The Unsung Heroes Of Thrash Metal

A look at some of Thrashes lesser-known bands.

Ultimate Guitar

We all know Metallica, we all know Megadeth, we all know Anthrax and Slayer. These titans of thrash metal have ruled the roost for the past 20 years. What many people don't know about is thrashes other great bands. All the bands featured in this article have created (and some still do) premier thrash metal yet never quite hit the big time.


Hailing from New York Overkill were one of the premier bands of Thrashes second generation alongside the likes of Testament, Nuclear Assault and Exodus who made up the second 'Big Four' of thrash metal (the first being Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer). With their breakneck speed and huge riffs Overkill really gained a following in the underground, starting out as a covers band. Overkill, fronted by vocalist Bobby Ellsworth also featured the crushing guitar force of Dave Linsk and Derek Tailer with D.D. Verni (bass) and Tim Mallare (drums) providing the backbone. Overkill are definitely a solid thrash band and it's believed the only reason they didn't break out into the mainstream is due to lack of song diversity.

Recommended Listening: Horrorscope, Taking Over And Bloodletting.


Testament, the San Franciscan quintet, broke onto the thrash scene in 1987 with there debut The Legacy [The band were titled Legacy as they emerged from the Bay Area in the early 80's but later changed name to Testament] which made waves among many metal fans, mainly due to its intense speeds. Interestingly Testament have had both of slayers previous drum for them with Paul Bostpath playing from 1992-1993 (he's recently re-joined the band) and Dave Lombardo playing from '98 - '99. These are not the only line-up changes to plague the band who've had over 20 members including 7 guitarists, 8 drummers, 2 bassists and 2 vocalists. One of thrashes most widely respected bands who have never really broke out into the mainstream.

Recommended Listening: The Legacy, The New Order, The Best Of Testament.

Nuclear Assault

Speed Metal riff kings Nuclear Assault took a more socially aware, more mature approach to there songs subject matter, dealing with political happenings, though not always did they take this approach. The bass-guitarist who played on Anthrax' debut record (Danny Lilker) formed Nuclear Assault with vocalist and guitarist John Conelly because he wanted something a little bit more aggressive than the material being produced by Anthrax and over the years Nuclear Assault would create some of the most brutal and uncompromising thrash of the time and borrow from the Hardcore genre to mould an unbeatable form of speed metal.

Reccomended Listening: Game Over, Alive Again.

Death Angel

Another band coming out of the Bay Area, this time made up of Indians. When Death Angel first came out they were noticed because of their drummer only being 14 years of age, and grabbed the attention of the legendary Cliff Burton who saw the band live. Death Angel have a very unique style of thrash which uses tempo changes and acoustic breaks to its advantage to create a unique style of brutality. A very original and often overlooked thrash act.

Recommended Listening: Act III, Ultra Violence.


Probably the most devastating band to emerge from the mid '80s Vio-Lence, fronted by Sean Killian, started off playing small club and party shows and worked they way up after getting a manager and sealing a demo which would then be circulated through the tape trading scene. Vio-Lence finally got a record deal in '88 and put out the 7-track record Eternal Nightmare through the label Mechanic, a division of MCA. Definitely one of the more extreme thrash outfits, Sean Killian was chosen to front the group because of his passion for music and huge stage presence and on-stage antics.

Recommended Listening: Oppressing The Masses, Nothing To Gain.


Unlike other bay-area speed kings Possessed were heavily influenced by Death Metal and used this to create a unique, dark, twisted blend of Death and Thrash. Back in the early 80s Possessed lost their first vocalist to suicide but later got a spot on a Metal Massacre compilation which attracted attention from Combat Record and the band later signed in 1985 and released there debut album Seven Churches set the stage for the decline of Thrash and the rise of Death Metal.

Recommended Listening : Seven Churches, Beyond The Gates.


Hailing from Essen, Germany Kreator are probably the most successful and the best Thrash Metal band to ever come out of Europe. Originally called Tyrant then Tormenter Kreator was founded in 1982 by vocalist/guitarist Mille Petrozza, bassist Rob Fioretti, and drummer Jrgen Reil. After there first 2 demos gaining them a reputation on the tape trading scene Kreator signed to German label Noise Records in 1985 and recorded there debut in just 10 days, it was titled Endless Pain and helped start up the European thrash scene.

Reccomended Listening: Pleasure To Kill, Extreme Agression, Coma Of Soul


Another band hailing from Germany, Destruction created permier speed metal back in the '80s but are often overlooked and overshadowed by other European bands like Germany's own Kreator and Sodom. Destruction burst onto the scene with their 1984 debut 'Sentence Of Death' - a 6 track EP. Destructions big break came while touring with Thrash titans slayer and around 1986 they were europes top thrash act in many peoples opinions. Definitely a great and often very overlooked and overshadowed band for all you speed freaks out there.

Recommended Listening: Eternal Devastation, Metal Discharge, The Antichrist.

Resources:, and official websites of the bands (See under each bio).

Special thanks to Duncan Brown (Whiskey_Leech) for his help and expertise.

75 comments sorted by best / new / date

    That's a good list, for sure TestamenT,Overkill,Destruction rule! and remember...curse the gods! P.s. Well done man!
    All the ones you dudes are bitchin about are already well known. kick ass list. but why didn't ya say something about how vio-lence was started by robb flynn, the leader of machine head (also has phil demmel, their guitarist)?
    To you guys I have sinned, cause I don't like Dream Theatre's vocals....Oh well I'm sure you'll guys get over it.
    no one can ever make a list that satisfies everyone. why can't people just stop bitching for once?
    I read an interview of Children of Bodom in a Nov. 2003 Guitar One magazine, and it listed the genre of COB to be 'Progressive Black Metal'...Oh well, what's the difference.
    "LMAO! You are so foolish. Thrash: Exodus, Dark Angel, Kreator, Torture Squad, Hypnosia, etc. Speed: Judas Priest, old Blind Guardian, old Helloween, Primal Fear, etc. Children of Bodom's "Hatebreeder" album is speed metal with screaming over it. Shadows Fall is not thrash, and they are fairly mainstream. Everyone's heard of Shadows Fall. [POSTED: 14 October 2004 - 17:20]| " Thrash metal is basically playing metal fast, while speed metal retains the melody of heavy metal. Children of Bodom is power metal with black metal vocals.
    nice to see some metal fans. and lick_soloist, Shadows fall dont shred... and they are metalcore... i still like them... but they arent actually metal.
    "Thrash And Speed Metal are The Same" LMAO! You are so foolish. Thrash: Exodus, Dark Angel, Kreator, Torture Squad, Hypnosia, etc. Speed: Judas Priest, old Blind Guardian, old Helloween, Primal Fear, etc. Children of Bodom's "Hatebreeder" album is speed metal with screaming over it. Shadows Fall is not thrash, and they are fairly mainstream. Everyone's heard of Shadows Fall.
    Thats a kool list, other topic Shadows fall are ***ing awsome, SHRED SOLO's they r awsome, metal and a half!!
    I urge all of you to download "Balls to the Wall" by Accept. You will not be disappointed (background vocals galore).
    Thrash is great music and this is a good list of unknowns. Testament got fairly big and so did Exodus but Megadeth is the best but they are well known. Anyway, good list.
    omfg trooper ur so right they did forget pantera. RIP DIME. one of the greatest bands.... but they aren't "UNSUNG"
    And all it would have taken for Testament to be in the first big four would be earlier debut. They wouldve kicked Anthrax outa the top 4... not saying I don't like Anthrax. First 3 albums kill..
    some good older thrash would be Accept and Raven. I like em I dont know if you guys do though.
    SkAsupafly wrote: omfg trooper ur so right they did forget pantera. RIP DIME. one of the greatest bands.... but they aren't "UNSUNG"
    Well, maybe its because a lot of people consider Pantera "Groove metal"
    Maybe they would be a little more noticed if they didn't throw together stupid ass drop D riffs and scream. Bands like these have no talent, with the exception of a little metallica. They should get a little more creative and stop going mainstream and tweaking everyone elses style. Get your own personality.
    rhcpcure2826: maybe these bands would be better-liked if they didnt make such corny, white trash metal band names... 'Death Angel'? 'Destruction'? [POSTED: 13 October 2004 - 10:31]|
    And you suck.
    peaceablesavage: by the way for those of you who dont know them cacophony is a band made up of ex megadeth guitarist marty friedman and jason becker (if you like crazy solos listen to them along with the other speed metlers I mentioned) [POSTED: 14 October 2004 - 03:58]|
    Would definitely recommend either of the Cacophony albums, or Marty's solo album, Dragon's Kiss which is in the same vain, but completely instrumental. On the subject of the article I'd also recommend Onslaught, Sacred Reich and Virus to be added to the list- very good and worth checking out if you like your thrash.
    mr Mcgeetar
    has anyone heard shadows fall they have a new album out now, their one of my faves. i know a local band called mendeed, u should try and find some of there stuff on the net, any of you glasgow rockers may have heard them
    "CvPrEpKiLLaH: btw, Children of Bodom kick ASS... Is that thrash? [POSTED: 14 October 2004 - 04:30]| " they're not thrash and not unsung.
    ^Metal Church owns finally, hopefully this article will help others realize that their is more to thrash than metallica, megadeth, slayer, and anthrax
    yeah, testament is cool! but what about Ministry?
    1. unsung 2. ministry = industrial Im also gonna throw in the following bands (CHECK THEM OUT!): Accept - German Thrash metal Armored Saint Artillery - Danish Thrashers Helloween Metal Church
    I wouldn't say that Death Angel is unknown. They are quite possibly the absolutely most influential metal band when it comes to the death metal/grindcore scene.
    I always hear ministry called industrial but I haven't heard enough of them to know.That list OWNED man,very nicely done.Just goes to show you metallica zealots that there is more out there than the big four which was discussed in this article.
    are you crazy, ministrys called industrial, and yes they rule but their not thrash atall, testament and overkill rulllle mo***er, chuck billy has the best thrash voice e ver
    Bubonic Chronic
    I can't believe you didn't mention Practice What You Preach, nor especially Low, which I consider to be Testament's ultimate contribution to music. Truly a metal classic. You do a service to everyone by enlightening us to these bands, though. Thrash is an overlooked genre, which most regular folks don't realize is what they have grown up calling "metal." Some of the best thrash, by the way, came out during the Grunge era of the early nineties, but was ignored by radio because...well, thrashers have discovered that flannel is not good mosh pit wear. Rock on!