Thrash metal: what was once an underground movement spearheaded by pockets of bands across the continental United States has blossomed into one of the most vibrant musical movements in extreme entertainment. The following 12 records are the pinnacle of thrash metal musicality in the 21st century, spanning everything from mutants to space exploration.
- Kreator – ‘Enemy of God’ (2005)
The number 1 entry on this list is none other than Kreator’s eleventh studio release, ‘Enemy of God’. While many of the band’s 21st century records are enjoyable – namely ‘Phantom Antichrist’ and ‘Violent Revolution’ – it is ‘Enemy of God’ that stands head and shoulders above the rest as the defining thrash metal album of the last 16 years. The title track and “Suicide Terrorist” are just two of the tracks on the album that demonstrate why Kreator deserve as much recognition as their American metal counterparts.
- Municipal Waste – ‘The Art of Partying’ (2007)
Municipal Waste is gonna fuck you up! Bands mixing thrash (or metal in general) with hardcore punk is not a new thing, as represented by a wide plethora of bands such as Hatebreed, Suicidal Tendencies, Napalm Death, Killswitch Engage and many more. However, very few manage to combine serious metal with a comedic lyrical edge, which is exactly what Municipal Waste achieved on this record. “Headbanger Face Rip”, “Sadistic Magician”, and of course “Born to Party” reign true as some of the best crossover thrash songs in existence.
- Exodus – ‘Blood In Blood Out’ (2014)
For a band that have been at the forefront of the thrash movement since its very (and I mean, very) inception, the fact that Exodus has continued to put out good music continuously decades after their debut is a commendable achievement. While the records the band made with now-Generation Kill singer Rob Dukes are all great, it is their most recent album ‘Blood In Blood Out’ that stands out for me. Having Zetro back on vocals means that the band can revisit the famed ‘Fabulous Disaster’ era of Exodus while still maintaining a modern-sounding production quality.
- Anthrax – ‘Worship Music’ (2011)
Joey Belladonna to Anthrax is a lot like Bruce Dickinson to Iron Maiden; people can say their respective bands are the same without them, but they’re really not. That’s why ‘Worship Music’ is for me the best Anthrax release since their famed period (‘Among the Living’, ‘Persistence in Time’ etc). The band play very well and are just as fast, heavy and full of attitude as they always have been. With Worship Music, Anthrax are back, bad and metal thrashing mad. People can say that these classic thrash bands are dying, but Anthrax isn’t one of them.
- Vektor – ‘Terminal Redux’ (2016)
Vektor are one of those rare bands that are so difficult to genre-pinpoint because their sound spans so many different styles. With elements of prog and thrash concocted together with fairly noticeable black metal vocals, Vektor’s work on ‘Terminal Redux’ comes together as a heavymetal-themed journey spanning what appears to be the entirety of time and space. Definitely not for everyone, but if you think it’s for you, give it a shot. It has as much to offer Dream Theater fans as it does extreme metal fans.
- Sodom – ‘M16’ (2001)
Taking it back to the German style of thrash now for this next album, Sodom’s record ‘M16’ directly borrows visual and musical influence from the horrors of the Vietnam War just like the classic ‘Agent Orange’, most notably by using sound bites from ‘Apocalypse Now’ for the track “Napalm in the Morning”. Thanks to records like ‘M16’, Sodom remains perhaps the most visceral and musically menacing band across all of the genre’s classic bands, even above fellow groups such as Kreator and Slayer.
- Testament – ‘Dark Roots of Earth’ (2012)
As could be said for many of the renowned bands of the genre, Testament’s finest days could be seen as being in the past, with famed releases such as ‘The New Order’ being an example of this. However, ‘Dark Roots of Earth’ is one of their best releases in many a year, featuring acclaimed songs such as the title track, “Native Blood” and “True American Hate”. A worthwhile release from one of the godfathers of this style of music, it has to be said.
- Warbringer – ‘Worlds Torn Asunder’ (2011)
Warbringer are one of the more under-the-radar acts on this list, but don’t let that affect the quality of ‘Worlds Torn Asunder’, released in 2011. Featuring a more modern-sounding style of thrash as opposed to the contemporary releases of the 1980s Bay Area groups, this record from Warbringer provides all of the heavy-sounding metal you want, while still sounding fresh and unique as the band haven’t been around for decades.
- Death Angel – ‘Relentless Retribution’ (2010)
Of all the bands on this list, Death Angel is perhaps the band that deserves the popularity and fame it unfortunately never received, most likely due to their debut record being released so late as well as having to contend with some of the genre’s big players. Nonetheless, their 2010 album ‘Relentless Retribution’ is a solid display of what thrash can sound like when played right, as the band continue to be booked as one of the main act for big tours and playing stages at festivals the world over.
- Havok – ‘Time is Up’ (2011)
Now for a relatively newer band to grace this list, as Havok comes in at #10. Their record ‘Time Is Up’, which came out in 2011, can stand face-to-face with anything other contemporary bands of the genre like Warbringer and Toxic Holocaust have released, as it has been compared to 80s masterpieces like ‘…And Justice for All’ and ‘Reign in Blood’ by various media outlets. If you’re searching for something more modern, give this one a try.
- Overkill – ‘The Electric Age’ (2012)
As I’m sure nearly all of you reading this will know, Overkill are one of the originators of the thrash genre altogether, and one of the leaders of the New York scene alongside Anthrax and Nuclear Assault. The gradual surge in popularity around the world of some of those early bands has perhaps led Overkill to be forced to take a back-seat when it comes to the upper leagues of thrash, but their album ‘The Electric Age’ is a testament (no pun intended) to how this style of metal should be written and recorded.
- Evile – ‘Skull’ (2013)
Evile comes in at #12 with their 2013 studio album ‘Skull’. This album was produced by Russ Russell (Napalm Death, The Exploited, Dimmu Borgir), so an aggressive style of music is obviously at the forefront of this record. Songs such as “Head of the Demon”, “Underworld” and “Words of the Dead” put this album and Evile in general as a band in place as one of thrash’s most relevant new bands.