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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.