When thrash metal hit in the early Eighties it was a revelation. Bands like Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer — who would eventually be dubbed thrash's Big 4 — took the NWOBHM, punk and classic metal on which they were raised and morphed them into a vicious, whiplash-inducing style that offered a visceral, dirtbag alternative to the trendy pretty-boy glam bands of the day.
No one could have imagined that these scraggly, beer-swilling, riff-wielding headbangers would eventually go on to become some of the biggest names in heavy music — topping charts, dominating airwaves and collecting mainstream awards — but that's exactly what happened. The genre has many essential albums (and you've already weighed in our your favorites), but what is the single greatest thrash song ever made? That's the question we posed to you, and you hit us back with strong opinions and plenty of choice picks. Below are the top five vote-getters.
Straight up, Metallica's "Battery" is a ripper, and expertly packs most of what fans love about thrash metal into one song. After some thorough mood building through the song's intro, the band completely shred out of the gate with a riff that could pretty much last forever. It cruises into a solo, a "mosh part" to add maximum thrash and a perfect shout-along chorus. It's fun as fuck.
Perhaps no riffs in the genre have ever been more infectious than those found on Megadeth mainman Dave Mustaine's magnum opus "Holy Wars…The Punishment Due." Lightning quick and endlessly air-guitarable, the galloping, anthemic main riff is one of the band's — and genre's — best. The duo of Mustaine and then lead guitarist Marty Friedman shred through a winding series of segments that meld into one remarkable story about the horrors of war. Emotional at times but never straying from the righteously gnarly path, "Holy Wars" is not only Megadeth's most memorable song, it's a hallmark entry in the mythic canon of thrash metal.
At the top of their game, Metallica were untouchable in their ability to compose unforgettable epics that stretched far beyond the limitations of early speed and thrash metal. 1986's "Master of Puppets" is one such masterpiece. The song's complex moving parts transition smoothly from one saga to the next and give the track an enormous, chill-inducing crescendo before the guys bring back the nasty riffs for a stunning climax. The golden age of thrash was marked by works that mimicked the intricacy and nuance of classical music, and Metallica nailed that on the head with "Master"'s awe-inducing overtures and sinuous guitar licks.
It's difficult to imagine a more iconic and sinister riff than the opening of "Raining Blood." Pure gnashing evil from start to finish, it remains the high point of any Slayer show and manages to rouse even the most jaded fans with its staccato chugging and pointed riffs that follow that hellish, foreboding intro. A speed-demon nightmare come to life, the song is headbanging perfection in its purest form and will continue to inspire listeners to throw the horns and shout "FUCKING SLAYERRRR" for generations to come.
"Angel of Death" is everything thrash metal should be. Right out of the gate, Slayer tear up their knuckles over a speedy riff that sounds like a car burning out before picking up massive velocity. Tom Araya's voice is at its most furious, screaming out atrocities over the roar of the Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman's guitars as they relentlessly morph the main riff into a multitude of different hellacious forms and rhythms. At any point, it sounds like the song could literally explode — a real testament to its pure fucking power.