Fan Poll: Top 5 Non-Big 4 Thrash Bands | Revolver

Fan Poll: Top 5 Non-Big 4 Thrash Bands

From Bay Area underdogs to death-thrash OGs
Chuck Billy Testament Getty , PYMCA/Avalon/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Testament's Chuck Billy
photograph by PYMCA/Avalon/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

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Although the concept of the Big 4 — the title bestowed upon Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax for being the most essential bands in the thrash metal genre — is a useful way to succinctly introduce new fans to the scene and give those acts the credit they deserve for being so influential and important to heavy metal history, it also has the negative effect of undermining just how fertile the thrash landscape really is. 

Therefore, we asked our readers to choose the best thrash band who's not considered one of the reigning champs of the genre. From Bay Area underdogs to an oft-overlooked gem of the scene, these are the top five non-Big 4 thrash bands, ranked according to how many votes they received. 

5. Death Angel

If Death Angel came up anywhere else but the Bay, then they would've been unanimously heralded as the best band in town. The San Francisco quintet were already a formidable thrash machine by the time they released their 1987 debut, The Ultra-Violence, and the creative leaps they took on its subsequent follow-ups solidified them as one of the genre's premier experimentalists. 

4. Sepultura

Due to how popular their pivot to groove and nu-metal in the mid-Nineties was, a lot of people don't think of Sepultura as a thrash band, but they most certainly started as one. Albums like 1987's Schizophrenia, 1989's Beneath the Remains, and 1991's Arise saw the Brazilian titans continue the trajectory that Slayer started a few years earlier with their dark, demonic leads and evil vocal barks. Call it deathrash if you'd like, but Sepultura deserve a spot in the speed metal history books. 

3. Overkill

Although they were never the most popular thrash band and don't have the mark of influence that some of their contemporaries do, Overkill are one of the oldest and most hard-working groups in the genre. They formed in 1980 (that's a year before Metallica), never went on hiatus and have never slowed down their album output, having released 19 studio LP's since their debut in 1985. These guys live and breath thrash.

2. Exodus

Often cited as the first Bay Area thrash band, Exodus are a world-class act who've always existed just on the outskirts of the coveted Big 4. For whatever reason, they never experienced the mainstream breakthrough that some of their peers did, but with the domineering shredding abilities of Gary Holt and Steve "Zetro" Souza's electric vocals, albums like Fabulous Disaster and Pleasures of the Flesh are thrash metal par excellence. 

1. Testament

These top two were extremely close, and most thrash fans could probably go either way depending on the day, but this time Testament prevailed. Many metalheads would argue that these titans even deserve their own spot in the Big 4,, and the quality of records like Practice What You Preach, The New Order and The Legacy makes it a hard argument to push back against. Rankings and ultimately meaningless categories aside, Testament's albums rule, and anyone with a passing interest in thrash needs to know and love them.