Thrash metal was born in the 1980s, but two decades later it's still here, snapping necks like they're going out of style. Like any good monster, thrash refuses to die, living on in a whole new wave of moshpit-hungry bands addicted to heaviness and speed. This Is Thrash brings the metal mayhem to your door, with three CDs -- that's a mighty 45 tracks -- of monstrously heavy music for the perfect homegrown moshpit.
Extreme metal is the most exhilarating music ever invented. Spawned in the 1980s and hitting a commercial peak two decades later, the furious sound of thrash metal, death metal and black metal can be heard all over the planet, from the ivory towers of the rich down to the grass-roots level of the underprivileged. Fast, violent, sonically uncompromising and usually situated a healthy distance away from the mainstream, extreme metal is here to stay. Its time is now.
This Is Thrash is nothing less than a historical document, celebrating 25 years of extreme metal’s first incarnation. See, there’s old thrash and there’s new thrash – and we’ve covered all the ground here. Here’s a brief history lesson…
Thrash metal was born in January 1981, when the Newcastle trio Venom released their first album, Welcome To Hell. The new music, initially just punkish heavy metal accelerated with a fast snare and kick-drum pattern, spread like a virus across the Atlantic and settled (for reasons still unknown) in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco’s Bay Area. Metallica and Overkill, from LA and New Jersey respectively, were the first bands to amp up their existing music in response to the new sound, followed rapidly by Slayer, Anthrax, Exodus, Legacy (who soon changed their name to Testament), Dark Angel, Death Angel and Megadeth. America has always dominated the thrash metal scene, thanks to these and many other talented bands, but equally powerful counterparts arose in Germany (the unholy trinity of Kreator, Sodom and Destruction) and Brazil (Sepultura). A UK and Australian scene also developed, with Onslaught and Sabbat leading the British pack and Mortal Sin ripping up moshpits down under, and thrash metal soon became the thinking headbanger’s entertainment of choice. Even culturally conservative territories contributed key bands to the cause, with Celtic Frost emerging from Switzerland, Artillery from Denmark and a whole raft of amazing thrash acts emerging from Canada such as Voivod, Razor and Exciter.
The wheel of fashion turns quickly in heavy metal, just as it does elsewhere, and thrash was rapidly superseded at the start of the 1990s. The leaders of the pack (the so-called Big Four of Thrash) in sales terms were Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer, but this tenuous group fractured in 1991 for two reasons. Firstly, Metallica took a gamble on their self-titled album of that year which paid off spectacularly: abandoning the visceral speed of thrash for mid-tempo, radio-friendly metal, the band were skyrocketed into the commercial stratosphere and became the biggest metal band of all time, a position they still occupy today. Secondly, despite the successful Clash Of The Titans tour executed by the other three members of the Big Four, grunge and alternative rock were poised to land on the musical terrain: metal as we knew it was forced underground by the plaid-clad legions from Seattle, and thrash metal receded from public awareness.
Megadeth and Anthrax made the foolish decision to move away from thrash in the wake of Metallica, but failed to match that band’s enormous success and lost much of their momentum. In Europe, Kreator turned to gothic rock; in South America, Sepultura flirted with groove-metal. Although new bands such as Pantera and Machine Head occasionally included thrash metal elements in their sound, only Slayer stayed wholly true to the thrash template, becoming the flag-bearers for the movement throughout the rest of the 1990s, rarely wavering despite the vast nu-metal scene that took the place of grunge, itself a spent force by the middle of the decade. However, even Slayer’s fastest, heaviest songs sounded a little tame in comparison to the huge death and black metal scenes that had evolved when no-one was looking. Was thrash gone for good, then?
Not likely. To the delight of many thrash metal fans, a new wave of bands rose up in the Noughties, spearheaded by The Haunted, Carnal Forge and Corporation 187 in Sweden, Evile and Suicide Watch in the UK and Municipal Waste in the USA. This neo-thrash movement was mirrored in the mainstream metal scene by the appearance of a group of bands dubbed the New Wave Of American Heavy Metal (NWOAHM), including Lamb Of God, Shadows Fall and Chimaira. At the same time, many of the veteran thrash acts from the 1980s reformed, discovering that their original fanbase had aged but not deserted them. Exodus, Destruction, Artillery, Forbidden, Atomkraft and a few club-level stalwarts such as Tankard have all reformed to have a second stab at the lucrative festival circuit.
It’s a golden age of thrash metal once more. Sure, death and black metal (and the punk-derived extreme metal variant, grindcore) are faster, heavier and more sinister than anything produced by the thrash metal scene in the new millennium, but after two decades of extremity most of us know what our priorities are. For many, those subgenres simply don’t match up to the clean, beer-and speed-fuelled sound of the original thrash monsters.
This compilation celebrates both the old and the new guard of the thrash metal scene, which has been rejuvenated by new bands too young to remember the old days but with enough energy to recreate them. As well as songs here from legends such as Anthrax, Exodus, Destruction, Celtic Frost, Death Angel, Voivod, Biohazard, Kreator, D.R.I. and Sodom, we’ve unearthed essential pit anthems from recent arrivals Demiricous, Raunchy, Mendeed, The Crown, Dew-Scented, Darkane, Hatesphere and Chimaira. Add to those songs a selection from cult acts such as Sacred Reich, Armored Saint, Rage, Flotsam & Jetsam, Sabbat and Annihilator, who helped to form a huge supporting wave of bands beneath the Big Four, and you’re holding one of the best thrash metal compilations ever assembled. In fact, why are you reading this when you could be exercising your neck muscles in front of your hi-fi speakers?