Part 1 of our under-appreciated classics of UK thrash highlighted the likes of Pariah, Seventh Angel & D.A.M among others but there’s plenty more quality thrash from good ol’ Blighty still knocking around, collecting dust at the bottom of the thrash pile….which is tantamount to sacrilege!
In actuality, the UK thrashed just as hard as Germany, Brazil and the States and Worship Metal has selected another 6 unsung classics of UK thrash that deserve to be re-evaluated, re-assessed and re-played at eardrum bursting volume!
Thrash it up, UK style!
6. Slammer – The Work Of Idle Hands (1989)
Must Hear Track: “Hellbound”, it’s like thrash nirvana (a transcendent state not Kurt Cobain and his flannel-shirt whining). Classic acoustic run-in meets the wallop of prime late 80’s crunch resulting in a rip-tide of thrash!
Slammer’s debut, The Work Of Idle Hands, has aged considerably well with its professional production and solid foundations belying it’s semi-lost status. Plastered with a street-smart atmosphere that pervades throughout, the heavy use of gang-vocals and Paul Tunnicliffe’s convincing raspy vocals give each track an urbanised edge and a sense of credibility that still holds true. “Tenement Zone” and the aforementioned ‘must hear’ track “Hellbound” stand-out from the feral pack but the entire album is worthy of a clued-up thrashers undivided attention.
Dripping with more venom than a particularly pissed off rattle snake, the likes of “Razor’s Edge”, “If Thine Eye” and “No Excuses” strike hard and fast, showcasing a level of aggression and precision that still impresses. While Slammer’s sound may not have been original come 1989, they proved they could still hold their own amongst the second tier acts that followed in the wake of Death Angel, Exodus, Testament and The Big 4 etc.
Besieged by a hostile press, it’s actually unfathomable that this quality release wasn’t received with arms wide open by the British public. Highly reminiscent of Testament at their most accessible, Slammer had a sound that was tailor-made for both the UK and American market and should have lead to significant album sales and worldwide recognition. It didn’t. But that was the sorry situation for the majority of the UK’s thrash contingent.
Liked that? Try this: Insanity Addicts, 1990’s 4 track EP picked up where The Work Of Idle Hands left off but added some early 90’s Anthrax bounce to their already powerful oeuvre.
5. Toranaga – God’s Gift (1990)
Must Hear Track: “The Shrine”; borderline hit single featuring obligatory doomy intro, a tempo shift into thrash heaven and a chorus designed to impale you to the nearest wall!
The UK’s answer to perennial thrash overlords Overkill, Toranaga’s God’s Gift remains an undervalued mix of classic metal, NWOBHM influences and power metal bombast, bolstered by the bands flirtation with doom tempo’s and thrash’s shrill vocals and chug-heavy riffs.
Frontman Mark Duffy certainly had Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellesworth’s delivery down pat but Toranaga were certainly no carbon copy of those New Jersey noiseniks, their grasp of melody also distancing them from the more abrasive sounds of Xentrix, Anihilated and Onslaught.
Originally released on major label Chrysalis, the future in 1990 appeared decidedly bright for Toranaga and God’s Gift certainly had the quality and diversity to propel them to the upper rungs of the UK thrash ladder. “Execution”, “Food Of The Gods” and “Psychotic” were the de rigour energetic up-tempo thrashers while the epic and multi-layered “The Shrine” and the oddly beguiling “Black Is The Mask” provided a thrilling counterbalance to the heads-down neanderthal bludgeoning of their peers.
Unfortunately, Toranaga’s bright future would fade to black pretty damn quick. The band failed to capitalise on their major label backing while Chrysalis let a potentially great band slip through their fingertips, with Toranaga imploding relatively soon after God’s Gift‘s release.
Recently re-released by Divebomb Records, this UK thrash gift from the gods should be accepted with the gratitude it so obviously deserves. A classic album from an era of UK thrash that, for a very short time, appeared to have the world in the palm of its hand!
Liked that? Try this: Debut album Bastard Ballads (1988). This 6 tracker may be short and sweet but its power/thrash milieu retains its charm.
4. Virus – Lunacy (1989)
Forming in 1986, Virus would go on to release an album a year over the next 3 years culminating in 1989’s Lunacy, their greatest achievement and an album that deserved far wider acclaim.
If you’re a fan of frenzied riffs, killer gang-vocals and hooks that’ll snag you square in the chops, then Virus are your band and Lunacy could become your new favourite album. Capable of matching any of the 2nd tier American thrash bands, their bass-heavy, gritty and hyper-fast thrash should have reached a wider audience; a case of British thrash being overlooked in favour of the American contingent.
Virus were a band with a fearsome live reputation and had the clout to make some serious noise within the thrash metal scene. They called it a day in 1990 but since their reformation in 2008, Virus have gone from strength to strength and a new album is imminent!
As infectious as ever, Virus are very much active and fans of Vio-lence and Defiance will find much to love, check ’em out!
Liked this, check out: Force Recon (1988), pure ferocity and a UK companion piece to the feral likes of Dark Angel’s Leave Scars and Kreator’s Pleasure to Kill!
3. Hellbastard – Natural Order (1990)
Must Hear Track: “Interrogate Them”, a beast of an opener that crams more into 6 and a half minutes than most UK thrash acts managed in their entire careers.
Newcastle’s Hellbastard may have started life as a crusty old group of grinders but by the time 1990’s rowdy Natural Order arrived, things had turned defiantly and indefatigably thrashy! Featuring the kind of unhinged vocals that made Paul Baloff so beloved, Hellbastard’s grizzled throat of ‘Scruff’ Lewty is aided and abetted by the nastiest slice of European thrash riffs this side of Kreator.
Few UK thrash acts sounded as raw as Hellbastard and they were just as happy in the company of Carcass, Bolt Thrower, Godflesh and Napalm Death as they were with their thrashier comrades. “Justly Executed” was quite rightly included in Earache’s 1991 sampler Grindcrusher, nestling Hellbastard comfortably alongside those extreme metal legends just mentioned. With blinding speed, an arsenal of riffs and a dab hand at attention maintaining tempo changes, Natural Order remains a pretty fine technical thrash album and an underground cult classic.
Throwing a curveball every now and then by incorporating tender acoustic moments (“TAF” & “A Minor Point”) that were, admittedly, commonplace – but never as medieval in sound as here – die hard fans of the band may have balked when they first heard this transition to thrash in 1990 but Natural Order still reeks of the streets. Hellbastard’s crust punk beginnings were still evident, intrinsically linking Natural Order to the movement they pioneered and, in essence, cementing their place alongside fellow UK crust-thrashers Amebix and Sacrilege; an unholy triumvirate of crustcore/thrash.
Not just an under-appreciated classic of UK thrash but an under-appreciated classic in thrash history. Period.
Liked that? Try this: Heading For Internal Darkness (1988); not thrash per se but a full-on crusty stomp through the UK’s sleazy underbelly….crust punk history in the making!
2. Onslaught – In Search Of Sanity (1989)
Must Hear Track: “Shellshock”; Metallica riffs and Steve Grimmet’s outstanding vocals equals a stand-out moment in UK thrash history.
Almost a companion piece to Sabbat’s Mourning Has Broken, Onslaught‘s In Search Of Sanity is another UK thrash anomaly and unrecognisable in comparison to the material that preceded it. Despite the fact that the satanic slayer-isms of 1986’s brutal The Force had been jettisoned entirely, In Search Of Sanity still stands proud as a cult item well deserving of high praise for its performances and ambition.
Onslaught’s cover of AC/DC‘s “Let There Be Rock” may have been cocky but it still kicked ass, Angus’s timeless riffs fed through the thrash grinder. “Shellshock”, as already mentioned, was packed with some chunky Hetfield-esque downpicking and a shit-ton of melody while the 12 minute “Welcome To Dying” ranks as one of thrash metal’s finest ballads.
While In Search Of Sanity was more Metal Church than Slayer – and cleaner than a nun’s saintly undercarriage – its go-for-broke mentality should have been applauded; thrash was huge in ’89 and Onslaught shouldn’t apologise for wanting their own large slice of the thrash pie.
Quite possibly the finest commercial thrash album ever prouced by a UK band, Onslaught were aiming for worldwide recognition when they released this melodic thrash masterclass at the tail end of the 80’s and it should have led to greater things. Unfortunately, all In Search Of Sanity achieved was splitting existing fans straight down the middle and it would take 18 long years for Onslaught to bounce back.
Liked that? Try this: It doesn’t sound anything like In Search Of Sanity but 2007’s comeback album, Killing Peace, is modern thrash at its most bullish and Onslaught have gone from strength to strength ever since its release!
1. Deathwish – Demon Preacher (1988)
Must Hear Track: Surprisingly, it’s a cover version that gets the nod. Deathwish’s version of Sabbath’s “Symptom Of The Universe” is a winner, faithful yet forceful in its own convictions.
How the actual fuck were Deathwish not bigger?
With opener “Death Procession” leading us on a morbid march through bell-tolling, doom-inflected pathways, the classic sounds of 70’s UK heavy metal soon meets the crunch of Bay Area thrash on the Slayer-esque title track and Deathwish’s inspirations are immediately apparent.
A marriage made in heaven (or should that be hell), this juxtaposition of the UK’s world-conquering 70’s output and the equally successful US thrash sound pioneered by Metallica, Slayer et all is best exemplified on Deathwish’s gritty thrashed-up reworking of Sabbath’s all time classic, “Symptom Of The Universe”. Cover version’s by their very nature are generally disappointing but this updated version of Iommi’s classic riff-fest for a thrash audience remains recognisable but utterly feral.
However, the 70’s worshipping song structures weren’t all Deathwish had in their locker, “Wall Of Lies” and the unfathomably epic “Prey To The Lord” were a sonic boom of rabid riffing fulfilling the hype this underrated band had once generated. A nod to the future and a nod to the past in essence, Deathwish were happy to complete the circle by closing with the acoustic Zeppelin-esque instrumental “Past Life”, restoring balance and a sense of closure in the process.
As a coherent whole, Demon Preacher should be considered a minor masterpiece, the sounds of the pioneering 70’s combining flawlessly with the fresh and vital thrash attack from across the Atlantic. Rediscover it!
Liked that? Try this: You only have one other option, the rough and ready – but equally as impressive – At The Edge Of Damnation (1987).
Have we forgotten your favourite UK thrash album so far? Pop it in the comments section below but remember, 6 Under-Appreciated Classics Of UK Thrash (Pt.3) is already in the works!