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A Beginner's Guide To Thrash Metal

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While metal music found its origins in the 70's with Black Sabbath and co it was in the early 80's when a new metal sub genre called Thrash took off. Taking inspiration from those metal bands and also the intensity of what the punk groups were doing. Thrash metal is an exciting, powerful and aggressive style of music where the popular subjects of choice include death, war, destruction and also political issues. Thrash generally features faster songs that often alternate in pace fuelled by frantic guitar shredding and gripping intense riffs plus added attractions like especially catchy and equally heavy slower sections that really hook you in. It is those wonderful heavy riffs that bands like Slayer (A group responsible for some of Thrash's finest albums) do so well that makes their songs like "Reign In Blood" and "South Of Heaven" so memorable.

Just like prior metal and punk bands inspired Thrash groups to play the kind of music they do Thrash has given birth to other extreme styles of metal like Death Metal. There are also those multiple styled metal groups like Iced Earth, Helstar, Soulfly, Cavalera Conspiracy and Machine Head that successfully combine thrash (which some include more than others) into their songs along with other styles like speed, groove, death and power metal resulting in exciting musical combinations. This does make it so very hard to classify the style of some bands as one album may be very thrash orientated then the next something else. The same could be said regarding those releases recorded by some of Thrash's more influential bands when they experimented with different styles.

Thrash metal requires agile exciting musicianship while it is a guitar driven (twin guitarists feature predominantly) genre the bass players and drummers also have to step up in order to propel the band's music. Thrash is one style of metal that due to the technical nature of some bands it allows the best in the game to really stand out by showing what they are capable of. Over the years Thrash has given us the opportunity to hear many of the finest musicians in metal such as guitarist's like Alex Scholnick(Testament), Marty Friedman (Megadeth) Jeff Waters(Annihilator), and Gary Holt(Exodus). Drummers including Gene Hoglan(Testament and many others), Paul Bostaph (Testament, Slayer and Exodus), Dave McClain (Machine Head), Dave Lombardo (Slayer) and Tom Hunting(Exodus). Also those Bass players such as Dave Ellefson (Megadeth), the late Cliff Burton(Metallica) and Greg Christian(Testament).

Despite what some believe Metallica who are one of the original bands aren't the be all and end all. While yes they are probably the most successful group and do have some great earlier Thrash albums there are many other excellent bands. These groups also deserve much praise for past contributions and they still continue to release fine Thrash.

Most band have something that differentiates them from the pack, also the complexity of their music varies between bands, Megadeth and Testament being two of those whose music is generally more complex. Vocals are clean though some singers use a harsher tone than others while some seem as though they are closer to talking than singing. Thrash metal hasn't really altered dramatically since its beginnings in the early 80's and it remains as appealing as ever. In what almost seems like a second coming it has been a great time to be a Thrash fan as many bands really seem to be putting the other metal sub genres on notice. Releasing fantastic albums in recent years like those from Kreator, Testament, Exodus, Megadeth and Overkill. Especially when they could have simply taken a step backwards and rested on their past accomplishments, instead they sound so very energized. Slayer's last release World Painted Blood was also a very welcome surprise. Anthrax retuned to form and gave us a great heavy release called Worship Music in 2011. Metallica released Death Magnetic which was such a big improvement over St Anger, and despite its sound issues Death Magnetic was a positive step back in the right direction. There are of course many other very appealing Thrash bands such as Death Angel, Sodom and Destruction and also as newer groups continue to appear so Thrash metal isn't fading away.

It isn't the eighties anymore so are all those of the "Big Four Of Thrash" Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax really worthy now? That topic is sure to cause some differences in opinion. But if I had to pick my "Big Four Of Thrash" based not just on the eighties but up to the current day it would surely include Testament and Kreator and even though I would probably select Megadeth and Slayer next Exodus and Overkill have also been impressive enough to fill the spots. These bands have stayed closer to their roots and yes some may have frustrated fans with the odd release.

Thrash has a wide appeal hence you find that while many of the main Thrash bands are of American origin, though they aren't limited to one country Thrash is more widespread. There are groups from elsewhere including Germany where they are referred to as Teutonic Thrash metal bands, those like Sodom, Kreator and Destruction. Also from Brazil there is the very popular Sepultura, who are known to incorporate ethnic and other influences at times which is something they did very well on their 1996 Roots.

It's interesting to take a look at when many of the prominent Thrash Bands started out, then released their debut and lastly the year of their most recent full length recording.

BANDFORMEDDEBUT RELEASEMOST RECENT
Overkill 1980 1985 2012
Anthrax 1981 1984 2011
Metallica 1981 1983 2008
Slayer 1981 1983 2009
Death Angel 1982 1987 2010
Exodus 1980 1985 2010
Kreator 1982 1985 2012
Megadeth 1983 1985 2011
Testament 1983 1987 2012
Annihilator 1984 1989 2010
Sepultura 1984 1986 2011

So what you can take away from this is the majority came to be early in the 80's and Overkill were the earliest, while Metallica and Slayer were first to release their debuts in 1983. Every band is still active which also says a lot about the popularity of Thrash Metal, and that their music hasn't been subdued with age. Opinions vary on which albums are their best however many Thrash fans grew up in different times, so hence one of the main reasons for differences in opinions.

I hope you found this guide a helpful introduction to Thrash metal. The best way to discover what albums you prefer is to utilise web sites like Sea Of Tranquility for reviews, and if something sparks your interest you can always go to the band's sites to hear what they sound like. There is a lot of great material to choose from, and using those groups and albums shown above as a guide you can then discover more of this great music.


Scott Jessup
  

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