U.S thrash generally takes the majority of the plaudits when it comes to singling out the genres finest moments (Reign In Blood, Master Of Puppets, Bonded By Blood, The Legacy etc) so we’ve decided to turn the spotlight on those albums that snuck in under the radar without receiving the respect, or acknowledgment, they blatantly deserved at time of release.
This is for the true thrashers! No posers allowed!
6. 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.
5. 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 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.
4. Believer – Sanity Obscure (1990)
Bordering on death/thrash, Believer‘s second album was a real heavy-hitter. Technical but still infused with riffs that crushed as well as confused, Sanity Obscure may well be one of thrash metal’s most ‘obscure’ albums but it’s also a minor classic and should appeal to any fans of the wildly experimental and progressive stylings of Death, Voivod, Atheist and Coroner.
The all encompassing chaos on display throughout Sanity Obscure‘s 8 furious tracks is punctuated by dissonant riffs, unpredictable stop-start rhythms and arrangements so complicated they must have been a bugger to perform live. Without sacrificing that all important moshability, Sanity Obscure impressed most with it’s sheer unconformity, accomplished musicianship and tortured vocals courtesy of vocalist/guitarist Kurt Bachman.
Believer’s cover of U2’s “Like A Song” may have been a slight mis-step but when balanced with the exquisite and completely bonkers “Dies Irae (Day of Wrath)”, the relentless “Stop The Madness” and the progressive masterpiece of the title track itself, Sanity Obscure should be labelled as nothing less than an utter triumph.
Warning: Trying to headbang to Sanity Obscure‘s stop-start chugging will result in the need for spinal realignment; it’s still worth a go though!
3. 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 had to offer. Speed, aggression and unbelievably unhinged vocals characterise album highlights “The Henchman”, the Exodus-esque “No Morals” and the utterly merciless title track; true American hate performed by absolute maniacs!
2. 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. 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.
Haven’t heard it? You haven’t lived!
1. Atrophy – Violent By Nature (1990)
The one thing Violent By Nature had that many thrash releases seemed to forget, is choruses, shit loads of the catchy buggers!
“In Their Eyes”, “Slipped Through The Cracks”, “Violent By Nature”, “Forgotten But Not Gone”; all contained huge hooks and memorable choruses that once heard are never forgotten…..a rare commodity in a genre that often favoured blinding speed and all out assault over actual songwriting and one that enabled Atrophy to stand out from the majority of the thrash pack.
Unconcerned with unnecessarily lengthy compositions and progressive noodling, Violent By Nature took the core ingredients of thrash and refused to mess with a winning formula. The result was an album that hit with immeasurable groove, cunning melody and some of the catchiest, bounciest, mosh-pit friendly thrash anthems ever to be found on one album.
Crank this f*cker up and enjoy the ride, Atrophy’s original journey may have been short-lived (just 2 albums over 4 short years) but they sure made an impression on those willing to give ’em a chance!