Essential Thrash Metal Albums

Everything in music is cyclical, with styles and genres moving in and out of vogue. Thrash metal began in the early '80s, but saw a strong resurgence in the late '00s. Fans of today's modern thrash bands may not have even been born when the first wave of thrash was happening. Here are some recommended thrash metal albums from the earlier days of the genre.

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Metallica - 'Master Of Puppets' (1986)

Metallica - Master Of Puppets
Metallica - Master Of Puppets.

Metallica's third album is their best. It doesn't have the radio singles and MTV videos as some of their later releases, but is a musical tour de force.

From the trademark thrash of "Battery" to the instrumental stylings of "Orion," it's a sound of a band on top of their game. The songs are diverse and the musicianship is simply incredible.

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Slayer - 'Reign In Blood' (1986)

Slayer - Reign In Blood
Slayer - Reign In Blood.

This is one of the top 3 thrash metal albums and one of the top 10 metal albums ever. Many publications have named it the best metal album ever. This is speed metal at its finest, with compact songs jam packed with riffs and head banging intensity.

The lyrics are also filled with dark and disturbing images. Slayer released several fantastic albums, and this is their masterpiece.

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Megadeth - 'Peace Sells...But Who's Buying' (1986)

Megadeth - Peace Sells...But Who's Buying
Megadeth - Peace Sells...But Who's Buying.

Megadeth really hit their stride on this, their second album. It's a speed metal classic with great songs like "Wake Up Dead," "Devil's Island" and "Peace Sells."

The band's songwriting improved quite a bit from their debut album and decades later it still holds up extremely well. Dave Mustaine's unique vocal style and guitar mastery cements Megadeth's "Big 4" status.

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Anthrax - 'Among The Living' (1987)

Anthrax - Among The Living
Anthrax - Among The Living.

Anthrax is a group I've come to appreciate more and more as the years go by, and Among The Living was their best album. The songs had a message and were catchy yet still very intense and aggressive. "Caught In A Mosh" is the highlight of this album, along with other great songs such as "Indians," "I Am The Law" and the title track.

Anthrax have always been a band with a sense of humor that is also willing to address serious subjects, which is a great combination.

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Exodus - 'Bonded By Blood' (1985)

Exodus - Bonded By Blood
Exodus - Bonded By Blood.

Exodus' debut album was their commercial and critical pinnacle. Even though they've had a long and successful career, they never matched the success of thrash counterparts like Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax. This album, though, is spectacular.

It's a thrash classic with music played at breakneck speed with a barrage of killer riffs and solos. And even though it's a whirlwind of intensity, the songs are still very catchy and memorable.

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Kreator - 'Pleasure To Kill' (1986)

Kreator - Pleasure To Kill
Kreator - Pleasure To Kill.

The German thrash band's second album is one of their best. Everything about it was a huge improvement over their debut. It was more brutal and aggressive and had some unbelievable riffs.

1986 was the year of thrash, and this is an album that sometimes gets overlooked because of everything else that was released that year. But this album showed Kreator was a thrash and speed metal force to be reckoned with.

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Testament - 'The Legacy" (1987)

Testament - The Legacy
Testament - The Legacy.

Testament are a Bay Area thrash band whose debut album came a few years after groups like Metallica and Megadeth were already dominating the scene. They were well known to thrash fans, but never made that leap to popular success like some of their contemporaries.

The Legacy followed the thrash metal blueprint, but Testament infused it with their own style and personality, such as Chuck Billy's vocals, that made it unique.

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Sepultura - 'Beneath The Remains" (1989)

Sepultura - Beneath The Remains
Sepultura - Beneath The Remains.

With their third album, the Brazilian band Sepultura made a quantum leap into the forefront of extreme metal. Beneath The Remains is when the band's songwriting really blossomed and their blistering thrash metal was both extremely intense and also really catchy.

The album had brutal riffs, creative solos, skull pounding drums and paint peeling vocals from Max Cavalera. What's even more amazing is that most of the band members were only in their teens when this album was released.

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S.O.D. - 'Speak English Or Die' (1985)

S.O.D. - Speak English Or Die
S.O.D. - Speak English Or Die.

S.O.D., otherwise known as Stormtroopers Of Death, were a crossover thrash side project of Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian and drummer Charlie Benante along with former bassist Dan Lilker (then in Nuclear Assault) and vocalist Billy Milano.

The album was recorded in just three days and caused controversy because their tongue in cheek lyrics were considered by some to be racist and sexist. Their music was a powerful mix of thrash and hardcore punk that was intense and raw.

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Annihilator - 'Alice In Hell' (1989)

Annihilator - Alice In Hell
Annihilator - Alice In Hell.

The Canadian thrash band Annihilator blasted upon the scene with a monstrous debut album. Jeff Waters and company tore through the album with raw power and energy along with excellent technical skill.

Waters and Anthony Greenham really shined with their outstanding guitar work. Randy Rampage's raw and emotional vocals were a good fit as well. Annihilator has had dozens of lineup changes over the years, and their debut remains one of their best efforts.