Thrash….there’s a lot of it out there! And, it’s very easy to overlook the lost classics amongst the onslaught of The Big 4 etc. So, Worship Metal has attempted to turn the spotlight on those 80’s thrash albums that may have snuck under the radar without receiving the respect, or acknowledgment, they blatantly deserved……
Cyclone – Brutal Destruction (1986)
Belgium’s Cyclone weren’t particularly active – just 2 albums in a 9 year career – but they were the instigators of some distinctive riffage and Brutal Destruction remains an underrated collection of tenacious, tightly focused and terrorising thrash anthems.
Admittedly, Brutal Destruction may sound antiquated to modern ears but this semi-forgotten title had some clout in 1986! Slightly dubious title aside, “Incest Love”(?!) remains one hell of a closer while the razor-sharp riffs and unrefined shrieks found on “Long To Hell” and “Fall Under His Command” still leave scars!
One of those albums that belongs in a true thrashers collection – even though it may not receive a regular airing – Cyclone’s sound was more mid-level American than European and for this reason alone, Cyclone were up against it; they were never going to make an impact in the US when bands of this calibre were already ten a penny.
Holy Terror – Terror And Submission (1987)
Holy Terror’s debut from 1987 remains one of the more aggressive albums from thrash’s golden age and this cult band deserved far greater acclaim for this and its equally accomplished follow-up, Mind Wars.
One of the most original sounding thrash bands of the 80’s, Terror And Submission recalls the classic clatter of Venom and Possessed and retains the filthy sound that thrash originally pioneered before Metallica and Megadeth etc bought a commercialised sheen to the genre. Still indebted to the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, “Evil’s Rising” particularly paid homage to the classic sounding, harmonised riffs of Diamond Head and Tygers Of Pan Tang while “Blood Of The Saints” updated Judas Priest’s British Steel for speed obsessed thrash enthusiasts.
Caught between speed metal’s barely in control histrionics and the melody of the NWOBHM, it’s the insanely varied vocals that push Terror And Submission into the realms of ‘classic’ status. Delivering a tour-de-force of ear-shattering shrieks and screams, melodic high’s and deathly low’s and thrash metals’ obligatory mid-range rasp, Keith Deen should be revered as one of the finest vocalists in thrash metal history; precious few could compete with his sheer skill and diversity.
Acknowledged as a semi-obscure classic among thrash die-hards, Terror And Submission remains a unique and under-appreciated entry in the history of thrash metal.
Violent Force – Malevolent Assault Of Tomorrow (1987)
Something of a cult curio, Violent Force‘s Malevolent Assault Of Tomorrow deserves to be revered instead of forgotten and it’s high time this agonisingly aggressive and frantic thrash gem was rediscovered.
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.
Deathwish – Demon Preacher (1988)
How the actual fuck were Deathwish not bigger?
With opener “Death Procession” leading us on a morbid march through bell-tolling, doom-inflected pathways, the classic sounds of 70’s UK heavy metal soon meets the crunch of Bay Area thrash on the Slayer-esque title track and Deathwish’s inspirations are immediately apparent.
A marriage made in heaven (or should that be hell), this juxtaposition of the UK’s world-conquering 70’s output and the equally successful US thrash sound pioneered by Metallica, Slayer et all is best exemplified on Deathwish’s gritty thrashed-up reworking of Sabbath’s all time classic, “Symptom Of The Universe”. Cover version’s by their very nature are generally disappointing but this updated version of Iommi’s classic riff-fest for a thrash audience remains recognisable but utterly feral.
However, the 70’s worshipping song structures weren’t all Deathwish had in their locker, “Wall Of Lies” and the unfathomably epic “Prey To The Lord” were a sonic boom of rabid riffing fulfilling the hype this underrated band had once generated. A nod to the future and a nod to the past in essence, Deathwish were happy to complete the circle by closing with the acoustic Zeppelin-esque instrumental “Past Life”, restoring balance and a sense of closure in the process.
As a coherent whole, Demon Preacher should be considered a minor masterpiece, the sounds of the pioneering 70’s combining flawlessly with the fresh and vital thrash attack from across the Atlantic. Rediscover it!
Hydra Vein – Rather Death Than False Of Faith (1988)
Shit cover art aside, Hydra Vein were a ferocious and precocious late 80’s thrash band whose Rather Death Than False Of Faith debut deserves to be heralded as a minor classic.
Wallowing in the same dirty cess pool as early Onslaught and Venom, Rather Death Than False Of Faith stands toe to toe with the cream of late 80’s thrash metal. These guys could out slay Slayer when they put their filth-encrusted minds to it and the pure thrash carnage of “Crucifier” and “Rabid” (in fairness, this one’s a little too Slayer-esque for comfort at times) provides a welcome jolt to the system and may take newcomers by surprise!
Regardless of tempo – and Hydra Vein were as adept at blinding speed as they were mid-paced stomp – the key to Hydra Vein’s success (we use that term loosely) hinges on quality over quantity. Featuring just the 8 tracks, it’s notable that all 8 tracks have their moment, whether that’s a shout from the rooftops chorus, face-ripping solo or neck-wrecking riff , each and every song slams hard and features at least one highly memorable moment.
Hydra Vein may have been left in the thrash wilderness but fans of Onslaught’s The Force, Sacrilege’s Behind the Realms Of Madness, Venom’s Black Metal and Slayer’s Hell Awaits need this album…. and that’s despite cover art which looks like it was painted by a partially-sighted 4 year old!
Rigor Mortis – Rigor Mortis (1988)
Rigor Mortis‘ self titled debut opened with a furious instrumental that pretty much set the scene for the entire record. Violently relentless, Rigor Mortis‘ raw production, animalistic tendencies and jugular-slashing riffs lent a kinship to Death‘s Scream Bloody Gore, Possessed‘s Beyond The Gates and Kreator’s absolute classic Pleasure To Kill.
Hard-as-nails thrash may have been the order of the day but these mad-as-fuck Texans were leading the charge into ever faster, darker and meaner territories. In fact, the formative years of death metal can be heard in guitar god Mike Scaccia’s (RIP) lightning-speed tremolo picking and the abrasive rasping vocals of Bruce Corbitt.
The whole record is nigh on flawless but if an introduction to these speed-freaks is required then listen to “Demons“….you’ll soil yourself!
Some may argue Rigor Mortis epitomised 80’s thrash metal….some people are right!
Sieges Even – Lifecycle (1988)
Where to begin when discussing one of the finest moments in progressive thrash history?
Sieges Even may have gone on to become a more considered, melodic progressive metal act but their debut was a beast of technical/progressive thrash, powered by the almost falsetto delivery of Franz Herde.
Comparisons with Watchtower remain rife but to dismiss Lifecycle as a mere clone of Control And Resistance would be missing the point. This was an era of exploration and of pushing boundaries, which is exactly what Sieges Even were doing from the outset.
Sure, both bands were influenced by the prog giants of the 70’s – alongside the thrash boom led by Metallica – but Sieges Even took everything that much further, splicing the DNA of prog and thrash to create a new, extreme, version of both. The results were extraordinary, dazzling the mind with a series of labyrinthine structures that were brooding, malevolent and practically beyond judgment!
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 Artillery’s By Inheritance and Annihilator’s Alice In Hell, Vendetta’s technical 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!
Wargasm – Why Play Around? (1988)
Fusing the sonic onslaught of all-out thrash with the melodic nous of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal and the classic sounds of old-school Heavy Metal, Wargasm’s Why Play Around? is ignored by the majority but beloved by connoisseurs.
“Bullets & Blades” took the speed and aggression of Motorhead and Tank and thrashed the sh*t out of it while “Revenge” harnessed a mid-paced crunch to drive home some truly catchy riffing and it’s “knee deep in blood” refrain.
So much potential, so much talent. Why Play Around? may have failed to stand out in a crowded scene of quality releases in 1988 (Metallica’s …And Justice For All, Anthrax’s State Of Euphoria, Exodus’ Fabulous Disaster, Flotsam’s No Place For Disgrace, Testament’s The New Order…) but that’s no reason for ignoring it now!
Deathrow – Deception Ignored (1989)
Where this came from is anyone’s guess!
After the relatively no-thrills thrash found on Deathrow’s Riders Of Doom aka Satan’s Gift and Raging Steel, there was virtually no indication that Deathrow would break boundaries with their 3rd full length release!
Complex and rhythmically confounding – but never at the cost of a satisfying sense of structure – the likes of “Narcotic” were insane blasts of technical wizardry and should have marked Deathrow out as pioneers of progressive metal this early in the game.
Instead, obscurity beckoned with Deception Ignored initially receiving a lukewarm response from a legion of confused fans. Fortunately, this outstanding album has gone on to be revered as a work of almost labyrinthian art, misunderstood by many but now beloved by those in the know.
A technical masterpiece from a band way ahead of the curve….this is one album that truly has to be heard to be believed!
Forced Entry – Uncertain Future (1989)
Forced Entry‘s debut album arrived in 1989 and their full throttle thrash – belying the fact they were a three piece – ironically should have predicted a certain future, one that would have seen them rise to the upper echelons of the thrash hierarchy!
Opening track “Bludgeon” did exactly that, hammering home Forced Entry’s way around a steamroller riff and a penchant for turning on a sixpence. Undeniably progressive in nature, this trio could out-muscle Testament (and Tony Benjamin’s vocals were straight from the Chuck Billy rulebook!) while throwing in as many tempo changes as humanly possible.
The results were generally fantastic, with the likes of the hideously violent “Anaconda” and the twisting and turning “Kaleidoscope Of Pain” providing enough technically complex thrills to endear them to both the Exodus/Vio-Lence/Dark Angel and the Coroner/Voivod/Watchtower crowd.
A towering achievement from a band who deserved way more than their ‘also ran’ status.
Paradox – Heresy (1989)
Now here’s a band with more talent in one finger than most band’s hold in their entire body parts combined and Heresy was the album to bring Paradox to the attention of thrashers on a global scale!
A fully paid up concept album, Heresy re-told the tale of the Albigensian Crusade of the 13th century and in the process redefined the limits of thrash, ironically marching forth on their own crusade to combine elegance with destruction.
Approaching thrash with far less malice than the likes of Sodom, Kreator etc, Paradox instead embraced a power metal aesthetic, aligning themselves more with the likes of Metal Church, Anthrax (minus any silliness) and Onslaught circa In Search Of Sanity than with their Germanic brethren. It paid off too, helping Paradox to stand out from the pack and offering an accessibility that their teutonic peers simply didn’t offer at this point in time.
Featuring soaring twin harmonies, mind-frazzling solos and a rhythm section that could rival the tightest thrash acts around, Paradox were anything but their namesake, delivering instead a concise and melodic attack on the senses that was unrelenting in its clinical efficiency.
It’s heresy not to own this album as this piece of thrash history is absolutely goddamn essential!
Powermad – Absolute Power (1989)
With a sound that marries well with that of Metal Church, Flotsam & Jetsam and Forbidden – particularly in Joel Dubay’s powerful vocals – Powermad’s full length debut is a strangely alluring hybrid of thrash, speed metal, power metal and core traditional metal values that sucks you in with humungous hooks, unforgettable melodies and a clear, concise sound that’s impressively executed.
“Slaughterhouse” may be a title that conjures images of a typical horror-show bloodbath but – just like the majority of Absolute Power – there’s a refreshing ‘light’ touch and upbeat, bouncy feel to this storming opener that defied the standard unbridled aggression of the day.
That’s not to say that these guys didn’t know how to thrash!
The high tempo and satisfyingly crunchy staccato palm-muted riff-fest of “Test The Steel (Powermad)” stands as testament to their thrash credentials. Ample moments of speed metal frenzy are ably balanced throughout with the kind of controlled yet expansive dynamism that Queensrÿche excelled at in the late 80’s.
An unsung classic, Absolute Power may not be the most aggressive, in-your-face 80’s thrash release but it’s one of the most consistent.
Viking – Man Of Straw (1989)
A classic slice of technical thrash, Viking‘s Man Of Straw had all the necessary ingredients to propel them into the upper echelons of thrash’s hierarchy but would prove to be their last album before regrouping with Dark Angel’s Mike Gonzalez and Gene Hoglan and Vindicator’s Justin Zych to record 2015’s excellent No Child Left Behind.
A massive improvement on their Do Or Die debut, the incendiary guitar work of Brett Eriksen (Dark Angel) and the improved songwriting and performances across the board marked out Viking as a thrash metal band to be reckoned with.
From the barely in control thrash attack of “They Raped The Land” to the riff-fests of “White Death” and “Man Of Straw”, and the truly epic Sodom-esque “Winter”, Viking rarely faltered on an unsung classic custom built for fans of Vio-lence and Dark Angel.
It speaks volumes that Brett Eriksen went on to ply his trade with Dark Angel – and contribute massively to their classic album Time Does Not Heal – as Man Of Straw is the perfect precursor to the exhausting number of riffs and vocal patterns found on Dark Angel’s seminal 4th album.
It’s all here; the tried and tested thrash crunch, unpredictable tempo changes and enough skull-crushing riffs to fill 3 albums! They really should have been bigger.
Virus – Lunacy (1989)
Forming in 1986, Virus would go on to release an album a year over the next 3 years culminating in 1989’s Lunacy, their greatest achievement and an album that deserved far wider acclaim.
If you’re a fan of frenzied riffs, killer gang-vocals and hooks that’ll snag you square in the chops, then Virus are your band and Lunacy could become your new favourite album. Capable of matching any of the 2nd tier American thrash bands, their bass-heavy, gritty and hyper-fast thrash should have reached a wider audience; a case of British thrash being overlooked in favour of the American contingent.
Virus were a band with a fearsome live reputation and had the clout to make some serious noise within the thrash metal scene. They called it a day in 1990 but since their reformation in 2008, Virus have gone from strength to strength and a new album is imminent!
As infectious as ever, Virus are very much active and fans of Vio-lence and Defiance will find much to love!
Of course, this shit is subjective….so pop your suggestions (if they differ from ours) in the comments below!