|Cultural origins||Early 1980s, United States, United Kingdom and Germany|
Thrash metal (or simply thrash) 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 concern over the destruction of the environment, 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.
The genre emerged in the early 1980s as musicians began fusing the double bass drumming and complex guitar stylings of the new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) with the speed and aggression of hardcore punk.Philosophically, thrash metal developed as a backlash against both the conservatism of the Reagan era and the much more moderate, pop-influenced and widely accessible heavy metal subgenre of glam metal which also developed concurrently in the 1980s.
Thrash metal generally features fast tempos, low-register, complex guitar riffs, high-register guitar solos and double bass drumming.The rhythm guitar parts are played with heavy distortion and often palm muted to create a tighter and more precise sound. Vocally, thrash metal can employ anything from melodic singing to shouted vocals. Most guitar solos are played at high speed and technically demanding, as they are usually characterized by shredding, and use advanced techniques such as sweep picking, legato phrasing, alternate picking, tremolo picking, string skipping, and two-hand tapping.
The guitar riffs often use chromatic scales and emphasize the tritone and diminished intervals, instead of using conventional single scale based riffing. For example, the intro riff of Metallica's "Master of Puppets" (the title track of the namesake album) is a chromatic descent, followed by a chromatic ascent based on the tritone.
Speed, pacing and time-changes also define thrash metal. Thrash tends to have an accelerating feel which may be due in large part to its aggressive drumming style. For example, drummers often use two bass drums, or a double-bass pedal, in order to create a relentless, driving beat. Cymbal stops/chokes are often used to transition from one riff to another or to precede an acceleration in tempo. Some common characteristics of the genre are fast guitar riffs with aggressive picking styles and fast guitar solos, and extensive use of two bass drums as opposed to the conventional use of only one, typical of most rock music.
To keep up with the other instruments, many bassists use a plectrum. However, some prominent thrash metal bassists have used their fingers, such as Frank Bello, Greg Christian, Steve DiGiorgio, Robert Trujillo and Cliff Burton. Several bassists use a distorted bass tone, an approach popularized by Burton and Motörhead's Lemmy. Lyrical themes in thrash metal include warfare, corruption, injustice, murder, suicide, isolation, alienation, addiction, and other maladies that afflict the individual and society. In addition, politics, particularly pessimism and dissatisfaction towards politics, are common themes among thrash metal bands. Humor and irony can occasionally be found (Anthrax for example), but they are limited, and are exception rather than a rule.
Among the earliest songs credited with influencing future thrash musicians was Queen's "Stone Cold Crazy", recorded and released in 1974. The song was described as being thrash metal "before the term had been invented".Black Sabbath's "Symptom of the Universe", released in 1975, is often referred to as a compelling early influence on thrash, and was a direct inspiration for Diamond Head's pioneering song "Am I Evil?". The NWOBHM bands emerging from Britain in the late 1970s further influenced the development of early thrash. The early work of artists such as Diamond Head, Iron Maiden, Venom, Motörhead, Tygers of Pan Tang, Raven, and Angel Witch, among others, introduced the fast-pace and intricate musicianship that became core aspects of thrash. Phil Taylor's double-bass drumming featured in Motörhead's 1979 song "Overkill" has been acknowledged by many thrash drummers, most notably Lars Ulrich, as a primary influence on their playing. Metal Blade Records executive Brian Slagel played a key role in bringing the emerging genre to a larger audience, as he was responsible for discovering both Metallica and Slayer and producing their earliest studio recordings.
Void is hailed as one of the earliest examples of hardcore/heavy metal crossover, whose chaotic musical approach is often cited as particularly influential.Their 1982 split LP with fellow Washington band The Faith showed both bands exhibiting quick, fiery, high-speed punk rock. It has been argued that those recordings laid the foundation for early thrash metal, at least in terms of selected tempos.
In Europe, the earliest band of the emerging thrash movement was Venom from Newcastle upon Tyne, formed in 1979. Their 1982 album Black Metal has been cited as a major influence on many subsequent genres and bands in the extreme metal world, such as Bathory, Hellhammer, Slayer, and Mayhem. The European scene was almost exclusively influenced by the most aggressive music Germany and England were producing at the time. British bands such as Tank and Raven, along with German band Accept, motivated musicians from central Europe to start bands of their own, eventually producing groups such as Sodom, Kreator, and Destruction from Germany, as well as Switzerland's Coroner.
In 1981, Southern California band Leather Charm wrote a song entitled "Hit the Lights". Leather Charm soon disbanded and the band's primary songwriter, vocalist/rhythm guitarist James Hetfield, met drummer Lars Ulrich through a classified advertisement. Together, Hetfield and Ulrich formed Metallica, the first of the "Big Four" thrash bands, with lead guitarist Dave Mustaine, who would later form Megadeth, another of the "Big Four" originators of thrash, and bassist Ron McGovney. McGovney would be replaced by Cliff Burton, and Mustaine was later replaced by Kirk Hammett, and at Burton's insistence the band relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area. Before Metallica had even settled on a definitive lineup, Metal Blade Records executive Brian Slagel asked Hetfield and Ulrich (credited as "Mettallica") to record "Hit the Lights" for the first edition of his Metal Massacre compilation in 1982. An updated version of "Hit the Lights" would later open their first studio album, Kill 'Em All , released in mid-1983.
The term "thrash metal" was first used in the music press by Kerrang! magazine's journalist Malcolm Dome while making a reference to another of the "Big Four", Anthrax, and their song "Metal Thrashing Mad".Prior to this, Metallica frontman James Hetfield referred to his band's sound as speed metal or power metal.
Another "Big Four" thrash band formed in Southern California in 1981, when guitarists Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King met while auditioning for the same band and subsequently decided to form a band of their own. Hanneman and King recruited vocalist/bassist Tom Araya and drummer Dave Lombardo, and Slayer was formed. Slayer was discovered by Metal Blade Records executive Brian Slagel; the band's live performance of Iron Maiden's "Phantom of the Opera" so impressed him that he promptly signed them to his label. In December 1983, four months after the release of Metallica's debut Kill 'Em All, Slayer released their debut album, Show No Mercy .
To the north, Canada produced influential thrash and speed metal bands such as Annihilator, Anvil, Exciter, Razor and Voivod.
The popularity of thrash metal increased in 1984 with the release of Metallica's sophomore record Ride the Lightning , as well as Anthrax's debut Fistful of Metal . Overkill and Slayer released extended plays on independent labels the same year. This led to a heavier sounding form of thrash, which was reflected in Exodus' Bonded by Blood and Slayer's Hell Awaits . In 1985, the German band Kreator released their debut album Endless Pain and the Brazilian band Sepultura released their EP Bestial Devastation . Megadeth, which was formed by former Metallica guitarist Dave Mustaine, released their debut album Killing Is My Business... and Business Is Good! , and Anthrax released the critically acclaimed Spreading the Disease in 1985.
From a creative standpoint, the year 1986 was perhaps the pinnacle of thrash metal, as a number of critically acclaimed and genre defining albums were released. Metallica's major label debut Master of Puppets was released in March, becoming the first thrash album to be certified platinum, being certified 6× platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Kreator released Pleasure to Kill in April, which would later be a major influence on the death metal scene. [ unreliable source? ] released Reign in Blood in October, an album considered by some to have single-handedly inspired the death metal genre. Also in October, Nuclear Assault released their debut album Game Over .Megadeth released Peace Sells... but Who's Buying? in September, an album which proved to be the band's commercial and critical breakthrough and which AllMusic later cited as "a classic of early thrash". Slayer, regarded as one of the most sinister thrash metal bands of the early 1980s,
In 1987, Anthrax released their third album Among the Living , which borrowed elements from their two previous releases, with fast guitar riffs and pounding drums. Death Angel took a similar approach with their 1987 debut, The Ultra-Violence . In 1988, Suicidal Tendencies, who had previously been a straightforward hardcore punk band, released their major label debut How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can't Even Smile Today, which helped pioneer the crossover thrash genre.
Sepultura's third album, Beneath the Remains , earned them some mainstream appeal as it was released by Roadrunner Records. Testament continued through the late 1980s with The New Order and Practice What You Preach , both albums showing the band's musical growth and gaining Testament nearly the same level of popularity as the "Big Four".Vio-lence and Forbidden, two relative latecomers to the Bay Area thrash metal scene, released their debut albums Eternal Nightmare and Forbidden Evil in 1988. Canadian thrashers Annihilator released their highly technical debut Alice in Hell in 1989, which was praised for its fast riffs and extended guitar solos. Sadus appeared later, demonstrating a sound which was primarily driven by the fretless bass of Steve DiGiorgio. In Germany, Sodom released Agent Orange , and Kreator would release Extreme Aggression .
From 1987 to 1989, Overkill released Taking Over , Under the Influence and The Years of Decay , three albums considered their best. In 1988, Slayer released South of Heaven , Megadeth released So Far, So Good... So What! , Anthrax released State of Euphoria while Metallica's ...And Justice for All spawned the band's first video and Top 40 hit, the World War I–themed song "One".
A substantial number of thrash metal groups pay tribute to punk rock and hardcore punk. Metallica has covered Discharge ("Free Speech for the Dumb"), Anti-Nowhere League ("So What?"), Killing Joke ("the Wait"), Ramones ("53rd & 3rd", among others), and The Misfits ("Die Die my Darling", "Last Caress/Green Hell"),and Slayer recorded Undisputed Attitude , an album of punk rock covers, including Minor Threat, early D.R.I., and Iggy and the Stooges. Megadeth have covered two Sex Pistols songs ("Anarchy in the UK" and "Problems"), as have Anthrax ("God Save the Queen" and "Friggin' in the Riggin"). Anthrax have also covered "Protest and Survive" by Discharge on their album Attack of the Killer B's , "We're a Happy Family" by Ramones, and "New Noise" by the Swedish band Refused as a hidden track on Worship Music . Overkill have covered the Sex Pistols ("No Feelings"), Ramones ("I'm Against it"), and Dead Boys ("Sonic Reducer", and "Ain't Nothing to Do"). In addition, Pantera covered Poison Idea ("the Badge").
A number of more typical but technically sophisticated albums were released in 1990, including Megadeth's Rust in Peace , Anthrax's Persistence of Time , Slayer's Seasons in the Abyss , Suicidal Tendencies' Lights...Camera...Revolution! , Testament's Souls of Black , Kreator's Coma of Souls , Destruction's Cracked Brain , Forbidden's Twisted into Form , Exodus' Impact Is Imminent , and the more groove-oriented Pantera's Cowboys from Hell . All of those albums were commercial high points for the aforementioned artists. Many of these bands embarked on a group tour called the "Clash of the Titans" the same year. Several albums that continued this style, which had come to be known as technical thrash metal, were released in 1991, such as Overkill's Horrorscope , Heathen's Victims of Deception , Dark Angel's Time Does Not Heal , Sepultura's Arise , and Coroner's Mental Vortex .
Later in 1991, Metallica released their eponymous album, known as "The Black Album". The album marked a stylistic change in the band, eliminating much of the speed and longer song structures of the band's previous work, and instead focusing on more concise and slower songs. It would go on to become the band's best selling album, and began a wave of thrash metal bands releasing more commercially oriented albums.
After the commercial and artistic climax for the genre, the energy of the thrash metal was exhausted and it was overtaken by the rising alternative metal and grunge movements.In the 1990s many veteran thrash metal bands began changing to more accessible, radio-friendly styles. Metallica was a notable example of this shift, particularly with their mid–to–late 1990s albums Load , and ReLoad , which displayed minor blues and southern rock influences, and were seen as a major departure from the band's earlier sound. Megadeth took a more accessible heavy metal route starting with their 1992 album Countdown to Extinction , and Testament released the melodic The Ritual in 1992.
As further extreme metal genres came to prominence in the 1990s (industrial metal, death metal and black metal each finding their own fanbase), the heavy metal "family tree" soon found itself blending aesthetics and styles.For example, bands with all the musical traits of thrash metal began using death growls, a vocal style borrowed from death metal, while black metal bands often utilized the airy feel of synthesizers, popularized in industrial metal. Today the placing of bands within distinct subgenres remains a source of contention for heavy metal fans, however, little debate resides over the fact that thrash metal is the sole proprietor of its respective spinoffs.
Many 1980s-era thrash bands who split or were inactive during the 1990s – such as Dark Angel, Death Angel, Nuclear Assault, and Forbidden – reunited in the 2000s. Notable bands returned to their roots with releases such as Kreator's Violent Revolution (2001), Metallica's Death Magnetic (2008), Megadeth's Endgame (2009), Slayer's World Painted Blood (2009), Exodus' Exhibit B: The Human Condition (2010), Overkill's Ironbound (2010), Anthrax's Worship Music (2011), Testament's Dark Roots of Earth (2012), and Flotsam and Jetsam's Ugly Noise (2012).
Thrash metal is directly responsible for the development of underground metal genres, such as death metal, black metaland groove metal. In addition to this, metalcore, grindcore and deathcore employ similar riffs in their composition, the former with more focus on melody rather than chromaticism. The blending of punk ethos and metal's brutal nature led to even more extreme, underground styles after thrash metal began gaining mild commercial success in the late 1980s. With gorier subject matter, heavier downtuning of guitars, more consistent use of blast beat drumming, and darker, atonal death growls, death metal was established in the mid-1980s. Black metal, also related to thrash metal, has emerged at the same time, with many black metal bands taking influence from thrash metal bands such as Venom. Black metal continued deviating from thrash metal, often providing more orchestral overtones, open tremolo picking, blast beat drumming, shrieked or raspy vocals and pagan or occult-based aesthetics to distinguish itself from thrash metal. Thrash metal would later combine with its spinoffs, thus giving rise to genres like blackened thrash metal and deathrash.
Groove metal takes the intensity and sonic qualities of thrash metal and plays them at mid-tempo, with most bands making only occasional forays into fast tempo,but since the early 1990s it started to favor a more death metal–derived sound. Thrash metal with stronger punk elements is called crossover thrash. Its overall sound is more punk-influenced than traditional thrash metal, but has more heavy metal elements than hardcore punk and thrashcore.
Thrash metal emerged predominantly from a handful of regional scenes, each of which was generally distinguished by the unique characteristics of its bands.
Heavy hardcore was considered hardcore based more in metal, adding heavier thrash metal riff stylings
As close to death metal as any other gold-selling record before it, Chaos A.D. stripped down Sepultura's sound into a coarse metallic loop. The CD sold half a million copies, and alongside Pantera the band forged a streetwise, death-derived groove metal that inspired an upcoming generation of mavens in the 1990s.
Speed metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music that originated in the late 1970s from new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) roots. It is described by AllMusic as "extremely fast, abrasive, and technically demanding" music.
Anthrax is an American heavy metal band from New York City, formed in 1981 by rhythm guitarist Scott Ian and bassist Dan Lilker. The group is considered one of the leaders of the thrash metal scene from the 1980s and is part of the "Big Four" of the genre, along with Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer. They were also one of the first thrash metal bands to emerge from the East Coast. The band has released 11 studio albums, several other albums, and 26 singles, including collaborating on a single with American hip hop group Public Enemy. According to Nielsen SoundScan, Anthrax sold 2.5 million records in the United States from 1991 to 2004, with worldwide sales of 10 million. Four of the band's studio albums have also achieved gold certifications by the RIAA, including their third full-length record Among the Living (1987), which cemented Anthrax's reputation as one of the most successful thrash metal bands.
Slayer was an American thrash metal band from Huntington Park, California. The band was formed in 1981 by guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman, drummer Dave Lombardo, and bassist and vocalist Tom Araya. Slayer's fast and aggressive musical style made them one of the "big four" bands of thrash metal, alongside Metallica, Megadeth, and Anthrax. Slayer's final lineup comprised King, Araya, drummer Paul Bostaph and guitarist Gary Holt. Drummer Jon Dette was also a member of the band.
Overkill is an American thrash metal band, formed in 1980 in New Jersey. They have gone through many line-up changes, leaving bassist D. D. Verni and lead vocalist Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth as the only constant members. In addition to Verni and Ellsworth, Overkill's current lineup includes Dave Linsk on lead guitar, Derek Tailer on rhythm guitar and Jason Bittner on drums. Along with Nuclear Assault and Anthrax, whose one-time lead guitarist Dan Spitz was also an early member of Overkill, the band is one of the most successful East Coast thrash metal bands, and they are often called "the Motörhead of thrash metal", based on their unique playing style, which was influenced by punk rock and the new wave of British heavy metal. The band has a notable mascot named "Chaly", a skeletal bat with a skull-like face, horns, bony wings and green eyes, who has appeared on most of their album covers.
Kreator is a German thrash metal band from Essen, formed in 1982. Their current lineup consists of lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Miland "Mille" Petrozza, drummer Jürgen "Ventor" Reil, lead guitarist Sami Yli-Sirniö, and bassist Frédéric Leclercq. The band's lineup has changed multiple times over its 38-year career, most noticeably with their bassists and lead guitarists. Petrozza and Reil are the only two original members left in Kreator, though the latter had been out of the band from 1994 to 1996. Yli-Sirniö has been the lead guitarist of Kreator since 2001, while Leclercq joined in 2019 as the replacement of Christian "Speesy" Giesler, who had been a member of the band since 1994.
Sepultura is a Brazilian heavy metal band from Belo Horizonte. Formed in 1984 by brothers Max and Igor Cavalera, the band was a major force in the groove metal, thrash metal and death metal genres during the late 1980s and early 1990s, with their later experiments drawing influence from alternative metal, world music, nu metal, hardcore punk, and industrial metal. Sepultura has also been credited as one of the second wave of thrash metal acts from the late 1980s to early-to-mid-1990s, along with bands like Pantera, Testament, Sacred Reich, Dark Angel, Vio-lence, Forbidden, Death Angel, and Machine Head.
A number of heavy metal genres have developed since the emergence of heavy metal during the late 1960s and early 1970s. At times heavy metal genres may overlap or are difficult to distinguish, but they can be identified by a number of traits. They may differ in terms of: instrumentation, tempo, song structure, vocal style, lyrics, guitar playing style, drumming style, and so on.
Testament is an American thrash metal band from Berkeley, California. Formed in 1983 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. Testament has experienced many lineup changes over the years, with Peterson being the only remaining original member, though they have since been rejoined by one of its co-founders Skolnick, who was out of the band from 1992 to 2005. 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.
Discharge are an English hardcore punk band formed in 1977 in Stoke-on-Trent by Terence "Tezz" Roberts and Royston "Rainy" Wainwright. While the band has undergone several line-up changes throughout its history, the classic line-up from the early 1980s featured bassist Wainwright, drummer Gary Maloney, guitarist Anthony "Bones" Roberts, and vocalist Kelvin "Cal" Morris.
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.
Bay Area thrash metal referred to a steady following of heavy metal bands in the 1980s who formed and gained international status in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. Along with South Florida, the scene was widely regarded as a starting point of American thrash metal and death metal.
Metal: A Headbanger's Journey is a 2005 documentary film directed by Sam Dunn with Scot McFadyen and Jessica Wise. The film follows 31-year-old Dunn, a Canadian anthropologist, who has been a heavy metal fan since the age of 12. Dunn sets out across the world to uncover the various opinions on heavy metal music, including its origins, culture, controversy, and the reasons it is loved by so many people. The film made its debut at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival, and was released as a two-disc special edition DVD in the US on 19 September 2006.
Arise is the fourth studio album by Brazilian heavy metal band Sepultura, released in 1991 by Roadrunner Records. Upon its release, the album received top reviews from heavy metal magazines such as Rock Hard, Kerrang! and Metal Forces. Arise is considered Sepultura's finest hour among longtime fans. While the music on Arise was mostly in the same death/thrash style as their previous album, Beneath the Remains, it was clear that the Sepultura sound was acquiring an experimental edge.
Along with Bay Area thrash metal and Teutonic thrash metal, Brazilian thrash metal was one of the major scenes in the 1980s. Though not as large or well known as the North American or European thrash movements, it bridges the gap of the mid-1980s and the death metal scene later in the decade and the first-wave of black metal.
Crossover thrash is a fusion genre of thrash metal and hardcore punk. The genre lies on a continuum between heavy metal and hardcore punk. Other genres on the same continuum, such as metalcore and grindcore, may overlap with crossover thrash.
Teutonic thrash metal is a regional scene of thrash metal music that originated during the 1980s in Germany. Along with Bay Area thrash metal, East Coast thrash metal, and Brazilian thrash metal, it was one of the major scenes of thrash metal in the 1980s. Teutonic is a medieval term for Germanic people.
Carlo "D.D." Verni is an American musician, songwriter, and producer, best known as a founding member, bassist and songwriter of the band Overkill. Overkill released their first record in 1985 and with their contemporaries helped define a new genre of music, "thrash metal". Overkill have released 19 full-length albums as well as two live albums and EPs, and several DVDs. They have done thousands of shows for millions of fans and toured extensively. They have appeared in many major music publications and have sold millions of records worldwide. Verni's signature bass sound is regarded as one of the most definable in heavy metal.
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.
Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal is a 2004 book by Ian Christe, documenting the history of heavy metal music and its origins.
Murder In The Front Row is a documentary film which chronicles the 1980s Bay Area thrash metal scene. The documentary premiered on April 20, 2019. Directed by Adam Dubin and produced by Jack Gulick & Rachèle Benloulou-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. The film was released on DVD and digitally on April 24, 2020.