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25 Cult American Thrash Albums That Should Have Sold Millions (But Didn’t)

Sacred Reich – Ignorance [1987]

Sacred Reich – Ignorance (1987, CD) - Discogs

At this stage in their career Sacred Reich were a little more mean-spirited than in their later years and Ignorance was their politically-charged debut that attempted to educate whilst offering breakneck speed and thrashing anthems aplenty!

“Death Squad” remains one of the most impressive opening tracks in thrash metal history – a full on burst of rapid-fire riffing and ultra aggressive rhetoric – and the likes of “Victim of Demise” and the title track maintained the ferocity.

Worryingly prescient, the intelligent lyrics found on Ignorance foretold a world built on lies, false news, corruption and greed (sound familiar?) and was beyond angry…..it was fuckin’ burning with rage!

A highly prized masterpiece of thrash from a band who never quite received their dues.


Testament – The Legacy (1987)

Testament - The Legacy | Releases, Reviews, Credits | Discogs

Testament‘s debut, The Legacy, announced their arrival in an already crowded scene with an immediate attention-grabbing potency.

It was already clear that Testament had the necessary skill to challenge the big boys of thrash with an eerie, ominous atmosphere thankfully making amends for a thin, tinny production. Most noticeably, the band had musicians in their ranks who could really play and a vocalist who could scream, wail, growl and (whisper it) actually sing!

The guitar pairing of Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick was also inspired, Petersen’s solid, chugging rhythm work perfectly complimenting Skolnick’s jazz influenced shredding skills.

Official challengers to The Big 4 had arrived!


Suicidal Tendencies – How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can’t Even Smile Today (1988)

How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can't Even Smile Today [Explicit] by Suicidal  Tendencies on Amazon Music - Amazon.com

These American crossover thrash icons hit the big time with their 3rd album, How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can’t Even Smile Today, an album whichembraced metal without fully ditching Suicidal Tendencies‘ hardcore roots.

Mike Muir’s reflective social commentary was as barbed as ever, raging against the world while remaining blackly humorous, but it was the combination of Rocky George’s shredding solo’s and Mike Clark’s mighty metallic riffs which transformed Suicidal Tendencies‘ How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can’t Even Smile Today into an all-time classic.

“Pledge Your Allegiance” may very well be the ultimate metal brotherhood anthem while ‘hit single’ “Trip To The Brain” and the likes of “If I Don’t Wake Up”, “The Miracle” and the title track remain crossover mainstays.

The result? A-grade crossover thrash from one of the scene’s most charismatic bands!


Vio-Lence – Eternal Nightmare (1988)

Vio-Lence – Eternal Nightmare (1988, Vinyl) - Discogs

Quite simply one of the most fearless, ferocious and downright feral thrash albums ever recorded, Vio-Lence‘s debut, Eternal Nightmare, is the thrash connoisseur’s album of choice and ranks as high in both the aggression and sheer insanity stakes as Slayer’s Reign In BloodExodus Bonded By Blood and Dark Angel’s Darkness Descends!

Originally home to Machine Head men Robb Flynn and Phil Demmel (but you knew that already), just 7 tracks of thrash perfection was all it took to announce that a new breed of thrash maniacs were in town – that ‘town’ being, of course, San Francisco’s Bay Area – and with the likes of “Kill On Command”, “Bodies On Bodies” and “Calling In The Coroner” in their arsenal, Vio-Lence were on a collision course with underground notoriety and unending acclaim.

Sean Killian’s vocals remain an acquired taste but those ‘in the know’ understand that without him, Vio-Lence were nowhere near as unique nor as thrilling a prospect.

As great thrash debuts go, Eternal Nightmare still takes some beating.


Incubus (aka Opprobrium) – Serpent Temptation (1988)

Incubus - Serpent Temptation | Releases | Discogs

Not those digerideroo-blowing nu metal wombats, this is the real Incubus; a towering death/thrash colossus who annihilated their 80’s competition with debut album, Serpent Temptation!

Incubus/Opprobrium were extreme (in every sense of the word) and they were absurdly talented, tempering their ferocity with intricate riffing and a superb sense of dynamics. It has to be said, this shit was astonishingly heavy back in ’88; a savage re-appropriation of thrash metal’s fundamental’s strapped to death metal’s still to be completed blueprint. The results were almost beyond comprehension, with Incubus paving the way for countless acts who took thrash/death into ever heavier realms as the 90’sdawned and death metal took hold.

A hyper-speed, proto-death metal classic, Serpent Temptation deserves to be considered an equal of Dark Angel’s Darkness Descends, Slayer’s Reign In Blood and Kreator’s Pleasure To Kill and should have been heard by everyone!

About Chris Jennings (1826 Articles)
I love metal. Always have. Always will. As editor of Worship Metal - a site dedicated to being as positive about metal and its myriad of sub-genres as possible - my aim is to 'worship' metal through honest reviews, current news and a wide variety of features; offering the same exposure to underground bands as we do to mainstream/well known acts. Our mantra; the bands are partners and we exist to serve the bands \m/

12 Comments on 25 Cult American Thrash Albums That Should Have Sold Millions (But Didn’t)

  1. Wait…no Darkness Descends by Dark Angel? SACRILEGE!! That one kills every entry on this list. Thrash after 1984 was getting kinda lame if Im being honest (most of the big four were no longer even playing straight thrash by ’86) but Darkness Descends is a total BANGER.

  2. Big thanks for this article! I’ve heard so much unknown cool stuff!

  3. KnightOvHell // January 3, 2022 at 4:40 pm // Reply

    You forgot Artillery-By Inheritance. I put it on level with Heathen-Victims of Deception, some days I put it even higher.

    • Chris Jennings // January 3, 2022 at 4:55 pm // Reply

      Great band and a great album but they’re Danish….therefore not included in this list of American releases only.

  4. Great list, but I miss Sanctuary 🙁

  5. Where is Lääz Rock it?!…

  6. Ariel patches // December 4, 2022 at 10:31 pm // Reply

    You forgot oppressing the masses by violence and death angels act 3 and art of dying.i’m a big fan of thrash metal

    • Chris Jennings // December 5, 2022 at 3:46 pm // Reply

      Could go on forever with these things, stopped at 25…there are of course plenty more fantastic American thrash albums out there. Death Angel’s Act III is already in there incidentally.

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