We’ve covered many of the U.S.A’s greatest under-appreciated thrash classics here, here and here and now it’s time for us Brits to stand up and be counted. Unfairly forgotten when it comes to thrash, the UK has unleashed a number of stone cold classics over the years and plenty of unsung treasures too!
This is just Part 1, plenty more to come….the Germans and the Americans weren’t the only ones good at this thrash lark you know!
6. D.A.M – Inside Out (1991)
Must Hear Track: “Winter’s Tear“, a more truly epic thrash song you’d be hard pressed to find!
D.A.M may have only released two albums during their initial stab at this thing we call thrash but they were damn (pun completely intended) fine albums and 1991’s Inside Out was their greatest achievement.
Led by Jason McLoughlin’s fierce yet highly melodic vocals – sitting somewhere between Anthrax’s Joey Belladonna, Flotsam and Jetsam’s Erik A.K. and Overkill’s Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth – D.A.M pedalled a classic metal styled thrashing, intrinsically tied to the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal’s humble beginnings.
Mid-paced, nuanced and blessed with a confident sense of control that steered them away from the fiendishly frantic metallic onslaught of contemporaries Anihilated and Virus, D.A.M’s sense of eerie harmony replete with the necessary crunch instead nestled them nicely next to the likes of Xentrix and Slammer.
With an almost indescribably sinister edge – check out the shiver-inducing “House Of Cards” – D.A.M were unafraid to turn the screw while embracing the suitably epic. Album highlight, “Winter’s Tear”, was a Nevermore meets Metal Church excursion into dramatic thrash territory; part ballad, part nightmare made flesh and if Testament has seen fit to include this outstanding track on The Ritual the world would have paid far more attention. A sad state of affairs but commonplace for most of the UK’s thrash bands.
Liked that? Try this: Check out Jason McLoughlin’s killer guest vocals on Anihilated‘s thrash anthem, “Thrashing Crew.
5. Hydra Vein – Rather Death Than False Of Faith (1988)
Must Hear Track: “Crucifier“. This was the equal of anything Kreator released during the early part of their career!
Shit cover art aside, Hydra Vein were a ferocious and precocious late 80’s thrash band whose Rather Death Than False Of Faith debut deserves to be heralded as a minor classic.
Wallowing in the same dirty cess pool as early Onslaught and Venom, Rather Death Than False Of Faith stands toe to toe with the cream of late 80’s thrash metal. These guys could out slay Slayer when they put their filth-encrusted minds to it and the pure thrash carnage of “Crucifier” and “Rabid” (in fairness, this one’s a little too Slayer-esque for comfort at times) provides a welcome jolt to the system and may take newcomers by surprise!
Regardless of tempo – and Hydra Vein were as adept at blinding speed as they were mid-paced stomp – the key to Hydra Vein’s success (we use that term loosely) hinges on quality over quantity. Featuring just the 8 tracks, it’s notable that all 8 tracks have their moment, whether that’s a shout from the rooftops chorus, face-ripping solo or neck-wrecking riff , each and every song slams hard and features at least one highly memorable moment.
Hydra Vein may have been left in the thrash wilderness but fans of Onslaught’s The Force, Sacrilege’s Behind the Realms Of Madness, Venom’s Black Metal and Slayer’s Hell Awaits need this album…. and that’s despite the cover art which looks like it was painted by a partially sighted 4 year old!
Liked that? Try this: Hydra Vein’s sophomore effort, After The Dream, almost matched the intensity of Rather Death Than False Of Faith.
4. Energetic Krusher – Path To Oblivion (1989)
Must Hear Track: “Energetic Krusher“, the title track that has it all. A death metal meets thrash metal masterclass in brutality!
Aside from full on flirting with early-doors death metal, Energetic Krusher‘s only release is an overlooked thrash monster that showcased a brutal sound at odds with the ‘chirpier’ nature of many of their contemporaries.
Adept at a good gallop – accompanied by a gargling growl – Energetic Krusher’s heavy, heavy thrash assault maintained an impessively oppressive atmosphere throughout, propelled by some of the most fearsome vocals in late 80’s thrash. Sharing a kinship with such underground greats as Cerebral Fix, Napalm Death and the almighty Demolition Hammer, what the band lacked in subtlety and song differentiation was counteracted by the repeated deathly blows struck by each pummelling track.
The total opposite of fellow UK thrashers Acid Reign and Lawnmower Deth – who instilled a distinctly British sense of humour into proceedings – Energetic Krusher had more in common with the death metal bands emanating from Florida than perhaps they even realised.
In hindsight, Energetic Krusher were a blink and you’ll miss it anomaly in UK thrash and perenially unsung proto-death metal pioneers.
Liked that? Try this: They didn’t record anything else….so just listen to Path To Oblivion all over again!
3. Skyclad – A Burnt Offering For The Bone Idol (1992)
Must Hear Track: “Salt On The Earth (Another Man’s Poison)“, folk-thrash subjugated in one fell swoop!
Before they went 100% folk, Skyclad followed up their outstanding debut The Wayward Sons Of Mother Earth with another slab of underrated – and hard to find – unique UK thrash. Continuing and refining the uniquely pagan sound Sabbat pioneered on their groundbreaking albums History Of A Time To Come and Dreamweaver, this may be a love it or hate it record for thrash fans but those with an adventurous spirit -and a penchant for bands who gleefully experimented with thrash’s rigid rules – will hear Skyclad adapting the formula to create something idiosyncratic and distinctly British.
The addition of full-time fiddler Fritha Jenkins (we simply refer to the act of playing the fiddle of course) bolstered Skyclad’s sound that was still built around Martin Walkyier’s distinctive vocal delivery and a multiude of rapid-fire thrash riffs. Take the aforementioned irresistibly thrashy “Salt On The Earth (Another Man’s Poison)” as the perfect example of thrash existing in a folk metal framework; few could pull off such a disparate melding of styles but Skyclad, particularly on A Burnt Offering For The Bone Idol, mastered the craft.
Interestingly, Skyclad’s The Wayward Sons Of Mother Earth and A Burnt Offering For The Bone Idol remain the perfect companion pieces to Sabbat’s two Walkyier fronted classics; an exquisite quadruplet of frighteningly original albums which deserve arrant adulation.
Liked that? Try this: Skyclad’s EP, Tracks From The Wilderness, was the final thrash-folk mix before the band went full on folk!
2. Pariah – Blaze Of Obscurity (1989)
Must Hear Track: “Puppet Regime“, shred-fucking-tastic and laden with hooks big enough to land an Orca!
A classic sounding thrash band before the term could even be applied, there was something inviting about Pariah‘s thrashed up New Wave Of British Heavy Metal based output; of which Blaze Of Obscurity was their finest hour.
Formed from the ashes of NWOBHM heroes Satan, Pariah would go on to donate Graeme English and Steve Ramsey to Skyclad but first came this magnificent slice of technical thrash excellence. The perfect companion piece to Onslaught’s equally ambitious In Search Of Sanity, Pariah’s astonishing array of complex riffs and expansive songwriting should have seen them enter the thrash big leagues. As it transpired, Pariah were treated in a manner befitting their name and split after just two short years.
However, Blaze Of Obscurity is so ridiculously accomplished that it deserves nothing less than total reappraisal and should be considered a benchmark for 80’s speed metal and thrash metal guitar work.
Liked that? Try this: Pariah’s 1988 debut, The Kindred, is equally as impressive if not a little more indebted to the NWOBHM!
1. Seventh Angel – Lament For The Weary (1992)
Must Hear Track: “Woken By Silence“, an engulfing display of decadent doom metal mastery and thrash metal skill.
The UK seemed to enjoy experimenting with thrash, often combining seemingly disparate sub-genres to create an entirely new thrash experience. Sabbat and Skyclad incorporated pagan and folk influences, Cerebral Fix and Energetic Krusher embraced death metal while Seventh Angel chose to throw doom metal into the mix. The result was an original sound showcasing the finest moments of doom legends Candlemass and the technical meets traditional heavy metal thrash of Sanctuary, circa their Into The Mirror Black era.
Often impenetrably dark and yet morbidly melancholic, Seventh Angel’s lumbering doom passages merged seamlessly with bursts of aggressive speed, fully ensconced in projecting pain and despair. Not an easy ride but a rewarding one, Lament For The Weary remains a weighty tome, relentless and remorseless and akin to gourging on the great works of literature; not for the faint-hearted in other words!
The UK may have been largely forgotten for its contribution to thrash but albums as brave, bold and brilliant as this will always attract the open minded. Lament For The Weary is a one of a kind album fully deserving of classic status and should be spoken about with the same reverence as the greats of thrash, UK or otherwise.
Like that? Try this: 1990’s The Torment may not be as refined as Lament For The Weary but it’s still an absorbing release; astoundingly heavy and tempered by a dark and dramatic sound.
Remember, this was just Part 1….there’s plenty more unsung UK thrash goodness to come!