In a brand new interview with the Houston Press, vocalist Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth of New Jersey thrash metal veterans OVERKILL was asked if the so-called “Big Four” of 1980s thrash metal — METALLICA, MEGADETH, SLAYER and ANTHRAX — were ever expanded to a “Big Five,” who would get the extra slot: TESTAMENT, EXODUS or OVERKILL?
“Aw man, that’s gonna put me in a corner!” Ellsworth laughed. “We measure our success in days, not dollars! But maybe you can find the answer in what I’m going to say.
“When [playing thrash metal] became harder in the ’90s with grunge music, we never had a question about if we would stop doing it and go work for our moms and dads or something,” Ellsworth offered. “We just needed to make it happen. We weren’t going to let grunge stop us. And if it did, we’d just go back to the underground. I liked it there anyway!”
MEGADETH mainman Dave Mustaine last year spoke to Radio.com about which band should have been included if the “Big Four” were expanded and considered the “Big Five”. Mustaine said: “You know, people will say there’s a whole another generation, like the ‘Medium Four’ [laughs], and I think there’s a lot of great bands that fit that bill, too. But I think probably EXODUS, because there was nobody else at the time that had that kind of pull or that kind of importance in the metal community. Granted, it was with [late EXODUS singer Paul] Baloff, and Baloff had a voice that you had to have an acquired taste for, but you know, I liked him.”
In a 2010 interview with Metal Asylum, EXODUS guitarist Gary Holt was asked if he feels the “Big Four” should have been expanded and considered the “Big Seven”, including EXODUS, TESTAMENT and OVERKILL.
“Well, I think it should be the ‘Big Five’ with EXODUS, because we were there at the start of thrash metal with METALLICA in the real early ’80s,” he said. “Same thing with MEGADETH because [Dave] Mustaine was a part of METALLICA‘s birth and he also created MEGADETH. And SLAYER are SLAYER. ANTHRAX are also great and old friends, but if you listen to those first few records, they have definitely changed. TESTAMENT has every right to be part of the thrash metal legends, but it just came down to timing because they came later. And OVERKILL have been their since the beginning also. But I don’t get hung up on that shit, because I know how it all started and I know where I was when the shit got created. We [EXODUS] certainly deserve to be part of the founding fathers, but you know who often gets excluded are the Germans — KREATOR, DESTRUCTION and SODOM. Everybody looks to America and forgets those guys. KREATOR, DESTRUCTION and SODOM all released records in the early ’80s.”
He continued: “Really, the “Big Four” is solely based on sales and the ones who sold the most. But if you compare records, I will put EXODUS‘ last few albums up against anybody’s shit. SLAYER is always awesome; the last TESTAMENT album [at the time of the interview], ‘The Formation of Damnation’, was great; the new MEGADETH [2009’s ‘Endgame’] is one of their best; METALLICA are still finding their feet again, and their last album, ‘Death Magnetic’, was a step in the right direction. The new OVERKILL, ‘Ironbound’, is one of their best records ever; it’s so good. And KREATOR, DESTRUCTION, and SODOM still make great new music. What I think it boils down to is the bands who’ve been doing this the longest still can do it the best. METALLICA are still a mighty force live, but they lost their way for quite a while. But then again I’ve never had to deal with the horrible problem of having millions of dollars. [Laughs] Maybe if I had that kind of money, it would distract my hunger for doing this kind of shit, too. But, unfortunately for me, I have to keep kickin’ people in the teeth, I don’t have the funds to go art-shopping. My version of fine art is a new edition of Hustler magazine. [Laughs]”
Earlier this year, METALLICA guitarist Kirk Hammett was asked by U.K.’s Metal Hammer magazine if it’s strange to him how much METALLICA has eclipsed the other “Big Four” bands in terms of commercial popularity.
“I try not to spend too much time thinking about stuff like that because whatever I think of is still not going to be a satisfying enough explanation,” he replied. “It’s just the way things are and how the chips fell.
“EXODUS in the ’80s had some bona fide problems, but I think their first album [1985’s ‘Bonded By Blood’] is just as good as [METALLICA‘s debut] ‘Kill ‘Em All’. We were just playing the music we wanted to hear because no one else was playing it and it wasn’t being played on the radio. It was only a small group of people who knew about it and it was almost elitist in that ‘No posers allowed!’ thing.”