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The ten best thrash-metal bands

The ten best thrash-metal bands
Slayer guitarist and expert yeller Kerry King. Photo by Brandon Marshall

Thrash metal flayed disco band Kiss before bingeing on high-speed guitars, rapid double bass drum and foul lyrics. The emergence of thrash in the early '80s poked fun at a fan base of metal historians worshiping at the altar of eyeliner. These thrash bands did the world a favor and took metal in a much-needed direction, helping the genre develop into the massive beast that it is. Here are the top ten thrash-metal bands of all time.

10. Sepultura

Before changing its sound with Roots in 1996 and influencing an era of nu-metal, Sepultura had deeper roots in thrash metal, starting in the mid-'80s in Brazil with little to no English. Beneath the Remains, from 1989, is a classic thrash-metal album, showing the world Sepulura's newfound rise into metal musicianship. Along with bands like Kreator, Sepultura helped make thrash metal a worldwide concern before becoming a lifelong professional ass-kicker with intense metal.

See also: The ten best southern metal bands

9. Overkill

In a genre in which aggression can sideline a band for some time, Overkill can blow its horn as the most resolute and prolific of thrash-metal bands, with a skyscraper discography of sixteen albums -- more than Megadeth's fourteen. Overkill should have been bumped into the metal spotlight in the '80s due to its quality songwriting and its fast-and-loose approach to thrash. With three decades in the bag, there are no signs of letting up for Overkill.

8. Kreator

What do Germany and the U.S. have in common? Ja -- zee thrash metal. Our friends on the Rhine have produced a mosh pit full of cream-of-the-crop thrash-metal bands, including Kreator. The band has created songs with ludicrously fast tempos while still keeping it technical. It helped cram the '80s with some thrash essentials such as Extreme Aggression and Pleasure to Kill. After an experimental phase in the '90s, Kreator is still charging into the future with merciless force.

7. Death Angel

The Bay Area has always cradled thrash bands, and one of its most notable exports is Death Angel. An actual metal family of brothers and cousins formed the band. Young and brash, they jumped into the Bay Area scene with an eye-catching demonstration of technical thrash metal. Before Death Angel could take off with an increasingly strong growth of musicianship, the band's career slammed short due to a tour-bus crash that left several bandmembers severely injured. Today, thankfully, they are back in the game, running strong and currently in the midst of a North American tour.

See also: The ten geekiest metal bands

6. Testament

Another of the original Bay Area thrash-metal bands, Testament was a big help bringing thrash "Into the Pit." A strong contender because of its unusual ability to meld the melodic with controlled chaos, Testament joined the game with 1987's The Legacy. Unfortunately, the band didn't have enough time to grow into the juggernaut it should have been before thrash was poorly commercialized and grunge opened up the '90s.

5. Exodus

Exodus has gone through several lineup changes over the past three decades; it even had to recover from the loss of lead shredder Kirk Hammet. But the band produced a solid debut album, Bonded by Blood -- a huge, sloshing bucket spilling over with sheer violence and havoc. That helped the group cement a claim as the original king of Bay Area thrash and gave it an undeniable slot as a big influence on the genre as a whole.

4. Anthrax

Anthrax is a healthy representation of thrash metal at its best. Now far removed from its heyday, the iconic band still plays hard day in and day out, gearing up this year to put out another brutal album. Anthrax was the first thrash band to bring a little bit of levity to the aggression, with songs like "Fight 'Em 'Til You Can't," which is about fighting zombies, and "I Am the Law," which nods to comic-book character Judge Dredd.

3. Megadeth

If there is one amazing thing Dave Mustaine did, it was to turn the lemon of getting canned by Metallica into the lemonade that is Megadeth, one of the top thrash-metal bands of all time. Of the big four, Megadeth left perhaps the most unique mark on the genre with its sinister take on thrash. Despite a gradual decline over the last several albums, Megadeth has the most extensive catalogue of any band listed here, and it's full of cleverly written, thought-provoking lyrics. Start with "Peace Sells...But Who's Buying?"

See also: The ten metaliest metal bands

2. Slayer

Slayer is the only one of the big four to stay consistently brutal since the big thrash boom of the early '80s. The relentless, vicious dual high-speed guitar shredding of Show No Mercy tore previous metal apart and paved the way for a thirty-year paradise for metal fans. Slayer's influence goes well beyond the thrash world: the band's Reign in Blood is considered a huge influence on death metal, as well..

1. Metallica

Kill 'Em All was the first album by any of the big four to hit the thrash-metal world. The classic album blows motorbreath in your face, fueling listeners to kick ass, take names and headbang until you get whiplash. Yes, Metallica has strayed far from its thrash roots, but it was the first of the four horsemen to experiment and fuse punk with heavy metal on a major record. Metallica exploded with popularity in the early 90s but lost their thrash edge and then rotted away into something else entirely. But with their first four albums, they take the thrash crown.

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