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The Relation Between Heavy Metal and Thrash

Thrash metal emerged in the 1980s as a response to the growing popularity of heavy metal, punk rock and other aggressive underground music. As thrash grew more popular, it became clear that thrash was, in fact, its own unique subgenre. It has been suggested that thrash is an offshoot of heavy metal or punk rock, but this may not be true. Why is there such a large divide between these two styles? The answer lies in the history of the genres and their origins. It’s tricky at times to talk about genres and subgenres because they’re constantly evolving and have no set rules. Some bands don’t even like being labeled with one genre or another. But when it comes to thrash and heavy metal, we can see why some might think they’re related. Let’s take a closer look at what separates them so we can understand why they are separate genres after all.

History of Thrash Metal

The roots of thrash can be traced back to two very specific bands: Anthrax and Metallica. Both bands were influenced by punk rock, but their sound was very different from the likes of Black Flag, the Dead Kennedys, or the Sex Pistols. The first four songs Metallica released were all very fast (the first is the fastest) and heavy, both musically and lyrically. Their lyrics were often angry and aggressive, and they were written from a younger, angrier perspective than most heavy metal bands at the time. Metallica’s first three albums (Kill ‘Em All, Ride the Lightning, and Master of Puppets) are generally considered to be “pure” thrash. The first Anthrax album is also considered to be pure thrash, but the band evolved their sound over years.

History of Heavy Metal

Heavy metal’s roots are a bit hazy, but many people trace it back to the 70s, with bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and Led Zeppelin. Many bands were influencing and being influenced by each other throughout the 70s and 80s, so it’s hard to trace the roots of every band and subgenre. Heavy metal rose to prominence in the 80s with bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica, and Judas Priest, who defined the genre and brought it to new levels of popularity.

What is the difference between heavy metal and thrash?

Let’s start with the basics: heavy metal and thrash both belong to the genre of heavy metal. But what exactly is heavy metal? The term “heavy metal” is somewhat nebulous, but it generally refers to any loud, aggressive, guitar-driven, synthesizer-influenced music. Heavy metal and thrash are both types of heavy metal music, but there are some key differences between them.

- Rhythm: Thrash is much more rhythm-driven than heavy metal. The drums are often very aggressive and the rhythm guitar is usually down-tuned and distorted. Heavy metal is more melody-driven, with the rhythm guitar playing more hooks and less down-tuned chords.

- Tempo: Most thrash songs are in the range of 150-180 bpm, while heavy metal songs are usually around 90-130 bpm.

- Lyrics: Thrash lyrics are usually very aggressive and political, while heavy metal lyrics tend to be more fantastical.

Why are they different genres?

Heavy metal and thrash are both types of heavy metal music, but they’re different enough to be two separate genres. One reason they’re two different genres is because they have different fan bases and attract different kinds of listeners. Heavy metal fans often have a disdain for thrash, and thrash fans often have a disdain for heavy metal. There have been frequent instances of heavy metal and thrash fans fighting at concerts. This disdain between fans is likely due to the differences in the music. While some elements are shared between heavy metal and thrash, they are distinct enough that they belong in their own categories.

Where does crossover occur?

Thrash and heavy metal fans do occasionally like the same bands. Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, and Slayer are all bands that fans of both genres love. There are often instances of hybrid bands, too. Some bands have elements of both thrash and heavy metal, but aren’t 100% one or the other. Heavy metal bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Black Sabbath have heavier, faster songs that are thrashier than other songs from the same band.


Thrash and heavy metal are both types of heavy metal music, but they are distinct genres. They have different rhythms, tempos, and lyrics, but there is some overlap in what fans like and what bands play. Fans have noted that there is a distinct difference between the two genres, and that the two subgenres are not at all alike. It’s clear that there are some visible differences between heavy metal and thrash, but they’re still technically the same genre.