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!
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!
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…..
Also in this series: