10 Best Thrash Metal Bands


Megadeth promo photo

Megadeth is one of Audio Ink Radio’s best thrash metal bands of all time – Story by Anne Erickson, photo by Travis Shinn

Here’s Audio Ink Radio’s roll call of the 10 best thrash metal bands of all time

Of all the metal sub-genres, thrash is fastest and most aggressive. It can also be the most thrilling to take in, with its lightning-fast beats, over-the-top shredding and deep, thought-provoking lyrics.

Thrash metal blossomed in the 1980s, offering an alternative to the glam and hair-metal of the era. Thrash bands were less about appearance and style (if at all) and more about the music. Record labels such as Metal Blade, Roadrunner, Megaforce, Combat and Noise took this underground genre and sprinkled it out to the world. As it turns out, people liked what they heard.

Here we are, more than 40 years since the advent of thrash, and it’s still among metal’s most popular subgenres. Moreover, many of the pioneering thrash bands are still releasing new music and selling arenas out. Therefore, Audio Ink Radio presents its list of the 10 best thrash metal bands of all time. Reach out to us on social media to offer your picks.

10. Destruction

Those looking for relentless, angry-sounding thrash metal don’t have to look any further than German’s Destruction. This flavor of thrash is pure fire, with little melody and few catchy hooks. It’s also delightful, if you’re a true metalhead who just likes their whiskey straight. Destruction are incredibly influential in the thrash metal world. However, they don’t often wind up on these lists, so we’re righting that wrong.

9. Annihilator

Annihilator are one of the more unique thrash bands on this list, as they bring together progressive melodies and grand-sounding instrumentation. The Canadian group has a penchant for creating very catchy, hooky thrash metal. There’s certainly a place for that in the genre. It doesn’t hurt that the talented singer and multi-instrumentalist Jeff Waters heads up the group.

8. Death Angel

The San Francisco Bay Area thrash scene is legendary. Dark Angel are one of the more well-known bands that hailed from that scene, along with many more on this list. Those who love technical thrash point to the band’s 1987 release, “The Ultra-Violence,” as a classic,
as well as subsequent Death Angel albums. That’s not to mention that Death Angel were one of the early pioneers in the thrash scene, making them an obvious pick for this list.

7. Overkill

Not all thrash hailed from California. New Jersey’s Overkill are one of the most influential bands in the genre, spearheaded by charismatic vocalist Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth and bass player D.D. Verni. Overkill were a key part of the early, underground thrash scene, and they’re still making music today. The band just released their 20th studio album, “Scorched.” Blitz spoke with Audio Ink Radio about the new Overkill album in a recent interview, as well as the thrash movement, saying that it had “no rules.”

6. Exodus

Exodus are certainly one of the Bay Area thrash giants. There’s no denying that 1985’s “Bonded by Blood” is one of the key albums in the thrash metal movement and set an example for countless releases to follow. With its super-fast tempos, technical guitar work and convoluted screams, it’s a thrash masterpiece. Catch Audio Ink Radio’s interview with Exodus drummer Tom Hunting here.

5. Testament

It’s always difficult to say which band might make up the “Big Five” in thrash. But, if one band was chosen to be added to the “Big Four” of Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax, Testament would sure be up there, along with Exodus and Overkill. The band has gone through a few lineup changes. The biggest happened when lead vocalist Steve “Zetro” Souza went to Exodus, but they always got back on track. Vocalist Chuck Billy has proven to be an exceptional fit for Testament, as his powerful voice and onstage charisma brings so much to the metal table.

4. Slayer

As we get to the final four spots on this list, it’s difficult to put one band in front of another. There’s a reason all of these final bands are part of the “Big Four” of thrash. They’re all crucial to the formation of the genre, and they all have a body of work that’s unrivaled. With Slayer, 1986’s “Reign in Blood” leads that body of work. That album alone gets them near the top of the tally of the best thrash metal bands of all time, with its 28-minutes of punishing riffs and rhythms.

3. Anthrax

Anthrax’s “Spreading the Disease” and “Among the Living” are must-listens in any introductory thrash metal course. The New York City group are known as one of the most innovative in thrash, as they experimented with adding different styles to their music, even rap. The incredible rhythm guitar work of Scott Ian and spirited drumming of Charlie Benante also make them one of the grooviest bands in the genre.

2. Megadeth

When Dave Mustaine and Metallica parted ways, it was pretty obvious he wasn’t going to disappear into the metal history books. Instead, he launched Megadeth, offering the kind of technical playing on which Mustaine thrived, as well as sharp political messages. Albums such as “Rust in Peace” and “Countdown to Extinction” offer jaw-dropping technical instrumentation and progressive compositions. Megadeth’s latest album, 2023’s “The Sick, the Dying…and the Dead,” is also a banger, with sharp songwriting and Mustaine sounding as brutal as ever.

1. Metallica

Are you surprised? We really hope not. Metallica, after all, are the kings of thrash metal. With albums such as “Kill ’em All,” “Ride the Lightning” and “Master of Puppets,” Metallica very much brought the thrash metal sound to the masses and proved the genre was much more than just a phase. Thrash had life and meat to it, and Metallica’s worldwide success proved it. Sure, they went more mainstream with releases such as “…And Justice for All” and, of course, “The Black Album,” but that just brought an even bigger audience to metal music, which isn’t a bad thing. Metallica are still at it today, as they just released a new album, “72 Seasons,” and are gearing up to embark on a world tour. For their undeniable success and how they brought metal to the masses, Metallica is our No. 1 thrash metal band of all time.

Read Audio Ink Radio’s feature on the most underrated metal albums of all time here.

Anne Erickson
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Posted by Anne Erickson | Features, Metal, Music

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