Sure, The Big 4 released some of the greatest thrash metal albums ever recorded but what of those American thrash albums that fell largely by the wayside, those albums looked over in favour of Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax?
With that in mind, Worship Metal has selected 35 American thrash albums that deserved far more attention and should have been as successful (and sold as many copies!) as the likes of Slayer‘s Reign In Blood, Metallica‘s Master Of Puppets, Megadeth‘s Rust In Peace and Anthrax‘s Among The Living.….
Exodus – Bonded By Blood (1985)
One of thrash’s most legendary albums comes from a band who hovered on the periphery of The Big 4 without ever making that leap into the big league. It’s fairly common knowledge that Bonded By Blood was actually recorded in 1984, but was held back for a ridiculous 9 months due to record label wrangling and that lost time proved to be more than just significant.
Instead of spearheading the scene they helped to create, Exodus found themselves endlessly playing catch up and they simply ran out of puff; forever chasing the pack and never actually gaining ground. But, Exodus were at the forefront of thrash, capable of out-riffing their Bay Area peers and, pound for pound, they were the heaviest, most dangerous, most unpredictable and most ferociously adept outfit on the block.
“Bonded By Blood”, “A Lesson In Violence”, “And Then There Were None”, “Piranha”, and “Strike Of The Beast” are all thrash gold, tarnished by bad timing but true treasures in thrash’s trove. While many bands would try to tap into the virulent violence that positively oozes from each track, none could match the intensity conjured by Paul Baloff, Gary Holt, Tom Hunting, Rick Hunolt and Rob McKillop.
Possessed – Seven Churches (1985)
On their debut album, Possessed took a cut and paste approach to their music by incorporating the viciousness of Venom, the speed of Motörhead and the thrashing, atonal guitars of early Exodus and Slayer.
The result was an innovative and primitive thrash metal sound which came to define death metal. “The Exorcist”, “Burning In Hell” and “Seven Churches” were held together by Jeff Becerra’s unholy roar, simultaneously aping Lemmy from Motörhead yet producing a guttural tone that would go on to be the bread and butter of death metal as the late 80’s bled into the early 90’s.
Possessed take the honour of inventing death metal on their debut album. This is constantly up for debate but we’re standing by it; no Seven Churches, no death metal.
Dark Angel – Darkness Descends (1986)
Unbridled ferocity, technical supremacy and relentless aural battery….is there a more succinct description of what is arguably the greatest thrash metal album of all time?
Featuring the likes of the rampaging “Merciless Death”, the incendiary “The Burning Of Sodom” and the progressively minded “Black Prophecies“, the first indication of the 100+ riffs per song and epic song length mentality the band would explore on later releases was writ large on Dark Angel‘s terrifyingly tenacious, genre-defining, sophomore effort.
The eerie yet elegant bass intro to the aforementioned “Merciless Death” aside, moments of respite were few and far between on Darkness Descends, as Dark Angel focused on thrashing harder, faster and with more gritted teeth malevolence than any other band on the planet…..and that includes the mighty Slayer!
This immortal entry in the history of thrash metal has lost absolutely none of its power and should have been HUGE!
Flotsam And Jetsam – Doomsday For The Deceiver (1986)
One of the greatest thrash debuts known to man, Flotsam and Jetsam’s Doomsday For The Deceiver led the world to believe that a new thrash superpower had arrived (not quite, unfortunately) with a collection of tunes both overwhelmingly powerful and expertly performed.
Taking the very best bits of speed metal, power metal and thrash metal and perfecting them amongst a flurry of cranking bass, warp-speed riffs and Erik A.K’s formidable pipes, the likes of the feral “Hammerhead”, the intense “Iron Tears” and the epic ability of the exquisite title track mark out Doomsday For The Deceiver as an undisputed all-time thrash classic.
Many will recall the rarely used 6K mark awarded by Kerrang back in ’86 but even that rating does this legendary release a disservice…this one truly does go up to 11!
Honourable mention: Flotsam & Jetsam’s follow-up, No Place For Disgrace, is another stone-cold classic from a band who, over 35 years later, are still delivering the goods!
Metal Church – The Dark (1986)
Combining traditional metal with thrash, Metal Church had a powerhouse frontman in the shape of David Wayne and riffs most bands would skin their own mothers for. Their self titled debut is an undisputed classic and follow-up, The Dark, also hit the same heady heights!
Featuring all-time ‘Church’ classics “Ton Of Bricks”, “Start The Fire”, the intimidating power ballad – and minor hit – that was “Watch The Children Pray” and the creepy title track, The Dark may have been one of the more melodic thrash releases of ’86 but it was also one of the finest and the most accomplished.
Side 2 may have failed to maintain the velocity of the ‘5 for 5’ hit rate of side 1 but there’s no escaping the fact that both Metal Church‘s The Dark was a monumental influence on the burgeoning thrash scene.
Honourable mention: You really can’t go wrong with Metal Church’s self-titled debut album.