Growing up both a thrash and hair metal fiend in the '80s, I pissed off a lot of my friends. In those days, musically speaking, my pals wanted me to pick a side. But I wasn't playing ball. The circle of misfits I knew who lived for thrash couldn't understand why I would listen to "poser" music. Meanwhile, my hair metal-loving friends couldn't be bothered with groups like Sacred Reich and Toxik. I held my ground despite all of the teenage pressure coming my way.
As a fan of such disparate musical styles, I celebrated each genre's distinct characteristics, but I was also one of the few people I knew who would actually get excited when I would find out that a thrash band was going to include a ballad-like song on their new album. The combination of the classic thrash guitar sound and its speedier tempos, married with the poppy hookiness of a ballad brought a huge smile to my face. Actually, it still does. So in honor of my teen years, I've put together a list of the 5 Best Thrash Ballads.
Testament, "The Ballad," from Practice What You Preach (Megaforce/Atlantic, 1989)
From the elegant acoustic guitar section that opens the song, all the way to its climatic closing, "The Ballad" is one of Testament's crowning moments. Ethereal ballad one moment, and metallic anthem the next, the song is the most epic thing the Bay Area titans ever put down on tape.
Flotsam and Jetsam, "Escape from Within," from No Place for Disgrace (Elektra, 1988)
Known more for their traditional-leaning take on thrash, "Escape from Within" finds Flotsam and Jetsam bringing their power ballad "A" game. As great as the guitar work is (and it truly is), it's Eric A.K.'s soulful vocal delivery on the track that lands the song on my list. You would be hard-pressed to find a more impassioned performance on a thrash record.
Megadeth, "In My Darkest Hour," from So Far, So Good... So What! (Capitol, 1988)
Immortalized in the closing scene of the must-see 1988 documentary, The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years, "In My Darkest Hour" was written by Dave Mustaine shortly after the Megadeth singer/guitarist found out his former Metallica bandmate, Cliff Burton, had died. The lyrics' somber tone are matched during the semi-acoustic intro, and verse parts, but it's the crescendoing last half of the song where it really soars. The way Mustaine and Jeff Young's guitars interplay with each other during that section is pure heavy metal euphoria.
Death Angel, "A Room With a View," from Act III (Geffen, 1990)
The melding of Simon & Garfunkel and Bay Area thrash metal might sound like a terrible idea on paper, but Death Angel had no time for genre limitations on "Room With a View." Appearing on their Act III album, the track features guitarist Rob Cavestany sharing lead singing duties with frontman Mark Osegueda, while the rest of the band joins in on the harmony action, leaving us with a vocal arrangement masterclass in the process.
Metallica, "Fade to Black," from Ride the Lightning (Megaforce, 1984)
Not including this song on the list would have been like Clapton playing "Layla" in concert and skipping the piano coda part.