The Ten Best Thrash Metal Ballads of All Time

In the Olden Days, thrash metal bands sometimes made slow jams, because, to quote the late, great Cliff Burton, “We do what we wanna do, and if they consider that selling out then, whatever…maybe you don’t play a thousand miles an hour the whole time, y’know?”  I’m gonna let the songs speak for themselves as much as possible.  Note: I don’t necessarily believe these are the Ten Best Thrash Metal Ballads of All Time; they are simply ten comparatively mellow songs that I really like, performed by otherwise super-fast, super-heavy thrash metal bands.  Likewise, they are listed in no particular order.  I used that title and numbered them from 10 to 1 just to see if it pisses anyone off, and to see how many people actually read the introduction.

Without further ado…

10. “Return to Serenity” by Testament (from The Ritual – 1992)

This was Testament’s last album with guitar maestro Alex Skolnick until 2008’s The Formation of Damnation, and it saw the band slowing things down a bit.  It sounds a little slicker than anything else the band had done up to this point, and in no way hinted at the savage beast that was 1994’s follow-up, Low, which boasts a damn fine ballad of its own called “Trail of Tears“.

9. “Fade to Black” by Metallica (from Ride the Lightning – 1984)

I can’t think of anything to add.  There’s very little chance you don’t know this one.  I still miss Metallica.  This live version is from the Cliff ‘Em All home video, and it fuckin rules.

8. “A Room With a View” by Death Angel (from Act III – 1990)

I watched my video-taped copy of this video from Headbanger’s Ball so many times, it’s pretty much unwatchable these days.  The lyrics are about a wise old man (blind, I believe), and the song is beautiful.  Lead vocals are sung by guitar player Rob Cavestany, with backing vocals by lead vocalist Mark Osgueda.  Also recommended from Act III: “Veil of Deception“.

7. “In My Darkest Hour” by Megadeth (from So Far, So Good…So What! – 1988)

Lyrically, this is a Break-Up Song, but the dark emotion in the song was inspired by the death of Cliff Burton.  Dave Mustaine’s songwriting output has contained some real turds, but when the man got it right, he got it fuckin-a right.

6. “Wading Through the Darkness” by Flotsam and Jetsam (from Cuatro – 1992)

This album is underrated as fuck (just like so many other metal albums from the early-to-mid 90’s).  Just before this video premiered on Headbanger’s Ball, Riki Rachtman told me that if I turned the brightness up all the way on my television, I would be able to see another video happening in the background.  I was at my cousin’s house, and I couldn’t figure out how to adjust the settings on his TV, so I never tried that, but it sure looks like another video is lingering in the background on this sumbitch.

5. “Spill the Blood” by Slayer (from South of Heaven – 1988)

This song is spooky as shit.  It’s the last song on Slayer’s last essential album.  Rest in piece, Jeff Hanneman.

4. “Alone” by Suicidal Tendencies (from Lights, Camera…Revolution – 1990)

While ST will always be best known for their crossover classic “Institutionalized”, their late-80’s-to-early-90’s output contained some (comparatively) mellow, soul-searching, beautifully touching songs.  I chose this one because Lights, Camera…Revolution is the first ST album I ever owned/heard in its entirety (it’s also my favorite).  See also: “Nobody Hears” from 1992’s The Art of Rebellion, and “How Will I Laugh Tomorrow” from 1988’s How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can’t Even Smile Today.

3. “I Never Said Goodbye” by Sacred Reich (from Independent – 1993)

This Sacred Reich ballad, from their near-breakthrough major label debut, deals lyrically with the loss of a family member (seemingly a parent).  They had a minor hit on this album in “Crawling”, which I used to sometimes hear on Indianapolis, Indiana’s “alternative” radio station, X103, along with “Nobody Hears” by Suicidal Tendencies (mentioned above), “Thorn in My Side” by post-hardcore juggernaut Quicksand, and bullshit like “Glycerine”, by Bush.  The early-to-mid-90’s were a weird time for music.

2. “Freedoom” by Voivod (from Angel Rat – 1991)

French-Canadian metal gods Voivod had already evolved past the point of being a thrash band on 1990’s Nothingface, but any band that has an output like their first three albums will always be considered a thrash band to me.  This song is fucking amazing, and as mentioned elsewhere in this blog, it contains some of my favorite Voivod lyrics, and one time, while tripping on psilocybin mushrooms, I used it to control the weather.  It was pretty badass.

1. “Bare” by Anthrax (from Stomp 442 – 1995)

I think it’s safe to say that most Anthrax fans can be neatly divided into two groups: Joey Belladonna Fans and John Bush Fans.  I, for one, love all eras of Anthrax equally, including the Neil Turbin-era (although I am glad Dan Nelson is a thing of the past).  For as much shit as Bushthrax often gets, Stomp 442 and its follow-up, 1998’s Volume 8: The Threat is Real! both get shit on more than a statue in Central Park (Stomp 442 has an overall ranking of 57% on Encyclopaedia Metallum, while Volume 8 boasts a whopping 58%!).  They sound different, no doubt (even when compared to the two Bush-fronted albums that bookend them), the riffing is simpler and slower, and I don’t listen to them beginning-to-end as often as most other Anthrax albums, but they contain some great songs, and I still love them both.  “Bare” is the final song on the original edition of Stomp 442, and it is a heartfelt motherfucker.  More will be written about both of these albums in the near-ish future.

That’s all for today, heavy people.  What are some of your favorite thrash metal ballads?  Discuss it in the comments, why don’t you?  And while you’re calling me names discussing, be sure and stay heavy.

Thanks for reading!

14 thoughts on “The Ten Best Thrash Metal Ballads of All Time

  1. Good list, there’s not one song on there I would argue with it’s inclusion, though I’m a bit more partial to ‘The Ballad’ off of ‘Practice What You Preach’ than ‘Return To Serenity’.

    And I’m totally with you on the Anthrax thing. Having discovered Anthrax when ‘Among The Living’ came out I will always love the Belladonna era, but I think the Jon Bush era is just as good, if not better in some parts. I honestly never gave any of the Bush stuff a listen until in 2003 when I was a stage hand and worked a Anthrax show on the ‘We’ve Come For You All’ tour and was completely blown away by Bush’s handling of all those old classic songs. With in a months I owned everything he did with the band, and still love it to this day.

    What is your opinion ‘The Greater of Two Evils’ and ‘Music Of Mass Destruction’? Most old school Anthrax fans I know usually aren’t interested in that stuff until I play it for them, then they are usually blown away by it.

    • Thanks for reading!

      I lean toward “Return to Serenity” because I heard The Ritual first, but I do also love “The Ballad” (and “The Legacy”, off Souls of Black).

      I’m a big fan of The Greater of Two Evils. It was fun to hear the similarities between “Panic” and “Gung Ho”, which I’d never noticed before that album, as I’d never listened to them on the same album before. I like Music of Mass Destruction quite a lot, but I have trouble watching the DVD, as I find the editing to be a bit ADD, which is a common problem with concert DVDs these days.

  2. I would argue that “One” or “The Unforgiven” is better than “Fade To Black”, but it’s still a solid list. I haven’t heard most of these so it’s nice to be introduced to them. It’s just one song that sticks out. HOW is “Spill The Blood” a ballad? Other than roughly a minute of acoustic guitar in total (which still sounds way too sinister), it’s a typical Slayer song. Slayer just don’t write ballads.

    • Thanks for reading, and thanks for the comments.

      I’d agree that “The Unforgiven” is more of a ballad than “Fade to Black”, but I don’t like it nearly as much. “One” could be a contender, for sure.

      Regarding “Spill the Blood”, here’s a quote from the intro to this post:

      “Note: I don’t necessarily believe these are the Ten Best Thrash Metal Ballads of All Time; they are simply ten comparatively mellow songs that I really like, performed by otherwise super-fast, super-heavy thrash metal bands.”

      “Spill the Blood” is indeed comparatively mellow to everything that came before it (including the rest of South of Heaven, with the possible exception of the title track), and while it is a sound Slayer would go on to reproduce to varying degrees of quality many times throughout their career, I believe “Spill the Blood” is the best example of the slower, more comparatively mellow version of Slayer, and besides all that, it’s my blog. 🙂

      Thanks again for checking out my blog. I hope you’ve found some new favorites!

    • I’d forgotten all about “Gods of Wrath”; that song slays. “A Tout le Monde” is pretty great too. The others are not among my favorites, but a case could certainly be made for each of them. Thanks for reading, and thanks for your comments!

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