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