You can never really narrow down a genre of music to a single album. Even though something like hair metal might be traced back to someone like Van Halen, they were just mining the same type of songs that they got from their influences like Led Zeppelin and Lynyrd Skynyrd just a few years before .As far as the thrash genre is concerned though, Metallica's debut Kill Em All could be considered ground zero.
Roaring out of the gate with almost zero budget to their name, James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich sculpted songs that would become the blueprint for thrash going forward. Regardless of the similarities to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, the punk edge to everything went on to inspire everyone around them, from hanging out with bands like Anthrax to eventually having Dave Mustaine trying to one-up his former band with Megadeth.
That being said, not all the songs on here are created equally. Making up the solid 10 tracks on here, there's definitely a pecking order in terms of importance and how each song added to the overall sound of thrash going forward. Either way, each of these moments show one of metal's finest bands at their most raw and uninhibited.
10. Phantom Lord
No matter what happened on this countdown, something had to come down to the bottom spot. Even with a record as solid as this, it almost pains me to even put a song like Phantom Lord this low. Why? Because the riffs in here are able to go toe to toe with some of the greatest metal out there, thrash or otherwise.
Opening with a strange keyboard chord, the entire allure of this song is a lot more sinister than the rest of the album, with James' voice settling into a devilish growl in the chorus. When you look at the actual construction of the song, this feels much more indebted to the NWOBHM bands of old than anything that would be recognized as Metallica later down the line.
While Metallica themselves would stop sounding like Metallica around the Load era, this song feels more like the result of a jam session, even sprinkling in Dave Mustaine's leftover riffs for the final breakdown. Compared to the other songs on this record, this feels like you can actually see them in the garage hashing things out before they even went into the studio. This could be considered thrash by numbers, but even the base level thrash is rarely a bad thing.