The importance of thrash metal

2011 has been a huge year of anniversaries in the headbanging metal world, especially thrash metal.

Three of the biggest in the genre – Metallica’s Master of Puppets, Slayer’s Reign in Blood and Megadeth’s Peace Sells – all hit twenty five. 

All three were cutting edge albums, and they still hold up strong today.

It can often be fun to go through music and movie lists to see what you agree with, and what you think is a bunch of bullsh*t, and with Guitar World’s list of Essential Thrash Albums, I found both.

Of course, every list like this there’s mandatory entries, and ones you personally feel should be there, and there’s also a conundrum with thrash because I feel you’d also have to include the “crossover” bands that influenced the music heavily, meaning the hardcore punk bands like Discharge, Corrosion of Conformity, and D.R.I. Although these bands weren’t metal per se, they loom large over thrash, because the thrash bands took a lot from punk’s speed, attitude and aggression.

The mandatories? Master of Puppets and Reign in Blood of course, and no list of the greatest in thrash can be without either. Kill ‘Em All’s also on here, and any of the early Metallica albums, including Ride the Lightning, would fit on the list just fine. 

The other albums I absolutely agree with include Exodus’s masterpiece Bonded By Blood, and Possessed’s Seven Churches, although Possessed were really a death metal band. (In fact, they coined the phrase death metal). That’s another conundrum with a list like this too is the early death metal bands, like Possessed and Celtic Frost, should be included, even though they don’t fit into the thrash category.


One of the biggest omissions any list like this can make is not including the S.O.D. album, and for whatever reason, it’s not included here. S.O.D. was the joke side-band formed by Scott Ian of Anthrax, and it was also a crucial building block in the metal / punk “crossover” of the mid eighties. And much as the band would loathe to admit it today, S.O.D. was actually more popular than Anthrax at one point.

The list does include the best Anthrax album, Among the Living, which is still great after all these years, but the S.O.D. album actually had more impact in the grand scheme of things. I also have to ask, where’s Dark Angel’s one truly great album, Darkness Descends? Still one of the fiercest thrash releases ever as far as I’m concerned, and very influential. This album, and Reign In Blood were really the peak of thrash, and you had the feeling it would never get this good again hearing ’em back to back.

I also disagree with Megadeth’s Rust In Peace being included over Peace Sells, which I think is the band’s masterpiece (the first Megadeth album, Killing Is My Business, and Business Is Good, is also killer), but Peace is the current fan favorite.

I also think the first Testament album should be on the list instead of their second, and think Overkill should have been off the list entirely. The early stuff was good, but the album included on the list, The Years of Decay, was when the band started getting lame, and it’s not important in the grand scheme of things with this music. (Death Angel’s first album, The Ultra Violence, was an incredible debut, but again to be fair, I’m not sure it deserves to be on a most influential or important list).


And considering Pantera marked a new phase in metal for many of this generation, it’s surprising this list included their Cowboys From Hell album, when the follow up, A Vulgar Display of Power, was far more influential on today’s extreme metal bands. As Pantera fans know, they got harder and more extreme every release, and Vulgar was another stepping stone in that direction.


As far as what this list does or doesn’t include, or what I feel it should or shouldn’t include, we all know metal heads are very opinionated people, myself included, and to quote Dennis Miller, “Of course that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.”