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Top 10 Important Albums in Thrash Metal History

VO: Matt Campbell
Script written by Brandon Stuhr They're the Big Four and so many more. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for Top 10 Important Albums in Thrash Metal. For this list, we are only limiting our entries to the thrash metal genre, so death metal and heavy metal are out. Special thanks to our user MikeyP for submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 10 Important Albums in Thrash Metal History


They're the Big Four and so many more. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for Top 10 Important Albums in Thrash Metal.

For this list, we are only limiting our entries to the thrash metal genre, so death metal and heavy metal are out. We will also be limiting our scope to one entry per artist.

#10: “The Years of Decay” (1989)
Overkill

It’s time to Overkill. The band’s fourth album out of 18 full-length releases so far, “The Years of Decay” helped build this band’s popularity in the thrash metal genre with tracks like “Time to Kill” and the album’s title track. Experimenting with a longer song writing style and epic speed riffs, the record is widely accepted as the New Jersey rockers’ best release. Considered by experts as one of the first thrash metal bands on the scene, “The Years of Decay” will have you riffing like never before.

#9: “Alice in Hell” (1989)
Annihilator

These rockers from our Great White North sure do know how to annihilate the thrash genre. Serving as the band’s debut album, “Alice in Hell” pushes the genre to the next level by mixing in progressive, thrash, and death metal while crafting a truly unique blend. Thanks to the technical skills of guitarist Jeff Waters, “Alice in Hell” shreds from beginning to end. Lyrically, the band also plays around with different themes across the album, from intellectual tracks such as “Alison Hell” to the thrillingly violent “Welcome to Your Death,” proving these Canadian rockers are as fast thinking as they are fast riffing.

#8: “The New Order” (1988)
Testament

Hailing from Berkeley, California, Testament released their second album “The New Order” in 1988 and it is a consummate blend of head-banging guitars and gut-wrenching vocal work. From the chaos that is “Into the Pit” or the thrashed-up version of Aerosmith’s “Nobody’s Fault”, “The New Order” is considered by both fans and critics alike as a perfect follow-up album. The record eventually reached Billboard’s Hot 200 chart, reaching 136, and is still the band’s longest charting album while many songs from them are still played live today by fan demand.

#7: “Symbolic” (1995)
Death

Welcome to the extreme side of thrash metal. Released as the Florida metalheads’ sixth album, “Symbolic” pushes the already thin limit of thrash metal with a fearful visceral force. Beginning with the pain and chaos-filled vocals and ending with the death metal riffs emitted by guitarist and vocalist Chuck Schuldiner, “Symbolic” was a major step forward in the art of extreme metal. While the band later disbanded as a result of Chuck’s passing, his vocal talents earn this record its spot as one of the greatest extreme metal albums to date.

#6: “Beneath the Remains” (1989)
Sepultura

It’s time to take a journey to the beautiful country of Brazil and cause some complete chaos. Widely considered a major advancement in comparison to Sepultura’s two previous releases, “Beneath the Remains” takes on painful subject matter and tells listeners of the difficulties of growing up in Brazil. Don’t worry, there is plenty of speed guitar solos and riffing to keep you entertained here, as Sepultura developed a unique style of their own in the grey area between thrash and extreme metal. Finally cementing a unique sound on their third try, “Beneath the Remains” is where thrash and death metal officially collide.

#5: “Bonded by Blood” (1985)
Exodus

These guys are considered one of the founding fathers of California thrash. Bouncing back from Kirk Hammett’s transfer to Metallica, Exodus debuted with this album filled with punishment and mayhem. With quick expert riffing and violent vocals, “Bonded by Blood” presents thrash classics such as “And Then There Were None” and “Strike of the Beast”. While their reputation was hindered by delays of the album’s release, Exodus ever expanded their influence as one of the prominent thrashers of California’s Bay Area with “Bonded by Blood,” which continues to be a primary influence in thrash and death metal today.

#4: “Among the Living” (1987)
Anthrax

The first of the “Big Four” to appear on today's list, Anthrax's “Among the Living” made a spot for a different attempt at the thrash metal staple. While the album was panned by critics upon its release, its strong writing and remarkable guitar work is remarked by metal fans worldwide. Unlike many of the other albums on our list, “Among the Living” focuses on the lighter side of life, expressing lyrical themes around movies and grim-free topics. If you just want to have fun and thrash around, this is the album for you.

#3: “Peace Sells... but Who’s Buying?” (1986)
Megadeth

Led by the twin guitar attack of Dave Mustaine and Chris Poland, Megadeth's second album outsold peace by a wide margin. Politically charged and self aware, the band gave us one of the most recognized metal albums of all time. From the title track’s opening bass line to the extreme metal that is “The Conjuring”, Megadeth grabs a hold of you by the horns and doesn’t let go until the final track closes. While it is debatable whether “Peace Sells” or “Rust in Peace” is Megadeth’s masterpiece, both are necessary staples of the thrash metal genre.

#2: “Kill ‘Em All” (1983)
Metallica

Rarely has a debut album been done so well. Blending the speed and lyrical themes of thrash metal with the riffs of hard rock, “Kill ‘Em All” is the poster boy for the genre. By far the most versatile of the “Big Four”, Metallica has had a long career spanning decades, making picking just one album from their extensive catalogue difficult- especially with “Master of Puppets” lurking in the shadows. Armed with tracks like “Seek & Destroy” and “Jump in the Fire” Metallica really was poised to “Kill 'Em All.”

Before we riff along with our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

- “Pleasure to Kill” (1986)
Kreator

- “How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can’t Even Smile Today” (1988)
Suicidal Tendencies

- “Act III” (1990)
Death Angel

- “Agent Orange” (1989)
Sodom

- “Doomsday for the Deceiver” (1986)
Flotsam and Jetsam

#1: “Reign in Blood” (1986)
Slayer

Let the blood reign. Known as Slayer’s crown jewel, “Reign in Blood” is a thrash metal staple, with a proper mix of both thrash and speed metal. Lyrically, “Reign in Blood” tackles many dark themes including anti-religion, human experimentation, and insanity. The album is also the band’s first Billboard charting release, carving a solid spot at #94, while later being certified gold in the United States. Introducing Slayer fan favorites such as “Raining Blood” and “Angel of Death”, this album is a must listen for any metal fan. Let the leader of the Big Four of thrash metal reign supreme.

Do you agree with our list? What is your favorite thrash metal album? For more riffing top tens published every day, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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