25 Cult American Thrash Albums That Should Have Sold Millions (But Didn’t)
Overkill – The Years Of Decay (1989)
Overkill‘s last album of the decade – and the last Overkill album to feature guitarist Bobby Gustafson (he would be missed) – has gone down in thrash history as one of their finest and with the likes of “Time to Kill’, “Elimination” and “Birth Of Tension” in its arsenal, it’s not hard to see why!
With technical prowess and raw energy colliding head-long, Overkill were arguably at their peak on The Years Of Decay, with the “”the Motörhead of thrash metal” fully realising their punk meets speed metal sound via 9 exceptional tracks that oozed supreme confidence and stunning variety.
Unique and compelling, this was East Coast thrash at its best…..delivered by a band whose unbelievable longevity can be attributed to releasing classics such as this!
Death Angel – Act III (1990)
Act III was a departure from the raucous thrash of 1987’s The Ultra-Violence and the experimental nature of 1988’s Frolic Through The Park with Death Angel maturing at a rate of knots and delivering one of the finest melodic thrash albums ever recorded.
The acoustic nature of “Veil of Deception” and ultra-thrash-ballad “A Room With a View” offered diversity but the likes of “Stop”, Disturbing The Peace” and “Ex-Tc” proved that Death Angel could still thrash with the best of ’em. This was the kind of album that really should have rivalled the commerciality of Metallica’s The Black Album and Megadeth’s Countdown To Extinction and sent Death Angel stratospheric……but it wasn’t to be.
In 1991 – while on tour in support of Act III – the band suffered a serious bus crash in which drummer Andy Galeon was critically injured. Understandably, the band did not bounce back. Well, not until 14 years later when they released The Art Of Dying – one of the finest comeback albums in thrash history!
Exhorder – Slaughter In The Vatican (1990)
Exhorder were not only a huge inspiration on the world-conquering Pantera (we won’t go into it, most of you will already be more than familiar with their ‘similarities’, if not….look it up) they also delivered two exceptional albums – 1992’s The Law is also a stone-cold, mid-tempo groove monster – while Slaughter In The Vatican‘s furious thrash and groove metal establishing credentials rank it as an absolute thrash classic….even if it is perennially under-appreciated.
Stripped down to the raw basics, Slaughter In The Vatican‘s 8 tracks never once come up for air. The low-end rumble, buzzsaw riffing and Kyle Thomas’ ravaged vocals culminating in a primal thrash experience that comes perilously close to utter perfection. One of the most unique thrash albums in existence, Slaughter should be revered as a landmark in metal; at the very least it should be spoken about with the same reverential tones reserved for Pantera’s Vulgar Display Of Power (an ironic yet unfortunately necessary comparison).
It’s aggressive, unpredictable and utterly remorseless and it still makes the majority of thrash bands sound utterly lost at sea. Only on closing track “Slaughter In The Vatican” do Exhorder dial back on the drubbing. Alternating between fast and slow tempos (the true ‘groove element of their sound’) a sense of dynamics emerges that the likes of “Homicide” and “Anal Lust” (what a title!) practically avoid like the plague.
For a debut album, Exhorder excelled themselves and as far as influential goes, look no further.
Forbidden – Twisted Into Form (1990)
This 1990 follow-up to Forbidden’s iconic debut found these San Franciscans evolving into a true technical tyrannosaur of earth-shaking proportions!
Boasting stronger songwriting and tighter performances, Forbidden upped both the technicality and the melody with Twisted Into Form and created a second-wave thrash classic in the process. With ‘catchy’ choruses cosying up next to the deftly handled guitar work of ‘new boy’ Tim Calvert and band stalwart Craig Locicero, Forbidden’s true power lay in Russ Anderson’s soaring vocals (the lungs on the lad!) and a foreboding atmosphere which informs each and every majestical track.
An album which can still be considered a benchmark of speed, melody and technicality, Twisted Into Form sounds as fresh and exciting today as it did over 30 years ago!
Dark Angel – Time Does Not Heal (1991)
It’s fairly common knowledge that the sheer amount of riffs on this thing is mind-blowing (“9 songs, 67 minutes, 246 riffs!”, to be precise) and Dark Angel‘s Time Does Not Heal has, rightfully, gone down in thrash history as one of the most enduring feats of bravura musicianship ever committed to tape!
Ambitious to the point of lunacy, the sheer number of ideas on this early 90’s classic could have filled 3 further albums but, instead, Dark Angel decided to release a definitive statement; one that’s somehow rendered clean of fat, despite the excessive complexity on display.
Lyrically profound – and tackling a wide range of hard-hitting sociological subjects – there’s argument that Time Does Not Heal is also the most intelligent thrash album ever recorded….and who are we to argue with that particular summation?!
Mind. Still. Blown.
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.
Are you mental? It’s the second entry!
Big thanks for this article! I’ve heard so much unknown cool stuff!
You forgot Artillery-By Inheritance. I put it on level with Heathen-Victims of Deception, some days I put it even higher.
Great band and a great album but they’re Danish….therefore not included in this list of American releases only.
Great list, but I miss Sanctuary 🙁
Fair point – they also deserve a mention \m/
Where is Lääz Rock it?!…
They popped to the shops….sure they’ll be back in a minute.
You forgot oppressing the masses by violence and death angels act 3 and art of dying.i’m a big fan of thrash metal
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.