Picking up where Pt.1 of our Under-Appreciated Classics Of American Thrash Metal left off, we have selected another 6 unsung classics of U.S thrash that are deserving of further praise. As we trawled through the vaults of thrash history it came as no surprise that the sheer wealth of quality U.S. thrash releases over the years was simply staggering.
Subsequently, what was set to be a 2 part series will continue, so keep ’em peeled for Parts 3 & 4 (and maybe more)!
If there’s a particular thrash classic you feel has been lost to the history books then pop it in the comments below and we’ll look to include it in future articles.
Let’s get thrashed! \m/
6. Abomination – Tragedy Strikes (1991)
Paul Speckmann may be revered as one of the Godfather’s of death metal but the great man also turned his attention to thrash in the early 90’s and while Abomination‘s debut was solid, its follow up, Tragedy Strikes, was a different beast altogether. Raw, real and utterly remorseless, Tragedy Strikes cut deep with political diatribes, powerful compositions and a sincerity rarely head in thrash.
Abomination’s hate, bile and utter contempt for the world as they saw it bleeds profusely through album highlights Pull The Plug, Will They Bleed and Blood For Oil; the meaning of this one shouldn’t come as a surprise for those who remember the first Gulf War.
Thrash rarely comes loaded with this much gravitas and while Tragedy Strikes may not be friendly, it’ll sure as hell earn your respect.
5. Wargasm – Why Play Around (1988)
Fusing the sonic onslaught of all-out thrash with the melodic nous of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal and the classic sounds of old-school heavy metal, Wargasm‘s Why Play Around? is ignored by the majority but beloved by connoisseurs.
“Bullets & Blades” took the speed and aggression of Motorhead and Tank and Thrashed the sh*t out of it while “Revenge” harnessed a mid-paced crunch to drive home some truly catchy riffing and it’s “knee deep in blood” refrain.
So much potential, so much talent. Why Play Around? may have failed to stand out in a crowded scene of quality releases in 1988 (Metallica’s …And Justice For All, Anthrax’s State Of Euphoria, Exodus’ Fabulous Disaster, Flotsam’s No Place For Disgrace, Testament’s The New Order…) but that’s no reason for ignoring it now!
4. Rigor Mortis – Rigor Mortis (1988)
Back to 1988 and another unsung classic! Rigor Mortis‘ self titled debut opened with a furious instrumental that pretty much set the scene for the entire record. Violently relentless, Rigor Mortis‘ raw production, animalistic tendencies and jugular-slashing riffs lent a kinship to Death’s Scream Bloody Gore, Possessed’s Beyond The Gates and Kreator’s absolute classic Pleasure To Kill.
The formative years of death metal can be heard in Guitar god Mike Scaccia’s (RIP) lightning-speed tremolo picking and the abrasive rasping vocals of Bruce Corbitt. Hard-as-nails thrash may have been the order of the day but these mad-as-f*ck Texans were leading the charge into ever faster, darker and meaner territories.
The whole record is nigh on flawless but if an introduction to these speed-freaks is required then listen to this; Demons.
Some may argue Rigor Mortis epitomised 80’s thrash metal, some people are right.
3. Morbid Saint – Spectrum Of Death (1990)
Sharing a sonic kinship with Rigor Mortis’ self titled debut, Morbid Saint‘s Spectrum Of Death is another unapologetically brutal and viciously violent attack on the senses; arguably the most brutal 100% thrash record ever recorded!
Clattering drums, rapid riffing and vocals belched from the gullet of a Satan-obsessed psychopath, Morbid Saint were the perfect combination of Dark Angel’s all-encompassing power, Whiplash’s speed and grit and the blackened riffing of those teutonic masters; Sodom and Destruction.
Few bands could compete with the intensity found on Spectrum Of Death and if your heart bleeds black for Venom, early Kreator and Darkness Descends era Dark Angel then tracks such as “Assassin” and “Beyond The Gates Of Hell” are ample proof that Morbid Saint should sit proudly alongside these legendary purveyors of pure filth!
2. Defiance – Product Of Society (1989)
Defiance may have evolved into a progressively minded thrash outfit (check out the expansive and accomplished thrash of 1992’s Beyond Recognition) but Product Of Society and it’s Testament/Forbidden style of powerfully technical thrash deserves to be lauded as an authoritative dose of late 80’s thrash.
While these California crushers could never be accused of originality, their commitment to delivering nothing but traditional Bay-Area neck-wreckers is to be commended. “Insomnia” opens with the obligatory acoustic intro before settling into a satisfyingly mid-paced groove while “Hypothermia” opens with a spine-tingling solo intro before unleashing crunchy rhythms, intricate patterns and a smooth, sleek sound that signalled these boys were capable of keeping up with their peers in Forbidden and Heathen.
1. Anacrusis – Suffering Hour (1988)
The only album in Anacrusis‘ formidable back catalogue to be classifiable as true thrash, Suffering Hour remains an overlooked moment in thrash history.
Joining the likes of Watchtower, Voivod and Mekong Delta in constructing complex arrangements and schizophrenically unique songs that flow through dozens of exhilarating tempo changes, Anacrusis’ youthful exuberance and disjointed clamour exhibitied nothing but an alluring charm and a desire to challenge thrash’s boundaries.
Anacrusis’ debut had it all; intelligence, alarming momentum, hollowed-out groove, fiendish rhythms, atonal experimentation, a forebodingly dark and dense sound and a character all of its own; precious few albums are capable of surprising the listener with each repeat listen but Suffering Hour achieved this and more.
45 minutes to spare? Soak up the whole damn thing!