Defining thrash is tough. Some name Motorhead as the beginning of thrash. Some include bands like Anvil but I stick with the Big 4 and their progeny. Even then some argue that members of the Big 4 like Metallica quit thrash in 1984. Some try to draw a line between thrash and ’90’s “groove metal.” I don’t claim to be all-knowing but here is my list, which is open for debate and later revision Enjoy.
100. “Astronomy Domine” Voivod. Trippy, dude.
99. “Whiskey in the Jar” Metallica (1998). Amazing Thin Lizzy cover that would have made Cliff proud.
98. “Floods” Pantera (1996). Some of Dimebag’s best work and that says a lot.
97. “Spiritual Void” Overkill (1993). A band that seemed to be able to seamlessly move from one sound to another within thrash while always sounding fresh and authentic.
96. “Harvester of Sorrow” Metallica (1988). As you will see a lot in this list, imagine what this album and killer cuts like this could have been with bass!
95. “Davidian” Machine Head (1994). I always maintained that early Machine Head was thrash and this was the best of that early material.
94. “The Ballad” Testament (1988). As heavy and great as Testament is, I always dug their slower stuff more than their more aggressive material and this one is great.
93. “Bloodline” Slayer (2001). On a great album that was tough for a pastor to swallow, this song was too infectious to ignore.
92. “Hollow” Pantera (1992). A great ballad from a band that wasn’t afraid to play whatever spoke to them. Man, I miss them.
91. “Horrorscope” Overkill (1991). The turnover of certain band members in 1991 seemed to invigorate Bobby Blitz and the results are nothing short of staggering.
90. “Armed and Dangerous” Anthrax (1985). Scott Ian may diss power ballads all day long but this IS one and it is friggin’ awesome. This is one the band should re-record with John Bush in 2004.
89. “Metal Church” Metal Church (1984). A song about the band with the same title as the album…if it sounds this good, why not?
88. “Mandatory Suicide” Slayer (1988). A song about a soldier facing certain death on Normandy Beach. Is it me or does one hear a bit of a groove that foreshadows the so-called sell out of Diabolus in Musica?
87. “I’m Broken” Pantera (1994). Doesn’t the title say it all?
86. “Turn The Page” Metallica (1998). A great cover of the Bob Segar song with a haunting video.
85. “Refuse/Resist” Sepultura (1996). A post Tiananmen protest song and solid video that even a right-winger like me can dig.
84. “D.N.R. (Do Not Rsuscitate)” Testament (1999). Like Overkill, a band that doesn’t have a lot of flash but consistently produces great album after great album and this was a stand out cut from a killer release.
83. “Bonded by Blood” Exodus (1985). The title track from a brutal album that hints at what could have been. I love the echo vocals.
82. “Domination” Pantera (1990). I don’t think I’d ever heard a count-in to introduce a track before and still haven’t heard one as aggressive as this one. A song that would’ve sounded at home on Vulgar Display of Power.
81. “Dead Skin Mask” Slayer (1990). A year before Silence of the Lambs hit theaters, there was Dead Skin Mask, which is actually about serial killer Ed Gein. Oh, those romantics in Slayer!
80. “Inner Self” Sepultura (1989). A track I discovered years after its release. A killer riff with brutal double bass drums. How did this South American import ever miss becoming huge?
79. “Suicide Note Part 1” Pantera (1996). Who knew Pantera could pull off a song with a 12-string acoustic and keyboards? That’s what I loved about them…no rules.
78. “Chemical Warfare” Slayer (1984). The 1991 live version of this track rules. Ignore the muddled, basement recording of the original.
77. “Safe Home” Anthrax (2002). A lot of fans claimed this near ballad was a bridge too far for Ian and the gang but a good song is a good song.
76. “2×4” Metallica (1996). A song about sex should sound out-of-place from Metallica and many claimed it was but the monster riff saved it for me.
75. “Serenity in Murder” Slayer (1993). Who else could pen a tune with this title?
74. “Rust in Peace…Polaris” Megadeth (1990). A song written from the perspective of a nuclear missile…about time!
73. “This Love” Pantera (1992). Is this an anti-ballad? I don’t know but I love it.
72. “Only” Anthrax (1993). The switch from Joey Belladonna to John Bush made the band sound fresh and new but just not Anthrax…yet, this song has stood the test of time.
71. “Gemini” Slayer (1996). One of the few original cuts from Undisputed Atitude. It didn’t really fit the album but it was still rad.
70. “Die Dead Enough” Megadeth (2004). I was jazzed for Mustaine’s return from near retirement and he didn’t disappoint with The System has Failed and this is the stand out track.
69. “Until It Sleeps” Metallica (1996). A terrible video but amidst all the cries of “sell out”, I couldn’t get the song out of my head. Love it to this day.
68. “Stain of Mind” Slayer (1998). Haters like to label this song Slayer’s attempt to sell out and be “groove metal” but, regardless of the motivation, it is awesome.
67. “Trapped Under Ice” Metallica (1984). A song about screaming for help in vain under a layer of ice. Man, Hetfield was in a bad place in 1984!
66. “Countdown to Extinction” Megadeth (1990). A great song from a great album. Dave Mustaine sober is one of the most consistently great metal songwriters alive.
65. “Allison Hell” Annihilator (1990). Long before Marilyn Manson tried to claim Lewis Carroll, there was Annihilator. I came to these Canadians late but better so than never.
64. “Beyond the Black” Metal Church (1984). I discovered this track after hearing my favorite Metal Church song, “Watch the Children Pray” and it is stellar. Someone told me the first album had an order form for a Metal Church neckbrace…sweet!
63. “I Am The Law” Anthrax (1987). A lot of cuts from Among the Living make this list and this hat tip to the comic Judge Dredd rivals all of them…except “Indians”, which I never really liked but include because of its popularity.
62. “Sad But True” Metallica (1991). Hetfield claims this song is about the William Goldman horror movie “Magic,” which told the tale of a psychotic ventriloquist…works for me.
61. “You Can’t Bring Me Down” Suicidal Tendencies (1990). ST had a seven-year interval between MTV hits but they made it count with this haunting track.
60. “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” Metallica (1986). My wife’s favorite Metallica song. I can’t listen to it without thinking about the documentary Paradise Lost.
59. “Territory” Sepultura (1991). Seemed to have some kind of anti-Israel, pro-Palestine message, which means these dudes may rock but they haven’t the foggiest idea what they are talking about…so be it. The song is still sick.
58. “Anti-Social” Anthrax (1988). A cover of the Trust track that Joey and the boys made their own.
57. “5 Minutes Alone” Pantera (1994). Reportedly, a person sued the band and Phil Anselmo’s response was “Just give me 5 minutes alone with the guy.” The rest is history.
56. “Dead Embryonic Cells” Sepultra (1991). The first I heard of Sepultura and it was love at first thrash.
55. “Blackened” Metallica (1988). A pro-environmental song that, like all tracks from …And Justice from All could use a little bass.
54. “Institutionalized” Suicidal Tendencies (1983). The first many heard from ST. The song was an MTV hit and still holds up well.
53. “Caught in a Mosh” Anthrax (1987). The title says it all as it compares moshing to dealing with frustration.
52. “Return to Serenity” Testament (1992). A plea to flee with a lover and find solace. Rivaled Pantera and Megadeth for the best metal song of 1992.
51. “Damage, Inc.” Metallica (1986). The closer to the greatest thrash album with a message that is simply it is better to die on your feet than live on your knees.
50. “In My Darkest Hour” Megadeth (1988). Mustaine’s tribute to Cliff Burton was one of the few memorable moments from the otherwise forgettable (and obviously staged) documentary “Decline and Fall of Western Civilization Part II.”
49. “Pounding Metal” Exciter (1984) Second only to Saxon’s “Denim & Leather” when it comes to “ain’t it awesome to be at a metal show” songs.
48. “Indians” Anthrax (1987). Never a favorite track of mine, but is still beloved by the thrash metal community, so here it is.
47. “The Thing That Should Not Be” Metallica (1986). My prayer to combine great metal and H.P. Lovecraft was answered in this track, which I listen to while writing my book about zombies.
46. “Arise” Sepultura (1991). A song about the desire to kill another over religion. A great drum track by Igor Cavalera, a dude who never got his props.
45. “Among the Living” Anthrax (1987). A song dedicated to Stephen King’s “The Stand”…perfection!!!
44. “Wake Up Dead” (1986) Megadeth. This was initially my favorite song from Megadeth. At the time, I had never heard such heavy, compelling and effortless changes in one song. Still holds up.
43. “Orion” Metallica (1986). The highest ranking instrumental from a band that has written a lot of great ones.
42. “‘Effing Hostile” Pantera (1992). Once again, I have no idea what this song is about but it makes me want to challenge someone to a cage match.
41. “Disposable Heroes” Metallica (1986). An allusion to Ray Bradbury’s classic Fahrenheit 451 about using loyal soldiers as cannon fodder. The opener to the greatest thrash metal album of all-time.
40. “The Toxic Waltz” Exodus (1988). A great song by an underrated band that is about a dance that I assume is moshing…at least I hope it is about moshing.
39. “Tornado of Souls” Megadeth (1990). A song about the end of a relationship. As a dude with two former fiances, this track was a personal favorite for years.
38. “Ride the Lightning” Metallica (1984). A song about someone wrongfully convicted of a crime and sent to the electric chair. As a lawyer who represented a person wrongfully sentenced to death, this one rests close to my heart.
37. “Angry Again” Megadeth (1993). An awesome track written for a lame movie that deserved a better mix–still, one of my favorite ‘Deth songs.
36. “Whiplash” Metallica (1983). I always preferred the Motorhead cover but the original is still worth a good head bang.
35. “Elimination” Overkill (1989). Producer Terry Date managed to create a masterpiece in Years of Decay that, unfortunately, has remain largely unheralded and this one of the standout tracks that Bobby & the boys perform to this day.
34. “Fight Fire with Fire” Metallica (1984). A song about the threat of nuclear annhiliation…was James Hetfield really that upset to become a star…geesh!
33. “In A Gadda Da Vida” Slayer (1987). One of the more controversial picks as Slayer themselves hate this cover from the soundtrack to the horrible film adaptation of Brett Easton Ellis’s great novel Less Than Zero, but I always dug it.
32. “A Tout Le Monde (Set Me Free)” Megadeth with Cristina Scabbia (1997). Mustaine claims he always intended this as a duet and when he finally got around to doing it, boom!
31. “The Unforgiven II” Metallica (1997). As I said before about its prequel, a song perfectly encapsulating the feeling of those of us who grew up in a religious home but didn’t feel “saved.” The power injected into the sequel improves it. Incredible.
30. “Cemetary Gates” (1990) Pantera. A song proving Phil Anselmo can sing as well as growl. Haunting.
29. “Roots Bloody Roots” (1996) Sepultura. Is the song about honoring your ancestry or is it about protesting the colonization of South America? I don’t know but I dig it.
28. “Battery” Metallica (1986). An ode to Battery Street in Frisco where the band used to play. I prefer the live version from Donington in 2004.
27. “War Ensemble” Slayer (1990). Nearly incomprehensible lyrics but when played by a band like Slayer…awesoeme.
26. “The Four Horseman” Metallica (1983). A song about themselves…why not.
25. “Watch the Children Pray” Metal Church (1986). One of my best friend’s favorite songs of all-time. A killer track. What it is about? No idea.
24. “Hanger 18” Megadeth (1990). When I worked in Congress, I visited the infamous Hanger 18 in Dayton…it’s just a hanger. I was disappointed. BTW, listen to Metallica’s “Call of Ktulu” after listening to this song…Mustaine co-wrote both.
23. “Seek and Destroy” Metallica (1983). Is it wrong that I used to play this cut while watching CNN footage of the Gulf War in 1991? Don’t answer that.
22. “South of Heaven” Slayer (1988). This was released a year before I enrolled at Southwestern Academy in L.A. (which I was asked to leave after one semester) and this track was my theme song as I labeled Southwestern “South of Heaven.”
21. “Cowboys from Hell” Pantera (1990). Is there really anything to add other than the title? It was enough to sell me in 1990.
20. “Creeping Death” Metallica (1984). A song about the angel of death slaying the first-born in Egypt…awesome.
19. “Seasons in the Abyss” Slayer (1990). I loved Reign in Blood but I always thought Slayer was heavier when they slowed down. Like Black Sabbath, they sounded like a mighty dinosaur stomping through a forest and this is Slayer at their slow, threatening best.
18. “Got the Time” Anthrax (1990). Anthrax was a better cover band in the ’80’s and early ’90’s than they were original songwriters. That’s not a dig. They have become better. While Metallica has slipped, Testament, Slayer and Megadeth have held their ground, Anthrax is the only band that has gotten better.
17. “Practice What You Preach” Testament (1989). As a prodigal son in the wake of the televangelist scandals of the late ’80’s, this song hit close to my heart. Still worth heeding.
16. “For Whom The Bell Tolls” Metallica (1984). There are days when this is my absolute favorite song period. For years, I thought the opening was a guitar solo when it was actually Cliff Burton’s bass…incredible.
15. “Symphony of Destruction” Megadeth (1992). If there ever was a metal song that Ayn Rand would champion, this is it. A song that foreshadowed Mustaine’s small-government conservatism…God bless ’em (no sarcasm there!).
14. “Enter Sandman” Metallica (1991). The strongest track from The Black Album and one that alone nearly made Guns N’ Roses sound soft when the two toured together in ’92.
13. “Hell Awaits” Slayer (1985). I always prefered the 1991 live version that opens with an army march into hades. Jarring in a purely rad way.
12. “Bring the Noize” Anthrax with Public Enemy (1991). This one may stir controversy as some hate Scot Ian and the boys for merging rap and metal but more than twenty years later, I still can’t get enough of it and let’s face it, Chuck D’s voice was so heavy, it was made for metal.
11. “Mouth for War” Pantera (1992). I’m not quite sure what the song is about but heck with it, Pantera is tight and the title is gold = pure awesomeness.
10. “Fade to Black” Metallica (1984). A song about suicide that James Hetfeld wrote after someone stole his favorite amp…musicians.
9. “Holy Wars…The Punishment Due” Megadeth (1990). Is the song about Ireland? Israel? or Mustaine’s favorite comic book “The Punisher”? According to interviews with Dave over the years, all of them. Regardless, it is another great track from one of metal’s greatest song writers and iconic figures.
8. “Angel of Death” Slayer (1986). Only Kerry King and the boys would pen a song about a Nazi doctor. It led the easily led to label the band fascists even though it was written by Jeff Hanneman who idolized his father who stormed Normandy Beach.
7. “Years of Decay” Overkill (1989). Of all the road is hard” songs that bombarded the 1980’s, this was one of the few that didn’t suck. A true power ballad by one of the world’s most underrated metal bands.
6. “One” Metallica (1988). I could have used more bass but this post-Cliff homage to Dalton Trumbo’s “Johnny Got His Gun” was a revelation in ’88. It was, in my opinion, the greatest metal video of all-time as well.
5. “In the End” Anthrax (2011). The highest charting modern thrash song. This ode to the late Ronnie James Dio and Dimebag Darrell is epic and the pinnacle of one of the finest album Anthrax has produced since Among The Living.
4. “Peace Sells” Megadeth (1986). Rex Brown said it all when he stated on That Metal Show, “Peace Sells made us (i.e., Pantera) feel that anything goes.” It was a bold move, fine lyrics and one of the baddest bass lines of all time. Amazing.
3. “Walk” Pantera (1992). A song that is a threat that makes me want to fight someone. Not very pastor-like, I guess but man the groove on this is heavy. RIP Mr. Abbot. You were a six-string genius.
2. “Raining Blood” Slayer (1986). This brutal track belongs near the top if only for the reason that it is Cartman’s chosen instrument for tormenting hippies. My favorite cut from an album that left the 14-year old me convinced I had discovered the soundtrack to the apocalypse.
1. “Master of Puppets” Metallica (1986). James Hetfield has stated that he now realizes this song was about his struggle with addiction. More than twenty-five years later, it remains as aggressive as a punch in the face and is truly the greatest thrash song of all-time and one of the three or four greatest metal songs ever. Bow before it.