10 Best Thrash Metal Albums


Black and white image of Metallica.

Metallica has one of the best thrash metal albums of all time, according to Audio Ink Radio – Story by Anne Erickson, photo by Tim Saccenti

Audio Ink Radio presents its list of the 10 best thrash metal albums of all time

When it comes to the many subgenres of heavy metal, thrash is always a kingpin. Thrash metal has been solid since the early-1980s, and a steady stream of thrash bands have continued to thrive for decades. As many like to say, first there’s heavy metal, then there’s thrash metal and then there’s everything else. So, what are the 10 best thrash metal albums of all time?

The thrash metal style really took hold in the late-1980s and early-1990s, and many of the genre’s most iconic albums are from that era. However, thrash metal’s greatest pieces of art encompasses the genre’s very early days, from the early-1980s, through around the 2000s. While these albums are all very unique, what they share is thrash metal’s lightning-fast riffing, percussive beats and reckless abandon for the norm.

In honor of the history and legacy of thrash metal, Audio Ink Radio presents its list of the 10 best thrash metal songs of all time. Not that we’re only including one album per band on this list. Of course, many more thrash songs deserve attention. Reach out to us with your favorites on social media.

10. Overkill, “The Years of Decay”

While much of the thrash metal that came out of America was from the Bay Area scene, one influential band hailing from the East Coast was Overkill. While their entire catalog is strong, from 1985’s “Feel the Fire” to 2023’s “Scorched,” the centerpiece of their discography is 1989’s “The Years of Decay,” which features thrash classics such as “I Hate” and “Elimination.”

9. Destruction, “Infernal Overkill”

Germany’s thrash metal kings, Destruction, have never and won’t ever water down their sound. On 1985’s “Infernal Overkill,” Destruction unleashed a scorching set of thrash, that’s all aggression. Here, bass player and vocalist Schmier, guitarist Mike Sifringer and drummer Tommy Sandmann created an extreme masterpiece that’s purpose made for the true metalhead. No posers, please.

8. Voivod, “Dimension Hatröss”

Voivod are one of those straight-ahead heavy metal bands that consistently releases solid material, decade after decade. They simply won’t let anyone get in their way. Their music is very distinct. While all of Voivod’s music stands out, “Dimension Hatröss” is special, as it features wild riffs and a strange concept that tells the tale of Voivod’s mascot cyborg Korgull.

7. Kreator, “Extreme Aggression”

Kreator already had a bevy of solid releases under their belts before they released 1989’s “Extreme Aggression.” But, this was the album that made them worldwide names in heavy metal. “Extreme Aggression” was Kreator’s first album to get wide distribution via Epic. Musically, it’s a raging collection of thrash, with epic songs such as “No Reason to Exist,” “Betrayer” and more.

6. Exodus, “Bonded by Blood”

Exodus are often considered one of the most underrated bands in thrash metal, and “Bonded by Blood” is one of the more understated albums in the genre, too. The 1985 release was one of the early heroes of the movement, helping to introduce Bay Area thrash to the underground. It’s an important album in the history of the genre.

5. Testament, “The Legacy”

Testament are one of the statesmen of the thrash metal genre. Their debut album, 1987’s “The Legacy,” was special. It’s not often that a debut album becomes such a centerpiece of a musical movement. But, “The Legacy” did just that, becoming an instant classic for thrash metal with speedy, forceful hooks and anthems.

4. Anthrax, “Among the Living”

Anthrax became one of the key influencers in the thrash metal genre with their seminal 1987 release, “Among the Living.” From mammoth thrash metal songs such as “Caught in a Mosh” to “I Am the Law” to “Indians,” “Among the Living” is a classic. It also helped make Anthrax that fourth band in the “Big Four” of thrash metal, alongside Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer.

3. Megadeth, “Rust in Peace”

Megadeth never compromised their sound or style to fit what was popular at the time. Because of that, they were always trendsetters in the metal world. They certainly set trends with 1990’s “Rust in Peace.” The albums offered an astute, riveting collection of heavy thrash metal that showcased Dave Mustaine and the crew’s high-caliber technical skills. We’re only including one album per band on this list, but Megadeth’s 1986 release, “Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?,” is a close second.

2. Slayer, “Reign in Blood”

With 1986’s “Reign in Blood,” Slayer unleashed 30 minutes of the most gut-punching, ferocious, loud heavy metal music of all time. Even decades later, it’s one of the strongest and most powerful albums in the heavy metal genre, not just thrash. At the time, “Reign in Blood” was groundbreaking, offering towering riffs and dark rhythms that just didn’t exist yet. It was pure, unadulterated thrash metal for the ages.

1. Metallica, “Master of Puppets”

It was a tough decision whether to put Metallica’s “Master of Puppets,” “Ride the Lightning” or “Kill ’em All” as No. 1 on this list. Moreover, we’re only highlighting one album per band, so we couldn’t include all three. But, we went with “Master of Puppets” as No. 1 on our roster of the best thrash metal albums of all time. “Master of Puppets” arrived in 1986, five years before the band went “mainstream” with 1991’s “The Black Album.” The record contains some of thrash metal’s greatest songs ever, including “Battery,” “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” and more. From start to finish, vocalist James Hetfield, guitarist Kirk Hammett, drummer Lars Ulrich and late bass player Cliff Burton present a raging blend of thrash for the ages. “Master of Puppets” is really the defining thrash record.

Find Audio Ink Radio’s list of the 10 best thrash metal bands of all time here.

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