Picking up where Parts 1, 2 and 3 of our Under-Appreciated Classics Of American Thrash Metal features 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 5 & 6 (and maybe more)!
If there’s a particular American thrash classic you feel has been lost to the annals of time then pop it in the comments below and we’ll look to include it in future articles.
Let’s get thrashed! \m/
Blind Illusion – The Sane Asylum (1988)
Blind Illusion‘s debut is a cult item of considerable aplomb, growing in stature as the years roll by and claiming its place as one of thrash metal’s unsung gems!
Featuring guitarist Larry LaLonde (Possessed) and bassist Les Claypool (before they went on to form Primus) and produced by Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, The Sane Asylum is one of those unique recordings which practically defies categorisation, such is its idiosyncratic nature and distinct lack of conformity.
An alchemic brew of jazz-influenced, progressive time changes and abstract song structures, The Sane Asylum was conveniently wrapped up in a technical thrash bow, a description which doesn’t even come close to describing the sheer madness at work here.
Quite unlike anything recorded before or since!
Exhorder – The Law (1992)
Exhorder‘s follow-up to their blistering debut Slaughter In The Vatican found the band harnessing grooves like no other band on earth (and we ain’t even gonna go into the Pantera comparisons, right!) and delivering a sophomore effort that arguably bettered its predecessor.
Quite simply, you cannot fuck with the likes of “Unforgiven”, “I Am The Cross” and “Un-Born Again”, as Exhorder’s groove-heavy thrash set about removing your spleen via your asshole.
Ferocious and unpredictable, Exhorder fully utilised their unique gut-punch grittiness to drive home serrated grooves at a mostly ferocious pace.
By its very nature, Exhorder’s stunning cover of Sabbath’s “Into The Void” momentarily slowed things down but Vinne LaBella and the boys still found time to ‘crunch’ it up and make it their own!
With Kyle Thomas sounding as furiously feral and as expressive as ever – spitting out a series of vignettes over more caustic riffs than should be humanly possible – it’s a crying shame that this pioneering band have never released a third album because, for a short while there, Exhorder were the most exciting band on earth.
Incubus (aka Opprobrium) – Serpent Temptation
Not those digerideroo-blowing nu metal wombats, this is the real Incubus; a towering death/thrash colossus who annihilated their 80’s competition with debut album, Serpent Temptation!
Incubus were extreme (in every sense of the word) and they were absurdly talented, tempering their ferocity with intricate riffing and a superb sense of dynamics. It has to be said, this shit was astonishingly heavy back in ’88; a savage re-appropriation of thrash metal’s fundamental’s strapped to death metal’s still to be completed blueprint. The results were almost beyond comprehension, with Incubus paving the way for countless acts who took thrash/death into ever heavier realms as the 90’sdawned and death metal took hold.
A hyper-speed, proto-death metal classic, Serpent Temptation deserves to be considered an equal of Dark Angel’s Darkness Descends, Slayer’s Reign In Blood and Kreator’s Pleasure To Kill!
Believer – Dimensions (1993)
Home to the kind of syncopated riffs which must have had the guys in Meshuggah scheming their own eventual rise to dominance, Dimensions was the third album from Christian progressive thrash metal band Believer and it shook the very foundations of progressive metal to its very core!
While 1990’s Sanity Obscure runs it a close second, Dimensions should be considered Believer’s masterwork with bewildering tempo changes and psychic interplay transforming 3 mere musicians into a colossal force of heavenly
Nonchalantly throwing in the violin/viola of Scott Laird and Julianne Laird Hoge’s exquisite soprano/operatic vocals added even more layers. Take, for instance, the sheer audacity of “The Trilogy of Knowledge,” a 20-minute excursion into pure brilliance inspired by the greats of progressive rock such as Pink Floyd, Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer which somehow surpassed the majority of them; a series of ‘movements’ which need to be heard to be believed!
An uncompromising, labyrinthian progressive metal milestone, Dimensions‘ ability to send your brain into orbit remains undiminished.
Sadus – Elements Of Anger (1997)
One of the most unique thrash bands ever to exist, Sadus’ thrilling amalgamation of thrash, death and progressive metal reached an arguable peak with the mid-paced stomp of 1997’s Elements Of Anger.
Steve DiGiorgio’s fretless Bass wizardry impressed as always but it was the experimental song structures Sadus were renowned for that marked out their 4th album as a progressive thrash monster in the latter half of the 90’s.
“Words Of War” and “Power Of One” may be streamlined when compared to the frankly bonkers nature of the tracks found on Swallowed In Black (1990) and Illusions (1988) but this semi-accessible approach stood in Sadus’ favour; their unique songwriting style and technically astonishing avenue of thrash gifting real hooks and subtle melody alongside the aggressive savagery.
Eye-opening stuff no matter what the decade!
Forced Entry – Uncertain Future (1989)
Forced Entry‘s debut album arrived in 1989 and their full throttle thrash – belying the fact they were a three piece – ironically should have predicted a certain future, one that would have seen them rise to the upper echelons of the thrash hierarchy!
Opening track “Bludgeon” did exactly that, hammering home Forced Entry’s way around a steamroller riff and a penchant for turning on a sixpence. Undeniably progressive in nature, this trio could out-muscle Testament (and Tony Benjamin’s vocals were straight from the Chuck Billy rulebook!) while throwing in as many tempo changes as humanly possible.
The results were generally fantastic, with the likes of the hideously violent “Anaconda” and the twisting and turning “Kaleidoscope Of Pain” providing enough technically complex thrills to endear them to both the Exodus/Vio-Lence/Dark Angel and the Coroner/Voivod/Watchtower crowd.
A towering achievement from a band who deserved way more than their ‘also ran’ status.