Ex-Megadeth’s David Ellefson Reveals Bands Worthy of ‘Big Four’ Status, Says One of Them Inspired Slayer

The impact of the so-called Big Four of Thrash Metal is felt even to this day. However, what many tend to overlook, or just don’t know, is that this is a term coined by music journalists of the 1980s and the 1990s, eventually creating this special category of the most popular bands in the subgenre.

Metallica: Am I Evil? (Live w/ The Big 4) [The Big 4: Live in Sofia, Bulgaria]

But aside from Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax, there are plenty of other names that could be credited for the development and preservation of metal music. In a recent chat with Yes! You CAN Play Guitar, former Megadeth bassist David Ellefson reflected on the matter, revealing two more bands that he thinks should be in the expanded group of these bands, a “Big Six” if you will. He offered (transcript via Blabbermouth):

“Well, I think if you opened that gate at all, it’d have to be ‘Big Six’, because you’d let in Exodus and then you’d probably let in Overkill. ‘Cause you’d have to get a West Coast [band] and an East Coast [act], ’cause I think it starts to go like that.

“If there was a ‘Big Five’, it would be Exodus, for sure, because, look, from them came Kirk Hammett. They were staples of the scene up there. I remember Kerry King telling me, ‘[Exodus drummer] Tom Hunting’s the shit, man. Tom Hunting’s the guy.'”

Yamaha Sessions | Tom Hunting & Jack Gibson of EXODUS

Discussing the issue further, Ellefson looked back on Kerry King and Slayer and explained how they were initially influenced by Exodus. He offered:

“It’s my opinion that after Kerry played with [Megadeth in 1984], he met the Exodus guys, he saw Exodus play, he learned how Tom Hunting played, he went home and made Dave Lombardo play like Tom Hunting. [Laughs] That’s why Slayer got so fast.”

“Those five shows Kerry did with us that brought us to the Bay Area opened his eyes to, like, ‘Wow. This is how it’s done.’ And then he went back to L.A. and he carried on away from Megadeth and he carried on with Slayer. But he whipped Slayer into shape, ’cause he had seen… ‘Thine eyes had seen the glory’ of what thrash metal really was from the Bay Area, and that helped Slayer become Slayer.”

Photo: Carter Sterling (David Ellefson (cropped2)), Stc (Tom Hunting)