Brian May suggests Queen's Stone Cold Crazy could be the "birth of thrash metal"

Brian May with Metallica's James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett and Lars Ulrich
(Image credit: Getty)

Legendary Queen guitarist Brian May has suggested that one of the band's heaviest songs could have provided the spark that led to the birth of thrash metal - or at least according to the numerous people who often throw that particular theory his way.

Speaking to Total Guitar about the song, which was originally released on Queen's classic 1974 album Sheer Heart Attack and later famously covered by Metallica, May notes: "Stone Cold Crazy goes back a long way. It was one of the first songs we ever played together, so it’s interesting that it never made it onto a record until the third album...Freddie [Mercury] had written the lyrics with his old band, and the original riff was very different – it sounded like the riff in Tear It Up [from 1984's The Works]. So that original version of Stone Cold Crazy sounded like a lot of other things which were around at the time, with quite an easygoing riff. It didn’t have much pace to it.

"But I thought, 'These lyrics are kind of frenetic, so the music should be frenetic as well,'" he continues. "So I put this riff on it, which people are telling me is the birth of thrash metal or something! I don’t know about that. But was unusual at the time to play at that pace."

"That song was a bit of fun, really," May also says. "I don’t think we regarded it as that serious, which is perhaps why it never made it onto an album until number three. But it’s nice and heavy. I still remember going in to do the definitive version of it, and it was faster than ever – we just went for it! There’s a lot of adrenaline: let’s go for it! It really does burn."

Metallica would, in fact, win a Grammy for their cover of Stone Cold Crazy, scooping up the Best Metal Performance gong in 1991 and beating out fellow nominees Anthrax, Megadeth, Judas Priest and Suicidal Tendencies.

Merlin Alderslade
Executive Editor, Louder

Merlin moved into his role as Executive Editor of Louder in early 2022, following over ten years working at Metal Hammer. While there, he served as Online Editor and Deputy Editor, before being promoted to Editor in 2016. Before joining Metal Hammer, Merlin worked as Associate Editor at Terrorizer Magazine and has previously written for the likes of Classic Rock, Rock Sound, eFestivals and others. Across his career he has interviewed legends including Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Metallica, Iron Maiden (including getting a trip on Ed Force One courtesy of Bruce Dickinson), Guns N' Roses, KISS, Slipknot, System Of A Down and Meat Loaf. He has also presented and produced the Metal Hammer Podcast, presented the Metal Hammer Radio Show and is probably responsible for 90% of all nu metal-related content making it onto the site.