See Thrash metal.
A term often used in the 1980s to distinguish a faster, heavily distorted kind of Heavy metal from the more melodic and popular styles. Speed metal developed in the San Francisco Bay area as an underground, alternative style of heavy metal around 1981; its main pioneers were Metallica, Megadeth and, in New York, Anthrax. When speed metal bands began incorporating more punk influences, such as a growling vocal style and sarcastic or critical lyrics, the style was called thrash metal, reflecting a thrashing quality of motion in music and dance; other respected practitioners were Testament, Exodus, and Possessed. The New Wave of British Heavy Metal at the turn of the 1980s was an important influence on thrash musicians, but their most important ancestor was the British band Motörhead, which had played for both metal and punk audiences in the 1970s. However, thrash metal’s emphasis on instrumental virtuosity – particularly fast guitar solos and the precise ensemble execution of complex song structures – made it distinctly different from punk and hardcore. Thrash bands often used unusual metres, too, as well as sudden tempo and style changes.
A closely related style was death metal, which shared thrash metal’s extremely distorted electric guitar and fast riffs but focussed in its lyrics and stage shows on death, religion, and gruesome theatricality. Slayer, from Los Angeles, the Brazilian group Sepultura, and Denmark’s Mercyful Fate were among the most successful bands of this type. Thrash, speed, death and other modifiers served during the 1980s to distinguish underground styles from the more popular heavy metal of performers such as Ozzy Osbourne, Van Halen, Mötley Crüe and Def Leppard. In the early 1990s, the popularity of mainstream heavy metal declined, while thrash bands (Metallica in particular) achieved great popularity. This development, along with generic fusions and realignments, made terms such as thrash less often used after that time; the sounds of thrash redefined heavy metal.
- Robert Walser
J. Obrecht: Masters of Heavy Metal (New York, 1984)
D. Weinstein: Heavy Metal: a Cultural Sociology (New York, 1991)
C. Crocker: Metallica: the Frayed Ends of Metal (New York, 1993)
M. Hale: Headbangers: the Worldwide MegaBook of Heavy Metal Bands (Ann Arbor, 1993)
R. Walser: Running with the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music (Hanover, NH, 1993)