Thirty years ago this summer thrash metal came ripping out of America’s West Coast with the release of Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All. The band and their “Big Four” brethren; Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax, were influenced in equal parts by the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal and hardcore punk, grafting the musicianship of the former to the aggression and social consciousness of the latter and laying down a musical gauntlet that made metal’s old guard take notice and the bedazzled glam bands quake in their patent leather cowboy boots. The ecstatic reception of the recent “Big Four” concerts, which featured the above bands on a single bill for the first time, and new bands that carry the flame such as Lamb Of God and Gojira testify to the genre’s enduring popularity and importance. Take a gander at some of these guitarists from thrash metal’s biggest and best bands and see if you can identify the shredders from their axes alone.
Megadeth main-man Dave Mustaine organized the first Gigantour tour in 2005, bringing together some of extreme metal’s most talented and diverse acts. This guitarist recently released a book chronicling his love of monster movies and his extensive collection of horror memorabilia. Metallica’s Kirk Hammet released the book Too Much Horror Business in 2012. Metal fans worldwide mourned this guitarist’s death earlier this year. Jeff Hanneman of Slayer died in May of 2013. He wrote some of the band’s most famous numbers including “Angel of Death,” one of thrash metal’s defining songs. This East Coaster’s long running band were one of the first metal bands to cross genres and dip their feet into hip hop. Scott Ian and Anthrax first experimented with hip hop on the “I’m the Man” single before collaborating with Public Enemy on a cover of their song “Bring The Noise” in 1991. This guitarist played with one of thrash’s most intense outfits before starting one of alternative rock’s weirdest bands. Larry LaLonde got his start playing for teenage black metal-devotees Possessed before forming bizarre power trio Primus with Kirk Hammet classmate Les Claypool. Being one of thrash metal’s most extreme musicians didn’t prevent this guitarist from appearing on one of the Beastie Boys early hits. Slayer guitarist Kerry King played lead guitar on the Beastie’s “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn” and appeared in its hilarious music video. When not touring with his esteemed Bay Area thrash band, this guitarist leads his own jazz trio. Testament lead guitarist Alex Skolnick formed the Alex Skolnick Trio in 2002 who are known for playing jazz versions of classic rock and heavy metal songs. This Bay Area thrasher was there at the genres birth before joining one of thrash metal’s “Big Four” years later. Gary Holt’s Exodus shared many bills with Metallica before they broke big. In the late 2000’s he joined Slayer as touring guitarist when Jeff Hanneman took ill. Though pre-dating thrash metal by years, there’s no denying this band’s huge influence on the genre. Phil Campbell joined England’s Motorhead in 1983 and is the band’s longest lasting guitarist. One of a new generation of thrash-influenced bands, this guitarist is one of many sibling teams found in the metal world. Willie Adler plays in modern metal titans Lamb Of God with his brother Chris, who plays drums.