No disrespect to Kreator, Destruction, Sodom and Tankard but German thrash has so much more to offer than just Pleasure To Kill, Eternal Devastation, Agent Orange and Chemical Invasion! With a rich history of underground classics and a devastating array of tech/prog thrash masterpieces toiling away in the background, it’s high time those mostly forgotten albums in German thrash history had their day.
Assassin – The Upcoming Terror (1987)
Along with the likes of Exumer, Holy Moses and Vendetta, Düsseldorf’s Assassin were vastly underrated in the late 80’s with the lion’s share of German thrash talk revolving around Kreator, Sodom, Destruction and Tankard.
Admittedly, these crazed speed freaks weren’t quite in the same league as The Big Teutonic Four but they could riff up a frenzied riff storm when they wanted to and their debut, The Upcoming Terror, would prove to be their finest ever moment!
A true cult classic, Assassin got straight to the fuckin’ point on their debut with the likes of “Bullet” and “Nemesis” proving particularly aggressive and while we’re not in technical thrash territory, it’s Assassin’s hardcore punk approach that actually adds another level of dirt to this incendiary album.
Violent Force – Malevolent Assault Of Tomorrow (1987)
Opening with the Motörhead-indebted “Dead City”, the album actually improves after this bout of hero worship is finished with. Settling into a groove of their own, it’s on “Sign Of Evil”, “Vengeance And Venom” and “S.D.I” where Violent Force really prove their mettle.
100% committed to thrashing you senseless, their salaciously filthy riffs and demented drumming may be highly reminiscent of comrades Kreator, but Malevolent Assault Of Tomorrowis straight-to-the-face thrashing with absolutely no effort to confound tradition or break new ground. That can be taken as a compliment by the way!
Sometimes thrash should be simple, brutal and without remorse and on their one and only full-length album, Violent Force ticked all three boxes and lived up to their name perfectly.
Minotaur – Power Of Darkness (1988)
Shrouding metal fans in nothing but complete darkness was Minotaur, a blackened thrash band capable of nothing but the most hideously raw thrash imaginable.
Minotaur should have gone down in history as one of the proto-death bands, as important to the rise of death metal as Possessed, Slayer, Death Strike, Repulsion and Hellhammer. The fact that Minotaur are often not uttered in the same breath is a crime as Power Of Darkness was also at the forefront of changing trends. Hell, they released a single titled Death Metal in 1990…..of course, by then it was too little, too late for Minotaur to truly be noticed!
Featuring a Mille Petrozza-like vocalist in the form of Anti Richwein, his untamed black metal-esque shriek was just a part of Minotaur’s early embrace of unhinged chaos, with the fast and frantic likes of the appropriately monikered “Apocalptic Trials” and “Necromancer” backed by dynamically varied, brutal blasts of untamed musicianship.
An essential proto-death / Teutonic thrash classic!
Necronomicon – Escalation (1988)
Retaining the necro-sound pioneered by Sodom and Destruction on their early releases Obsessed By Cruelty and Sentence Of Death, Necronomicon’s raw, dirty riffs and barely contained malevolence may not be as well known as The Teutonic Three….but it sure does compete!
Escalation‘s 8 tracks masterfully cave your face in with alarming frequency. “Death Toll”, “…and the Night Will Be Silent” and “Mosh The ABC” ring the tempo changes and even introduce Helloween-esque levels of power metal melody to an otherwise insanely fast and unyielding mix.
“Dirty Minds” is the one track doesn’t quite fit but it’s hard rock stylings are admittedly fun and there’s nothing wrong with writing catchy, up-beat thrash ditties; just ask Tankard!
Lo-fi and frenetic, Escalation remains an absolute blast.
Risk – The Daily Horror News (1988)
Roll up, roll up, read all about it….daft Germans in excellent speed/thrash shocker!
With a pedigree dating all the way back to 1967(!), Risk took the relatively safe gamble of updating their hard rock/prog rock sound originally finessed when they carried the Faithful Breath moniker and went hell for leather with ‘debut’, The Daily Horror News.
With precise riffing and unruly speed, the raw nature of this obscurity may prove to be a shock to those expecting something a little cleaner from a band who had originally played their trade two decades prior. As it turned out, Risk proved more than adept at out-riffing the majority of their peers and seemed to have thrash flowing through their veins; a more cohesive and intelligent late 80’s speed/thrash album you’d be hard pressed to find.
Ridiculous artwork, cracking album!
Vendetta – Brain Damage (1988)
They don’t come more unique than Vendetta‘s Brain Damage, an album that retained the required thrash crunch of the era while significantly maturing and offering unparalleled diversity to the discerning thrash fan.
This was the sound of a band that should have left the underground, seriously skilled and home to such consistently impressive songwriting that a breakthrough seemed inevitable. Alas, it just wasn’t to be. But, that’s no reason to overlook its merits now as Brain Damage‘s fiendishly catchy melodies and exquisite guitar work are as impressive now as they were back in 1988!
On a par with the awe-inspiring work found on Coroner and Deathrow’s 80s technical output, Vendetta’s prowess and crystal clear clarity showcased a band whose merits were writ large.
After all, Brain Damage truly is an unsung masterpiece from the golden era of thrash!
Grinder – Dead End (1989)
Beginning with “Agent Orange” (not a cover of Sodom’s classic but a classic of their own making), Grinder‘s stomping, militarised, rotor-riffs flow flawlessly into the kind of quality melodic thrash that should have adhered these German thrashers to millions…..and the quality just keeps on coming!
Channeling the highly melodic noise of Flotsam and Jetsam and Anthrax, Grinder still managed to create something a little different in the thrash world; no easy task by the time the late 80’s rolled around. Playing with structure and speed, Grinder’s skill lay in fluid bass lines and taking the turn least expected.
The result? An album that remains unpredictable and surprisingly unique.
In particular, Dead End‘s title track is a thrash monster, a totally unique speed/thrash workout which traverses more moods and more terrain than most thrash albums manage in their entirety!
Toxic Shock – Welcome Home…Near Dark (1990)
Improving on Change From Reality (Toxic Shock’s 1988 debut), Welcome Home…Near Dark would find the band signing with the ever-expanding Nuclear Blast and considerably improving on their craft in the process!
With a gutter-thrash aesthetic still prevalent, Toxic Shock also embraced a more expansive sound, revealing in a new found technicality that was both rough and ready, ugly and obnoxious and yet still capable of keeping up with the prog/tech heavy output of much of their peers.
Revelling in the beauty of brutality, moments on the title track were death metal in nature but it was the thundering “Dragons Eye (The Story Part I)” that, ironically, caught the eye….traversing a myriad of time changes and attitudes over 6 thrilling minutes.
If you consider yourself an old-school thrasher and you haven’t heard Welcome Home…Near Dark, consider yourself in need of an education!
Megace – Human Errors (1991)
Emerging from the same technical thrash metal gene pool as the likes of Mekong Delta, Watchtower and Sadus, the female-fronted Megace had their own distinct charms and remain a unique proposition in a severely crowded marketplace.
With a talent for cunning complexity, Megace were operating at a level that would fry most minds but their biggest asset could also be considered their most divisive ingredient – the vocals of Melanie Bock.
With the ability to alternate between Sabine Classen-esque shrieks and growls and a more power metal styled delivery, those thrashers who struggle with female vocals in the genre will hit a brick wall fast. Of course, that’s complete nonsense as Bock’s emotive delivery competed with her male compatriots on every level and offered Megace that ‘special something’ to differentiate them from the pack!
A real unique moment in German thrash that deserves to be revered and adored.
Archaic Torse – Sneak Attack (1992)
They don’t get much more obscure than this!
Devilishly dark and devastatingly heavy, Archaic Torse may be an unknown quantity to all but the most ardent death/thrash fan, but the likes of the lightning-speed and groove-heavy “Beyond The Great Divide” and the blistering title track should endear then to the Archaic Torse novice instantaneously.
Treading a similar path to fellow countrymen Protector, Archaic Torse erred on the side of death metal but also ripped up a thrashing storm when desired, pummelling the listener with brutal vocals and a penchant for channeling the ferocity of early Pestilence.
Overall, Sneak Attack was a very strong debut from a band who sadly never released a follow-up and death/thrash fans unfamiliar with its charms should seek it out…..immediately!
Assorted Heap – Mindwaves (1992)
Assorted Heap‘s second album is a minor masterpiece. Pure and simple.
Hitting the prog ramp at high speed, Assorted Heap finessed their already impressive sound (1991’s far more aggressive The Experience Of Horror is also well worth checking out) and delivered an unsung classic of progressive thrash; the kind of calling card that should have seen them attain more than mere ‘cult’ status.
Transcending genre trappings with ease, Assorted Heap mirrored the wholesale changes and ‘anything is possible’ mentality of Sarcofago circa The Laws Of Scourge, ultimately delivering an album that lived and died by its palpable atmosphere and unique, often ornate, clarity of sound.
A distinctive moment in thrash….German or otherwise
Despair – Beyond All Reason (1992)
Technical German thrash doesn’t come much better than Beyond All Reason, the 3rd album from Despair and a milestone of the genre!
Superlatives come thick and fast when describing this unsung classic with Despair shredding with maximum intensity one minute, delivering keyboard-laden atmospherics the next and delivering nothing but virtuoso guitar work throughout.
In fact, it’s a crime that Beyond All Reason isn’t discussed with nearly as much enthusiasm as it should. This is a staggering piece of work, dazzlingly complex and rife with an advanced sense of barrelling chord progressions and off-kilter time changes.
There was something in the water in Germany during the late 80’s and early 90’s and Despair were the equal of Deathrow, Mekong Delta, Sieges Even, Vendetta and their ilk!