Bay Area thrash metal

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Bay Area thrash metal, or "Bay Area thrash", referred to a steady following of heavy metal bands in the 1980s who formed and gained international status in the San Francisco Bay Area, California. [1] Along with South Florida, the scene was widely regarded as a starting point of American thrash metal and death metal. [2] [3]

San Francisco Bay Area Conurbation in California, United States

The San Francisco Bay Area is a populous region surrounding the San Francisco, San Pablo, and Suisun Bay estuaries in the northern part of the U.S. state of California. Although the exact boundaries of the region vary depending on the source, the Bay Area is defined by the Association of Bay Area Governments to include the nine counties that border the aforementioned estuaries: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, Sonoma, and San Francisco. Other sources may exclude parts of or even entire counties, or expand the definition to include neighboring counties that don't border the bay such as San Benito, San Joaquin, and Santa Cruz.

South Florida Geographic and cultural region in Florida, United States

South Florida is a geographic and cultural region that generally comprises Florida's southernmost counties, including Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach. It is the fourth most populous urban agglomeration in the United States. It is one of Florida's three most common "directional" regions, the others being Central Florida and North Florida. It includes the populous Miami metropolitan area, the Everglades, and the Florida Keys. South Florida is the only part of the continental United States with a tropical climate.

Thrash metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music characterized by its overall aggression and often fast tempo. The songs usually use fast percussive beats and low-register guitar riffs, overlaid with shredding-style lead guitar work. The lyrical subject matter often deals with criticisms of The Establishment, and at times shares a disdain for Christian dogma resembling that of their black metal counterparts. The language is typically quite direct and denunciatory, an approach borrowed from hardcore punk.



Exodus and Metallica

The earliest documented roots of the Bay Area thrash scene date back to the formation of Exodus in 1979. [4] By the time the group recorded their full-length album four years later, five different guitarists or bassists had already passed through the line-up, with some going on to join or form bands that were equally relevant to the area's burgeoning metal scene. [5] In November 1982, Exodus opened a show at San Francisco's Old Waldorf venue for Metallica, [6] a then-relatively unknown (and unsigned) band from Southern California who were recently discovered by Brian Slagel and had appeared on the first volume of his Metal Massacre compilation. Exodus (who were also unsigned at this time) had distributed an untitled demo the same year with a line-up that included guitarist Kirk Hammett.

Metallica American heavy metal band

Metallica is an American heavy metal band. The band was formed in 1981 in Los Angeles by vocalist/guitarist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich, and has been based in San Francisco for most of its career. The group's fast tempos, instrumentals and aggressive musicianship made them one of the founding "big four" bands of thrash metal, alongside Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer. Metallica's current lineup comprises founding members and primary songwriters Hetfield and Ulrich, longtime lead guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Robert Trujillo. Guitarist Dave Mustaine and bassists Ron McGovney, Cliff Burton and Jason Newsted are former members of the band.

Southern California Place in California, United States

Southern California is a geographic and cultural region that generally comprises California's southernmost counties, and is the second most populous urban agglomeration in the United States. The region contains ten counties: Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Ventura, and Kern counties.

Brian Slagel is the founder and CEO of Metal Blade Records. Slagel is known for having initiated the Metal Massacre series of compilation albums in 1982, the first of which included the first commercial recording by Metallica. Metal Blade has since released seminal albums by Slayer, Mercyful Fate, Cannibal Corpse, Fates Warning, Amon Amarth and The Black Dahlia Murder, among others.

Although Metallica had initially formed in Los Angeles, it wasn't until their February 1983 relocation to the East Bay area that Cliff Burton and Kirk Hammett joined as bassist and lead guitarist, sealing the band's first, formative line-up. The group (which then consisted of Burton, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich and Dave Mustaine) had moved into a Carlson Blvd. house in El Cerrito, near Albany Hill, which had been rented by Mark Whitaker, then-manager of Exodus. [7] After Mustaine was removed from the line-up that same year, then-Exodus guitarist Hammett would replace him following Whitaker's recommendation; in turn, Mustaine would move back to Los Angeles to form Megadeth.

Cliff Burton American musician, member of Metallica

Clifford Lee Burton was an American musician and songwriter, best known as the bass guitarist for the American band Metallica from December 1982 until his death in September 1986.

James Hetfield American musician

James Alan Hetfield is an American musician and songwriter best known for being the co-founder, lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist and main songwriter for the American heavy metal band Metallica. Hetfield is mainly known for his intricate rhythm playing, but occasionally performs lead guitar duties and solos, both live and in the studio. Hetfield co-founded Metallica in October 1981 after answering an advertisement by drummer Lars Ulrich in the Los Angeles newspaper The Recycler. Metallica has won nine Grammy Awards and released ten studio albums, three live albums, four extended plays and 24 singles.

Lars Ulrich Danish musician

Lars Ulrich is a Danish musician, songwriter, record producer and podcaster. He is best known as the drummer and co-founder of the American heavy metal band Metallica. The son of tennis player Torben Ulrich and grandson of tennis player Einer Ulrich, he also played tennis in his youth and moved to Los Angeles at age 16 to train professionally. However, rather than playing tennis, Ulrich began playing drums. After publishing an advertisement in The Recycler, Ulrich met vocalist/guitarist James Hetfield and formed Metallica. Along with Hetfield, Ulrich has songwriting credits on all of the band's songs. He was the face of the band during the Napster controversy. Later in his career Ulrich began hosting the It's Electric podcast, in which he speaks with other prominent musicians.

Metallica's signing to Megaforce Records, the release of their first album and the songwriting process and rehearsals for Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets had all taken place while the group resided at Whitaker's El Cerrito home. [8]

Megaforce Records is an American independent record label founded in 1982 by Jon Zazula and his wife Marsha Zazula to publish the first works of Metallica. It has offices in New York City and Philadelphia. The label is distributed in the United States by RED Distribution, having previously been distributed by Atlantic Records while Anthrax' recordings from 1985 to 1991 were marketed by Island Records.

<i>Ride the Lightning</i> 1984 studio album by Metallica

Ride the Lightning is the second studio album by American heavy metal band Metallica, released on July 27, 1984, by the independent record label Megaforce Records. The album was recorded in three weeks with producer Flemming Rasmussen at the Sweet Silence Studios in Copenhagen, Denmark. The artwork, based on a concept by the band, depicts an electric chair being struck by lightning flowing from the band logo. The title was taken from a passage in Stephen King's novel The Stand. Although rooted in the thrash metal genre, the album showcased the band's musical growth and lyrical sophistication. This was partly because bassist Cliff Burton introduced the basics of music theory to the rest of the band and had more input in the songwriting. Instead of relying heavily on fast tempos as on its debut Kill 'Em All, Metallica broadened its approach by employing acoustic guitars, extended instrumentals, and more complex harmonies. The overall recording costs were paid by Metallica's European label Music for Nations because Megaforce was unable to cover it. It was the last album to feature songwriting contributions from former lead guitarist Dave Mustaine, and the first to feature contributions from his replacement, Kirk Hammett.

<i>Master of Puppets</i> 1986 studio album by Metallica

Master of Puppets is the third studio album by American heavy metal band Metallica. It was released on March 3, 1986 by Elektra Records. Recorded at the Sweet Silence Studios with producer Flemming Rasmussen, it was the first Metallica album released on a major record label. Master of Puppets was the band's last album to feature bassist Cliff Burton, who died in a bus accident in Sweden during the album's promotional tour. The album peaked at number 29 on the Billboard 200 and became the first thrash metal album to be certified platinum. It was certified 6× platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in 2003 for shipping six million copies in the United States. The album was eventually certified 6× platinum by Music Canada and gold by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI).

Networking between local bands

Jeff Becerra of Possessed Possessed - Jalometalli 2008 - 03.JPG
Jeff Becerra of Possessed

Burton and Hammett's friendship with other local acts, notably Oakland's Exodus and Testament, and later, San Francisco's Death Angel—among others—strongly vitalized the scene, leading to intensive touring and tape trading that would cross borders and seas, and eventually graduate to record signings. [9] [10] [11]

Testament (band) American metal band

Testament is an American thrash metal band from Berkeley, California. Formed in 1982 under the name Legacy, the band's current lineup comprises guitarists Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick, lead vocalist Chuck Billy, drummer Gene Hoglan, and bassist Steve Di Giorgio. Since its inception, Testament has had numerous lineup changes, leaving Peterson as the only constant member. Billy replaced original singer Steve "Zetro" Souza in 1986, prior to the recording of their first studio album, The Legacy, and has been a member of the band since. He and Peterson are the only members to appear on all of Testament's studio albums.

Death Angel American band

Death Angel is an American thrash metal band from Daly City, California, initially active from 1982 to 1991 and again since 2001. Death Angel has released nine studio albums, two demo tapes, one box set and two live albums. The band has gone through several line-up changes, leaving guitarist Rob Cavestany as the only constant member; he and vocalist Mark Osegueda are the only members of Death Angel to appear on all of their studio albums.

Tape trading is an unofficial method of distribution of musical or video content through the postal system, which was prominent in the 1980s and 1990s. Although most commonly used to distribute and publicize limited-release musical demo tapes in underground musical genres such as punk, hardcore, and extreme metal, the system has also been used to distribute bootleg recordings of live concerts, recordings of radio broadcasts, original radio-style programming by amateur broadcasters, and videotapes of underground films.

El Sobrante's Possessed would bring a turning point to the genre with 1985's Seven Churches , regarded as the first album to cross over from thrash metal to death metal for the largely "growling vocals" and subject matter dealing with horror and the occult. [12] In addition to the inspiration of black metal, it would predate other albums, such as Los Angeles-based Slayer's Reign in Blood and Death's San Francisco Bay Area-written and rehearsed Scream Bloody Gore , which had also been regarded as influential to thrash and death metal. [13] [14]

El Sobrante, California Census-designated place in California, United States

El Sobrante is a census-designated place (CDP) in Contra Costa County, California, United States. The population was 12,669 at the 2010 census.

Possessed (band) American death metal band

Possessed is an American death metal band, originally formed in 1983. Noted for their fast style of playing and Jeff Becerra's growled vocals, they are often called the first band in the death metal genre. The band is also notable for featuring Larry LaLonde, who was the guitarist of Possessed during the mid-1980s, and went on to join Primus.

<i>Seven Churches</i> (album) 1985 studio album by Possessed

Seven Churches is the debut album by American death metal band Possessed. The title of the album refers to the Seven churches of Asia mentioned in the Book of Revelation. "The Exorcist" begins with producer Randy Burns' version of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells, arranged and performed as it was in the 1973 horror film of the same name. ranked the album first in its list of "10 Essential Death Metal albums".

Members from Possessed had also maintained a strong network with other integral musicians of the Bay Area thrash scene: vocalist Jeff Becerra and then-guitarist Larry LaLonde had played in a short-lived speed metal band called Blizzard, [15] which featured former Exodus bassist Carlton Melson and Desecration guitarist Danny Boland (then-Possessed drummer Mike Sus and former Possessed bassist Bob Yost had also played in Desecration, a death/thrash band active between 1985 and 1989). [16] Former Exodus bassist Geoff Andrews co-founded Possessed before Becerra replaced him in 1983, taking over both vocal and bass duties. Andrews went on to form the thrash band Sabertooth with Johnee McKelvey. [17]

After Possessed's first disbanding, LaLonde went on to join Blind Illusion, which featured former Exodus members Evan McCaskey and Tim Agnello, then-Heathen members Marc Biedermann and Dave Godfrey, and Blizzard drummer Mike Miner. [18] Blind Illusion co-founder Les Claypool (who was a high school friend of Kirk Hammett at Richmond's DeAnza High School) would unsuccessfully audition as Metallica's bassist in 1986 after Burton's bus accident death in Sweden.

Networking between bands in other scenes

Heavy metal in Southern California had spanned back to the 1970s, and in the 1980s, was the home base of Slayer and Megadeth, two of thrash's "big four". However, from the mid-1980s until the early 1990s, glam metal had been the pervading and popular subgenre within the boundaries of the Los Angeles scene. [19]

Slayer's Jeff Hanneman, Tom Araya and Kerry King at the 2007 Hellfest. Although Slayer were not formed in the Bay Area, the band had gotten an early headstart in the Bay Area thrash metal scene, and are often associated (along with Megadeth ) as being a part of it. SlayerliveB&W.jpg
Slayer's Jeff Hanneman, Tom Araya and Kerry King at the 2007 Hellfest. Although Slayer were not formed in the Bay Area, the band had gotten an early headstart in the Bay Area thrash metal scene, and are often associated (along with Megadeth ) as being a part of it.

Notwithstanding, both Slayer and Megadeth would receive recognition early in their duration by playing at Bay Area venues, including Berkeley's Ruthie's Inn with Exodus between 1984–85, a time in which current Slayer guitarist Kerry King had played alongside Mustaine in Megadeth. Oakland native Jeff Hanneman was a founding Slayer member; Paul Bostaph (formerly of Forbidden, and later Exodus and Testament) had been Slayer's full-time drummer for the balance of the 1990s. Similarly, drummer Dave Lombardo played on Testament's The Gathering album before returning to Slayer in 2004. [21]

Before the 1989 dissolution of Desecration (which featured former members of Possessed), Concord drummer Chris Reifert had been a live guest musician at one of the band's shows. However, preceding this, Reifert had also been an acquaintance of Chuck Schuldiner, who relocated his band Death from Florida to Reifert's hometown in the Bay Area while building a line-up. Noticing the growth of the Northern California thrash scene, Schuldiner had earlier moved Death to the Bay Area in 1985 and briefly collaborated with drummer Eric Brecht, who recently exited Texas crossover thrash band D.R.I. and would eventually join Attitude Adjustment. However, it was the Schuldiner-Reifert pairing that would lead to Death's signing to Combat Records and release of the album Scream Bloody Gore, a debut regarded (alongside Possessed's Seven Churches) as one of the first releases to bridge the gap between thrash and death metal, as noted earlier. Both records had been produced by Randy Burns.

In 1987, shortly after the release of Scream Bloody Gore and Schuldiner's move back to Florida, Reifert would form his own endeavor, Autopsy, which has also been regarded as an early inspiration of the death metal genre. [22] Autopsy's 1989 debut, Severed Survival , would feature bassist Steve DiGiorgio, founder of Antioch, California thrash metal band Sadus; Schuldiner had also met DiGiorgio while living in the Bay Area, who would play bass for Death on the albums Human and Individual Thought Patterns .

Reifert's legacy within the death metal genre would be further explored on the 1992 release of Acts of the Unspeakable , which featured bassist Josh Barohn, who also played bass on Effigy of the Forgotten , the 1991 debut album of pioneering New York death metal band Suffocation.

Musical characteristics

Exodus guitarist and songwriter Gary Holt live in concert, 2005 Exodus - Holt.jpg
Exodus guitarist and songwriter Gary Holt live in concert, 2005


As different thrash metal scenes developed around the world throughout the 1980s, each had their own distinct style and influence.

Several early luminaries of the Bay Area scene borrowed heavily from the new wave of British heavy metal and early punk rock: Exodus guitarist Gary Wayne Holt mentioned discovering Tygers of Pan Tang, Diamond Head, Angel Witch, Venom and Budgie on a KUSF radio show hosted by Ian Kallen and Ron Quintana. Hammett, Hetfield and Ulrich have also cited Venom and Budgie as important influences, in addition to punk acts like the Misfits, Charged GBH and Discharge. [23] Albums that very much reflected this era and inspiration include Kill Em All and Bonded By Blood .

Other bands, such as Attitude Adjustment, took the hardcore punk influence to a greater extent, with the aforementioned group involving former musicians from Agnostic Front, D.R.I., and Murphy's Law during their line-up history, [24] in addition to show dates at 924 Gilman, a Berkeley venue more oriented to hardcore punk than heavy metal music.

Attitude Adjustment's style, "crossover thrash", a grindcore precursor, would influence many bands of the latter subgenre, including chief innovator Napalm Death (of England), who would cover Attitude Adjustment's "Dope Fiend" and Hirax's "Hate, Fear, and Power" on an exclusive covers album (coincidentally, the Hirax track had featured Attitude Adjustment drummer Eric Brecht on the original 1986 recording). Hirax, while Orange County, CA-based, had many connections to bands of the Bay Area thrash scene, as the group had played at Ruthie's Inn, and in past line-ups, featured Paul Baloff (formerly of Exodus and Heathen) and Ron McGovney (Metallica's first bassist). [25]

Long Island-born multi-instrumentalist Joe Satriani had relocated to Berkeley in 1978 to pursue a career teaching music; although he was mainly influenced by blues rock [26] and had not specialized in heavy metal music initially, many of Satriani's students would go on to become progenital guitarists in the Bay Area metal scene, including Kirk Hammett of Metallica/Exodus, Larry LaLonde of Possessed, Alex Skolnick of Testament, Rick Hunolt of Exodus, Phil Kettner of Lȧȧz Rockit and Geoff Tyson of T-Ride. Satriani would also produce Possessed's 1987 The Eyes of Horror EP.

Jeff Becerra of Possessed cites early Exodus, Venom [27] and Motörhead as his inspirations, calling bassist/vocalist Lemmy his greatest of influences. [28] Although Allmusic attributed Slayer as being a musical influence for 1985's Seven Churches, [29] the first Slayer album Show No Mercy had not been released until December 1983, shortly after members of Possessed were already writing material for their demo and debut album. However, former Possessed member Brian Montana explained that guitarist Mike Torrao once wanted Possessed to have a "Slayer-type outfit" (which then consisted of make-up, leather, pentagrams and inverted crosses), something Montana rejected as being too derivative. Montana (who had played guitar on the first Possessed demo) also cited early Exodus as an influence, in addition to Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Yngwie Malmsteen and Joe Satriani. [30]

Image, themes, philosophies and lifestyle

In regards to heavy metal and image, Sadus co-founder Steve DiGiorgio explained: high school, if you were playing any kind of music that wasn’t dance, or just something that was really different—you know, rock, metal or hard rock, anything like that—then you needed to look like it. You needed to look like a bad dude, and we just looked like normal dudes....It wasn’t about trying to impress everybody, because we looked at those types of people as weenies trying to do that stuff ... We just wore our normal stuff and we didn’t really think about it. It just kind of happened that way and I think because we were searching for an extreme style, coupled with this no image, who-cares-what-we-look-like thing, then I think we fit in to that new movement that we discovered a little ways later, the whole Bay Area thrash scene. [31]

For logos, many bands within the Bay Area scene had a more DIY-artistic approach [32] compared to the older metal bands using an already established font. Conversely, professional illustrators (most notably Ed Repka on Beyond the Gates , Eternal Nightmare , Product of Society , and Scream Bloody Gore ) were sometimes utilized to design album art.

Lyrical topics generally dealt in themes like the occult, horror, death, witchcraft, warfare, destruction, violence, apocalypse, rebellion and tyranny. [33] [34] [34] [35] However, some groups took on subjects more relevant to the day. Metallica's "Master of Puppets", from the 1986 album of the same name, deals with the issues of hard drugs, with some phrases in the song being references to cocaine use. The crack-cocaine epidemic had been an active problem at that time for many large U.S. cities, and particularly affected the San Francisco Bay Area.

Dave Mustaine's association to the Bay Area scene was limited to his brief El Cerrito tenure with Metallica (in addition to the early Megadeth shows). However, the "Megadeth" namesake emanated from a pamphlet written by then–U.S. Senator Alan Cranston, a prominent politician from the South Bay. Cranston's text related to nuclear disarmament and the Cold War, two hot-button political issues during the 1980s which would become song topics on the second Megadeth album, Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?

At live shows, members of Exodus were forward in their disdain for the glam metal scene in Los Angeles, making the phrase "kill the posers" a common stage mantra; guitarist Gary Holt often recalled how both he and then-singer Paul Baloff would approach individuals wearing Ratt or Mötley Crüe T-shirts, cut the clothes up with pocket knives (either for or against the wearer's will) and then tied the mangled fabrics around their wrist as a "badge of honor". [36] Despite Holt later conceding to being a Ratt fan himself (along with guitarist Lee Altus), he still criticized the image-driven mentality of glam metal, and described Exodus and other thrash metal bands as being more "based on musicianship, chops, songwriting and performance". [37]

While Vio-Lence had been signed to a major label (MCA Records) for their 1988 debut album, a rare feat for any 2nd wave thrash band, then-guitarist Robb Flynn described tour life:

...we were all like nineteen ... our stuff was crammed into the van, no hotels, crashing out on people's floors and shit like that. (Then-Vio-Lence manager) Debbie (Abono) came out with us for a few dates and those ruled because we'd get to eat at Denny's. We'd just eat as much as humanly possible and hopefully we'd eat at the show, but we had absolutely no spending money. We weren't making anything, that's for sure, maybe we made $50 a night. [38]


Greg Christian of Testament, live at Hole in the Sky, 2007 Testament by Christian Misje.jpg
Greg Christian of Testament, live at Hole in the Sky, 2007

By the early 1990s, the scene had mostly died down, with many groups disbanding, going on hiatus or venturing to musical styles deemed more commercial or accessible at the time.

Oakland thrash metal band Vio-Lence would dissolve, leading guitarist Robb Flynn to form and front Machine Head, who would help popularize the groove metal genre. [39] Flynn (who had also co-founded Forbidden) would be joined by drummer Chris Kontos (formerly of Attitude Adjustment) and later guitarist Phil Demmel, who played alongside Flynn in Vio-Lence.

Vocalist Steev Esquivel would take a similar direction to Flynn after the 1994 break-up of his thrash metal band, Defiance, when he formed groove metal/nu metal group, Skinlab, the following year.

Possessed would disband in 1989 after vocalist/bassist Becerra was shot by 2 street thieves and left paralyzed from the waist down. In addition, personal and creative conflicts within the band had been described by former members. [30] [40] Mike Torrao would reform Possessed the following year with a different line-up; however, the group would fold once again in 1993.

The 2008 documentary film Get Thrashed attributed thrash's disintegration to grunge's rise after the Clash of the Titans tour. [41] While every band touring the 1990 European segment were veterans of 1980s thrash, a then-unknown Alice in Chains was the opening band on the North American segment in 1991. Death Angel were originally intended by promoters as the supporting act (for their album, Act III ); however, in the previous year, a vehicle accident in Arizona left drummer Andy Galeon critically injured, and Geffen Records had dropped the group from their roster after a disagreement on who to replace him; subsequently, the band would dissolve. The same year, Geffen created a subsidiary label, DGC Records, which was responsible for signing Nirvana, who—along with Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden—epitomized the face of the Seattle grunge phenomena of the early 1990s. Nearly coinciding with Nevermind's No. 1 spot on the Billboards, Exodus would be dropped from Capitol Records and the group would go on hiatus the same year. [42]

Despite line-up shifts and label changes, Testament managed to intercept thrash's slow period by touring Europe and building a new fan base abroad. [42] Sadus bassist Steve DiGiorgio and Floridian guitarist James Murphy (both alums of Schuldiner's band Death) would join ranks with the band, in addition to former or session members of Forbidden, Exodus, and Slayer. However, Murphy would leave Testament after a brain tumor diagnosis in 1999. [43] He had initially replaced founding guitarist Alex Skolnick, who had left Testament in 1993 to explore other musical styles.

Almost in tandem with grunge's receding vogue, and the increasing popularity of alternative rock, nu metal, rap rock, hip hop and boy bands, [44] MTV's Headbangers Ball (which had showcased music videos of many Bay Area thrash groups in the late 1980s and early 1990s) would be taken off the air in 1995, [45] limiting U.S. output of thrash (in addition to associated metal subgenres like death and black metal) to outlets such as radio shows, carrier current, mailorder, word of mouth or the internet.

Out of all bands from the Bay Area metal scene, Metallica managed not only to stay active (despite alcoholism, internal conflicts and a turnover of bassists [46] ) but also branch out to the mainstream, even while thrash metal and other 1980s metal styles began to shrink from the public eye. Metallica was the only "big 4 thrash group" not on the Clash of the Titans tour; instead, after the Titans event ended, the band teamed up with Guns N' Roses and Faith No More on 2 consecutive tours in support of their self-titled 5th album, known colloquially as the Black Album . The record was considered a musical departure from their thrash metal days, showing a direction reared toward modern hard rock, and was attributed (along with Load and ReLoad ) as alienating long-time fans. [47] The April 2000 Napster file sharing lawsuits would bring the band further controversy from both the press and fans, [48] [49] considering the process of music trading was a factor in their early success. [50] Since the beginning of the Soundscan era, the Black Album has held distinction as one of the best selling albums of all time; [51] the accumulated Metallica discography currently makes the group the 3rd most financially successful heavy metal band of all time (after Led Zeppelin and AC/DC) and the best selling thrash metal band of all time. The band has sold a total of over 100 million records. [52]


In August 2001, a small "reunion" of Bay Area thrash metal bands organized Thrash of the Titans , promoted to help Testament vocalist Chuck Billy, who had been diagnosed with cancer, as well as Death's Chuck Schuldiner, who was ailing from a brain tumor. Although Death was based in Orlando, Florida, Schuldiner had relocated the group to the San Francisco Bay Area during the 1980s while pooling a line-up.

The classic Vio-Lence line-up (minus Machine Head's Robb Flynn), Death Angel, Heathen, Forbidden (going under their original name, Forbidden Evil), Anthrax, Sadus, Stormtroopers of Death and Exodus were among the performers. Schuldiner would lose his battle with the cancer 4 months later, and Exodus' singer Paul Baloff died from a stroke the following year. [53] However, Testament's singer, Chuck Billy survived cancer.

Death Angel and Heathen would reform and record new albums as a result of their reunions for the benefit concert, and Exodus, who had been on semi-hiatus at the time, asked 1980s era singer Steve Souza to rejoin the band after Baloff's death, also leading to a new album.

On July 9, 2005, a "sequel" concert, Thrash Against Cancer took place, which featured Testament, Lȧȧz Rockit and Hirax, with Death Angel guitarist Ted Aguilar. [54]

Jeff Becerra reactivated the Possessed name in 2007, with members of the band Sadistic Intent compensating for the original line-up. The new Possessed played at the 2007 Wacken Open Air in Germany.

2008 would also be seen by many fans as a great year for Bay Area thrash, with the releases of Metallica's Death Magnetic , Death Angel's Killing Season , Testament's The Formation of Damnation , and a re-recording of Exodus' 1985 debut Bonded by Blood called Let There Be Blood featuring the line-up of Rob Dukes, Lee Altus, Gary Holt, Jack Gibson and Tom Hunting. Blind Illusion, which had disbanded 1989, reconvened in 2009.

Notable venues

The Fillmore, San Francisco

Kabuki Theatre, San Francisco

Metallica, 03/15/1985 [55]
Megadeth, 05/31/1985 [56]

The Keystone, Berkeley

At Berkeley's Keystone: Megadeth & Slayer, 04/15/1984 [57]

Ruthie's Inn, Berkeley

In addition to bringing to light many punk rock groups, the club was an early local venue for Metallica, Megadeth, Death, Slayer, Exodus, Possessed and Death Angel from 1983–1987. Cliff Burton had also been a regular in the audience. [58] The club was eventually converted into a restaurant, Rountree's, in 2002. On December 31, 2006, the venue's original founder, Wes Robinson, died at age 77. [59] [60]

Prior and upon moving to California, the Texas-born Robinson was heavily involved in the jazz music collective, where he met musicians like Pharoah Sanders and John Coltrane. Disillusioned by the commercialism of jazz in the 1970s, Robinson's focus soon moved to hardcore punk (which had just started in the East Bay at that time) and a small San Pablo Avenue club called Ruthie's Inn would be used to front these bands. By the 1980s, Robinson then became interested in the thrash metal and early death metal bands in the area, and would promote highly influential bands of those subgenres as well. In a Berkeley Daily Planet op-ed, Robinson was remembered for focusing on "freshness and originality of the music and passion of its artists rather than the commercial appeal." [61]

The Stone, San Francisco

The Stone is attributed for hosting Burton's first concert appearance with Metallica, [62] and would lead to repeat performances from other thrash acts, such as Megadeth. [57] [63]

The Warfield, San Francisco

The 1920s vaudeville theatre featured a myriad of thrash metal bands during the 1980s, and was the exclusive location for Slayer's War at the Warfield video in 2003.

The Omni, Oakland

Testament and Vio-Lence, August 18, 1989 Death Angel, November 3, 1989 Death, March 30, 1990.

Notable bands

BandSan Francisco Bay Area city:Date of FormationNotes
Attitude Adjustment Walnut Creek, California 1983 [64]
Autopsy Concord, California 1987
Blind Illusion El Sobrante, California 1979/1980 [65]
Death Angel Concord, California1982 [66]
Defiance Oakland, California 1985 [67]
Epidemic Palo Alto, California 1987
Exodus Berkeley, California 1979/1980 [68]
Forbidden Fremont, California 1985 [69]
Heathen Oakland, California1984
Hexx San Francisco, California1983 [70]
Lȧȧz Rockit Berkeley, California1982 [71]
Metallica El Cerrito, California 1981 (moved to the Bay Area in 1983) [72]
Mordred San Francisco, California 1984
Possessed El Sobrante, California1983
Sadus Antioch, California 1984 [73]
Testament Berkeley, California1983 [74]
Trauma San Francisco, California1981
Ulysses Siren San Francisco, California1985 [75]
Vio-Lence Oakland, California1985 [76]

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Death was an American death metal band from Orlando, Florida, founded in 1983 by guitarist and vocalist Chuck Schuldiner. Death is considered to be among the most influential bands in heavy metal and a pioneering force in the extreme metal subgenre of death metal. Their debut album, Scream Bloody Gore, has been widely regarded as the first death metal record.

Flotsam and Jetsam (band) thrash metal group from Phoenix, Arizona

Flotsam and Jetsam is an American thrash metal and progressive metal band that formed in Phoenix, Arizona in 1981. The band currently consists of vocalist Eric "A.K" Knutson, guitarists Michael Gilbert and Steve Conley, bassist Michael Spencer, and drummer Ken Mary. Flotsam and Jetsam went through several lineup changes over the years, and Knutson has been the only constant member of the band. They are also notable for featuring bassist Jason Newsted, who left the band shortly after the release of their debut album to join Metallica as Cliff Burton's replacement.

Dark Angel (band) American thrash metal band

Dark Angel is an American thrash metal band from Downey, California that formed in 1981. Their over-the-top style earned them the nickname "the L.A. Caffeine Machine". Although Dark Angel had never achieved a mainstream breakthrough in their initial career, they are often credited as one of the leaders of the second wave of the thrash metal movement of the 1980s. Dark Angel released four full-length studio albums before splitting up in 1992. After a short-lived reunion from 2002 to 2005, the band reunited once again in 2013. They are also notable for featuring drummer Gene Hoglan, who has been a member of Dark Angel since 1984, and since their initial breakup in 1992, he has played in several notable bands, such as Death, Testament, Strapping Young Lad, Fear Factory and Dethklok.

Forbidden was a thrash metal band from the San Francisco Bay Area. Formed in 1985 as Forbidden Evil, the group was founded by Jim Pittman and guitarist Robb Flynn. Since their formation, Forbidden have broken up and reformed twice with numerous line-up changes. The most recent line-up of the band comprised Anderson (vocals), Locicero (guitar), Matt Camacho (bass), Steve Smyth (guitar) and Sasha Horn (drums). After breaking up for the first time in 1998 and briefly returning in 2001, Forbidden reunited once again in 2007 but has been on an indefinite hiatus since 2013.

Exodus (American band) American thrash metal band

Exodus is an American thrash metal band formed in 1979 in Richmond, California. They have gone through numerous lineup changes, two extended hiatuses, and the deaths of two former band members. Their current lineup consists of guitarists Gary Holt and Lee Altus, bassist Jack Gibson, drummer Tom Hunting, and lead vocalist Steve "Zetro" Souza. Hunting is one of the original members, and departed from Exodus twice, in 1989 and 2004, but rejoined in 2007. Holt joined the band about two years after its formation, and is the only member of Exodus to appear on all their releases.

Vio-lence is an American thrash metal band formed in 1985 in the San Francisco Bay Area. Throughout its existence, they released demo tapes, one EP and three studio albums. Vio-lence is best-known for their association with the 1980s Bay Area thrash metal scene, and often credited as one of the leading lights of the second wave of the genre, along with Pantera, Sepultura, Sacred Reich, Dark Angel, Annihilator and Flotsam and Jetsam as well as their Bay Area counterparts Testament, Death Angel and Forbidden. Their most stable line-up was Phil Demmel and Robb Flynn on guitars, Deen Dell on bass, Perry Strickland on drums and Sean Killian on vocals; this lineup recorded all their studio albums. After breaking up in 1994 and reforming for occasional live performances from 2001 to 2003, the members of Vio-Lence reunited in January 2018 for a benefit of Killian, who was battling with liver cirrhosis. The band announced their third reunion in January 2019.

Robb Flynn American musician

Robert Conrad "Robb" Flynn is the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist for the heavy metal band Machine Head. Flynn formed the band along with Adam Duce, Logan Mader and Tony Costanza after leaving Bay Area thrash band Vio-Lence.

Adam Duce American musician

Adam Duce is an American musician, best known as a founding member and former bassist of the American thrash/groove metal band Machine Head. He played in the band for over 21 years before his firing in 2013.

Heathen (band) American thrash metal band

Heathen is an American thrash metal band originating from the San Francisco Bay Area, active from 1984 to 1993 and again from 2001 onwards. Despite never achieving commercial success, the band is often credited – alongside Exodus, Testament, Forbidden, Death Angel and Vio-lence – as one of the leaders of the Bay Area thrash metal scene of the mid-to-late 1980s, and they have gone through several line-up changes, leaving guitarist Lee Altus as the only constant member. To date, Heathen has released three studio albums: Breaking the Silence (1987), Victims of Deception (1991) and The Evolution of Chaos (2009).

Epidemic was an American death/Thrash metal band which was part of the Bay Area thrash scene.

Lȧȧz Rockit is a thrash metal band formed in San Francisco, California, in 1982. Although one of the lesser-known groups of the Bay Area thrash metal scene, each album in their career has received high critical marks. One of their signature elements was Ibanez guitars adorned with elaborate airbrushed scenes of warfare.

Thrash of the Titans

Thrash of the Titans was a benefit concert held on August 11, 2001 at the Maritime Hall in San Francisco, California. The concert was a co-benefit for Testament vocalist Chuck Billy, who was diagnosed with germ cell seminoma ; and Chuck Schuldiner, leader of the death metal band Death, who was also battling cancer. The Master of Ceremonies for the evening was S.O.D. vocalist Billy Milano. The concert was organized by Walter Morgan. The show was announced in May 2001, and all 2300 tickets quickly sold out.

Clash of the Titans (tour)

Clash of the Titans was a concert tour co-headlined by American thrash metal bands Megadeth and Slayer, which took place in September and October 1990 and again from May to July 1991. Launched in support of their respective albums Rust in Peace and Seasons in the Abyss, the tour had two legs, first in Europe and second in the United States. Clash of the Titans is considered one of the most successful tours in heavy metal history, and bridged the gap between the popularity of thrash metal and rise of the alternative rock and grunge scene.

Debbie Abono was an American manager of death metal and thrash metal bands during the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s.

European Carnage Tour was a European tour headlined by American thrash metal bands Slayer and Megadeth. This tour marked the first time that both bands had toured Europe together since the Clash of the Titans Tour in 1990 when support was provided by Testament and Suicidal Tendencies. Slayer and Megadeth had previously toured together in North America on American Carnage Tour in 2010, with Testament and Anthrax as the supporting acts.

Murder In The Front Row chronicles the 1980s Bay Area thrash metal scene, the documentary premiered on April 20th, 2019. Directed by Adam Dubin, the film contains over fifty interviews with various metal stalwarts, and is told through a mix of first-person interviews, animation and narration by comedian Brian Posehn.


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