Continuing in the vein of our under-appreciated UK & U.S. thrash features, Worship Metal casts its critical eye over 6 under-appreciated classics of German thrash, the only country to truly rival the U.S in the thrash stakes!
The sheer number of considerably skilled Teutonic thrashers arriving on the scene in the mid 80’s was astonishing and mounted a serious challenge to America’s dominance. Mixing a furious blend of skin-strippingly raw and bloodied riffs with unhinged, snarling vocals and breakneck speed, Germanic thrash bands had a sound all of their own.
While the Americans were preoccupied with showmanship and lengthy compositions, the Germans concentrated on the most ugly, twisted and animalistic thrash imaginable….resulting in a multitude of quality releases falling by the wayside as Kreator, Destruction, Sodom and Tankard proceeded to steal much of the limelight.
Remember, this is just Part 1….there’s more under-appreciated classics of German thrash to come!
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.
Liked that? Try this: Darkness’ 1989 sophomore effort Defenders Of Justice also has its moments!
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!
Liked that? Try this: You had to wait an excruciating 21 years for Minotaur to release a full length follow-up, the equally caustic God May Show You Mercy…We Will Not.
Deathrow – Riders Of Doom aka Satan’s Gift (1986)
In ’86, Deathrow were a whirlwind of hyper thrash and almost unrecognisable to the band that would release the more refined Raging Steel and the challenging progression of Deception Ignored just a few years later.
At this stage, Deathrow had more in common with the flurries of violence administered by Exodus, Razor and Dark Angel than the blackened fury conjured by their peers and perhaps that’s why Riders Of Doom – for the most part – remains a sadly undiscovered gem. Lost in the mire of high profile releases such as Kreator’s Pleasure To Kill and Destruction’s Eternal Devastation, Deathrow seemingly bubbled away under the surface releasing quality albums but to little or no avail. However, fans will know that with Riders Of Doom, the band had actually delivered an album strong enough to level the playing field!
The triumphant triumvirate of “Spider Attack”, “Slaughtered” and “Violent Omen” form an impressive centrepiece; the sinewy strands of “Spider Attack” entrapping the listener before “Slaughtered” ups the shred levels and “Violent Omen” offers mid-tempo respite that still leaves you bruised and battered. A truly imposing trio of tracks and enough alone to warrant semi-clasic status.
Liked that? Try this: Progressive thrash doesn’t come much more challenging than Deathrow’s 3rd album, Deception Ignored.
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!
Liked that? Try this: The power metal meets speed metal masterpiece that is To Dust You Will Decay!
Violent Force – Malevolent Assault Of Tomorrow (1987)
Something of a cult curio, 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.
Liked that? Try this: 5 demos from 1985-1987 is all you’re going to get!
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.
Liked that? Try this: Necronomicon’s self titled debut may be a little ragged around the edges but it’s a proto-black metal, early-doors thrash album worthy of your time.
– Don’t forget, this was just Part 1….Part 2 to follow soon. But, pop your comments in the box below if there’s an unsung German thrash classic that deserves appreciation!