Anthrax has released an awesome new album, and so I am going to kick things off with a very belated entry in this series.
Thrash Metal was a direct evolution of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, combining the elements of punk's rebellious themes and faster tempo with NWOBHM's instrumentation. The genre emerged largely as a response to Glam Metal, whose musicians aimed for a more mainstream and even pop-influenced sound.
Thrash Metal is lyrically focused on heavy subjects such as warfare, politics, corruption, suffering, alienation, addiction, and death, though occasionally humor pops up, usually as satire. Despite this dark image, Thrash Metal has a sophistication in its instrumentation rivaling that of Progressive Metal, but with a faster tempo, more prominent drums and greater distortion.
The Big Four
Within the NWOBHM movement, the greatest influence on Thrash Metal was the band Venom, specifically the albums Welcome To Hell and Black Metal. Slayer, Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax were all influenced by it, and became major influences themselves.
AnthraxAnthrax was formed in Queens, New York in 1981 by guitarist Scott Ian and bassist Dan Lilker. Of the four bands, Anthrax is the most punk-influenced, and the most avant garde, incorporating elements of Grunge, Groove and Alternative metal into their sound.The band was called Anthrax because it "sounded sufficiently evil," according to Ian. The name almost became a PR nightmare in 2001 when people typed "anthrax.com" into their browsers and arrived at the band's website. The band teased in October of that year that they would change their name to "something more friendly, like 'Basket Full of Puppies'" but dispelled that rumor at a 9/11 benefit concert by wearing suits saying "We're not changing our name."
MegadethMegadeth was formed in 1983 by guitarist Dave Mustane and bassist David Ellisfon after David's expulsion from Metallica. Dave Mustane sought to sing socially conscious lyrics to contrast with the hedonism popular in Heavy Metal at the time, and even the band's name was taken from a newspaper headline about the proliferation and danger of nuclear weapons, titled "The arsenal of megadeath can't be rid no matter what the peace treaties come to."
In 2002, Megadeth was disbanded when Mustane suffered nerve damage to his left arm, leaving him unable to play the guitar, but re-formed when he recovered.
Megadeth sometimes heads its own festival tour, called Gigantour, featuring other Heavy Metal artists.
SlayerSlayer was formed in Hunnington Beach, California in 1981 by guitarists Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King. The band originally played covers of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest songs, but styled themselves with satanic imagery. Even by the standards of Thrash Metal, Slayer's lyrics are very dark, with songs about murder, torture, genocide, satanism and anti-religion. The band has been the subject of controversy and a target for censorship, especially for the song Angel of Death (you can read about the controversy here).Controversy aside, the band is famous for being the member of another "Big Four;" Bay Area Thrash Metal, a style that it helped to influence.Slayer was the target of accusations of inspiring rape and murder, and a lawsuit was filed in 2001, but dismissed.
MetallicaMetallica was formed in Los Angeles in 1981 by Guitarist/Vocalist James Hetfield and Danish born drummer Lars Ulrich, originally to record music for a compilation album called Metal Massacre. Megadeth front man Dave Mustane was also one of Metallica's founding members, but was expelled early on for substance abuse and conflicts with the other band members.Megadeth was a contributor to the closing of Napster as a peer-to-peer sharing service. The band is also infamous in metal circles for the mainstream oriented album St. Anger
KreatorKreator is one of the "Big Four" of the Teutonic Thrash Metal scene, a combination of German and Swiss bands.
OverkillOverkill has not achieved the mainstream success of the Big Four but is considered to be one of the most successful of the "East Coast Thrash Metal" bands. The band was formed by Dan Spitz, who became the lead guitarist and songwriter for Anthrax. Dan's music was played on the NASA Rover Curiosity, making him the first interplanetary heavy metal artist.
Nuclear AssaultNuclear Assault was formed in 1984 by former Anthras bassist Lilkir. The band's core theme is political.