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 the under-appreciated albums in German thrash history had their day.
With that in mind, Worship Metal has selected 25 of the most under-appreciated albums in German thrash that deserve to be as highly regarded as their more ‘mainstream’ peers.
Accuser – Who Dominates Who (1989)
Approaching their brand of thrash metal with an eye for experimentation and a flurry of time-changes, Accuser‘s Who Dominates Who may have arrived at the tail end of the 80’s but it still had something new to say.
Each track on Who Dominates Who slams hard with colossal choruses, hardcore shouts and a grinding sound that relentlessly pummels its way into your brain. It’s pretty safe to say that Metallica’s stop-start chug and elaborate song-structures were Accuser’s main inspiration and that’s no surprise considering the year it was recorded.
On an album spilling over with epic thrash tracks it’s “Symbol Of Hate” and the title-track that pack the biggest one-two punch; each song meandering through endlessly inventive machine-gun riffs and full-force battery.
Accuser may never have been spoken off in the same breath as the genre’s greats but Who Dominates Who is the one album in their back catalogue that rises high above the status of also-rans.
Incidentally, Accuser’s new album The Mastery is out now!
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.
Holy Moses – Queen Of Siam (1986)
Female thrash singers in ’86 were firmly making their mark on the scene and Holy Moses’ Sabine Classen was no exception. At this stage, Holy Moses were no great shakes in the songwriting department but what they lacked in dynamics was made up for with blunt force riffing and those throat-shredding vocals!
The rapid fire Venom-isms of “Walpurgisnight” and opener “Necropolis” indicate the influence the more ill-refined members of the NWOBHM had on these Germans and coupled with the unholy racket conjured by Sodom etc at the time, these ‘black’ metallers (Holy Moses’ words not ours!) were already catching up with the Teutonic three of Sodom, Kreator & Destruction.
While Queen Of Siam could never be described as the definitive Holy Moses release (that honour surely goes to 87’s rabid Finished With The Dogs), there’s a primitive charm on display here that rewards the listener to this day.
Finally, this may be a throwaway comment, but could Queen Of Siam be described as one of the earliest death metal releases? Sabine Classen’s vocals would certainly suggest so!
Darkness – Death Squad (1987)
Severely lacking in anything approaching originality, you’d be forgiven for letting Darkness pass you by, their by-the-numbers thrash attack adhering a little too faithfully to the pioneering sounds already solidified by Sodom, Destruction and Kreator a few years earlier.
However, give Darkness a chance to shine (ironically) and you’ll experience a debut album that actually hits pretty damn hard with sustained and tightly controlled rage. Opening ‘oh so gently’ with the delicately strummed “Invasion Sector 12”, it’s the building intensity of a distant air siren and the unnerving sounds of bombs decimating the landscape that truly warns of things to come….with all-out-war eventually declared by these leather-clad thrashers!
A bevy of speed-obsessed ragers then follow, careening forth just on the right side of chaos with the likes of “Critical Threshold” and “Staatsfeind” providing the requisite blistering riffs and compulsory head-banging moments.
Sharing more commonality with underground acts such as Necronomicon and Assassin, these boys from Essen may have been a mere footnote back in the 80’s but they reformed in 2013, going on to release the damn fine come-back album The Gasoline Solution in 2016.
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!
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!
Pyracanda – Two Sides Of A Coin (1990)
Pyracanda‘s debut full length remains somewhat of an oddity but it’s an album that deserves accolades, not just for its melodic sensibilities – which ably recalled the majesty of Mike Howe-era Metal Church and fellow countrymen and label mates Grinder – but for its technical aptitude and supreme songwriting skill.
Unfavourably discarded in favour of the big guns of teutonic thrash, Pyracanda’s Two Sides Of A Coin actually holds up just as well as the early 90’s output of Kreator, Sodom et all. In fact, with their occasional speed metal tendencies, huge vocals and galloping riffs, Two Sides Of A Coin arguably delivers a timeless sound; easily fitting in with the current trend for trad metal/speed metal making Pyracanda more relevant than ever.
These melodic thrashers were absolute class, pure and simple!
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!
Angel Dust – Into The Dark Past (1986)
Before they fully embraced power metal, Germany’s Angel Dust had a pop at speed/thrash and as debuts go, Into The Dark Past was a fast, frantic, thrill ride! Resolutely obsessed with speed over finesse, these 8 ripping tracks were less Sodom and Kreator and more Iron Angel; a thrilling hybrid of speed and thrash that was equal parts melody and barbarity.
Romme Keymer’s vocals may have received a bit of stick over the years but they fit the music perfectly. Ugly, forceful, yet furnished with glimpses of power metal harmony, Keymer was actually an unorthodox yet perfect match-up.
Fans of Agent Steel, Grave Digger and Helloween should already be aware of Angel Dust’s early output. Those who missed out the first time round should applaud the relatively recent re-release of Into The Dark Past via No Remorse Records, grab a copy while you can and journey into Angel Dust’s actually bright past!
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!
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!
Mekong Delta – Dances Of Death (And Other Walking Shadows) (1990)
Let’s be fair, we could have included any one of Mekong Delta’s 80’s and 90’s albums (take your pick from Mekong Delta / The Music Of Erich Zann / The Principal Of Doubt / Kaleidoscope / Visons Fugitives) as each and every one can be considered a milestone of progressive thrash metal.
We’ve gone for Dances Of Death….Mekong Delta’s highly technical, yet undeniably aggressive, fourth album that often bordered on undecipherable madness, with labyrinthine song structures and abstract riff-patterns jostling for attention amidst a sturdy thrash framework.
With “Dances Of Death” broken down into 8 movements over 19 thrilling minutes, Mekong Delta’s prog intentions couldn’t have been made clearer and while it may not be an easy album to dive into, if you’re going to get the most out of this rewarding beast, then you’d better face the fucker head-on!
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!
Iron Angel – Hellish Crossfire (1985)
You’ve got to give these guys credit. Iron Angel were ripping heads clean off way back in 1985 and their distinct brand of Germanic speed/thrash may sound a tad meat n’ potatoes to modern ears but Hellish Crossfire was the shit over 30 years ago; diabolically evil, face-meltingly fast and leading metal into ever more dangerous realms!
Opener, “The Metalian”, kickstarts the tempo and Iron Angel never once drop the pace from then on in, unleashing merry hell in the name of real metal and peeling off riffs like the end of the world was truly nigh. Totally in thrall to Satan, these sinners concocted an absolute blast of mid 80’s thrash that remains ridiculously addictive and holds its position as a speed/thrash classic from the genre’s formative years.
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.
Protector – A Shedding Of Skin (1991)
Protector’s 3rd album, A Shedding Of Skin, experimented wildly with daringly diversified dynamics and pacing while still remaining resolutely committed to stripping skin from bone!
Barring a few moments of slower-paced bruising on tracks such as “Death Comes Soon” and “Thy Will Be Done” this blasts harder than ten-tonnes of dynamite down a mine-shaft and should be revered as a progressive death/thrash masterclass from one of the most consistently reliable bands in German thrash history.
If Testament’s dalliances with death metal on the underrated Demonic caused you to suffer from involuntary liquid explosions then A Shedding Of Skin will require you to be hospitalised with dehydration; death/thrash has arguably never been executed better!
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!
Exumer – Possessed By Fire (1986)
Exumer’s Possessed By Fire is a perfectly executed exercise in bestial devastation and should have elevated these Germans to superstar status.
Completely unpredictable, Exumer’s sound is defiantly thrash but not as intimidatingly raw as the albums produced at the time by their peers Destruction, Sodom and Kreator. In fact, at this stage in their career Exumer were the more accomplished musicians; each track running the gamut of time changes and mood-swings and exhibiting an addiction to attention deficit that still makes Possessed By Fire nigh on impossible to resist.
A legendary cult item, Exumer’s debut is one outrageously ornate thrash album that will continue to attract new fans, its schizoid attitude and countless charms are just too damn addictable to ignore!
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.
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!
Witchburner – Witchburner (1996)
Who launches a thrash career in the mid 1990’s? Witchburner that’s who!
Ignoring the fact that thrash was as dead as dead gets, these German miscreants took the Teutonic influence of Kreator, Destruction, Darkness and Necronomicon and unleashed some of the most brutally evil thrash noise heard in years.
The fact that no one paid a blind bit of attention was moot. Thrash was still alive screamed Witchburner and be it primitive, lo-fi and completely devoid of panache and variation, it’s worth acknowledging that Witchburner’s debut at least attempted to go against the tide of public opinion and keep thrash alive.
Check out the mid-tempo harassment of “Hammer Of Destruction” for evidence of Witchburner’s defiantly simple homage to the genre’s greats; it may be barbarically uncomplicated but in 1996 this kind of thrash was a putrid breath of much-needed fresh air!
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.
Living Death – Protected From Reality (1987)
Savage as all hell, Living Death‘s 3rd full length album was a speed/thrash onslaught that took thrash into ever more extreme spheres of madness, careening forth in a blitzkrieg of unhinged riffs and Thorsten Bergmann’s often unnerving banshee screams.
Perhaps an acquired taste, Living Death seemed to forfeit thrash metal’s accessible aspects for a more unholy approach but they did still find room for some serious showboating! Check out the masterful instrumental “Wood of Necrophiliac”, which finds time to incorporate obligatory 80’s acoustic guitar spliced with some serious chugging riffs, monk-like vocal chanting and an atmosphere which catapults the listener into the creepiest realms imaginable.
Raw, aggressive and unpredictable, this underrated thrash act were arguably never better than on Protected From Reality.
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!
Deathrow – Deception Ignored (1989)
We’ll end on a high and 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 and the most impressive German thrash album in existence!
That’s just 25 of the most under-appreciated albums in German thrash history…..if we left out your favourite unsung classic from our German cousins, pop it in the comments below!
Also, if you feel yourself clamouring for Kreator, Destruction, Sodom and Tankard, check out our German Thrash: The 10 Greatest Old-School Albums feature!