Thrash metal is a sub-genre of heavy metal that is characterized most typically by its fast tempo and aggression. Thrash metal songs typically use fast percussive beats and fast, low-register guitar riffs, overlaid with shredding-style lead work.
The four bands widely regarded as the genre’s most successful and influential acts, are Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax due to their status as pioneers of the genre in the 1980’s. Some common characteristics of thrash metal are fast guitar riffs with aggressive picking styles and fast guitar solos, and extensive use of two bass drums as opposed to the conventional use of only one, typical of most rock music.
Thrash metal songs typically use fast percussive beats and fast, low-register guitar riffs, overlaid with shredding-style lead work.
The origins of thrash metal are generally traced to the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, when a number of predominantly American bands began fusing elements of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal with the speed and aggression of hardcore punk.
Thrash metal is more aggressive compared to it’s relative, speed metal, and is thought to have emerged at least in part as a reaction to the more conventional and widely acceptable sounds and themes of Glam Metal, a much less aggressive heavy metal sub-genre which emerged simultaneously.
Metallica is an American heavy metal band from Los Angeles, California.
The band’s fast tempos, instrumentals, and aggressive musicianship placed them as one of the founding “big four” of thrash metal alongside Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax.
Metallica formed in 1981 when James Hetfield responded to an advertisement that drummer Lars Ulrich had posted in a local newspaper.
Since 2003, the line-up features rhythm guitarist and vocalist Hetfield, drummer Ulrich, lead guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Robert Trujillo.
Previous members of the band are lead guitarist Dave Mustaine (who went on to found Megadeth), and bassists Ron McGovney, Cliff Burton and Jason Newsted.
The band also had a long collaboration with producer Bob Rock, who produced all of its albums from 1990 to 2003 and served as a temporary bassist between the departure of Newsted and the hiring of Trujillo.
The band earned a growing fan-base in the underground music community and critical acclaim with its first four albums, with their third, Master of Puppets (1986), described as one of the most influential and “heavy” thrash metal albums.
Metallica achieved substantial commercial success with their eponymous fifth album (also known as The Black Album), which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. With this release the band expanded its musical direction resulting in an album that appealed to a more mainstream audience.
It might sound like a paradox, but according to Metallica’s James Hetfield, thrash metal probably wouldn’t exist without glam, the very thing most metalheads loathed back in the day.
As baffling as it may seem at first, the frontman also offered an explanation, saying that it was the immense hate towards the popular ’80s glam rock that “fueled a lot of thrash.” When asked by the MK Onderground on whether or not would thrash metal exist without glam, Hetfield answered:
“Probably not. There was a giant hatred for that that fueled a lot of thrash. Maybe some know the story – Metallica growing up in Los Angeles right in the heart of glam, right at the peak of glam and your Motley Crues, your Ratts, your Poisons, all that stuff was based in L.A. and we were the hated figure, but they were hated even more. We were thrown out of clubs because they thought we were punk rock.”
“We liked a lot of the NWOBHM and we liked punk too. We put the two together and kind of developed a style and growing up in LA with the Glam scene really inspired us to play faster and louder. Seeing all of this other stuff just made us disgusted. There were bands that were doing the fast underground punk stuff. My first time noticing punk and metal fans in one place was at a Motorhead show in the early 80s.”
Anthrax is an American thrash metal band formed in mid-1981 by guitarists Scott Ian Rosenfeld and Danny Lilker. The band was named after the disease the two saw listed in a biology textbook, using it because it sounded “sufficiently evil”.
The term “Thrash Metal” was first referred to by the music press in the UK’s Kerrang Magazine by journalist Malcolm Dome while making a reference to the Anthrax song “Metal Thrashing Mad”. Prior to this Metallica frontman James Hetfield referred to their sound as Speed Metal or Power Metal, while Anthrax then started to refer to their music as Thrash Metal.
When thrash metal began to gain a major following in the mid-to-late 1980s, Anthrax were dubbed one of the “big four” of thrash metal alongside Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer.
The band line-up has been changed numerous times; following the departure of drummer Dave Weiss and bassist Kenny Kushner, several musicians replaced both band members’ roles, though Paul Kahn and Greg Walls were the first to do so. In addition to this aspect, there were multiple vocalists involved in Anthrax, with Neil Turbin, Joey Belladonna and John Bush being among the frontmen of the band. Scott Ian, however, has been in the band since its formation.
Scott Ian and Charlie Benante, who joined Anthrax in 1983, are the only constant members that appear on every album. Bassist Frank Bello has played on every album with exception of the band’s debut. Classic singer Joey Belladonna has returned to the band and appears on Worship Music, which is his first studio album with the band since 1990’s Persistence of Time.
The band has since released ten studio albums and 20 singles, and an EP featuring American hip hop group Public Enemy.
Megadeth is an American heavy metal band from Los Angeles, California, that was formed in 1983 by Dave Mustaine and David Ellefson.
A pioneer of the American thrash metal movement, Megadeth rose to international fame in the 1980s and is ranked as one of the “Big Four of Thrash” along with Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax, who were responsible for creating, developing and popularizing the thrash metal sub-genre.
Over the band’s 30 active years, more than 20 different people have officially performed as part of the group, with Mustaine being the only constant member. Megadeth is known for its distinctive, technical instrumental style that often features dense, intricate passages and trade-off guitar solos, and for recurring lyrical themes including politics, war, addiction, personal relationships, and religion.
Dave Mustaine was originally the lead guitarist for Metallica a year after they formed in 1981. He stayed a part of the band until 1983 where he was fired from the group due to his drinking, drug use, violent behavior and personality conflicts with James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich.
Two months after being fired, Mustaine and bassist Dave Ellefson formed Megadeth in Los Angeles. Mustaine later said, “After getting fired from Metallica, all I remember is that I wanted blood. Theirs. I wanted to be faster and heavier than them.”
According to Mustaine, the name Megadeth represents the annihilation of power, while in itself is a corruption of the term megadeath.
The band name came from a pamphlet he found on the floor of the bus he was on, having been fired from Metallica, which was produced by Californian senator Alan Cranston, reading: “The arsenal of megadeath can’t be rid no matter what the peace treaties come to.”
In his attempt to upstage his former band, Dave Mustaine wrote more aggressive compositions. One example of this was tempo increases made to his song “Mechanix”, a song he wrote while in Panic (his speed metal band prior to Metallica), and had performed with Metallica. Mechanix went on to become a mainstay in Metallica’s live performances in the form of the slower-paced “The Four Horsemen”. Mustaine and Ellefson searched for a singer unsuccessfully for six months, eventually agreeing that Mustaine should handle vocal duties. Mustaine also would serve as the band’s main lyricist and songwriter in addition to handling rhythm and lead guitar duties.
Slayer is an American thrash metal band formed in Huntington Park, California in 1981 by guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman.
Slayer was founded when guitarist Kerry King met drummer Dave Lombardo. Upon meeting, the two quickly discovered they had similar taste in music and in their aspirations. Kerry soon introduced guitarist Jeff Hanneman and recruited Chilean-born bassist and vocalist Tom Araya, who had played with King before in the band Quits (previously known as Tradewinds).
Slayer rose to mainstream fame with their 1986 release Reign in Blood, and is credited as one of the “Big Four” thrash metal acts, along with Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax.
Slayer’s musical style involve fast tremolo picking, double bass drumming, and shouted vocals. In the original line-up, King, bassist/vocalist Tom Araya and guitarist Jeff Hanneman contributed to the band’s lyrics, and most of the band’s music was created and arranged by King and Hanneman, with additional help from drummer Dave Lombardo and sometimes Tom Araya.
The band’s lyrics and album art, which cover topics such as serial killers, necrophilia, Satanism, religion, anti-religion and warfare, have generated album bans, delays, lawsuits and criticism from religious groups and the public. Their music has been highly influential, often being cited by many bands as an influence musically, visually and lyrically.
Original Drummer Lombardo would use two bass drums, instead of the double kick which is used on a single bass drum. Lombardo’s speed and aggression earned him the title of the “godfather of double bass” by Drummerworld. Lombardo stated his reasons for using two bass drums: “When you hit the bass drum the head is still resonating. When you hit it in the same place right after that you kinda get a ‘slapback’ from the bass drum head hitting the other pedal. You’re not letting them breathe.” When playing the double bass Lombardo uses the”heel-up” technique.
Hanneman and King’s dual guitar solos have been called “wildly chaotic,” and “twisted genius.”
When writing new material, the band writes the music before incorporating lyrics. King or Hanneman used a 24-track and drum machine to show band members the riff they created, and to get their opinion. Either King, Hanneman or Lombardo mentioned if any alterations could be made. The band played the riff to get the basic song structure, and figured out where the lyrics and solos would be placed.
Hanneman, King and Araya tended to have different lyrical influences. Hanneman’s lyrics dealt with Nazis, religion, warfare and similar topics. King’s lyrics are generally anti-religious. Araya’s lyrics usually deal with less controversial topics than Hanneman’s and King’s, such as serial killers and warfare.
In the original lineup, Hanneman, King and Araya contributed to the band’s lyrics, and King and Hanneman created and arranged the music with additional arrangement from Lombardo and sometimes Araya. Final Six (from Christ Illusion) is the only song by Slayer which Araya co-wrote the music for, whereas Lombardo did not receive any writing credits in Slayer’s history.
Araya formed a lyric writing partnership with Hanneman, which sometimes overshadowed the creative input of King. Hanneman stated that writing lyrics and music was a “free for all”; “It’s all just whoever comes up with what. Sometimes I’ll be more on a roll and I’ll have more stuff, same with Kerry— it’s whoever’s hot, really. Anybody can write anything; if it’s good we use it, if not we don’t.”
In early 2011, Hanneman contracted necrotizing fasciitis. Reports linked this illness with a spider bite he claimed to have received while in a friend’s hot tub. On May 2, 2013, Jeff Hanneman died of liver failure, in a Southern California hospital near his home.
Rest in Peace. \m/
On Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at the Sonisphere Festival at Bemowo Airport in Warsaw, Poland, the “big four”—Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax performed together for the first time. The members of the four bands (except for Slayer’s Jeff Hanneman) were first photographed together on the previous day.
Their live concert, on June 22, was for one night only in Sofia, Bulgaria. Directed by Nick Wickham, the event was filmed and transmitted via satellite to over 450 movie theaters in the United States and over 350 movie theaters across Europe, Canada, and Latin America, including London’s famed Leicester Square.
The encore in Sofia, Bulgaria: Members of all 4 bands performing “Am I Evil?”