Thrash metal vocals are always aggressive and often angry, but without the growls and shrieks of most black metal and death metal, both of which are direct descendants of thrash. The lyrics tend toward themes of alienation, anger, and the evils of society and government, peppered with violence and bravado.
The 1983 release of Metallica's "Kill 'Em All" and Slayer's "Show No Mercy" is generally regarded as the beginning of thrash metal, and Metallica's 1986 album "Master of Puppets" was the first thrash metal album to garner acclaim from mainstream critics and find widespread commercial success.
In addition to Metallica and Slayer, fellow Californians Megadeth were instrumental in creating thrash metal's signature sound. Across the country, in New York City, the band Anthrax was also helping define the genre, complete with furiously fast guitar solos and double-bass drumming.
Slayer is the most extreme of the "big four" thrash bands, both lyrically and musically. They take violent imagery and Satanic overtones to a higher level than most others.
Other notable thrash metal bands include Exodus, Testament, Stormtroopers of Death and Brazilian band Sepultura.