It was the abrasive metal sub-genre that shot out of the early 80s like a punch to the gut.
Fast, heavy, and blatantly in-your-face, thrash metal was a fierce antidote to glam metal as well as a big ‘fuck you’ to the conservatism of the Reagan era. Thrash had its roots in myriad influences, from NWOBHM to Motörhead to punk rock, but in the end the sound was all its own, and as the thrash movement grew scenes began to develop around the world from the Bay Area to Brazil.
From the ‘Big Four’ of Slayer, Metallica, Anthrax and Megadeth to the newer crop of thrashers like Evile and Municipal Waste, here are the 50 greatest thrash albums of all time as voted for by Metal Hammer readers.
50. Evile – Enter The Grave (2007)
Coming during the thrash revival’s peak, Enter The Grave showed Evile (opens in new tab) were about more than basketball boots, battle jackets and a crash-course in Bay Area history as the album’s incisive modern edge re-jigged Slayer, Exodus and Destruction to live up to the audacity of having a song called Thrasher about thrashing on it.
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49. Forbidden – Forbidden Evil (1988)
In addition to introducing Russ Anderson, one of metal’s most underrated vocalists, Forbidden’s debut was a front-to-back masterpiece at the forefront of the Bay Area’s second wave. They may have grown up sneaking into Metallica (opens in new tab) and Exodus (opens in new tab) shows, but the refined rage of Off The Edge and Through Eyes Of Glass showed the upstarts weren’t tremendously far behind their heroes.
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48. Dark Angel – Darkness Descends (1986)
Dark Angel were the greatest thrash band no one talks about any more. The LA monsters’ second album, Darkness Descends, is still one of the most imposingly weighty thrash albums ever: a punishing blizzard of black distortion. The guitars are twin buzzsaws, while Gene Hoglan (opens in new tab)’s drumming knocks yer block off, yet the real beauty of this album, however, lies in its sheer nastiness – a thickly mean-spirited vein runs through its entirety, and never more so than on the wonderful Merciless Death.
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47. Sodom – Agent Orange (1989)
While their primitive early efforts proved hugely influential to the later black metal (opens in new tab) scene, it was Sodom (opens in new tab)’s third album that established the band as metal heavyweights. A grim exploration of the Vietnam War, set to furious, precise speed metal riffing, it still slams – and it proved one of the German thrash scene (opens in new tab)’s last great hurrahs.
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46. Slayer - Divine Intervention (1994)
The cards were stacked against Divine Intervention. The pressure of following their first five classics in the grunge era meant Slayer (opens in new tab) were in more crosshairs than usual. “It’s not as good as Reign In Blood,” people brayed, ignoring the lyrical venom and enough light-speed picking (Dittohead) and malevolent chug (Fictional Reality) to have Hanneman and King’s forearms declared lethal weapons.
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45. Exodus – Fabulous Disaster (1989)
While Fabulous Disaster will forever be best remembered for knuckle-headed anthem, The Toxic Waltz, one should not gloss over the undercooked-sizzling-steak guitar tone, Zetro Sousa (opens in new tab)’s avuncular snarl, one of the heaviest riffs ever (The Last Act Of Defiance) and the achievement of making ‘zydeco-thrash’ not sound cheesy (Cajun Hell).
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44. Possessed – Seven Churches (1985)
Possessed (opens in new tab) never really got the attention they deserved and always stayed a cult band, despite the fact that they judiciously covered all the bases: a bit of thrash here, a soupçon of death there, and copious mentions of Satan to round it all off. A quick look at the track titles tells you all you need to know about Seven Churches: Exorcist, Burning In Hell, Pentagram… why, there’s even a song called Death Metal.
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43. Exhorder – Slaughter In The Vatican (1990)
There’s an almighty bunfight for title of “Greatest Lost Band Of The 90s”, but Exhorder (opens in new tab) are serious contenders. The New Orleans band’s provocatively-titled debut, Slaughter In The Vatican, was released the same year as Pantera’s Cowboys From Hell, and the two albums shared many characteristics: vicious post-thrash riffage, tighter-than-a-duck’s-quacker grooves and serious next-gen attitude.
But Exhorder lacked both the weight of a major label and the ability to keep their own shit together, watching as Pantera went on to become the defining metal band of the 90s, leaving Slaughter In The Vatican sitting on the shelf labelled ‘Stone cold cult classics'. Heavy metal truly is a cruel mistress sometimes.
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42. Kreator – Endless Pain (1985)
Mid-‘80s Essen, Germany wasn’t the barrel of rainbows revisionist history has made it out to be. Down by the Ruhr, factories belched pollution and skies were the greyest of grey when Kreator (opens in new tab)’s debut kick-started the process to fly high the flag of hate with one of thrash’s most unhinged debuts.
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41. Death Angel - The Ultra-Violence (1987)
The buzz around The Ultra-Violence was that it was the product of five teenaged Filipino cousins. Death Angel (opens in new tab) proved that the wrong New Kids On The Block were the apple the public’s eye as they absolutely scuttled thrash metal’s line between stadium-sized melodies (Voracious Souls) and intricate prog (the 10+ minute instrumental title track).
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40. Sabbat – History Of A Time To Come
UK thrash was destined to languish in the shadow cast by the American scene, but Sabbat (opens in new tab) made our home-grown efforts impossible to ignore, creating a huge and lasting contribution to the genre, and providing inspiration for the black metal generation that emerged in their paganised wake. Owing little to the souped-up traditionalism of their US peers, Sabbat’s sound was dizzyingly epic and fervently original, as guitarist Andy Sneap’s riffs and dense, convoluted arrangements combined with frontman Martin Walkyier’s verbose shrieking to thrilling effect. Brave, literate and startlingly heavy, Sabbat’s debut kept the British metal flag flying high.
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39. Blood Tsunami – Thrash Metal (2007)
Thrash Metal was a wild card that came during a glut of revivalist albums from a country without a solid thrash pedigree as performed by names more familiar to black metal. Regardless, the Norwegians knocked it out of the park with a scabrous collision of blackened hardcore punk distilled through early Metallica (opens in new tab) and Kreator (opens in new tab). Definitely a gem that deserves (re)discovery.
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38. Overkill – The Years Of Decay (1989)
Already veterans of the east coast metal scene by the time they made it, Overkill (opens in new tab) flexed their muscles on The Years Of Decay and the results were remarkable. Both unashamedly committed to thrash ethics and admirably adventurous within those parameters, this was a formidable show of strength from a band that have never strayed from the righteous thrash path.
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37. Slayer – Christ Illusion (2006)
After a five-year gap, the longest stretch of time between releases in the band’s career, Slayer returned with talismanic drummer Dave Lombardo (opens in new tab) in tow. Was it a coincidence that Lombardo returned behind the kit? The sound was modern, yet dynamic. The songs were direct and fearless – they even wrote Jihad about the 9/11 attacks from a terrorist’s perspective, while the Grammy-winning Eyes Of The Insane dealt with a soldier’s post-traumatic stress disorder. Thrash was making waves again, and Slayer had come up with their own tidal wave.
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36. Celtic Frost – To Mega Therion (1985)
Housed in a sleeve designed by Swiss artist extraordinaire H.R. Giger (who designed sets for Alien), To Mega Therion set the tone for all that Celtic Frost (opens in new tab) would later achieve, lose and much later reclaim. Like their debut mini-album, Morbid Tales, it’s thunderously heavy stuff, a brutal death-metal storm. Yet interspersed throughout are the elements that would make its successor so great. Classical infusions, wailing choirs and operatic arias blend throughout with Frost’s intense musical vision – never interfering with the thrust of spine-shivering entries like Circle Of Tyrants or Dawn Of Megiddo.
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35. Testament – Practice What You Preach (1989)
Testament (opens in new tab)’s third is arguably the most gorgeous of their discography. Everything from the landscape artwork and visual presentation to the pristine sonic heft and show-stopping musicianship screamed ‘class-act.’ With the title track’s infectious shuffle, The Ballad’s pensiveness and superb six-string work all-around, Testament made a solid case for expanding the ‘Big 4’ to a pentagram-shaped ‘Big 5.’
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34. Sepultura – Morbid Visions (1986)
If Sepultura (opens in new tab)’s debut wasn’t recorded in a shed without access to proper distortion pedals, tuners and a metronome, it certainly sounds that way. But it’s thrash at its most dangerous and feral, brimming with an obsessive do-or-die energy. A testament to the album’s staying power is the endurance of War and Troops Of Doom 35 years down the line.
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33. Exodus - Tempo Of The Damned (2004)
Tempo Of The Damned was both Exodus (opens in new tab)’ studio return and second reunion (which has held to the present-day). And what a return! The guitar tone was concrete shoes-thick, drummer Tom Hunting grooved and swung and our inner geo-politics nerd loved how the songs with the most overt anti-war and anti-American sentiment had the catchiest choruses.
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32. Kreator - Violent Revolution (2001)
After misguided attempts at growth via stints with industrial, goth and mid-paced modern metal, Kreator (opens in new tab) got back to basics on Violent Revolution. A very apt title in that the band revived its early sonic violence while revolting against themselves by exploring a more melodic take on an old thrashing friend.
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31. Slayer – God Hates Us All (2001)
Say what you will – and crotchety old-schoolers said a lot – about Slayer (opens in new tab)’s ninth album and its flirtation with mosh-part pace and breakdown groove, but, in hindsight, having an album called God Hates Us All released on 9/11 is one of the greatest coincidences in antagonism history as folly in the name of religion and years of tumult to follow were angrily (and correctly) predicted.
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30. Destruction – Eternal Devastation (1986)
It was with their second album that Destruction (opens in new tab) established themselves as a major force on the German thrash scene. What they captured was a distinct Teutonic style and sound. Tracks like Life Without Sense and United By Hatred have such a ferocious energy, but stay on the rails due to the formidable musicianship of the trio. This is a landmark for Destruction, and for the European scene. They would never be this good again.
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29. Annihilator – Alice In Hell (1989)
One of the finest metal guitarists of all time, Annihilator mastermind Jeff Waters (opens in new tab) was always destined for greatness, but this precocious debut album was, if we’re honest, taking the piss. Incredible musicianship, wonderful songs and with energy levels permanently in the red, Alice In Hell raised thrash’s IQ and put its Canadian (opens in new tab) contingent firmly on the map once and for all.
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28. Municipal Waste – The Art Of Partying (2007)
Vocalist Tony Foresta (opens in new tab) has gone on record about how he (and his liver) regrets how rabidly fans embraced this album’s theme and expected excessive partying at every tour stop. That the Waste (opens in new tab)’s popularity sky-rocketed to the tune of a two-year tour cycle post-release meant a ton of punk house keggers and parking lot beers. Though what did they think was going to happen after sculpting combustible crossover into abbreviated bursts and unsubtle offerings like The Inebriator, Beer Pressure and Headbanger Face Rip?
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27. Megadeth – So Far, So Good… So What! (1988)
Despite its vexed production and the inclusion of a frankly dismal cover of the Sex Pistols’ Anarchy In The UK, Megadeth (opens in new tab)’s third album remains a revered classic and a laudable bridge between the nascent brilliance of Peace Sells and the genre-defining mastery of Rust In Peace. Epic and adventurous on In My Darkest Hour and Set The World Afire, brutal and snotty on 502, Liar and Hook In Mouth, SFSGSW was an uncompromising statement and it still slays today.
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26. Kreator – Pleasure To Kill (1986)
The States may have dominated the thrash scene, but Germany (opens in new tab)’s contribution was huge. Kreator’s second album remains one of the few to challenge Slayer (opens in new tab) in the violence and mayhem stakes, its blistering tempos and Mille Petrozza’s deranged screeching conspiring to wrench open the gates of hell and let its nastiest demons run rampage. Rage has never sounded more exciting.
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25. Celtic Frost – Into The Pandemonium (1987)
Former Celtic Frost (opens in new tab) mastermind Tom Fischer – aka Tom G Warrior – is one of metal’s great visionaries, and the Swiss band’s second full-length album was his magnum opus. No band has made an album like Into The Pandemonium (opens in new tab) before or since. Taking thrash metal as their jumping off point, Frost dived into uncharted territory for bands: mournful requiems, operatic laments, post-punk covers, primitive hip hop and even pop-friendly backing singers – no musical path was off limits. Not for nothing was it christened ‘avant garde metal’ – this was something entirely new.
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24. Overkill – Horrorscope (1991)
Which Overkill (opens in new tab) album to include on a ‘best of’ depends on who you talk to. Old-schoolers will never admit that anything classic exists post-1987 while we’d nominate anything the New Jersey-ites’ have released since 2010. To wit, Horrorscope crashing this list is certainly surprising, probably because the record doesn’t kick into hi-gear until the third song, Blood Money, after which it finds its groove with punchy riffs, vocalist Bobby Ellsworth (opens in new tab)’s infectious gnarl and horror film motifs.
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23. Voivod – Dimension Hatröss (1988)
The most distinctive and daring of all the 80s thrash bands, Voivod (opens in new tab) strode along their singular path making albums that sounded like nothing else on earth. Dimension Hatröss is the best of them: a turbulent sci-fi nightmare, brimming with grotesque hooks, exquisite lyrical weirdness and the late, great Piggy’s idiosyncratic and deeply peculiar riffs. It’s thrash, Lars, but not as we know it.
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22. Testament – The New Order (1988)
After the success of the Legacy, Testament (opens in new tab) suddenly found themselves having to create its follow-up. They obliterated the sophomore slump with this stone-cold classic that combined their galloping roots with emerging guitar hero Alex Skolnik’s interest in classically-inspired arpeggiation to bequeath the likes of Into The Pit, Disciples Of The Watch and the stratospherically popular Trial By Fire and cannonball into the Billboard charts. Fun fact: the instrumental interludes and Aerosmith cover were last minute additions upon realising the original version fell short of contractual runtime.
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21. Anthrax - Fistful Of Metal (1984)
Anthrax (opens in new tab)’s debut, like Metallica’s Kill ’Em All, had a daft cover image: a crude and grisly interpretation of the album’s title. It also gave a strong indication of the music within.
Fistful Of Metal is the sound of a young, hungry band going at it hammer and tongs. Their primary influences, Iron Maiden and Motörhead, were evident. Singer Neil Turbin wailed like Manowar (opens in new tab)’s Eric Adams. And while a cover of Alice Cooper (opens in new tab)’s early hit I’m Eighteen was, as Scott Ian admitted, “cheesy”, the full-throttle attack of Deathrider and the epochal Metal Thrashing Mad identified Anthrax as a cutting-edge band.
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20. Slayer – Show No Mercy (1983)
“Pure, unadulterated junk” said one review of Slayer (opens in new tab)’s first album. Even former drummer Dave Lombardo now describes it as “primitive and naïve”. But for numerous extreme metal bands that followed, Show No Mercy is one of the most powerful and influential albums of the 80s.
Slayer’s own influences were clearly evident: Evil Has No Boundaries had the fury and spooky, satanic vibes of early Venom (opens in new tab); in The Antichrist’s multiple riffs there were echoes Iron Maiden (opens in new tab) and Mercyful Fate (opens in new tab).
Even in its infancy, Slayer’s music had a visceral power and an air of menace that set it apart. From here it would get lot uglier.
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19. Megadeth – Killing Is My Business… And Business Is Good (1985)
In terms of refining and defining the thrash metal template, Dave Mustaine (opens in new tab) is unquestionably the genre’s kingpin. Aside from writing at least half of Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All (opens in new tab), he also created his own band’s debut album: a fast, furious and relentlessly pissed off assault on the senses that haughtily upped the ante for the entire metal scene. More technically impressive than the rest and driven by fury and revenge, Killing… revealed that Megadeth were a unique and formidable proposition.
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18. Slayer - World Painted Blood (2009)
Coming 23 years after Reign In Blood (opens in new tab), this album, has a sound and a title that echoes down the years. Overall it isn’t quite as speed- driven as the preceding Christ Illusion. But it’s the faster songs that hit hardest, such as the title track and the brilliantly named Public Display Of Dismemberment. Unit 731, named after Japan’s WWII covert biological warfare research department, is another gruesome account of obscene war crimes. This song proved that Slayer still went where others feared to tread.
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17. Sepultura – Beneath The Remains (1989)
Brazil’s Sepultura (opens in new tab) were more of a death metal outfit on their initial releases. But by the time …Remains came around the band had refined their sound, replacing studied morbidity with superhuman intensity.
This is a marvellous record, up there with the best of Slayer. It’s a triumph of lacerating technicality, with high-speed grinding riffs and a sludgy industrial undercurrent.
You know exactly what you’re getting on Lobotomy with its chant of ‘Brain killing brain!’ while Inner Self (‘Walking these dirty streets/With hate in my mind’) is a chilling tale of life in a third-world country. The last great thrash album of the 80s. Stronger Than Hate, indeed.
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16. Anthrax – Spreading The Disease (1985)
They got a foot in the door with their first album, Fistful Of Metal. With the follow-up they kicked it wide open. Spreading The Disease was an explosive record with which Anthrax (opens in new tab) asserted their authority on the thrash scene.
New singer Joey Belladonna (opens in new tab) was an upgrade on Neil Turbin, with more control as well as power. Equally, the band’s songwriting moved up a gear; Madhouse and Medusa, with slower, chugging riffs, were as catchy as they were heavy, and in Armed And Dangerous an atmospheric intro had Belladonna channeling Ronnie James Dio (opens in new tab) before a frenzied thrash onslaught.
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15. Slayer – Hell Awaits (1985)
With this, the precursor to Reign In Blood, Slayer (opens in new tab) battered a previously hostile rock press into submission. And nowhere was this change in perception more evident than in a review by eminent British critic Geoff Barton, who proclaimed Slayer “the most threatening, subversive band on the planet”, and described Hell Awaits as, variously, “horrifying”, “disturbing”, “deranged” and, of course, “evil”.
From the satanic title track to the apocalyptic closer Hardening Of The Arteries, Hell Awaits was a merciless thrash metal attack with a palpably malevolent aura. Barton still hasn’t fully recovered.
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14. Testament – The Legacy (1987)
Testament (opens in new tab) began life as Legacy with vocalist Steve ‘Zetro’ Sousa (later of Exodus). Hulking frontman Chuck Billy joined for this first album, whose title paid homage to the band’s recent past. Testament also gained a new guitarist (Alex Skolnick) and the results were spectacular.
The band were more adept than many of their rivals. Twin-guitar harmonies and melodic intros dragged you out of the pit and gave you a hose-down. Then tracks like COTLOD (Curse Of The Legions Of Death) threw you back into the flailing bodies again. Billy was the first thrash throat with the skill to switch seamlessly from shouting to singing, and back again.
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13. Power Trip – Nightmare Logic (2017)
Honestly, there’s nothing indescribably new about Power Trip (opens in new tab)’s second album of vitriolic crossover thrash. The well-worn hallmarks driving the music since the early ‘80s were present and accounted for, but it was the manner in which tight and choppy guitars, potent and peppy two-beats and the late Riley Gale (opens in new tab)’s throaty bellow worked together and clicked that made this. There’s a time to stop asking why and get in the pit; Nightmare Logic is happy to lead the way.
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12. Metallica – …And Justice For All (1988)
Progressive thrash masterpiece or bass-free self-indulgence? Oh fuck off, it’s obviously the former. From the pummelling of Blackened onwards, AJFA (opens in new tab) repositioned Metallica (opens in new tab) as metal’s premier sonic explorers, with songs that defied convention while never forgetting to be seriously fucking heavy. Harvester Of Sorrow, One (opens in new tab), Dyer’s Eve, The Frayed Ends Of Sanity… classics, each and every one.
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11. Slayer - South Of Heaven (1988)
Following the mighty, epochal Reign In Blood was never going to be easy, but Slayer (opens in new tab) played it very smart with South Of Heaven. As Tom Araya says: “We went out of our way to make sure we didn’t do another Reign In Blood.”
This much was immediately apparent in the album’s opening song, the title track, a slow-building epic that leads into the frenzied thrash of Silent Scream.
By mixing slower, Sabbath-style grind with all-out thrash, Slayer achieved a powerful and dramatic effect. And, surprisingly, it’s the slower songs that stand tallest, such as South Of Heaven, Mandatory Suicide and eerie climax Spill The Blood.
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10. Sepultura – Arise (1991)
Arise roars out of the gate with a three-pronged wallop that is not only one of the most bombastically inspired triple-headed smackdowns in thrash history, but between Arise, Dead Embryonic Cells and Desperate Cry, the Brazilian ambassadors demonstrated that all hype was justified. They could thrash as hard as anyone, down-pick with Hetfield, Hanneman and Holt and started tossing post-punk, industrial and grind curveballs into the mix. Lest we forget less-heralded numbers like the caustic Infected Voice, the chameleonic Altered State, the creepy Under Siege (Regnum Irae) and their contribution to one of the greatest and most venomously innovative thrash albums ever.
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9. Metallica – Kill ’Em All (1983)
1983 Metallica (opens in new tab) started off young, dumb and full of Absolut vodka. But they quickly outgrew their ‘Alcoholica’ nickname, denounced the thrash movement and distanced themselves from their peers. Nevertheless, debut album Kill ’Em All still sounds raw and rampant.
The guitars rattle like Gatling guns, but there are also all-important songs as NWOBHM influences are brought to bear. The track titles remain achingly familiar: Seek & Destroy, Phantom Lord, Whiplash… and, of course, there’s the stunning showcase for late bassist Cliff Burton (opens in new tab), Anasthesia (Pulling Teeth). This is as far away from St Anger (opens in new tab) as the Earth is from Pluto.
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8. Slayer – Seasons In The Abyss (1990)
The last studio album for drummer Dave Lombardo, until 2006, and while it offered no discernible change in direction from what had gone before, the band’s strength of vision was clear on Dead Skin Mask and War Ensemble.
Many believed that Seasons In The Abyss was the sound of Slayer (opens in new tab) stuck in a rut. However, this was actually a band in a groove, knowing precisely what they should be doing, and how to deliver it.
Warfare is a recurring theme in Slayer songs, and Hallowed Point, Expendable Youth and the opening blitzkrieg War Ensemble all resonated powerfully at a time when US forces were engaged in the first Gulf War. Equally morbid were Dead Skin Mask and the title track, although the latter had some diehard fans crying ‘sell-out’. Not that anyone would have said that to Kerry Kings’ face.
At a time when some were saying thrash was dead, Slayer were still brimming with ideas.
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7. Megadeth – Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying? (1986)
Megadeth (opens in new tab) were the first act to take the essential ingredients of thrash – volume, attitude, brutality – and streamline them with shred-like soloing. Dave Mustaine’s fancy guitar brought hitherto uncharted musicality to the genre, and his highbrow lyrics had noise-hungry Neanderthals scratching their heads in bewilderment.
But the seething indignation and leg-breaking intent that crackled through Wake Up Dead and Black Friday, plus the songs’ convoluted structure, made people realise this thrash thing wasn’t simply about grunting and murder. Never was Mustaine’s fuck-you-Metallica message put so eloquently.
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6. Exodus – Bonded By Blood (1985)
By the time Bonded… came out, Metallica were poised to deliver their breakthrough Master Of Puppets; Exodus had become just another band in a burgeoning scene.
That said, this is still full of pummelling power, and A Lesson In Violence is just that: a tutorial in bloody ferocity. Vocalist Paul Baloff (who died in ’02) quit after this, to be replaced by Steve ‘Zetro’ Sousa. Baloff rejoined in the late 90s, but it was too late. Time had again passed Exodus (opens in new tab) by.
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5. Anthrax – Among The Living (1987)
Three of the Big Four delivered defining albums in 1986: Metallica with Master Of Puppets (opens in new tab), Slayer with Reign In Blood (opens in new tab) and Megadeth with Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying? (opens in new tab). In 1987, Anthrax weighed in with what drummer Charlie Benante called their “signature album”. Among The Living was their breakthrough, hitting the UK Top 20, and it stands tall as a thrash classic. The album thrums with a fierce energy, a combination of breakneck speed and heavy grind proving brutally effective in the title track, Caught In A Mosh and the Judge Dredd-inspired I Am The Law (opens in new tab). And in Indians, Anthrax had their Run To The Hills.
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4. Metallica – Ride The Lightning (1984)
The album that sealed Metallica (opens in new tab)’s reputation as the new metal band of the early 80s and forced the world to take thrash metal seriously, Ride The Lightning was a staggering achievement from such young musicians. The depth, ambition and musicality evident in Creeping Death, For Whom The Bell Tolls and Fade To Black still take the breath away over 30 years later. If you love thrash, you must love this.
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3. Megadeth – Rust In Peace (1986)
Thrash may have faded badly during the 90s, but it certainly entered the decade in supreme form. Megadeth (opens in new tab)’s greatest album upped the ante for the entire metal genre with songwriting, technicality and production all hitting unprecedented levels of efficacy. Holy Wars… The Punishment Due, Hangar 18 and Tornado Of Souls have become revered classics. Say what you like about Dave Mustaine, but he’s a genius.
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2. Metallica – Master Of Puppets (1986)
This landmark record took Metallica (opens in new tab) to the next level of success, without compromising their attack in any way. These eight legendary tracks are incredibly consistent, whether we’re talking the hell-heavy title-track, the militaristic march of Disposable Heroes or Leper Messiah’s pug-ugly stomp. While the album might be slower, song for song, than its two predecessors, it very much guns for quality over quantity. No doubt about it: Battery and Damage Inc are two of the most awe-inspiringly creative thrash metal songs ever laid to rest. Play these tracks today and they’ll more than hold their ground against anything and anybody. It’s as if Metallica jumped years ahead of their peers, set the thrash bar incredibly high with avant-garde guitar acrobatics, then made their excuses and left the genre. The ultimate mic-drop.
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1. Slayer – Reign In Blood (1990)
Is there such a thing as a perfect album? Yes. It’s called Reign In Blood (opens in new tab). Not quite 30 minutes of the most brutal, explosive and unrelenting extreme metal ever conceived, Slayer (opens in new tab)’s third album still sounds staggeringly powerful nearly three decades on.
From the cudgelling attack of the opening Angel Of Death to the bleak horror of Raining Blood, Reign In Blood towers above every other thrash album for several reasons, but the most important of them is its swivel-eyed intensity: something that no other metal band have ever quite equalled. The evil riffs of Hanneman and King, Tom Araya’s menacing proclamations, Dave Lombardo’s octopus-like mastery of the kit… this is thrash metal at its purest and most destructive. It may never be surpassed.
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