TMO’s Essentials – Thrash Metal



If you are anything like us, you are madly in love with music. Although she is always there for us, lady music can be a cruel mistress as well. With the sheer amount of great albums out there, navigating the genres, sub-genres, and sub-sub-genres can be a wild jungle. That’s why us kind folks at The Metal Observer decided to compile a guiding beacon in the darkness, listing the metal albums you absolutely need to hear. The task was given as such; “tell us some of your favorite albums within sub-genre X, meaning timeless classics or newly uncovered gems”. We began this series with the slow and heavy, touching upon the highs and lows of doom metal, and continued to the depths of black metal.

In our third installment of this series, we march onward to the pits, to the hard-shredding world of thrash. Do we have too much Metallica in our list? Not enough Municipal Waste? Or is this an awesome collection of mostly old school stuff? Let us know in the comments below!

1) Megadeth – Rust In Peace (1990)


It’s rather unfortunate that Megadeth’s mastermind Dave Mustaine has allowed his personality and artistic experimentation to take his band into some lesser realms…but then you listen to Rust in Peace and realize that he’s probably earned it. While many claim Peace Sells to be the quintessential record from these old school thrashers, Rust in Peace is truly when the band found perfect balance – continuing to dazzle with sharp performances, a thinking man’s song writing approach to an often one-trick genre, and a weird knack to be massively catchy and mainstream. Whether it’s the fan favorite “Holy Wars…The Punishment is Due,” the radio friendly “Hanger 18,” or the iconic “Tornado of Souls,” one cannot really go wrong with this record. It’s simply the best of all worlds in Megadeth.

– Matt Reifschneider

2) Slayer – Reign in Blood (1986)


The iconic image of the Slayer logo carved into someone’s arm with blood slowly dripping down is perhaps the best way to describe the reaction a listener gets from Slayer’s third and perhaps most worshipped record Reign in Blood. Slayer has always been definitively Slayer no matter how much hardcore or groove they inject into their brand of extreme thrash and this record will be the watermark by which not only Slayer albums will be measured, but damn near all extreme thrash records. It’s a burst of chaotic bliss packaged neatly into 29 minutes that goes from the blistering speeds of “Epidemic” to the shrill scream in “Angel of Death” to the utterly world ending “Raining Blood” that features one of the metal’s most iconic riffs. When it comes to thrash, it’s hard to look any further than this record.

– Matt Reifschneider

3) Exodus – Bonded by Blood (1985)


Even though Bonded by Blood came out a couple of years behind the first big wave of thrash out of the Bay Area, it’s hard to deny the foundational sound and style that’s included on this debut from the far too often overlooked Exodus. There is an ambitious and hungry sound to this record that overcomes the raw and underdeveloped production and it crafts an electrifying ball of thrash that instantly creates a gravitational pull for its listeners. The beastly riffs from Holt, the manic drumming from Hunting, the shrill unbridled force of vocalist Baloff (RIP) – Bonded by Blood is one classic track after the next. It’s a thrashers dream ignited to physical form.

– Matt Reifschneider
4) Metallica – Master of Puppets (1996)


It’s most likely one of the most prolific and successful gateways into heavy metal. The number of people who know all the lyrics to the title track of Master of Puppets support the idea that this is Metallica’s magnum opus. While arguments can be made for other albums having higher qualities of music, Master of Puppets will forever be Metallica’s largest contribution to the metal world, and it will forever be one of thrash metal’s seminal albums. “Battery” opens up the album with a jolt, and the rest of the album just continues to ride and expand upon that high. It’s one of those albums that appeals to metalheads and non-metalheads alike, that is essential listening to any music fan, that singlehandedly defines an entire genre.

– Siavash Nezhad

5) Kreator – Pleasure To Kill (1986)


There is a strange stigma that remains with Kreator that gets them, to this day, compared to Slayer. Looking at their ultra-aggressive and ridiculously raw roots in their debut album Pleasure to Kill does certainly inspire comparisons – even though it’s tempting to argue that Kreator and their German cohorts defined the term ‘extreme thrash.’ If anything, this debut is most definitely extreme in its energetic and scattered outpour of snarling vocals and unrefined riffing. While the hodge podge production and grating mix of the album takes a specific ear to enjoy, further live and recorded efforts of tracks like “Death is Your Savior” and “Carrion” allow one to truly hear why this record has lasted universally as it has within the fan bases of all extreme metal genres.

– Matt Reifschneider

6) Kreator – Coma Of Souls (1990)


With each subsequent release, the German extreme thrash legends Kreator refined and redefined their sound little by little. By the time that 1990’s Coma of Souls was unleashed upon the world, the band had found a way to incorporate more melody, more structure, and stronger more diverse song writing skills into their already efficient brand of thrash. If anything, Coma of Souls is the next level of skill for the band where they toyed with longer tracks like “When the Sun Burns Red” and really started finding more mainstream success with a single like “People of the Lie” that certainly carried a bit more of the Bay Area style of sound to it. Sure, it’s not nearly as extreme as some of their earlier material, but the combination of a more listener friendly approach to their already aggressive core makes it instantly memorable and infinitely more enjoyable on repeat.

– Matt Reifschneider

7) Megadeth – Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying (1986)


As the album that gave prominence and widespread attention to Megadeth, it’s no wonder that Peace Sells… but Who’s Buying? is on this list. Its undeniable influence in the thrash metal and extreme metal genres can be seen rather clearly to this day, and the riled-up and angry political and occultist lyrics present on Peace Sells… have become a common trope in metal. Mustaine’s riffs on this record are still candidates for some of the most memorable riffs in metal history. Without a single weak track or a filler track on such a pivotal album for thrash metal, it will forever be heralded as essential listening for the newest fans, and its appeal and longevity are a perfect testament to its status as one of the most important thrash albums to ever be recorded.

– Siavash Nezhad

8) Celtic Frost – To Mega Therion (1985)


Formed after the demise of Hellhammer in 1984, Celtic Frost brought that youthful rawness and primitive bashing onto a new plain of heaviness. Tom G. Warrior and crew didn’t restrain themselves to one subgenre, instead focusing on creating a monstrously morbid sound that was heavier than anything or anyone else at the time; a sound that touched upon thrash, death, black and doom metal. 1985’s To Mega Therion took Celtic Frost’s formula and expanded upon it, with nonstop riffs and tempo changes, creating the benchmark by which all extreme metal is judged.

– Shawn Miller

9) Metallica – Kill ’em All (1983)


What can be said about Metallica’s debut album that hasn’t been said before countless times? It’s an absolute classic that put the metal juggernauts into the public eye in a way that thrash had never experienced. With Hetfield’s harsh delivery of the vocals and Hammet’s melodic leanings guiding the band towards thrash’s zenith, it’s undeniable that this is where Metallica is found at their rawest. The appeal was that of four young bucks just hanging around and recording a monumental album. There was no multi-million dollar label backing, no lavish recording studios, and nothing more than a few kids who played the music they wanted to play and as fast they wanted to. For a generation turned off by glam metal and all of its unsightly antics, thrash metal was a breath of fresh air ushered in by Metallica’s debut album.

– Siavash Nezhad

10) Nevermore – This Godless Endeavor (2005)


Certain albums come along and change the game. Be it in terms of performance, deft feats of song-writing, production, or a whole wide array of other factors. In 2005 Nevermore changed the game; arguably setting the bar for any and all modern metal which would follow. The coupling of intimidating musicianship, harrowing subject matter, and of course Andy Sneap’s flawless, trend-setting production, gave Nevermore its modern classic. I remember hearing this in college and absolutely losing my mind.

– Christopher Foley

11) Sepultura – Beneath The Remains (1989)

12) Metallica – Ride The Lightning (1984)

13) Slayer – Hell Awaits (1985)


14) Testament – The Legacy (1987)


15) Dark Angel – Darkness Descends (1986)

16) Heathen – Victims Of Deception (1991)

17) Annihilator – Alice In Hell (1989)

18) Anthrax – Among The Living (1987)

19) Vio-lence – Eternal Nightmare (1988)

20) Flotsam & Jetsam – Doomsday For The Deceiver (1986)

21) Sodom – Agent Orange (1989)

22) Slayer – Seasons In The Abyss (1990)

23) Overkill – Taking Over (1987)

24) Venom – Black Metal (1982)

25) Testament – The New Order (1988)

26) Destruction – The Antichrist (2001)

27) Voivod – Dimension Hatröss (1988)

28) Artillery – By Inheritance (1990)

29) Sabbat – Dreamweaver (1989)

30) Toxik – Think This (1989)

31) Sepultura – Schizophrenia (1987)

32) Sarcofago – I.N.R.I. (1987)

33) Exodus – Tempo of the Damned (2004)

34) Overkill – Feel The Fire (1985)

35) Kreator – Violent Revolution (2001)

36) Coroner – No More Color (1989)

37) The Haunted – The Haunted (1998)

38) Sepultura – Arise (1991)

39) Death Angel – The Ultra Violence (1987)

40) Nuclear Assault – Game Over (1986)

41) Overkill – The Years Of Decay (1989)

42) S.O.D. – Speak English Or Die! (1985)

43) Overkill – Ironbound (2010)

44) Destruction – Eternal Devastation (1986)

45) Death Angel – Act III (1990)

46) Sabbat – History Of A Time To Come (1988)

47) Forbidden – Twisted Into Form (1990)

48) Razor – Violent Restitution (1988)

49) Paradox – Riot Squad (2009)

50) Exumer – Possessed By Fire (1986)


6 thoughts on “TMO’s Essentials – Thrash Metal

  1. Utterly perplexing….that Nevermore album at #10 stands out like Dogs Bollocks…cant fathom that ahead of the 40 it preceeds….We could argue for aeons, but Forbidden's debut?? Travesty! Exodus POTF has to be ahead of TOD, Destruction's Inferal OK has to be head of ED, Anthrax STD has to be ahead of ATL, Razor EI has to be ahead of VR (VR rips, but EI is their zenith…oh, oh ohhhh….Laaz Rockit's Annihil Principle – NOT in Top 50?? Double fkn travesty…..all an opinion of course….love your work!

  2. Pingback: TMO’s Essentials – Folk & Viking Metal | The Metal Observer

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