In the course of our research for the story, we asked 17 people, of local, national, and international acclaim, to list their favorite speed/thrash metal albums of all time. We have tallied the results.
There is some polarization, obviously, anytime you start talking about subjective subject matter in an objective manner. One man's thrash is another man's "Hell bent for Leather" or something like that. The suggestions were vast. In fact, there were 105 albums by a whopping 68 bands submitted as being worthy of a top 10, or in some cases, a top 20 list. Some of the bands are very well known and some are probably only known to the most hardcore metal fan. Many are still around, but some have been long since retired.
Here are the top 10 albums and the number of votes they received from the 17 contributors. Special thanks to David Ellefson, Marty Friedman, Phil Rind, Nate Garrett, Chase Mason, Michael Gilbert, Danny Marianino, Jason Kowalski, Eric Friedman, Danko Jones, Tim Sawyer, Ryan Butler, Andy Lane, Jason Newsted, Blaine Chuffskin, Mike Bolenbach, and Thom Record.
10. Destruction, Eternal Devastation. 5 votes.
Tim Sawyer (Visual Discrimination): Had the opportunity to play with these dudes a couple times...super cool guys, and rad musicians!
9. Dark Angel, Darkness Descends. 5 votes.
Nate Garrett (Take Over and Destroy, Gatecreeper): I thought Reign In Blood was fast, then I heard this and questioned everything. These guys definitely deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as the greats.
Butler: This album is just straight up brutal. Fast, aggressive, super gnarly vocals. An easy pick and so catchy.
8. Sepultura, Arise. 5 votes.
Ryan Butler (Landmine Marathon, Unruh): Beneath The Remains and Schizophrenia are faster. This stands as one of my favorites of all time, though. This record was a huge influence in my riffing for ages and still probably is. It's pretty damn fast and way more memorable than the earlier stuff. Crushing riffs that are unstoppable.
7. Megadeth, Killing Is My Business...And Business Is Good. 5 votes.
Thom Record (Reckless Abandon): The rhythm section is on fire. The original line-up with Gar (Samuelson) and Chris (Poland) was its zenith. "Looking Down the Cross" is still haunting.
6. Metallica, Kill 'Em All. 5 votes.
Mike Bolenbach (Full Well Recording Studio): For me, this record was a huge game changer. I was probably fourteen years old and a big fan of Black Sabbath, AC/DC, (Led) Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, etc...
And then came Kill 'Em All. It encompassed the way I felt and it was everything the ’80s "pop" metal of the day was not. It was heavy and fast and ugly, and sloppy and loose and AWESOME!! This was my first introduction to the genre and it totally changed the direction of my playing and my songwriting. From a production standpoint, the record had so much attitude and honest anger, the questionable sound quality did nothing to deter how great it was.
5. Stormtroopers of Death (SOD), Speak English or Die. 6 votes.
Danny Marianino (North Side Kings): This was one of the first heavy albums I got into. I remember a kid letting me borrow a Metallica cassette who I thought was intense, and then I heard this record which upon listening to the first track "March of S.O.D." I was already thinking to myself, “Holy shit.” Whether you agree with singer Billy Milano’s lyrics is not up for debate here; this is one of the greatest albums of all time. The approach was honest and the riffs were a constant beat down from start to finish.
4. Exodus, Bonded By Blood. 6 votes.
3. Metallica, Master of Puppets. 7 votes.
Ryan Butler: Most would probably choose Kill 'Em All for a "speed metal" list. This one is my fave, though. One of the heaviest of the time and the guitar tone is still just crushing.
2. Metallica, Ride the Lightning. 7 votes.
Nate Garrett: "On any given day, this will be my favorite Metallica album. I figured it was more fitting for a “speed metal” list than Master of Puppets. The progression in songwriting, style, and maturity between Kill 'Em All and Ride The Lightning is pretty stunning. That being said, Lightning retains that punk rock attitude and sound which they had kind of grown out of by the time they did Puppets.
1. Slayer, Reign in Blood. This killer album from 1986 was listed on 10 of the 17 lists received and was numero uno on a couple of them to boot. While it is not quite as good as Hell Awaits, it still destroys most everything else.