Metal Wiki
Thrash metal
Genre Info
Stylistic OriginsNWOBHM
Speed metal
Hardcore punk
Biker metal
Cultural OriginsEarly 1980s, United States
Typical Instrumentsvocals – electric guitar – bass guitar – drums
Mainstream PopularityMostly underground in early 1980s, rise in popularity in mid-late 1980s, high in early 1990s, low popularity in mid 1990s- early 2000s. Mild resurgence of popularity in late 2000s.
Derivative FormsDeath metal
Black metal
Groove metal
Alternative metal
Fusion Genres
Crossover thrash - Deathrash metal - Blackened thrash metal

Thrash metal


Friedman Butterslax (A best thrash metal instrumental 2018)


Dittohead (one of all the best thrash metal songs)

Thrash metal of the very intense sounds

A guitar of thrash metal

Thrash metal

Thrash metal (or simply thrash) is a most aggressive subgenre of heavy metal that is specifically characterized by its the heaviness rhythms similar to extreme metal, NWOBHM, speed metalbiker metal and hardcore punk in aggressiveness and forcefulness that one who is very characterised by fast tempos, high speed riffing and aggression. All thrash metal songs typically use fast, percussive and low-register guitar riffs, overlaid with shredding-style lead work. Thrash song lyrics express nihilistic views or deal with social issues using visceral, gory language, an approach which partially overlaps with the very brutal music.

The origins of Thrash metal are generally traced to the late 1970s and early 1980s, when a number of bands began incorporating the sound of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, creating a new genre and developing into a separate movement from garage rock and punk rock. This genre is much more aggressive compared to its relative, hard rock. There is often significant crossover from one metal category to another, and some bands use musical influences from non-metal genres, including classical music and jazz.

Musical traits[]

Thrash metal features a actually number of fast and rapid tempos, low-register, quick, complex guitar riffs, and high-register guitar solos. Thrash rhythm guitar playing is characterized by palm muting and staccato used with a heavily distorted tone and tightly controlled riffs to create a "chugging" sound.

Thrash guitar solos are almost exclusively played at high speed, as they are usually characterised by shredding, and use techniques such as sweep picking, legato phrasing, alternate picking, string skipping, and two-hand tapping. All the thrash metal lead guitarists are rooted in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement and the main influence of biker metal. As with many other metal subgenres, thrash lead guitarists are often influenced by musical genres outside of rock, such as rock and roll, electric blues.

This is the true best electric guitar of thrash metal

The speed and pacing of the songs is what defines thrash metal. The music tends to have a visceral, propellant feel to it due to its drumming style, most commonly utilizing the snare drum on the 1/2 beat, or the 2nd and 4th beats of the measure. Frantic bass drum use is also common. Thrash drummers often use two bass drums. Some thrash drummers are revered as some of the "best drummers in rock music". [1]

Due to the genre's high speed, many thrash bassists use a pick to keep up with the other instruments. However, some prominent bassists within thrash used their fingers, including Frank Bello, Greg Christian, Dan Lilker, Robert Trujillo and the late Cliff Burton. [2] Several bassists use an overdriven or distorted bass tone, an approach popularized by Burton and Lemmy.

Lyrical themes worked in thrash include gore, life and death, and society. But thrash metal lyrics are most often centred around is a nihilistic view of the society and the human being in general, for it working with warfare, brutal feelings supposedly hidden into human unconsciousness and visions of a possible future collapse of civilization (which partially overlaps with the hard rock ideas, as this movement began a decade before). In contrast to many extreme metal genres to follow, thrash metal often focused on positive social issues, for instance environmentalism as was in the case of the band Nuclear Assault.



1981 is seen as a critical year for the development of thrash metal, but work prior to 1981 helped shape the genre. Earlier influences on the genre include the 1970 Black Sabbath song "Paranoid",and Led Zeppelin's 1969 song, "Communication Breakdown". Queen's 1974 song "Stone Cold Crazy" is cited as an early precursor of the thrash metal sound.[3]; Metallica would win a Grammy Award in 1991 for their recording of the song. this gene had a profound influence on biker metal and acid rock. The songs , "I Wanna Be Your Dog", "I Got a Right" and "Gimme Some Skin", released in 1973, utilized a simple and fast paced beat that metal and punk thrash music would later come to resemble.

Judas Priest's 1978 song "Exciter", from the Stained Class album provided direct influence upon the development of the genre. The fast kick-drum intro and fast guitar solos of the track were notorious for artists of the era. Thrash bands like Slayer, Venom, Testament, Metallica, and Megadeth cite Judas Priest as a major influence.

Motörhead's fast and aggressive music was a major influence on the genre. In 1981, Overkill would write what is often considered the first thrash metal song: "The Beast Within". Soon after "The Beast Within" was released, a Southern California band named Leather Charm would write the song "Hit the Lights". Leather Charm was a short-lived band that would soon break up. The primary songwriter for Leather Charm, James Hetfield, formed Metallica, which would go on to feature this song.

The European thrash scene that began in early 1982 was almost exclusively influenced by the most aggressive music both Germany and England were producing at the time.

Venom is also considered a pioneer of the genre and influential to thrash's sub-genres because of their work on the 1981 album Welcome to Hell and the 1982 album Black Metal (considered the first work of black metal and from which that genre took it's name). Slayer, Metallica, Megadeth, Testament and Exodus cite Venom as a major influence.

Metallica released the No Life 'Til Leather demo in July 1982, and was the second band to release a studio LP, after Venom. It was titled Kill 'Em All and released in July 1983. Shortly following the release of Kill 'Em All, Slayer released their debut full length album entitled Show No Mercy, in December 1983.


The popularity of thrash metal increased in 1984 with the release of Metallica's Ride the Lightning, Anthrax's Fistful of Metal, Overkill's self-titled EP and Slayer's Haunting the Chapel. This led to a heavier sounding form of thrash, which was reflected in Exodus's 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! in 1985. Megadeth combined the riffs of thrash metal and the intricate solo styles of speed metal.

Some of the most influential thrash albums were released in 1986. Dark Angel put out Darkness Descends, which had faster tempos than most of the thrash metal that preceded it. Slayer's Reign in Blood, also released in 1986, became an influential album. Kreator released Pleasure to Kill, which would later be an influence on the death metal genre. [4][5][6] These three albums are often referred to as the "Unholy Trinity" of 1986.

Metallica's 1986 album Master of Puppets, was one of the first thrash metal albums to receive critical acclaim and commercial success. Hobbs' Angel of Death emerged from Australia, playing a style of thrash metal that drew heavily from the earlier works of Slayer, yet geared towards the European market.

Thrash metal developed into many sub-genres in the mid 1980s. The genre influenced many bands like Death and Possessed (guitarist Larry LaLonde later joined popular alternative rock group Primus). Some bands combined speed and thrash metal. Megadeth, Helstar, Testament, and Heathen were known for flashy lead guitar work. Watchtower's 1985 release Energetic Disassembly showcased much more progressive work, using very odd time signatures and jazz influenced song structures. Watchtower, along with Megadeth, is said to have started the second wave of thrash metal.


The late 1980s showed thrash metal experiencing a radical change. Little by little, thrash metal became more musical as opposed to lyrically oriented. Though the genre was already known for being technical, it would be pushed to a whole new extreme that would result in many more bands forming.

In 1987, Anthrax released their album Among the Living, which bore similarities to their two previous releases: Fistful of Metal and Spreading the Disease, with fast and heavy guitars and pounding drums. Anthrax's songs can be considered slightly more "melodic" when compared to other thrash metal bands of the era, due to their upbeat and catchy riffs.

Testament would release their debut album, The Legacy, that same year. The musical tone of Testament generally emphasized the more progressive elements of thrash metal. The lyrics on this album especially were about the occult and Satanic topics that would influence the lyrics of death metal. Death Angel took a similar pro-thrash approach with their 1987 debut, The Ultra-Violence, which featured more operatic lyrics influenced by classic rock acts like Queen and NWOBHM bands such as Iron Maiden.

In 1988, Suicidal Tendencies, who had previously been a straightforward punk band, released their major label debut How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can't Even Smile Today. This album had very thrashy guitar riffs and an overall very metal oriented sound, with much more complicated song structures than on their previous albums, but the band still stayed true to their roots as a band in that the songs were very melodic and had catchy choruses.

By 1988 or so, the genre was quite saturated with new bands, but classic albums would still be recorded and released. Sepultura's third album, Beneath the Remains (1989) earned them some mainstream appeal as it appeared on Roadrunner Records. Testament continued through the late 1980s with The New Order (1988) and Practice What You Preach (1989), both albums showing the band was continuing to grow musically and almost gaining Testament the same level of popularity as the "Big Four"[7][8][9][10] of thrash: Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer. Vio-lence, a relative latecomer to the Bay Area thrash metal scene put out an acclaimed debut in Eternal Nightmare (1988), combining relentless riffage with a punk vocal delivery, resulting in one of the fastest, heaviest thrash albums of all time. Annihilator would release their highly technical debut album Alice In Hell (1989) which received much praise due to its fast riffs and virtuostic guitar solos. Sadus was another band influenced by the thrash metal genre, featuring a very strong sound which was primarily caused by the fretless bass of Steve DiGiorgio.

Older bands continued to record classic albums, though. Metallica's 1988 album ...And Justice for All spawned the band's first video, the World War I-themed song "One". The extremely complex song structure of "One" has made it a pioneering song among progressive metal bands, including Dream Theater, which has cited Metallica as a major influence.[11]


Among the thrash albums released in 1990 included 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, Annihilator's Never, Neverland and Kreator's Coma of Souls. All of those albums were commercial high points for the aforementioned artists. Most of these bands embarked on the Clash of the Titans tour that year.

In the 1990s, as some bands explored more innovative directions, bands that played classic thrash metal were seen as throw-backs. The 1992 album by Iced Earth, Night of the Stormrider combined power metal and thrash metal. Dark Angel's swansong album Time Does Not Heal was a technically challenging, progressive thrash with a number of complex riffs. Many bands, however, opted for a slower, more groove-oriented sound, including Machine Head (formed from Vio-Lence) and Pantera.

While alternative rock was the predominant genre of the 1990s, thrash metal managed to gain influence. The alternative rock band Primus (who featured ex-Possessed guitarist Larry LaLonde) blended Les Claypool's funky bass lines with thrash-influenced guitar riffs and fast tempo songs.

Many veteran thrash metal bands began changing to more accessible, radio-friendly styles. In 1991, Metallica released the album Metallica, which saw record album sales for the band. Later in the decade, the band released Load (1996), and ReLoad (1997), which both displayed minor blues and southern rock influences.

Megadeth and Anthrax also changed their sound during the 1990s for varying reasons. Megadeth took a more accessible route with their 1992 album Countdown To Extinction which was successful both critically and commercially with a string of hit singles and videos. Anthrax split with frontman Joey Belladonna and recruited Armored Saint singer John Bush whose vocals style was different from that of their previous vocalist. The first release from the new line-up was the 1993 album Sound of White Noise.

Other thrash metal bands began following a similar stylistic change. Testament released the mainstream and melodic The Ritual in 1992 before switching to a more death metal oriented sound that would follow throughout the 1990s. Annihilator switched to a more commercial style on Set the World on Fire and King of the Kill before returning to a more thrash-oriented style. Kreator began experimenting with industrial metal and goth starting with Renewal. Some bands, such as Slayer, did not adopt a more mainstream approach. Slayer's album Divine Intervention has a classic thrash sound.

Members of Sepultura, Annihilator, and many others performed on RoadRunner's United album in 2005-06. The first release of its kind combined vintage thrash talents with newer metal musicians who incorporate thrash styles. There has recently been older thrash metal bands that have reunited and put out new albums including Nuclear Assault who has just recently released their new album Third World Genocide. Recently the original line-up of the band Testament reunited and toured, there was also a live album and video released with the classic line-up playing called Live In London. They are currently writing material for their new album called The Formation of Damnation which is said to be released on April 29th, 2007.

Recent trends[]

Recently thrash (along with many genres of extreme metal previously considered dead by the mainstream media, but well alive to the underground metal scene) has seen a certain degree of resurgence of popularity, including (but not limited to) the younger audience of Generation Y. This is perhaps due in part to an increase in exposure to many forms of metal and classic rock, thanks to the publicity spotlighted on it by such mediums as internet radio, satellite radio, cable networks like VH1, MTV, and cover songs by newer bands of older metal classics.

Older thrash bands have continued to put out material, such as Sodom's self-titled album (2006), Megadeth's United Abominations (2007), Slayer's Christ Illusion (2006), Kreator's Enemy of God (2005), Exodus' The Atrocity Exhibition... Exhibit A (2007), Overkill's Immortalis (2007), Onslaught's Killing Peace (2007), Testament's The Formation of Damnation (2008), Death Angel's Killing Season (2008) and Metallica's Death Magnetic. {2008}.

Many note that thrash metal is making a comeback due to the popularity of metalcore bands, many of which claim to be thrash metal bands but have many elements that thrash metal bands do not typically (if ever) include in their songs. This is very similar to the 1980s, when the genre was created to combat the rising movement of glam metal bands, many of which were thrown of major labels to be replaced by thrash metal bands, then their popularity faded and were ignored by labels all together. The same cycle (as some claim) is starting to repeat itself, with newer bands like Evile and Warbringer getting signed to larger labels such as Century Media records and Earache records. Detractors of the genre show that this is a sign of how unstable it is and that it is merely a trend as opposed to a true movement, but supporters often argue that thrash metal doesn't need other bands to mock and prove itself against to flourish.

Regional scenes[]

Like many musical genres, thrash had its own regionally-based scenes, each of had a slightly different sound. The three most well known of these scenes are:

Bay Area[]

The Bay Area Thrash Scene tends to be the most progressive and technical of the three major thrash scenes with progressive influenced song structures. Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Testament are four bands that were very influential to the Bay Area Thrash Scene.

Bay Area thrash bands also tended to have singers with high-pitched vocal styles as opposed to European thrash metal bands such as Kreator who had generally more death metal style vocals or East Coast bands like S.O.D. who had more punk-influenced vocals.

East Coast (New York/New Jersey)[]

The East Coast bands tended to be more punk and hardcore influenced than West Coast bands, with more emphasis on aggression and speed than technicality. Anthrax, Nuclear Assault, Overkill, Whiplash, as well as crossover acts S.O.D., M.O.D., Cro-Mags, and Agnostic Front were a few of the most prominent bands to come from the East Coast thrash scene.


The last major thrash scene was the German thrash metal scene. The most successful bands from this scene were Kreator, Destruction, and Sodom, who all hail from Germany. Although arising in Germany, the sound quickly spread and influenced bands from neighboring nations such as Coroner and Celtic Frost from Switzerland.

Currently there is a new young thrash scene growing up. Especially the bavarian thrashers Battlecreek and Mortal Infinity or Nucleator from Northern Germany.

Crossover thrash[]

Thrash Metal with even more Punk elements than standard Thrash is called Crossover Thrash or Crossover for short. Its overall sound is more Punk-influenced than traditional thrash metal, while more metal sounding than traditional hardcore punk and thrashcore. Crossover is often more aggressive, faster, and simpler than traditional thrash metal due to the heavier punk influence.

Early pioneers of the style include American bands Nuclear Assault, Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, Suicidal Tendencies, Cryptic Slaughter, and Beowulf. Boston bands SSD and DYS, as well as later New York bands Cro-Mags and Septic Death.

Crossover incorporated slower paced thrash riffs mixed with breakdown riffs commonly used in hardcore and helped forge two derivatives, one known as groove metal or sometimes called post-thrash, and the other, known as metalcore, the former, groove metal, having more of a darker heavy metal aesthetic, including guitar solos, classical music influence, and blues roots from traditional metal, and staying close to its thrash metal roots, and the latter, metalcore, having more of a hardcore punk aesthetic, usually excluding guitar solos in favor of rhythmic guitars.
See also: Groove metal, Metalcore