Casual Music ListenerThe casual music listener today, surrounded by the mainstream rock and pop present on today's radio, is usually unaware of the metal sub-genre, thrash. Sure, everyone has heard of Metallica as they have been one of the most influential rock bands in history, but most people don't associate thrash with the band unless they are educated about its history.
Thrash can be traced back to the late seventies and early eighties with the emergence of hardcore punk and proto-punk bands such as The Misfits and Black Flag. They had taken a step up from their predecessors and sped up the rhythmic chord progressions into speeds which were very fast when compared to pieces from other artists at the time. Also during this period, the NWOBHM(New Wave of British Heavy Metal) swept across the music scene. Bands such as Judas Priest, Motorhead, and Iron Maiden gained immense popularity for revolutionizing speedy guitar riffs and solos using distorted guitar effects. The earliest thrash bands combined the fast rhythmic chords of the hardcore punk scene and the solos and guitar approach from the NWOBHM to create the thrash genre. Bass riffs are generally fast and support the guitar playing. Drum beats tend to show heavy punk influences and/or speed metal drumming techniques such as double bass and quick cymbal rhythms. Guitar solos from the thrash style tend to be fast and in minor keys with lots of tapping, string skipping and sweep picking. Vocals vary extremely from band to band: the majority use raspy or harsh singing and chanting, some use pop and punk oriented vocal ranges, and still others used deep vocals that could be considered screams. Notable early thrash bands include Venom and Overkill.
Eager musicians rapidly embraced this newly formed style of music and a surge of thrash bands formed, mainly in the San Francisco bay area (Bay Area Thrash). Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Testament are all famous examples of bands from the area. The East coast as well had thrash developments, though not as significant as the Bay Area. Bands from the East coast include Anthrax and Overkill among many others. Europe too had a thrash development, though not as prevalent as in the United States. Growing reputations established the big four of thrash, Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax as the most popular in the genre.
Metallica's Kill Em' All, Ride the Lightning, and Master of Puppets, Slayer's Show No Mercy, Hell Awaits, and Rein in Blood, Megadeth's Killing is my Business... And Business is Good!, Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?, and So Far, So Good... So What!, and Anthrax's Fistful of Metal, Spreading the Disease, Among the Living, and State of Euphoria are the thrash albums from the big four. Of course, the bands have many more albums, though they changed their musical approach and no longer followed the punk oriented approaches they had previously used. The speed metal themes in their music began to dominate their songwriting and the thrashy influences present in their songs began to disappear. This, however, does not mean that further releases from the bands were of poor quality, they just weren't true thrash albums. Generally speaking, similar approaches were taken by the majority of the thrash bands as music began to evolve once again. As grunge became the prevalent form of music, metal began to fade from the limelight it had previously had and the thrash bands saw it was time for a change. Thrash metal, obscure to begin with, lost what little presence it had in the ear of the general public. In essence, grunge was responsible for the death of the thrash explosion.
New thrash bands did and still continue to pop up such as Anacrusis in the mid nineties and Evile, a relatively modern band. Aside from the big four, countless bands existed which played and influenced the playing of other thrash bands. (To Name a Few: Testament, Sepultura, Voivod, Death Angel, Exodus, Sadus, Onslaught, Dark Angel, Celtic Frost, D.R.I., Suicidal Tendencies) Thrash metal truly never achieved much airplay or mainstream acceptance, but never the less, it is a significant part of music history and development. Many genres today are based on thrash influences such as black and death metal. All of the big four in thrash continue on producing albums and touring to this day along with a good majority of the lesser known bands from the thrash era. While records and albums from these groups may not be commonplace at the local music retailer, they definitely are worth checking out for their technicality and significance, and should be a part of any metal aficionado's collection.
Written by Cody Franklin