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A History Of ... Early Thrash Metal

Originally posted April 11, 2018

The 'A History Of ...' series provides a written and musical journey through many of the sub-genres of heavy metal. This time we tackle ... early thrash metal!

What is early thrash metal?

An offshoot of speed and black metal, mixed with hardcore punk lyricism, attitude and aggression.

In the late seventies and early eighties, heavy metal bands started experimenting with faster speeds in their songs. Young bands decided that faster was better and started to make albums taking traditional heavy metal and kicking up the velocity from start to finish. Hence, speed metal was born, with its first release in 1981 (refer previous 'A History Of ... Speed Metal'). Later that same year, black metal was born.

A few shorts years later, other youthful bands took speed/black metal and married it with their love of hardcore punk to create a hybrid ... thrash metal. Thrash fans also lifted hardcore punk culture, including moshing and stage diving, as well as the DIY ethic of creating fanzines.

What are the songs that kick-started thrash metal (ie. proto songs)?

'Overkill' by MOTORHEAD - Overkill (March, 1979)

The song (and album) that influenced almost all extreme forms of heavy metal.

'Ace Of Spades' by MOTORHEAD - Ace Of Spades (November, 1980)

THE proto-thrash song.

'Black Metal' by VENOM - Black Metal (November, 1982)

The English trio influenced the rougher-edged thrash bands (we're looking at you Germany!).

'Heavy Metal Maniac' by EXCITER - Heavy Metal Maniac (June, 1983)

Thrash was partially birthed from speed metal, so some accolades need to go to the godfathers of speed ...

Early thrash metal album history:

Obviously not a complete list, rather this is a catalog of important/high quality full length releases from the early era (1983 through 1988).

July, 1983: METALLICA - Kill 'Em All

The first thrash metal album ever. Nuff said.

July, 1984: METALLICA - Ride The Lightning

The band's best album to these ears. (The subsequent Master Of Puppets being an inferior, but still strong, carbon copy of Ride.)

February, 1985: ONSLAUGHT - Power From Hell

Punked up and doomed at the same time, this still packs a wallop today. Favorite - 'Thermonuclear Devastation' ... wow!

March, 1985: SLAYER - Hell Awaits

Graduating from their speed metal beginnings, Slayer issue this complex, intense platter sounding the alarm that they too will hereafter be known as a thrash band.

April, 1985: RAZOR - Evil Invaders

Vicious, but catchy, with a totally unique sounding vocalist.

April, 1985: EXODUS - Bonded By Blood

Unquestionably Exodus' finest hour (well, forty minutes anyway).

May, 1985: DESTRUCTION - Infernal Overkill

Complex guitar work and insane intensity immediately set Destruction apart from their peers on this full-length debut.

August, 1985: ARTILLERY - Fear Of Tomorrow

Unique for its early inclusion of heavy-as-lead doom passages, this is another underrated gem.

October, 1985: ANTHRAX - Spreading The Disease

One of the first to use a traditional metal singer.

February, 1986: WHIPLASH - Power & Pain

Excellent guitar work and caustic vocals were Whiplash's calling card.

July 1986: DESTRUCTION - Eternal Devastation

More complex circuitry from the Germans.

July, 1986: MEGADETH - Peace Sells, But Who's Buying?

The commercial breakthrough for one of the Big Four of thrash.

October, 1986: SLAYER - Reign In Blood

The undisputed heavyweight champion.

November, 1986: DARK ANGEL - Darkness Descends

Murky and impossibly heavy. The opening two minutes of the title track says it all.

November, 1986: KREATOR - Pleasure To Kill

Cleaning up their sound after the rough-around-the-edges (and middle!) Endless Pain debut the previous year, another of the German Big 4 made their mark.

March, 1987: ANTHRAX - Among The Living

The cash registers began to ring for the New Yawkers with this one.

March, 1987: OVERKILL - Taking Over

Less harried than most of their releases, this one is the easiest to digest of their whole repertoire.

April 1987: VOIVOD - Killing Technology

The Quebec chaos mongers issue their classic third full length (after two albums of what can best be described as anarchistic noise).

October, 1987: SACRIFICE - Forward To Termination

Polished punishment (after a lacklustre debut).

October, 1987: SACRED REICH - Ignorance

Laughably remember this debut being touted as the 'new Slayer'. The vocals were more hardcore and the rhythms too streamlined to be compared to the So Cal legends. Great album nonetheless.

December, 1987: SODOM - Persecution Mania

Following in the same footsteps as their German counterparts Kreator, Sodom also clean up their sound on their sophomore album. A classic.

June, 1988: VOIVOD - Dimension Hatross

Even better song writing on their fourth full length (before they start adding more progressive elements into their sound).

October, 1988: RAZOR - Violent Restitution

Upping the intensity, this is one of the most underrated thrash albums of all time.

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