The 10 best thrash songs (from 1983-85)

Metallica in 1985

In the new issue of Metal Hammer, we have started our epic Story Of Thrash series. Part One looks at the rise of thrash metal, talking to the scene's original innovators about one of heavy music's most dominant subgenres. 

If you're new to the crazy world of thrash, we've put together this playlist of ten of the best tracks from 1983 to 1985. Turn it up loud! 

Metallica – Metal Militia (Kill 'Em All, 1983)

Debuting on 1982’s No Life ’Til Leather demo, this shredding call-to-arms was written by James Hetfield/Dave Mustaine/Lars Ulrich, a breathtaking creative team fatally overloaded with volatile genius.

Suicidal Tendencies – I Saw Your Mommy (Suicidal Tendencies, 1983)

Breaking new ground with this collision of swaggering punk, frantic thrash and brutal gore lyrics, Suicidal Tendencies were uniting warring forces in California’s tribal wasteland.

Anthrax – Metal Thrashing Mad (Fistful Of Metal, 1984)

The New York City rhythm kings’ most enduring anthem, the infectious Metal Thrashing Mad inspired the name of the entire movement.

Slayer – Chemical Warfare (Haunting The Chapel, 1984)

More intense and complex than their debut, with this raging EP opener – now an encore staple – Slayer set new standards in full-force brutality.

Destruction – Mad Butcher (Sentence Of Death, 1984)

Originally opening the Teutonic trio’s first demo, re-recorded for a 1987 A-side, Mad Butcher encapsulates the frenzied, pulverising blur of early German thrash.

Exodus – Bonded By Blood (Bonded By Blood, 1985)

Already a set opener by 1983, this archetypal Bay Area banger is a rallying cry for Exodus’s committed legion of thrashers.

Kreator – Tormentor (Endless Pain, 1985)

It’s almost a rite of passage for thrash bands to write a song called Tormentor, but Kreator’s Tormentor is even more viciously tormenting than Slayer or Destruction’s Tormentor.

Overkill – Rotten To The Core (Feel The Fire, 1985)

Overkill knew they’d aced it when this riff arrived, banging punk and NWOBHM heads together to create its own manic energy and defiant attitude.

Celtic Frost – Circle Of The Tyrants (To Mega Therion, 1985)

Sludgy doom riffing, operatic female vocals, devastating tempo changes; this Swiss trio burst out of left-field with a set of game-changing innovations for thrash, death and black metal.

Megadeth – Rattlehead (Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good, 1985)

‘It’s time for snapping some necks/Slashing, thrashing to Megadeth!’ Megadave’s earliest singalong anthem is a full-throttle love song to headbanging, powered by rattling jazz-thrash drums and wizardly solos.

The Story Of Thrash Part One is in the new issue of Metal Hammer, which is in stores now and available to order online.

Chris Chantler

Chris has been writing about heavy metal since 2000, specialising in true/cult/epic/power/trad/NWOBHM and doom metal at now-defunct extreme music magazine Terrorizer. Since joining the Metal Hammer famileh in 2010 he developed a parallel career in kids' TV, winning a Writer's Guild of Great Britain Award for BBC1 series Little Howard's Big Question as well as writing episodes of Danger Mouse, Horrible Histories, Dennis & Gnasher Unleashed and The Furchester Hotel. His hobbies include drumming (slowly), exploring ancient woodland and watching ancient sitcoms.