Desert Island Discs – Thrash Edition

What are all these lists without a thrash version? Since I seem to be the resident thrasher here, I put it upon myself to compile a list of personal favorite thrashtastic albums for you all to debate over. As others have stated, this isn’t meant to be some sort of definitive list of greatest thrash […]

by Larry "Staylow" Owens

What are all these lists without a thrash version? Since I seem to be the resident thrasher here, I put it upon myself to compile a list of personal favorite thrashtastic albums for you all to debate over. As others have stated, this isn’t meant to be some sort of definitive list of greatest thrash albums ever, but rather a personal list that melt and shred my face off time and time again.

Just in case anyone was wondering, I’m 27 years of age. You may ask yourself how someone who was born the same time the genre was and missed out on it entirely as it came about became such a huge fan. Well for starters, I’m a speed junkie – I used to do it illegally, but have long since abandoned that self destructive pit of hell and now get my fix through coffee (now drinking, ha!), Red Bull, and of course, thrash! Secondly, thrash riffs just ignite a certain feeling in me that I can’t quite explain – I’m a guitar guy and those riffs are what I want to hear. But even if I love the speed, as you’ll soon find out by reading my list, it’s not always all about it, but rather diversity. After all, if I was on a desert island with only 10 albums, I wouldn’t want all 10 to sound the same. Most of the albums here are from the tail end of the thrash movement, when first wave bands were branching out into either tech/prog realms or the groove oriented style, and second wave bands were finding their own sound and perfecting it.

I had to set up some guidelines for myself to make it a little easier, and that would be that the albums listed would only be from the original thrash movement or at least from a band that started there – nothing post ’99.

MetallicaMaster of Puppets, Elektra 1986
I know, I know – you don’t have to say it – how fucking cliché and over done is this? But still, this album blew the doors wide open for me. This album had (and still has) some of the most mind bending-ly awesome guitar work these ears have ever heard. There were times in my early-mid teen years where I would listen to nothing but this album for weeks straight. I’ve easily logged in over 500 plays of this disc, and still listen to it on a pretty regular basis. I still remember the feeling this album gave me on the first listen, with my jaw hanging on the floor. For me, this is the absolute pinnacle of metal, and one that I continue to this day searching for an equal, but to no avail – not even close. It gives me shivers down my spine and makes me want to headbang and thrash about until I have a headache and collapse on the floor. Everything just gels so well here, and simply works. I have every note, beat, vocal twist and lyric committed to memory and could probably hum/sing the entire thing front to back. This is the album that sowed the seeds that would incubate for nearly a decade before my metal journey really took off.

MegadethRust in Peace, Capital 1990
I was a bit of a late comer to the early Megadeth records. My intro to the band was Countdown to Extinction not too terribly long after it’s release, but around the same time, I was discovering and was mesmerized by 60’s/70’s rock, and took a long foray into that whole scene until roughly 19/20 years old. I was never much into what was “new and hot”, always preferring the great stuff I had missed. So when I was dragged back into metal in my early twenties, thrash was among the first to get a thorough researching, and Megadeth in particular. The one album from that early, raw thrash sound of theirs that really knocked my on my ass was RIP with its dizzying technical approach (quite possibly the album that started my infatuation with the technical stuff) coupled with instant memorability. It’s by far MegaDave’s finest hour, and one that he will never surpass.

Testament – The Gathering, Spitfire 1999
During my thrash frenzy, Testament was a band I had checked out and listened to all of their albums at least once after discovery, but at that point in time, I was in full-on, metal cramming 101 – checking out so much metal at once that looking back on it now, makes my head spin and wonder how I was able to retain any of it. Just like 100 plus other bands, I had checked them out and “set them aside”, so to speak, and returned to later. When I did, their entire discography slapped me square in the face and said “where the fuck have you been?” and no album more so than The Gathering. Not really a full on thrash album, as their death metal tendencies were by now solid and stout in their sound, it contains I think, their greatest moments and most brilliant songwriting. This album kicked my ass hard and left a hell on an impression – so much so that these days I consider Testament my favorite band, finally trumping Metallica just because of their consistency in quality and upward trajectory in terms of heaviness, pinnacled here by this album.

CoronerMental Vortex, Noise 1991
Here’s a band that I feel does not get near the respect they deserve(d). Their beginnings were close to that of the standard thrash of the time, but by the time they reached their third album, 1989’s No More Color, they had morphed into technical/progressive thrash powerhouse to be reckoned with. Though it was the next album, Mental Vortex that saw them seamlessly marry the technical aspects with their thrash roots in a perfect balance for absolutely outstanding results that to this day, nobody has dared come close to matching.

Death AngelThe Ultra-Violence, Enigma 1987
Probably the purest all out thrash album on my list. Sure, by 87 their sound had already been done by countless others, but not nearly as well, and by a group of teenagers! Every song here is a winner, loaded to the brim with hook after hook, scorching solo after scorching solo and a sense of aggression that still sends me into a frenzy, running about the room in search of something to break. I fucking love it.

Sacred ReichThe American Way, Metal Blade 1991
Ha! This is a funny story. During my days of metal discovery, and once again thrash in particular, I was flipping through channels one day looking for something to watch when I came across an old Pauly Shore classic, Encino Man. You know the one, where they dig up the frozen cave man in the back yard, he thaws out, ransacks the house, then they civilize him and make him the coolest guy in school? Yeah. Well, the part where he first thaws out and they find the house trashed, they’re walking through the house and the T.V. is on – and what was on the tube? A metal video. I thought to myself, “hey, that sounds awesome, who is that?” Then it just happened to pop up the artist/song info in the corner of the screen (it was MTV, of course) and said Sacred Reich (it was the s/t track). I immediately hopped online to look them up, and have been a huge fan ever since, especially of The American Way. The album itself is much more groove oriented than their early stuff and that of most other thrash bands around at the time (there’s no doubt in my mind that they had a lot to do with the groove/thrash explosion that would take place in a couple short years), but regardless, I can’t get enough of it.

Slayer Seasons in the Abyss, American 1990
I actually heard Slayer very early on in my musical journey, at the young age of 13 fresh on the release of Divine Intervention. It scared the shit out of me – the wicked cover art, the demonic sounding vocals and all out intensity was just too much for me. Not to mention that at the time, my classic rock fascination had a strong foothold – I just couldn’t get around Tom Araya’s gruffer vocals. But after a couple years, curiosity got the best of me, and while in the record shop, picked up a Slayer album (Divine Intervention) and fell in love with it. The next one I snapped up was Seasons in the Abyss and it took my head off! By the time I got through the rest of their catalog, Seasons remained the one I reach for the most – it has the best balance of thrash, powerful groove and evil for these ears.

KreatorComa of Souls, Noise 1990
After discovering Kreator, I went around telling all the Slayer fans I know: “you like Slayer right? Forget that shit, listen to Kreator.” At the time I discovered the band, I was neck deep in Slayer worship – but with each new listen of Kreator, it became ever more apparent that Kreator just mopped the floor with them in every aspect from the musicianship to the songwriting but especially the soloing department – none of that Kerry King wail in, completely unstructured mess, wail out stuff on every solo. Coma of Souls just narrowly beat out Extreme Aggression to make this list, mostly due to CoS being a more complete and well rounded album. Massive hooks abound for such a devilishly thrashtastic endeavor – look no further than “People of the Lie”.

AnnihilatorNever Neverland, Roadrunner 1990
I suspect I’ll catch some shit for including this album over the bands debut, Alice in Hell, but I’ve always enjoyed this one more. The riffs are better, the songwriting is better which in turn creates more memorable songs, and I slightly prefer the vocals of Coburn Pharr over Randy Rampage. Jeff Waters has an incredible knack for writing strong riffs, regardless of what era Annihilator you’re looking at, but they’re the strongest here on Never Neverland. Songs like “The Fun Palace”, “Road to Ruin”, “Stonewall”, “Imperiled Eyes” and “Phantasmagoria” are all loaded with killer riffs. Also, you can’t forget about Waters silliness that seems to be included on virtually every album started here with the hilarious “Kraf Dinner” – awesome.

HeathenVictims of Deception, Roadrunner 1991
The nine previous entries were pretty easy to decide on, but this tenth spot took some more thought – so many more great and legendary (not to mention personal favorites) bands that should be listed. When it came down to it though, it was between this and the narrowly defeated Beneath the Remains from Sepultura. Victims of Deception gets the slot for the superior musicianship, longer and more varied songs and superb memorability. What can I say? I’m a sucker for the tech-thrash, especially when it’s so impeccably written. It’s a crying shame they didn’t get more exposure than they did, as I know they would’ve gone on to create a string of classics, especially if their 3 2005 demo songs are anything to go off of. By next year, we should have a full length on our hands, but my bet is that even if it’s good or great, it won’t come near the dizzying heights of awesomeness that this album achieved.

The following albums were also under close scrutiny: Metallica – Kill em All, Metallica – Ride the Lightning, Metallica – …And Justice For All, Death Angel – Act III, Overkill – Horrorscope, Sodom – Agent Orange, Exodus – Fabulous Disaster, Forbidden – Forbidden Evil, Believer – Sanity Obscure, Sepultura – Beneath the Remains, Vio-Lence – Eternal Nightmare, Testament – Low, Testament – The New Order, Slayer – Reign in Blood, Megadeth – Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?, Kreator – Extreme Aggression



  1. Commented by: Erik Thomas

    Good list larry- im no thrash buff but my list would be

    Sabbat “Dreamweaver” x 6
    Slayer “Reign in Blood”
    Sepultura “Beneath the Remains”
    Metallica – “Master of Puppets”
    Kreator – “Extreme Aggression”

    and maybe some other brit thrash like Xentrix or Ignorance

    Good to see Coroner on there.

    And for a while, Heathen’s “The Goblins Blade” (from 1987’s Breaking the Silence)was one of my favorites songs ever

  2. Commented by: Joe

    Wow, that list is pretty similar to mine, this is what I would go with:

    Kreator-Coma of Souls
    Metallica-Kill ’em All
    Sacrifice-Soldiers of Misfortune
    Coroner-Mental Vortex
    Coroner-Punishment for Decadence
    Dark Angel-Darkness Descends
    Death Angel-The Ultra-Violence
    Anthrax-Among the Living
    Testament-The New Order
    Sacred Reich-The American Way

  3. Commented by: Justin

    glad to see Never, Neverland mentioned. everyone I know thinks Annihilator is crap but they don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about

    here’s my list:

    top 10 thrash

    1. Kreator – Pleasure To Kill
    2. Morbid Saint – Spectrum Of Death
    3. Slayer – South Of Heaven
    4. Coroner – R.I.P.
    5. Testament – The New Order
    6. Destruction – Infernal Overkill
    7. Onslaught – The Force
    8. Exumer – Possessed By Fire
    9. Suicidal Tendencies – s/t
    10. Demolition Hammer – Tortured Existence

    honorable mentions:

    Sepultura – Beneath The Remains, Sodom – Agent Orange, Dark Angel – Darkness Descends, Annihilator – Alice In Hell

  4. Commented by: Staylow

    Yeah, I don’t know many Annihilator fans. Hell, where I live, I don’t know many metal fans period.

    Not a bad list you have there. I see your more into the early/mid years, which is cool. I’ve always preferred the later stuff when things began to break up and diversify a bit though. Though it’s cool to see Demolition Hammer and Morbid Saint get a nod. I need to spend some more time with MS.

  5. Commented by: Trench

    Here is my list:
    1. Megadeth – Rust in Peace
    2. Kreator – Terrible Certainty
    3. Metallica – Master of Puppets
    4. Slayer – Hell Awaits
    5. Invocator – Excursion Demise
    6. Testament – The New Order
    7. Sepultura – Arise
    8. Vio-Lence – Eternal Nightmare
    9. Atrophy – Violent by Nature
    10. Forbidden – Forbidden Evil

  6. Commented by: Justin

    Don’t forget Exodus “Bonded by Blood.” That sucker should be in any top five.

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