100 Greatest Thrash Metal and Speed Metal Bands of the 80s and 90s

Mention sub-genres of heavy metal and two that come to mind instantaneously are Thrash and Speed. Without doubt the 80s and 90s were decades that belonged to thrash metal and speed metal. This article takes you down memory lane bringing you some of the best thrash metal and speed metal bands from the 80s and 90s.

A striking similarity between thrash metal and speed metal is unconventional riffing and fast tempos. While speed metal is considered more melodic metal with a polished sound, thrash metal is known for its raw structure infused with guitar riffs and shred solos. Yes, speed and thrash bands did hog the limelight in the 80s and 90s alongside hair metal bands. From pubs, arenas, to stadiums, thrash metal bands ruled when it came to live performances. At music festivals in the 80s and 90s, headlining acts often featured thrash bands or speed metal bands.

History of Speed Metal

The roots of speed metal came into being influenced by The New Wave of British Heavy Metal, popularly known as NWOBHM. The speed metal sound was an amalgamation of heavy metal and hardcore punk that sprung a movement of its own.

Speed metal emphasized on fast tempo melodic riffing and groove techniques. A lot of speed metal and thrash metal drummers introduced jaw dropping double-bass- pedal techniques that floored audiences. Also, breakneck guitar riffing came under the spotlight in speed metal bands in the 80s and 90s. Speed metal bands are known for their technical versatility and time signatures. Exciter and Anvil were two bands responsible for getting wheels of Speed Metal rolling.

History OF Thrash Metal

Thrash metal gained prominence in the early 80s and since then has gone on to become one of Heavy Metal’s most popular sub-genres. Fast tempo, insanely beautiful guitar riffs accompanied with complex unstructured solos, and double bass drumming formed an integral part of the thrash metal sound. A number of thrash bands from the 80s and 90s brought to light aspects such as corruption, suicide, isolation, warfare, murder, alienation, corruption, injustice, and addiction through their lyrics. Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer and Megadeth are often referred as the ‘Big Four’ of thrash metal for their status as pioneering acts, and their immense contribution to the genre. The band Venom’s early work is considered to have influenced many thrash bands in the early 80s. Thrash Metal as a term was first coined as a reference to an Anthrax song, ‘Metal Thrashing Mad’ by Kerrang magazine journalist Malcom Dome in a 1984 issue. Crossover Thrash/Hardcore band Void is regarded by many as the band that paved the way for thrash bands in the 80s.

The Thrash Metal and Speed Metal Story

Although there were a large number of speed metal bands and thrash metal bands in the 80s, not all were able to attain the desired success commercially. Few bands found record deals with major record labels. A number of bands released self-produced albums and sold them at their concerts. Few bands managed to get significant airplay on music channel MTV in the ‘Headbangers Ball’ segment. Roadrunner Records and Noise Records were responsible for keeping the flag waving. Both these record labels signed many thrash metal and speed metal bands in the 80s thereby helping spiral an upward trend. While many speed metal and thrash metal bands faded away with the emergence of grunge and alternative in the 90s, post 2000 a large number have regrouped to release albums and tour. The thrash metal and speed metal era was definitely the 80s and 90s and it tells a story… the music’s never over.

If you love thrash metal or speed metal you will want to express yourself. Feel free to do so in the comments section.

The list below includes crossover thrash, death-thrash and progressive-thrash bands.

100 Greatest Thrash Metal Bands and Speed Metal Bands

  1. Exodus
  2. Anthrax
  3. Kreator
  4. Annihilator
  5. Slayer
  6. Metallica
  7. Testament
  8. Exciter
  9. Death Angel
  10. Voivod
  11. Megadeth
  12. Anvil
  13. Destruction
  14. Nuclear Assault
  15. Overkill
  16. Dark Angel
  17. Forbidden
  18. Agent Steel
  19. Sodom
  20. Cranium
  21. Sadus
  22. Raven
  23. Sepultura
  24. Metal Church
  25. Cancer
  26. Flotsam and Jetsam
  27. Exhorder
  28. Hirax
  29. Malice
  30. Hatesphere
  31. Atomkraft
  32. Sacred Reich
  33. The Accused
  34. Leige Lord
  35. Holy Moses
  36. Sabbat
  37. Gwar
  38. Znowhite
  39. Virus
  40. Angel Dust
  41. Defiance
  42. Mortal Sin
  43. Korzus
  44. Tankard
  45. S.O.D (Stormtroopers of Death)
  46. Xentrix
  47. Heathen
  48. Whiplash
  49. D.R.I. (Dirty Rotten Imbeciles)
  50. Artillery
  51. Sacrifice
  52. Exumer
  53. Vio-lence
  54. Agnostic Front
  55. Laaz Rockit
  56. Violator
  57. Dorsal Atlantica
  58. Evildead
  59. Coroner
  60. Razor
  61. Epidemic
  62. Cerebral Fix
  63. M.O.D. (Method of Destruction)
  64. Powermad
  65. Atrophy
  66. Crumbsuckers
  67. Infernal Majesty
  68. Blind Illusion
  69. Iron Angel
  70. Wehrmacht
  71. Hobbs’ Angel of Death
  72. Intruder
  73. Loudblast
  74. Rigor Mortis
  75. Witchery
  76. Body Count
  77. The Crown
  78. MX
  79. Suicidal Tendencies
  80. Believer
  81. Mokoma
  82. Cro-Mags
  83. Meliah Rage
  84. Onslaught
  85. Cryptic Slaughter
  86. Toxik
  87. Dead Brain Cells
  88. Paradox
  89. Anacrusis
  90. Executer
  91. Demolition Hammer
  92. Mekong Delta
  93. Acid Reign
  94. United
  95. Necronomicon
  96. Carnivore
  97. Violent Force
  98. Cyclone Temple
  99. Deathrow
  100. Vendetta


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