Death Valley Knights' Nikhil Talwar: "The Seattle '89 Video was such a big influence on me"...

We continue our look back at thirty years of thrash with a younger perspective...

Time for another thrash inquisition, and today we're speaking to Nikhil Talwar, guitarist/vocalist with up-and-coming London metallers Death Valley Knights. Nikhil, welcome! Now straight to the questions - do you agree with that selection of thrash's big four? If not, Who would your big four be, and why? "I think the Big Four really represent the primogenitors of thrash metal, Metallica and Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax were at the forefront of the movement. Even though they were technically predated by both Overkill and Exodus, it seems like they rose above the rest. From a commercial standpoint they are definitely the biggest, but even from a creative point of view, those four showed just how diverse thrash could be. Do they still deserve that title? Aside from Slayer, probably not! Sure Metallica and Megadeth may have rediscovered their thrash roots with Death Magnetic and Endgame, but post 1991 neither they nor Anthrax have been thrash. I’m not saying Countdown to Extinction and Load/Reload are bad records, they’re not, but they are definitely not thrash, especially when you consider that Overkill, Testament, Kreator, and Exodus have consistently released killer records, and have stayed true to their sound. So for that reason alone my current Big Four would be Slayer, Testament, Kreator and Overkill

What to you, is the quintessential sound of thrash? Does it come from the Bay Area, from Germany, or from somewhere else? "For me, it is definitely the Bay area sound. What you hear on Bonded by Blood, Kill Em All, and early Slayer records like Show No Mercy and Hell Awaits is a good template for thrash. Fast forward a few years and the songs started to become a lot more technical and layered, and less about speed and aggression, which is really the roots of the scene, that melding of punk and metal.That being said you can’t understate the importance of the places like Germany, and even Canada. Bands like Kreator, Sodom, Annihilator and Voivod held the flag through the nineties when the Bay area scene practically collapsed".

All that said then, I'm interested in your answer to the next question - five essential thrash albums – please name them!  "I hate these questions! I’m going to get such crap from my band mates, here goes: Master of Puppets, Reign in Blood, Peace Sells….But Who’s Buying, Bonded by Blood, Ride the Lightening. I love albums like Hell Awaits, Among the Living, and Rust in Peace just as much, but as an introduction to thrash metal I think these five are a good representation about what the scene has to offer".

Who are the best live thrash outfit(s) of all time in your opinion - similar selections? "The problem here is I wasn’t around during the 80’s to see all these bands when they were young, but from the footage and recordings it definitely seems like Metallica were a cut above the rest. All the stories I’ve read and heard from people who saw them then agree they were the absolute shit! The Seattle 89 video was such a huge influence on me, you see the crowd reaction, and the band in their prime. It pretty much made me want to form a metal band.That being said, I’ve been lucky so see pretty much all the thrash bands live multiple times, and they can all absolutely kill it! When you’ve been doing this thirty odd years you tend to get pretty good!".

So what about the worst? "Like I said, I’ve seen all the bands live numerous times, so I’ve seen them on good days and bad. Aside from Testament and Overkill, who have been consistently good, I’ve seen Metallica be incredibly sloppy and lazy, The same with Megadeth and Slayer. Anthrax are always good, I haven’t seen them do a bad show yet". 

As a musician, what for you the key elements for writing a classic thrash tune? "Riffs! Lots of them! Hah hah! Seriously though, you need great riffs, tight drumming, and a bpm above 150. There are some classic tunes which are slower, like South of Heaven and For Whom the Bell Tolls, but generally classic thrash needs to be fast". 

And Which musicians would you have writing these classic thrash tunes? That's right, I'm asking you to make up your dream thrash outfit from the last 30 years! "Oh man! Ok, here goes: James Hetfield (Rhythm guitar & vocals), Alex Skolnick (Lead guitar), Cliff Burton (Bass guitar) and finally Nick Menza (Drums)."

And finally, what do you think is the biggest gift given to heavy metal by thrash? "The gift of inspiration! It just keeps on giving! Albums like Master of Puppets, Reign in Blood and Peace Sells... are timeless, and they inspired not just myself, but an entire generation of metal bands. Thrash metal raised the bar in terms musicianship, lyrical composition, and ultimately the potential of metal to be more than just a niche genre".