This entry discusses the Big Four of Thrash:
- Metallica – Master of Puppets
- Slayer – Reign In Blood
- Anthrax – Persistence of Time & Among The Living
- Megadeth – Rust In Peace
Thrash Metal is something of a strange beast. It has produced the worlds biggest and most recogniseable Heavy Metal band in Metallica. However, this success was not immediate . The early 80s provided mainstream success to the NWOBHM bands and then later to the Glam Metal bands such as Motley Crue, Poison and Bon Jovi. For many years Thrash Metal was considered an underground genre.
It was during this time, in 1986, that the Metallica released Master of Puppets:
My introduction to Master of Puppets comes from several sources:
- Several tracks are on the S&M album
- My wife actually got a hold of the older albums and was telling me about them (her personal favorite song is Fade To Black from Ride The Lightning)
- When my iPod died, I was forced to listen to a couple of CDs some people had at work. This included Master of Puppets and also The Black Parade by My Chemical Romance.
The surprise for me was…
The Black Parade is pretty darn good!
(but that’s another story)
The other surprise is I fell in love with Master of Puppets. Loved it as an album from end to end. This is the album that doesn’t have:
- Enter Sandman
- Nothing Else Matters
- The Unforgiven
- … hardly any well known Metallica songs.
It starts with Battery and what’s become a cliche on modern heavy metal albums, the acoustic intro followed by the big heavy kickoff. (Note: A cliche, but I still love it.) It’s a great introduction to Thrash with propulsive speed and singing. It slows down into a nice groove and guitar solo, then speeds up again into a second solo. All the while the sound is clear and stays interesting with these changes of speed.
Second song on the album is the title track and it continues to demonstrate excellent song construction over a full 8 and a half minutes. This is probably my first introduction to Progressive Metal as it goes through various phases of awesomeness.
The third track is the Lovecraftian The Thing That Should Not Be (and spiritual companion to Ride The Lightning’s Call of The Kthulu). This song is dripping with dread and malice. I feel the gravitas featured here is a key element of Metallicas success. It’s not the shock and gore of Slayer or the cheesiness of other 80s metal bands.
These opening three tracks are probably the most well known, but the rest of the album holds up. I remember having the chorus from Sanitarium stuck in my head for days after discovering the album.
It’s an album where the phrases “Best Metal Album” and “of All Time” are often thrown around.
The Big Four
So liking Metallica is nothing new. After some reading I learnt of ‘The Big Four Of Thrash‘. By now I was well on my Odyssey and felt I needed to own at least two of the four. I picked Slayer’s Reign In Blood.
To borrow a phrase from my two year old son, my initial reaction was “Don’t want it”.
My first issue was I was expecting Metallica, and they aren’t.
My second issue is this thing is damn fast. And not just fast, it’s oppressive. It’s somewhat similar to how I felt about The Dillinger Escape Plan, like it was noise assaulting me. Nowadays, that’s what I love about. The whole album feels wild and punishing. It’s something I need to be in the mood for.
Despite the wild fast bits being what makes this stand out, my favorite bits are when it slows down for a while and gets into a bit of a groove (especially the start of Jesus Saves). Second favourit are the solos that sound like a cat attached to a buzzsaw. (No animals were harmed in the making of the blog)
The lyrics are extremely gory and the vocals are shouted, but understandable. It’s notably that while the album predates the Death Growl, it essentially inspired the entire Death Metal genre. It’s not a favorite album of mine, but it does flesh out my collection.
A side note is the guitarist Kerry King is an absolute legend. I’ve heard him talk on Triple J a couple of times. He has badass tattoos, takes no shit and collects snakes.
Dave Mustaine is not a loser just cause he got kicked out of Metallica.
I have the impression Dave Mustaine is a bit of an ass. He famously got kicked out of Metallica for drug abuse (replaced by the awesome Kirk Hammett!). Since then he seems to be on a mission to crawl out from under the shadow of Metallica. The primary strategy is by making his own band Megadeth. It also seems to involve getting in lots of arguments. Wikipedia even have a whole page dedicated to Dave startin’ feuds with people. Luckily for him, he’s actually pretty good guitarist.
Remember this guy?
Back in Heavy Metal Odyssey Part I, I made fun of the generally ridiculous nature of Metal Album Covers. Rust In Peace is actually considered somewhat of a landmark album. But first lets have a video clip:
That’s a particularly 80s video clip featuring aliens and an Area 51 style conspiracy for the song Hangar 18. (I actually know this song from Guitar Hero II). The first half sticks in my head as being particularly memorable.
My impression of this album is it’s an album made for (and by) lead guitarists. There are solos upon solos. The album is still sinking in for me, but that technical focus is ok by me.
The vocals are often quite cheesy, but in a fun way. I quite like the song Five Magics which is about Dave (presumeably) trying to get a wizard to teach him the five magics:
Then he is joined by a Muppet(?) in singing about fighting the Abyss Lord. Great song!
I find this an odd, but interesting album.
The other band.
I could have guessed Metallica and Megadeth were in “The Big Four of Thrash”. I knew Slayer were popular, but it didn’t occur to me they were Thrash. It was only till I read about it that I learned Anthrax were the fourth band.
It may be obvious, but the last few entries in the Odyssey have been a bit of a cram (I’m still decrompessing from jamming 3 Black metal albums into my brain for the previous entry). In coming to Thrash, I did very a quick search for an Anthrax album and came up with two options: Among The Living and Persistence of Time. I picked the latter after reading some comments that it was a more mature and Progressive entry than the former.
The thing is, I don’t think Anthrax’s strengths are ‘maturity’ or ‘Progressive Metal’. The songs are often longish (5-7 minutes), but I didn’t quite feel they quite justified their length. The basic sound reminded me of Metallica, but just not as menacing or effective. Every now and then again an interesting idea would pop up, especially around some punchy vocals.
A bit disappointed, I wondered if I’d picked the right album. After all, it was going to be compared to the three of the most highly respected albums of all time. I decided that if I was going to really visit “The Big Four of Thrash” I would have to investigate Among The Living too.
This album (which was released in 1987, three years before Persistence) feels more energetic and far more Punk inspired. The guitar feels Thrashy, but the style of vocals give the band more of a unique style. It’s lighter and basically more fun than Metallica or Slayer. Among The Living also feels a bit dated in the 80s whereas those other bands don’t.
I do like this earlier album more, but it also makes me appreciate the way the band was progressing on Persistence of Time.
While the multiple worlds and dimensions of Heavy Metal keep growing and colliding, alas I need to take a bit of a break (and stop buying new CDs) for a while.
Join me for the special closing entry…
Heavy Metal Odyssey Part XV – My name is Thomas, and I’m a Metal Head!