Hard Rock Music Archives
Thrash metal is a style of heavy metal that is identified by its fast tempo and aggression. Indeed, speed, pacing and time-changes are a prominent feature of thrash metal. Thrash metal songs typically utilize low-register guitar riffs, overlaid with 'shredding'-style lead guitars and fast guitar solos. The drumming is typically fast and often uses two bass drums as opposed to the basic one. Thrash metal is often confused with 'hardcore' style lyrically for it often covers similar issues of social matters and a general dislike for the establishment, violence, isolation, alienation, corruption, injustice, addiction, and war. Never is love or relationships covered. The language is often direct and uncensored.
The origins of thrash metal can be traced to the late 1970s and early 1980s, when, mostly American bands, began mixing elements of the New Wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) with the speed and aggression of hardcore punk. Thrash metal is more aggressive compared to its closest relative, speed metal, who it is often confused with. It is believed that thrash metal formed as a reaction to the rising popularity of the less aggressive, more pop influenced style of glam metal that was evolving at the same time.
Queen's Stone Cold Crazy (released in 1974 and described by Q Magazine in 2011 as being "thrash metal before the term had been invented") was one of the earliest examples of thrash metal, as is Black Sabbath's Symptom of the Universe, released in 1975 and eventually covered by thrash metal band Sepultura for Nativity in Black; Symptom of the Universe was also the inspiration for Diamond Head's Am I Evil?
The biggest influence that made thrash as we now know it was the NWOBHM movement in the early 1980s with such artists as Diamond Head, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Venom, Motorhead, Tygers of Pan Tang, Raven and Angel Witch, among others, who introduced the fast-paced instrumentation that became essential aspects of thrash. Venom would be the first thrash act to emerge in Europe (England) in 1979. Technically speaking, Venom, was part of the NWOBHM movement and signed to the 'Neat' record label, known for its involvement in signing NWOBHM bands almost exclusively, Venom's harsh lyrics and faster pace made them the crossover point. Venom would prove to be influential on the black metal genre as well. Nonetheless, The European thrash metal scene was almost exclusively influenced by the most aggressive music both Germany and England were producing at that time. The term "thrash metal" first appeared in the music press by journalist Malcolm Dome while making a reference to the Anthrax song Metal Thrashing Mad in UK's Kerrang Magazine in 1984. (Kerrang number 62, page 8; February 23, 1984). Prior to this, Metallica's James Hetfield referred to their sound as 'power metal'.
Thrash metal's style pioneers, and arguably the most successful and influential acts ever in the genre, often referred to as the 'Big Four', are Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax.
In 1981, in Southern California Leather Charm wrote a song entitled Hit the Lights. That act soon broke up but the band's primary songwriter, vocalist/rhythm guitarist James Hetfield met drummer Lars Ulrich through a classified ad and formed Metallica, the first of the "Big Four" thrash bands, with lead guitarist Dave Mustaine, and bassist Ron McGovney. Metallica later relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area. McGovney was replaced with Cliff Burton, and Mustaine was later replaced with Kirk Hammett (who would soon after form Megadeth, another of the "Big Four" pioneers of thrash metal). The band released Hit the Lights on their first studio album, Kill 'Em All, on July 25, 1983.
California was the 'nest' for the early thrash acts for another of the "big Four" would form also in 1981 under the name of Slayer, when guitarists Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King met while auditioning for another band and subsequently decided to form a band of their own. Hanneman and King recruited vocalist/bassist Tom Araya, a former respiratory therapist, and drummer Dave Lombardo, a pizza delivery driver. Slayer was discovered by 'Metal Blade Records' executive Brian Slagel while performing Iron Maiden's Phantom of the Opera at a show. In December 1983, less than six months after the release of Kill 'Em All, Slayer put out their debut album, Show No Mercy.
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