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 just 15 of those 80’s thrash albums that may have snuck under the radar without receiving the respect, acknowledgment, or attention 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.
Target – Mission Executed (1987)
Utterly obscure yet teeming with raw talent, Target‘s debut album, Mission Executed, was a technical blast of feral thrash that, in 1987, was way ahead of the pack in terms of ideas and execution.
Drawing on the likes of Artillery, Mekong Delta and Living Death for inspiration, a welcome dose of intensity backed Target’s technical verve as these Belgians went about destroying ear-drums over 8 tracks of nerve-shredding THRASH!
Although Mission Executed lacked anything approaching filler, it was actually the opening one-two of “Mission To The Andes” and “Hordes Of Insanity” that hit the hardest; a double-whammy of fiendish grooves and whip-crack time changes that marked Target out as potential world-beaters.
Make no mistake, Mission Executed was technical Euro-thrash at its absolute finest….and to deliver an album of this quality and remain so unrecognised is a crime that deserves to be tried in The Hague!
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.
Blind Illusion – The Sane Asylum (1988)
Blind Illusion‘s debut is a cult item of considerable aplomb, growing in stature as the years roll by and claiming its place as one of thrash metal’s unsung gems!
Featuring guitarist Larry LaLonde (Possessed) and bassist Les Claypool (before they went on to form Primus) and produced by Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, The Sane Asylum is one of those unique recordings which practically defies categorisation, such is its idiosyncratic nature and distinct lack of conformity.
An alchemic brew of jazz-influenced, progressive time changes and abstract song structures, The Sane Asylum was conveniently wrapped up in a technical thrash bow, a description which doesn’t even come close to describing the sheer madness at work here.
Quite unlike anything recorded before or since!
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 immediately became 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.
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!
Num Skull – Ritually Abused (1988)
Ritually Abused may have been ritually ignored on release but there’s no denying its thrash pedigree and albums this savage rarely reared their snarling, slathering head in the late 80’s.
Redefining what it meant to be truly brutal, Num Skull‘s debut may have been neanderthal in essence but fans of Kreator’s early noise – and those fond of the ferocity of Reign in Blood era Slayer and Exodus circa Bonded By Blood – would undoubtedly offer themselves up to the kind of abuse Num Skull were dishing out.
Speed, aggression and unbelievably unhinged vocals characterised album highlights “The Henchman”, the Exodus-esque “No Morals” and the utterly merciless title track….true American hate performed by absolute maniacs!
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!
EvilDead – Annihilation Of Civilisation (1989)
Perhaps not quite as obscure as some of the albums on this list, EvilDead‘s bloody brilliant Annihilation Of Civilisation is still unjustly ignored in favour of high profile releases of the era.
The truth is, these L.A. thrashers were just as capable as Anthrax and Slayer etc at penning some seriously shred-heavy crossover thrash and Annihilation Of Civilisation is a second-tier, stone-cold classic!
“Annihilation Of Civilisation”, “Future Shock” and “Living Good” indicate the high level of thrashin’ prowess this band held in abundance and serve as accomplished aural evidence that for a short while EvilDead stood toe to toe with the greats of thrash Metal’s second wave; Sacred Reich, Forbidden and Vio-Lence.
Although in 1989 Annihilation Of Civilisation practically broke EvilDead into the thrash mainstream, its obvious qualities seem to have been largely forgotten in the preceding years. EvilDead’s direct approach to the fundamentals of thrash and consistently varied, and consistently catchy, song structures conspired to create a high calibre thrash album that still sounds formidable today.
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.
Onslaught – In Search Of Sanity (1989)
Onslaught‘s In Search Of Sanity may be a UK thrash anomaly – in that it’s unrecognisable in comparison to the material that preceded it – but despite the fact that the satanic slayer-isms of 1986’s brutal The Force had been jettisoned entirely, In Search Of Sanity still stands proud as a cult item well deserving of high praise for its performances and ambition!
While In Search Of Sanity was more Metal Church than Slayer – and cleaner than a nun’s saintly undercarriage in the process – its go-for-broke mentality should have been applauded; thrash was huge in ’89 and Onslaught shouldn’t apologise for wanting their own large slice of the thrash pie.
The introduction of Grim Reaper’s Steve Grimmett on vocals may have upset the purists (and lets be honest here, Onslaught aren’t really Onslaught without Sy Keeler behind the mic) but the man lent a polished sheen to proceedings which few UK thrash bands could match!
Quite possibly the finest commercial thrash album ever produced by a UK band, Onslaught were aiming for worldwide recognition when they released this melodic thrash masterclass at the tail end of the 80’s and it should have led to greater things.
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.