Live Undead Forever: The 31 Greatest Live Thrash Tracks

Live Undead by Slayer turns 31; celebrate with these thrashterpieces.

Live Undead, the first official concert recording issued by Slayer, tore open humanity’s collective skull and stuffed it full of live thrash for the first time on November 16, 1984.

Slayer laid down Live Undead’s tracks at Tiki Recording Studios in Glen Cove, New York. Just a handful of lucky fans who won a WBAB radio contest got to attend the show, thus leading to speculation that the crowds sounds may have been “sweetened” to sound like a large audience.

We say if you’re paying attention to the crowd sounds on a live Slayer record… you’re really not paying attention.

Thirty-one years later, Live Undead rocks as hard as ever. In its wake has arisen a tidal wave of other thrashtastic live LPs from their headbanging brethren that continues to electrify and inspire.

  1. “Am I Evil?” – Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax

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    Album: The Big Four Live From Sofia Bulgaria (2010)

    Thrash’s “Big Four” come together as a Big, Big One to cover the Diamond Head classic “Am I Evil?” Metallica’s 1983 interpretation of the song connected thrash directly to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. This version shows how far all involved have come.

  2. “Scrolls of the Megilloth” – Mortification

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    Album: Live Planetarium (1993)

    Mortification stunningly combines thrash, death metal, and their Christian faith into a devastation blast of extreme rock. That combo proves combustive, especially in concert. Just take a listen here.

  3. “The Antichrist” – Slayer

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    Album: Live Undead (1984)

    The intensity of Slayer on every Live Undead track is terrifying. The very nature of the beast that is “The Antichrist” makes it a standout among an nonstop assault of glorious black-hearted overwhelm.

  4. “White Hell” – Criminal

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    Album: Live Disorder (1996)

    Chilean thrash blasters Criminal took thrash into the ’90s by incorporating elements of death metal and groove metal into their attack. The LP Live Disorder showcases the band in top form; “White Hell” is a particular scorcher.

  5. “The Ultra-Violence/Thrashers” – Death Angel

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    Album: Sonic German Beatdown (2009)

    One of the very first thrash outfits has endured through tumultuous decades, multiple lineup changes, and several break-ups and reunions to continue forging forward as one of the very most ferocious. “The Ultra-Violence/Thrashers” from Sonic German Beatdown takes the band and their fans back to Death Angel’s 1987 debut—and hurls them into the futre.

  6. “Indians” – Anthrax

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    Album: Alive 2 (2005)

    Live from the Starland Ballroom in scenic Sayreville, New Jersey, Anthrax explodes into their Native American homage “Indians” with the forward charge of a battalion of braves. You can feel the musical tomahawks fly.

  7. “Battery” – Metallica

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    Album: Live Sh-t: Binge and Purge (1993)

    It’s kind of surprising that Metallica didn’t issue a full concert collection until 1993’s Live Sh-t: Binge and Purge. Of course, when they did, they sure made it count. Their take on “Battery” here is a louder-than-life bone-crunching assault guaranteed to leave you bruised—and loving it.

  8. “The Burning of Sodom” – Dark Angel

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    Album: Live Scars (1990)

    Dark Angel ignites their 1986 monster “The Burning of Sodom” during a blazing set recorded in 1989 at the Country Club in Reseda, California. That show probably made an actual country club in the area explode on impact.

  9. “Practice What You Preach” – Testament

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    Album: The Dark Roots of Thrash (2013)

    Testament continues to pummel among the top tier of metal’s mightiest titans. Just turn up “Practice What Your Preach,” taped three full decades into their incredible run during a show on Long Island, New York. It is a testament, indeed, to Testament.

  10. “Wake Up Dead” – Megadeth

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    Album: That One Night: Live in Buenos Aires (2005)

    Megadeth picked up new heat as an unstoppable concert powerhouse in the mid-2000s, and That One Night: Live in Buenos Aires bracingly captures the moment. “Wake Up Dead” here is the sound of metal force at its most extremely alive.

  11. “Coma of Souls” – Kreator

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    Album: Live Kreation (2003)

    As one of Germany’s “Three Kings of Thrash,” Kreator has always remained relentlessly in delivering performances that absolutely devastate. Live Kreation puts you smack in the pit and “Coma of Souls” will awaken every iota of your being.

  12. “The Preacher” – Testament

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    Album: Live at the Fillmore (1995)

    Testament’s Live at the Fillmore opens with “The Preacher” and it makes a true believer out of anyone, anywhere who’s got even the tiniest sliver of headbanger in his or her DNA.

  13. “Bonded by Blood” – Exodus

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    Album: Another Lesson in Violence (1997)

    Paul Baloff, who, of course, originally voiced “Bonded by Blood” on Exodus’s legendary 1985 debut, returns on Another Lesson in Violence to declare himself one of thrash’s absolute frontmen overlords. The band broke up for a bit just one month after releasing Another Lesson in Violence, and Baloff tragically died in 2002. The album, and this song, exists now as a devastating document of metal mastery.

  14. “Surf Nicaragua” – Sacred Reich

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    Album: Still Ignorant (1997)

    Arizona thrash marauders Sacred Reich called it quits after releasing their live document, Still Ignorant. It’s a hell of a note to go out on. “Surf Nicaragua,” the title track from their classic 1988 LP, looms, rises, and crashes like a tidal wave of final glory.

  15. “Outbreak of Evil“ – Toxic Holocaust

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    Album: Only Deaf Is Real (2007)

    Toxic Holocaust’s Pacific Northwest thrash riot rages throughout the band’s raw, hyper-speed live collection, Only Deaf Is Real. Five originals lead into a trio of Sodom covers, our favorite of which is “Outbreak of Evil.” Catch it!

  16. “Burnt Offerings” – Testament

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    EP: Live at Eindhoven (1987)

    Live at Eindhoven boasts five massive blowouts by Testament at the pulverizing peak of their power, taped at the Netherlands’ 1987 Dynamo Open Air Festival. Think you can handle it? Start with “Burnt Offerings” and let us know.

  17. “Master of Puppets” – Metallica

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    Album: S&M: Symphony and Metallica (1999)

    The original “Master of Puppets” is arguably Metallica’s single mightiest musical moment. Bolstering the song with the full San Francisco Symphony Orchestra conducted by legendary composer Michael Kamen outrageously ups its impact.

  18. “Where It Hurts” – Overkill

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    Album: Wrecking Your Neck (1995)

    Overkill sets off Wrecking Your Neck with music from RoboCop that gives way to their incendiary “Where It Hurts.” The album title represents truth in advertising: just try not headbanging to this one.

  19. “Chemical Warfare” – Slayer

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    Album: Decade of Aggression (1991)

    Slayer’s Decade of Aggression closes with “Chemical Warfare,” and, on a cellular level, you will feel every blast of its raucous assault. This “Warfare” leaves no survivors.

  20. “Only” – Anthrax

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    Album: Music of Mass Destruction (2004)

    Vocalist John Bush fronted Anthrax from 1992 to 2005. The Chicago shows taped for Music of Mass Destruction showcase Bush wailing triumphantly, especially on his signature anthem, “Only.”

  21. “Show No Mercy” – Slayer

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    Album: Live Undead (1984)

    The title track from Slayer’s 1983 debut rocks with wild vitality on Live Undead. Listen and feel the band do exactly what the name of the song promises.

  22. “Holy Wars… The Punishment Due” – Megadeth

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    Album: Rust in Peace Live (2013)

    Instantly on Rust in Peace Live, Megadeth plunges us back into the shock-and-awe of their 1990 masterwork withe the very opening notes of “Holy Wars… The Punishment Due.” The rest of the album contains a track-by-track concert cover of their 1990 masterwork, along with six other greats, including a magnificent encore of “Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?”

  23. “Curse the Gods” – Destruction

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    Album: Live Without Sense (1989)

    The intoxicating metal madness inherent in Teutonic thrash masters Destruction ripples and detonates through every moment of Live Without Sense. “Curse the Gods” inaugurates the proceedings, and the album just keeps slaying from there.

  24. “God Save the Queen” – Anthrax

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    Album: Caught in a Mosh – BBC Live Concert (2007)

    Numerous metal giants have covered the Sex Pistols (Megadeth, Motörhead, Mötley Crüe), but nobody translates the punk gods as tremendously as Anthrax does here.

  25. “Obsessed by Cruelty” – Sodom

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    Album: Mortal Way of Live (1988)

    Bavarian thrash barbarians Sodom seize all ears on Mortal Way of Live and launch a bombing raid of 14 musical missiles that only lets up when you try to walk away. Of the explosions, the epic, nearly nine-minute “Obsessed by Cruelty” proves notably awesome.

  26. “The Toxic Waltz” – Exodus

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    Album: Good Friendly Violent Fun (1991)

    “The Toxic Waltz,” a favorite track from the Exodus’s 1989 Fabulous Disaster, not only rips with newfound might on the concert LP Good Friendly Violent Fun; its lyrics also provide the album with its title. “So don’t be a dunce and dance like a runt/Just throw your elbows with good friendly violent fun/Don’t start to cry if you get a black eye/Just dive back in/and give another try!”

  27. “Caught in a Mosh” – Anthrax

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    Album: Live! The Island Years (1994)

    “Caught in a Mosh” is probably Anthrax’s most famous song and it’s definitely a highlight of their every live performance. Live! The Island Years is a weird “contractual obligation” album, but it nonetheless supplies a full-on powerhouse version of “Caught in a Mosh” played before an Irvine, California crowd that was doing just what the title describes.

  28. “Raining Blood” – Slayer

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    Album: Decade of Aggression (1991)

    “Raining Blood” closes Slayer’s 1986 Reign in Blood with gory glory previously unheralded in even the most extreme outposts of metal mayhem. In concert, “Raining Blood” always threaten to collapse the very building. Decade of Aggression flawlessly captures the song’s live raucousness, translating the utter devastation to disc so that you can turn your own headphones into lethal weapons any time you feel like you’ve had enough.

  29. “Arise” – Sepultura

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    Album: Under Siege (Live in Barcelona) (1992)

    With “Arise,” Brazil’s definitive metal mavens Sepultura crafted one of rock’s most enormously potent cries to take action for justice and freedom. On Under Siege (Live in Barcelona), the Cavalera brothers and company conjure a fever dream of thrash outrage with “Arise.” Few tracks to ever make it to tape still sound so passionate and continually inspirational.

  30. “Seek and Destroy” – Metallica

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    Album: Live Sh-t: Binge and Purge (1993)

    Storming the stage at the Palacio de los Deportes in Mexico City, Metallica erupt and expand their 1983 seven-minute original “Seek and Destroy” into 18-minutes of all-out thrash mayhem and world-changing metal magnificence. After this, there’s no way they couldn’t become the biggest heavy metal outfit of all time.

  31. “Black Magic” – Slayer

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    Album: Live Undead (1984)

    Slayer sets off Live Undead with “Black Magic,” announcing straight out of the gate that this rabid, combative disc is going to bang the skull smack out of your head. It’s raucous and it’s relentless. It ravages and savages. It’s Slayer live—what else needs to be screamed?

Mike McPadden is the author of the book "HEAVY METAL MOVIES: Guitar Barbarians, Mutant Bimbos, and Cult Zombies Amok in the 666 Most Ear- and Eye-Ripping Big Scream Films Ever!" (Bazillion Points, 2014).