Slayer, Metallica, Megadeth, and Pantera. These are some of the most-liked bands of metal music. They are literally everywhere, even going outside heavy metal circles. The bands that used to annoy and worry the older generation, parents, politicians, and religious figures are now on their playlists and car stereos, sometimes even on repeat. The Big 4 of thrash metal have undoubtedly attracted many to the genre, but is it for the right reasons or just to be "in" on the latest trends?
I used to be a fan of Metallica, having seen them live in Yas Island, UAE in the year 2011 and enjoyed myself. But that changed as I discovered more artists through online metal communities such as Forces Of Steel, a forum dedicated to all genres of metal. Most of the artists were from the classic period of heavy metal (the 1980s) and not only surpassed the Big 4 musically but actually brought new elements to the sound of metal. I have been a heavy metal fan since age 12 and have heard a lot of artists in this time; enough to justify my disdain for the Big 4 with an educated and experienced discourse rather than blind-fire insults.
Reason 1 - Watering Down, Overshadowing, Tediousness
The genre of metal has numerous sub-genres: death metal, black metal, and heavy metal, to name a few. Each has underrated material that could have gotten the exposure it deserves. Instead, the Big 4 are the only bands that attract any kind of following (for the most part) and tend to not only overshadow other (superior) artists but also water down an entire genre of music (that spans an ever-expanding universe of music since metal artists tend to experiment regularly) to just 4 generally-known bands purely for their popularity and not musical merit.
I can say that the genre of metal is about exploration and finding bands for yourself, playing outside the safe zone (i.e popular opinion/recommendations) and the Big 4 just takes that away. Instead of exploring thrash metal (their genre) further to find other great bands in need of recognition (excellent bands such as Razor) they just box themselves into a vacuum where only the likes of Metallica represent thrash metal. A great disservice to the genre.
Thrash metal started out as an extreme genre that had dark lyrical themes, aggressive guitar work, and a grittier, lo-fi production. These are things the Big 4 fails to do in the modern day since their output is just a watered-down version of what thrash metal was. Metallica especially, in my opinion, is the most generic rock band ever to exist. Try listening to Metallica and a classic thrash band like Sodom side-by-side and notice the difference.
Finally, the Big 4 watered down thrash metal into the repetitive, cliched by-numbers mediocrity we see from deathcore bands albeit with different lyrical themes repeated ad-nauseum. I heard Slayer's "best" albums and none of them impressed me at all. The "intensity" is non-existent and never appears; if anything gets mildly annoying hearing the same "I hate God" lyrics; if it wasn't bad enough with black metal bands beating that dead horse since 1982.
The likes of Pantera also contributed to metal having fewer standout moments within tracks; you know when the riffs just hit all the right nerves and transition to adrenaline-charged solos; replaced by almost endless chugging of a single cord under the pretense of "brutality" and "aggression;" like deathcore and low-tier NU metal. This has ruined metal by producing more bands that imitate Pantera for varied reasons and thus saturate the scene with lethargic chugging and faux-aggression (Pantera's earlier material was Glam metal) that much like black metal above, is the remains of a dead horse.
Better Bands - Razor - Evil Invaders
Better Bands - Sodom - Agent Orange
Reason 2 - No Effort
The Big 4, from what I saw have the most remasters of previous albums, more-so than any other band who only re-master if need-be; with new tracks and re-recordings with additional instruments and melodies. The Big 4, however, just keep re-re-re-re-releasing albums where there are 2 editions with nothing new; just improved sound quality which to me is meaningless because the songs themselves range from mediocre to bad. We all know about Lars Ulrich's tantrum about Napster. (even though Metallica got big from tape trading)
How many times can we hear the same songs for years on end; whether it's "Enter Sandman", "Symphony of Destruction" "Reign in Blood" or "Mouth of War?" Sure, the fans are at fault for being so complacent and the radio's fault for not branching out but how many good songs do the Big 4 really have? The ones that you can come back to and are always a good listen. Going back to Razor, their album "Evil Invaders" and "Violent Restitution" are albums that I come back to regularly because every track has standouts while something from Slayer always has 2-3 mediocre tracks with the rest being filler.
Pantera's later stuff, as much as many fans don't want to admit, was copied from Exhorder, a band from Phil Anselmo's hometown of New Orleans, Lousiana. The sound and the themes of Exhorder is how new Pantera got big minus the effort Exhorder put in. I enjoy Exhorder's music because it actually feels original and genuine unlike Pantera's forced attempts to appear aggressive and "mean."
Exhorder - Desecrator
Reason 3 - The Fans
From accepting and defending mediocre to bad albums tooth and nail to tearful, cringe-worthy tributes to people they don't know, to threatening people outright and to knee-jerk attacks on those who dare disagree with them; the Big 4 has fans that would really benefit from a reality check. The late Dimebag Darrell Abbot, guitarist of Pantera and his endless tributes on social media are very hard to escape; cheapening and reducing the legacy that Pantera may have had to a limp-wristed bandwagon of fake tears and regurgitated words alongside unjustified threats.
Pantera fans are especially bad in this regard when someone so much as disagrees about Pantera, they get defensive and start flinging insults and accusations (e.g. "you are a troll," "you are stupid,") which are unnecessary and much like the music itself, is just false aggression that won't get repeated had it been face to face; making it less about the actual music and more about the "tough guy" persona most of them put on.
The first paragraph also shows that metal has indeed gone soft and became the thing that most older fans dreaded; turn "emo." This means that like the genre of alternative music, the fans became teary-eyed, trend-following and complacent to the herd mentality found there as well. All the above qualities go against what made metal great; originality, toughness, individuality, and fearlessness.
Overall, I dislike the Big 4 not only because they overrated and overshadow other bands who are musically superior but less popular but also for their long-term impact on metal; turning it into a lethargic, commercialized monument to fan complacency and low standards of metalheads worldwide; wanting to hear chugging and faux aggression rather than quality music full of energy, creativity, and actual effort. Finally, overly protective and zealous fans are turning the metal community into false tears and war zones of empty, unjustified threats; making it about their fandom rather than the music itself.
Questions & Answers
Question: How long have you been listening to metal?
Answer: Since I was 12 (I'm 27 now) starting from online music repositories such as realmusic.ru (Russian analog to bandcamp) and finding bands that interested me either by theme or sound. I didn't hang out in communities hence, didn't get recommendations and instead, found bands on my own.
Question: Why do you think Pantera is one of "the Big Four" of metal?
Answer: The reason I thought that was because they are more hyped up and loved. Oddly enough, nobody that I knew online and offline talked about Anthrax that much in the context of thrash metal so this is why I figured Pantera was one of them.
Question: If Razor were to make it big, would you consider them 'commercialized'?
Answer: No. There are many metal bands that made it big (Iron Maiden, Sodom, Exodus, Testament) that I enjoy listening to. P.S I wish Razor made it big.
© 2017 Jake Clawson
Sean Gray.... on March 14, 2020:
Jake!...keep thrashing brag....
Agg on December 30, 2019:
Anthrax, not Pantera is in the Big Four. To hell with your perceptions, facts are facts! Such a re-writing of basic historical fact should entitle you to death penalty: listening only to infinite sound loops (call whatever shit they want: pop, dance, techno, r'n'b, etc) for the rest of your existence on this planet, you pseudo-intelligent fart!
Doomtrooper16 on December 17, 2019:
Pantera isn't even thrash metal.
dude123 on July 22, 2019:
Thanks for putting sodom agent orange there. It blows my mind that there is so much more musically interesting and heavier thrash out there (like sodom, possessed, kreator) yet the big 4 seem to get all the attention, at least in the 80s
Jwar on June 22, 2019:
Regardless of what you say about the big4 .that really annoys the crap out of me and you know I usually don't get into adding any comments but the things you said annoyed me so yea Im gonna speak up .so live with it cs
Redman on May 30, 2019:
Well, Metallica sucked after injustice for all, Pantera just sucks phil anselmo is a shitty singer, Slayer unfortunate to lose jeff Hanneman, and Megadeth kept writing just for writing.
Brenden on May 04, 2019:
Maybe you should know that Pantera isn’t even part of The Big 4 before you go trash them
Ed on April 24, 2019:
Pantera aren't even part of the big 4.
Sean Gray..... on April 24, 2019:
Stay Classy.......\,,/, LOL
Oglala Winyan on April 23, 2019:
Testament, Exodus, Megadeth, Metallica rules!!
T.M. Etal on April 17, 2019:
You suck. You don't know who the big 4 are or the difference between thrash and groove. Your article sucked and you should stick to pop music.
JackieBoy on April 15, 2019:
There's no creation without getting inspired by others creation. Even the desire of creating art is based on seeing the creation of other people. Saying that Pantera is an Exhorder means that you know shit about music or that you have paranoid schizophrenia.
Bluematic8pt2 on April 09, 2019:
I created an account on this website I've never heard of just to say:
You're opinion is invalid if you think that Pantera is one of the Big 4 of Thrash
(I'm sure that same sentiment has already been shared but whatever)
Sean Gray...the metal master\,,/, on April 05, 2019:
If iam such a metal head? ....then why do i listen to more pink floyd the most?..."its a rhetorical question "....lol
Friendly neighborhood metalhead on April 02, 2019:
Not to discredit your points in any way (in fact I agree with a lot of them), but Pantera wasn’t in the big four. (They should probably be a fifth edition tbh)
The big four are Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax
Joel t ferebee on April 01, 2019:
Pantera wasnt even in the big 4
Jake Clawson (author) from Kazakhstan on March 29, 2019:
@Sean Gray, at least we can agree on something here.
Sean Gray...\,,/, on March 28, 2019:
Demon Hunter RULES!......
An ACTUAL thrasher on March 25, 2019:
All I saw was that you mentioned 3 of the big four and actually thought pantera was in there instead of doing your homework and seeing anthrax was there too. You had one job. Now you lost your credibility within your first sentence. Take a walk poser you're fired.
Reemjob on March 23, 2019:
Pantera was never one of the Big Four!!! No one other than this author has EVER claimed this. He's just making shit up.
Thrashard78 on March 13, 2019:
Well for 1 thing Anthrax is part of the original big 4 not Pantera. With that said...Your a fkn idiot lol If you don't know the history of thrash you should really sftu about it. Metallica, Megadeth,Slayer and ANTHRAX are all pioneers of thrash and even though I don't like the new Metallica (after Justice album) back in the 80s they as well as slayer, Megadeth and ANTHRAX were putting out some killer shit! Honestly I think Exodus should be one of them but it is what it is. So you can bad mouth these bands all you want but if you are a true fkn metal head you wouldn't bad mouthing the real pioneers of thrash and just STFU and listen.
Sean Gray....the metal master\,,,/, on March 13, 2019:
I give it to you Jake...you got balls tho....i love talking metal....just FYI....som of the new Demon Hunter is ferocious! and most Christian Metalcore goes hard in the paint!...especially Darkness Devided....yer a good sport brah \,,,/,
Jake Clawson (author) from Kazakhstan on March 13, 2019:
@Steven Whiteman I do like Overkill. Feel the Fire is among my top albums in metal.
Steven whiteman on March 13, 2019:
Overkill check them out est.1981.still putting albums out today
Sean Gray...the metal master on March 12, 2019:
What a "retard" lol...Not the fan of slayer or megadeath...but not for the same resons as this dum@ss..lol..just thot both thos bands always kinda suck!..anyways..but PANTERA & MATALICA RULE!..just turned 50...so know i was there , i seen them all live in the 80s..Judas, Maiden, Dio, Ozzy, ect..was banging my head to Destroyer @ 7 or 8 in circa 1970 ...iam the master blaster son...dont get it twisted ....you've lost way yer sunshine most thos other bands you mention are just noise...your taste as been corrupted by some left wing snowflake agenda....come back to light Carolanne...
Jim McIntosh on March 12, 2019:
This guy don't know shit , jr here dont even know the history of thrash metal ffs all i heard was blah blah blah with no mention of Overkill anthrax exodus megadeth and no mention of 3 pioneers in the rise of thrash dd veri gary holt and dave mustaine who actually taught james hetfield and kerry king how to play thrash metal pantera was glam rock when pleasures of the flesh ,taking over, and piece sells were all ready staples of thrash so good job you got your 5 minutes and riled up a bunch of dudes that would smash your bitch ass im an 80s mosh pit that you wouldnt even brave it lol pussy
Raban Rendon on March 05, 2019:
Yeah, extreme metal is kind of or downright monotone. Anywho, I still strongly recommend the albums I mentioned. They have nothing to do with gore/violence or Satan. They're not even overly aggressive.
Jake Clawson (author) from Kazakhstan on March 04, 2019:
I am still in love with the music, I just despise extreme (gore on the cover, Satanism etc) metal because I see it as just tryhard, sorry attempts to be edgy and scary. FYI its really not. Thrash metal, after a while its the same song over and over. While there are good bands in that genre, they are an exception not the rule.
Extreme metal is totally empty to me, nothing but gore on the cover and "scary" imagery to get all those who didn't grow out of it yet.
Raban Rendon on March 04, 2019:
I stopped listening to metal almost completly. I can't stand thrash metal anymore because of the drumming. I used to listen to a $hit load of death metal. Regarding Pestilence, you should checkout Spheres! Give it a listen. It's so awesome and unusual. Its not even really a death metal album. Gray Misery (Disgrace) is also odd and sublimely strange.
Jayson Goodrich on January 20, 2019:
Opinnions are like assholes everyone has one!! You no nothing about music!! But thats ok....Enjoy the bands you love and keep your simple minded comments to yourself!! Metal up your ass!!!
Adrian on January 17, 2019:
Pantera is big 4?? Lol
Ralph on November 14, 2018:
Hes right tho. The big 4 did flood the gates for pantera, and a little band called sepeltura, and another one called death, and then another one called deicide, and then somebody called slipknot. And all of these bands that if the big 4 never got popular we wouldnt have. Such as rage against the machine nirvana soundgarden and then someone called clutch. So yea thank gawd they did keep flooding the gates with the same boring stuff over and over again otherwise madonna would have had a kid that was into metal and we would be forced to listen to taylor swift and gawd forbid lady gaga. Jeeeezzzuusss your lucky there is such a thing as coal chamber and korn so you can thank slayer for not giving up so you can profess your love for numetal.
Sam on November 14, 2018:
Maybe you should know who the Big 4 is before writing an article poser.
Jake Clawson (author) from Kazakhstan on October 03, 2018:
Are you saying I can't voice my opinion then? What's stopping me from doing what you said AND writing content? I do promote what I like; who doesn't?
Well good for you, glad you had that chance, be happy for that; no one is stopping you nor is anyone telling you not to like what you like; why do most metalheads online hate opinions that don't gel with theirs so much? Why/how is it "bitching?" or is it just another Get Outta Criticism Free card used by fans against opinions they don't agree with?
P.S I did try to get into Pestilence, not my thing. It kinda bored me to be honest. As all 80s death metal.
Paul on October 03, 2018:
Well,you kinda blew that in the first paragraph.also,where the fuck does "Appetite For Destruction" fit in to any of this?that was Guns And Roses.a completely different genre of metal.Exhorder actually disclaimed any of that supposed getting ripped off by Pantera business,so according to the band themselves,you're wrong.Slayer,Metallica,Megadeth and ANTHRAX,that is the actual big 4.now,i agree that there were some great bands that got completely overshadowed by those few,but that's the business.you don't like it,you do what you can to support the bands you actually like by buying their cd's,merch and tickets when they can play your area.you make it a point to turn people onto their music.you drop their name everywhere and represent them.all you can do.if they don't catch on,they just don't.tough shit.that's how it goes.i actually grew up listening to and buying up bands from that time periods tapes(later cds,obviously)and t-shirts,patches,etc. and alot of great ones fell into obscurity(Candlemass,Sacrifice,Toxik,Hirax,Heathen,etc..).this article is has the tone of somebody bitching about a time period they know nothing about.you sound like you're about 20 yrs late to the party.that's a shame,but that's how it is.check out Pestilence.they were good too.
Goyim on June 04, 2018:
Agreed completelyThough the Big 4 was one of my introductions to metal i consider all of them extremely overrated. There are a ton of bands out there with better riffs, solos you name it. I have very rarely listened to any of their stuff for at least 10 years now. Megadeth and Metallica are two of the most overrated metal bands that have ever existed. I like them but both of them are really overrated. Just like the article says their fans are fucking retarded. Anything that is not released by the Big 4 is considered lesser and so good. Kreator alone shits on them in every way possible. Sepultura(early), Artillery, Coroner, Dark Angel, Demolition Hammer, Watchtower give me bands like this over any of the Big 4's stuff. Can't touch any of these bands in a million years.
Ron on June 02, 2018:
Lol you don't even know the big 4
realbuzzks on November 02, 2017:
Nice read, but I felt slight the article was slightly unjust to Megadeth, since we all know that Megadeth is the best of Big 4 and lot of other bands too, in terms of superiority in musical skills. Totally agree to the commercialising of music for profits, but you certainly cannot deny the brilliance of riffs created in Dystopia or United Abominations, which were the later albums by the band.
Also for Metallica and Slayer, I personally feel they kind of live on their past glory, but it was actually that good back in those days. I mean, no matter how many Necrophagist solos or Animal as Leader riffs I listen to, none of their songs could match up to the sheer intensity that you can clearly feel from songs like Disposable Heroes, Dyers Eve, or Fight Fire with Fire.... Angel of Death and Raining Blood were definitely the most openly attacking music back in the 80s, while Good Mourning/Black Friday and Last rites/Loved to Death had some of the most fiercest and evil sounding riffage on standard tuning on a 6-string guitar that none of the present day guitarists could match up to, atleast none that I have seen till date. And even though Guthrie Govan can replicate and make some of the craziest shiz ever, I still think that there is a reason as to why no one on this entire planet could exactly recreate or better the solos that Chris Poland or Marty Friedman created. The reason is simple, its never about the notes in scale. It is always about the notes that creates an image in the mind of the listener, an unmatched, unparalleled one. And most of the great guitarists of day, though master the skill of right notes, could not quite master the skill to imprint their notes in the listeners' minds, which these 4 bands most certainly did.
Guitar Gopher on June 02, 2017:
Interesting read, but the Big 4 of Thrash metal is generally considered to be Slayer, Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax (not Pantera). These are the godfathers of the speed-metal genre, along with bands like Testament, Exodus and Metal Church. Pantera didn't really come to any kind of prominence until the early '90s, long after these bands had established the genre.
I think it is also important to consider that much of their early music comes from a very different context. Listening to Master of Puppets for the first time in the '80s was like being run over by a freight train, in a good way. Unlike today, there was nothing else that brutal back then. Today, Metallica is a shadow of their former selves.
Keep up the good work. I look forward to more metal!