the term Commercial Metal to signify a combination of heavy metal instrumentation with pop rock melodies. The term caught on and remains a viable genre description to this day.
The New Wave of British Heavy Metal (frequently abbreviated as NWOBHM) was a heavy metal music movement that started in the late 1970s, in Britain, and achieved some international attention by the early 1980s. The era developed as a reaction in part to the decline of early heavy metal bands such as Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Judas Priest. NWOBHM bands toned down the blues influences of earlier acts, increased the tempos, and adopted a "tougher", harder-edged sound. The era is considered to be a main foundation for heavy metal sub-genres with acts such as Metallica citing NWOBHM bands like Diamond Head and Motörhead as a major influence on their musical style.
The early movement was associated with acts such as: Iron Maiden, Saxon, Motörhead, Def Leppard, Angel Witch, Tygers of Pan Tang, Blitzkrieg, Avenger, Sweet Savage, Girlschool, Jaguar, Demon, Diamond Head, Samson and Tank, among others. The image of bands such as Saxon (long hair, denim jackets, leather and chains) would later become synonymous with heavy metal as a whole during the 1980s. Some bands, although conceived during this era, saw success on an underground scale, as was the case with Venom and Quartz.