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Thrash metal

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Thrash metal

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Thrash metal
Stylistic origins: Hardcore Punk - Speed metal - NWOBHM
Cultural origins: Early-Mid 1980s United States, Germany and Brazil
Typical instruments: Guitar Bass guitar Drums
Mainstream popularity: Underground in early 1980's, moderate in late 1980's and early 1990's, underground ever since
Subgenres
Black metal Death metal Groove metal
Fusion genres
Crossover Thrash Grindcore

Thrash metal is a subgenre of heavy metal music, characterized by a punk rock beat. The origins of thrash metal are generally traced to the late 1970s and early 1980s, when a number of bands began incorporating the sound of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal with elements of hardcore punk, creating a new genre. This genre is much more aggressive compared to its relative, speed metal.

Beyond this, thrash metal has proven somewhat difficult to categorise. Some fans and musicians have a firm concept of genre and subgenre, but others reject such categorisation as limiting or useless. There is often significant crossover from one metal category to another, and the influence of non-metal genres, including classical music and jazz, is not uncommon.

Generally, the musical base of thrash metal is composed of fast paced time signatures, and low-register, fast or complex guitar riffs, sometimes layered with high-register guitar solos, often in combination with palm muting to create a "chugging" sound. The speed and pacing of the songs is usually what defines basic thrash metal. The music tends to have a visceral, propellant feel to it due to the often intense drumming, most commonly utilizing the snare drum on the 1/2 beat, or the 2nd and 4th beats of the measure. Frantic bass drum use is also common. (Thrash drummers often use two foot-pedaled bass drums, known as "double bass").

Contents

Beginnings

1981 is seen by some fans as a critical year, though others cite earlier influences on the genre: The first riff of Black Sabbath's "Symptom of the Universe" (1975) is possibly one of the first thrash riffs, though their "Into the Void" and "Children of the Grave" (both 1971) were influential as well. Some point to another early example, Queen's Stone Cold Crazy (1974) (from their Sheer Heart Attack album), which was unusually heavy and fast for its time (and indeed for Queen as well), and ultimately covered many years later by thrash metal's most famous and successful band, Metallica.

Some suggest that Motörhead's Overkill LP (1979) would give the name to a New York band that would write what is often considered the first thrash metal song in 1981: "Unleash the Beast Within". Soon thereafter, the short-lived Southern California band Leather Charm would write "Hit the Lights". This band would break up, but the primary songwriter James Hetfield's next band, Metallica, would feature this song. The band Metal Church recorded a few rehearsals in 1980-81, which were similar to the early Metallica and Overkill efforts, though not quite as thrashy.

Cover of Metallica Kill 'Em All Cover of Metallica Kill 'Em All

The first thrash metal demo may very well be Metal Church's Red Skies from late 1981. An instrumental demo that combined thrash, speed, and power metal, it did not receive much circulation, and was overshadowed by their October 1982 Four Hymns demo.

Metallica were second on the scene (the Power Metal demo, April 1982, and then No Life 'til Leather in July) and the first with a studio LP (Kill 'Em All, July 1983). Meanwhile, in Europe, Artillery recorded a demo in November, 1983. Their We Are the Dead took a more Black Sabbath oriented direction, resulting in a thrash metal form that was not quite as fast as that of Metallica but had similar riff ideas.

Take off

Thrash metal took off in 1984 or so, with Overkill releasing their second demo (Feel the Fire), and Slayer's seminal Haunting the Chapel EP, which featured the song "Chemical Warfare". This led to a darker and heavier sounding thrash, which was then reflected in Exodus's Bonded by Blood and Slayer's Hell Awaits in 1985. Outside of the U.S. in 1985, the German band Kreator released their debut album Endless Pain and the Brazilian band Sepultura released their EP Bestial Devastation. In Canada, Eudoxis, who performed live in full body armor, metal spikes, and the legendary six-foot long stainless steel bass drums, released the Metal Fix demo in 1985. Also, Megadeth, formed by former Metallica axeman Dave Mustaine, debuted with the release of Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good! in 1985. Megadeth combined the riffs of thrash metal with the more fancy soloing of speed metal à la Judas Priest, and their sound would become best realised on 1990's Rust in Peace.

Landmark Thrash Metal Album,"Reign in Blood" by Slayer Landmark Thrash Metal Album,"Reign in Blood" by Slayer

Cover of Master of Puppets by Metallica Cover of Master of Puppets by Metallica

1986 was a landmark year for thrash metal, with some of the greatest thrash albums of all time being released in this year. Dark Angel put out the generally underrated Darkness Descends, which is one of the heaviest and fastest thrash albums ever. Slayer's Reign in Blood is universally acclaimed as a classic, and also the German band Kreator had Pleasure to Kill, which set new standards for brutality and would be a heavy influence on the death metal genre. Megadeth put out Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?, Metallica had Master of Puppets, and Nuclear Assault debuted with the punkish Game Over — an album stripped to its bare riff essentials. Hobbs' Angel Of Death emerged from Australia, playing a brand of thrash metal drawing heavily on early Slayer, yet geared towards the European market.

In 1987 Anthrax released the renowned Among the Living album. This release saw the band once again thrash metal territory (simmilarly to their two previous releases: Fistfull of Metal and Spreading the Disease) with fast and heavy guitars and punding drums. Anthrax's songs can considered slighty more "melodic" than other thrash bands of the time, due to their upbeat and catchy riffs.

Anthrax's lyrical direction was also quite different than other thrash bands of the period. Other bands took a more serious direction lyrically, while Anthrax's lyrics can be considered border-line "silly" (Notably: N.F.L. (Among the Living), I Am The Law (Among the Living), A Skeleton In The Closet (Among the Living), and Lone Justice (Spreading the Disease)). Their lyrics complemented their humerous stage appearance. (Singer Joey Belladonna wore a headress while preforming the song Indians live from their Among the Living album.

On the other end of this, Testament would release their debut, The Legacy that same year. Musically, Testament generally emphasized on the more progressive elements of thrash metal, but their songs were still melodic. The lyrics on this album especially were about the occult and other Satanic topics that would no doubt influence the lyrics of death metal.

Thrash metal developed in the mid 1980s to split into many sub-genres and influence a lot of bands like Death and Possessed (who are best known for guitarist Larry LaLonde, who would later join popular alternative rock group Primus). Possessed were among the first death metal bands, making a demo in mid-1984 of a more dark-sounding thrash metal. This sound would be called death metal by the band and fans, and perhaps the first example of it would be the death metal classic Seven Churches, from 1985. Some bands combined speed metal and thrash metal, like the aforementioned Megadeth, and also Helstar, Testament, and Heathen were known for their flashy lead guitar work. Watchtower's Energetic Disassembly (1985) set new standards in technical, jazzy songwriting, which would later be further developed by the thrash metal band Coroner and also the technical death metal bands Atheist and Cynic, as well as later efforts by Death.

Cover of "Rust In Peace" by Megadeth Cover of "Rust In Peace" by Megadeth

Cover of "Beneath the Remains" by Sepultura Cover of "Beneath the Remains" by Sepultura

In 1988 Suicidal Tendencies, who had previously been a straightforward hardcore punk band, released their major label debut How Will I Laugh Tomorrow If I Can't Even Smile Today?. This album had very thrashy guitar riffs and an overall very metal oriented sound, with much more complicated song structure than on their previous albums, but the band still stayed true to their roots as a hardcore band in that the songs were very melodic and had catchy choruses.

By 1988 or so the genre was quite saturated with new bands, but classic albums would still be recorded and released. Sepultura's third album, Beneath the Remains (1989) earned them some mainstream appeal as it appeared on Roadrunner records. Vio-lence, a relative latecomer to the Bay Area thrash metal scene put out an acclaimed debut in Eternal Nightmare (1988), combining relentless riffage with a hardcore punk vocal delivery.

However, the genre was also filled with many bands that were not attempting to expand on the style. The progressive leaning Rust in Peace (1990) by Megadeth is still thought to this day to be Megadeth's finest work. ...And Justice for All (1988) by Metallica, spawned the band's first video, the WWI themed song, "One," and with it's extremely complex song structures, is considered to have pioneered progressive metal (many bands in this genre, including Dream Theater, cite Metallica as a major influence) Testament's Practice What You Preach album in 1989 nearly broke them into the mainstream with it's title track. Suicidal Tendencies released the highly successful Lights...Camera...Revolution! in 1990, which furthered the bands thrash expierementation as well as adding in funk influences (provided by future Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo), creating a then-commercially accessible sound in that it boardered the then emerging funk metal genre.

Evolution in the 1990s

Soon, post-thrash metal bands with a newer sound would continue the more innovative direction, whilst those that played classic thrash metal were seen as throw-backs, though the 1990s had some excellent thrash metal, for example Iced Earth's Night of the Stormrider (1992), which combined power-metal and thrash metal. Many bands, however, opted for a slower, more groove-oriented sound, including Machine Head and Pantera who were strongly influenced by Exhorder. This would give rise to many 1990s-metal bands.

While alternative rock was the predominant genre of the 90's, thrash managed to gain influence. Popular 90's funk metal group Primus (who featured ex-Possessed guitarist Ler LaLonde), particularly in their earlier years, blended Les Claypool's funky bass lines with considerably thrash influenced guitar riffs and songs played at an overall high speed.

In a notable change which irked many fans (but which saw their records sell more than ever), Metallica famously cut their long hair and released two albums, Load (1996), and Re-Load (1997), which had more bluesy and Southern rock influenced songs.

Thrash metal has seen something of a comeback in the late 1990s with European bands like Hypnosia (sounding much like Pleasure to Kill) or Carnal Forge, a fast death-thrash hybrid. Some bands also combine Swedish death metal riffs and punk influence, but these stray too far from the original ideals to be really called thrash metal bands. Meanwhile, other bands soldier on — including Overkill, who have recently put out a fourteenth studio album, Relixiv, and Destruction, whose The Antichrist (2001) is a staple of modern thrash metal — updated production values, and a classic riff sound. The recently released Exodus album, entitled Tempo Of The Damned, is another recent highlight of the genre, as is Megadeth's 'comeback' album, The System Has Failed. The latter, while not 'true' thrash, is a complex hybrid of thrash and power metal, reminiscent of Rust In Peace. Indeed, the opening track, "Blackmail the Universe", shares much in common with Rust In Peace's opening track, the seminal "Holy Wars". The album's cover art also seems like a cross between 1986's Peace Sells... But Who's Buying? and Rust In Peace. The album met with commercial success, reaching #17 in the United States. Exodus opened for Megadeth on their 2004 Blackmail The Universe tour.

Members of Sepultura, Annihilator, and many others have recently performed on RoadRunner's United album in 2005-06. The first release of its kind combined vintage thrash talents with newer metal musicians who incorporate thrash textures into their music. There has recently been older Thrash Metal bands that have reunited and put out new albums including Nuclear Assault who has just recently released their new album Third World Genocide. Bay Area Thrashers Dark Angel have been attempting to reunite the band and put out a new album called "darkness returns". Recently the original line-up of the band Testament reunited and toured, there was also a live album and video released with the classic line-up playing called Live In London.

Often considered the four most Popular bands in this genre (especially in the US, and generally called the "Big Four of Thrash") are:

Anthrax
Megadeth
Metallica
Slayer

The three most important bands in Teutonic thrash (a metal scene in germany) are:

Destruction
Kreator
Sodom

Other crucial thrash metal bands include:

Annihilator
Artillery
Coroner
Cyclone
Cyclone Temple
Dark Angel
Death Angel
Demolition Hammer
Destruction
Doomsday
Epidemic
Exhorder
Exodus
Flotsam and Jetsam
Forbidden
Hallow's Eve
Heathen
Holy Terror
Judas Priest
Lääz Rockit
Meshuggah
Metal Church
Morbid Saint
Nuclear Assault
Onslaught
Overkill
Pantera
Razor
Sabbat
Sacrifice
Sadus
Sepultura
Stormtroopers Of Death (S.O.D.)
Testament
Vengeance Rising
Vio-Lence
Voivod (Early)
Watchtower
Wrath
Xentrix
Zoetrope

Bands that play a mixture of thrash metal and hardcore punk.

Corrosion of Conformity
D.R.I.
Suicidal Tendencies

Closely related genres of heavy metal

Books

  • Dome, Malcolm. Thrash Metal. Omnibus Press, 1990. ISBN 0711917906.

See also

External links

Heavy metal
Black metal - Death metal - Doom metal - Folk metal - Glam metal - Gothic metal - Grindcore - Industrial metal - Neo-classical metal - Power metal - Progressive metal - Symphonic metal - Thrash metal
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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.


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