Belgium; famous for chocolates, biscuits, fries and mayonnaise and the best damn beer in the world…..but not, unsurprisingly, for thrash metal!
Which is a crying shame, as those Belgians could thrash up a storm when they wanted to. So, we’ve handpicked 10 of the greatest old-school albums of Belgian thrash to highlight that very fact.
Sixty Nine – Just For The Fun (1988)
A band who couldn’t have given two shits about finesse, Sixty Nine‘s hardcore thrash was a precursor to Belgian groove metal kings Channel Zero but shared none of that band’s penchant for polish and panache. Instead, Just For The Fun was, as the title suggests, plain raucous fun!
Smashing their way through 12 short and savage cuts, Sixty Nine’s amateurish assault still manages to weave its way into your good-books simply by virtue alone….these guys didn’t give a fuck and this attitude bleeds through every raw shout and every bulldozing riff.
Far from essential, Just For The Fun sneaks in primarily due to the timing of its release – and its proximity to Channel Zero – but that’s not to dismiss its antediluvian allure!
Black Shepherd – Immortal Aggression (1988)
A complete clattering cavalcade of brutal satanic thrash, Black Shepherd‘s Immortal Aggression may borderline on unlistenable at times but its naive charms lay in its indefatigable allegiance to the dark lord!
Ironically, Black Shepherd’s bestial aggression aligns them with the barely controlled noise emanating from Brazil in the 80’s as opposed to the sounds crawling out from Europe’s thriving underground. Recalling the primitive splendour of early Sepultura, Vulcano, Mutilator etc, these fuckers were destined to thrash harder, faster and with more diabolical intent than anyone else…..and they delivered on that promise.
Feral, haphazard, raucous and completely unhinged, Black Shepherd were the sound of pure fuckin’ evil made flesh!
Decadence – Gangs And Victims (1989)
Another flash in the pan 80’s thrash metal band – and another album for the cult completist only – Decadence were actually a pretty good, hardcore-inflected, thrash act and Gangs And Victims was their one and only full length album.
Featuring thin and wiry vocals that will grate on occasion, Gangs And Victims wasn’t without its faults….but it wasn’t without its charms either!
With a crossover sound that would appeal to fans of Municipal Waste and their ilk, Decadence were at their best when giving their flurries of snot-nosed punk some room to breathe. The likes of “False Re-Education” and “Back To Decadence” rattled along at breakneck speed but hit their peak when they let the riffs do the talking; the thrashier side of their sound proving to be their ultimate selling point.
A curio then, but one well worth checking out!
Evil Sinner – Evil Sinner (1989)
A frenzied thrash-fest to rival the likes of Exumer and Baloff-era Exodus, Evil Sinner‘s debut is another unjustly ignored highpoint in Belgian thrash history!
Opening with the call-to-arms of “Thrashers”, the scene is set for Evil Sinner to cave in your face with each well aimed blow. These are pummelling anthems, rampaging through your system with dexterous efficiency and devastating effect and there’s barely a pause for breath before the whole thing comes to a crashing end.
“Fate” and the title track are high-speed killers but Evil Sinner slowed down enough on the dynamic “The Gang” to introduce a melodic longeur, providing a break from the blast-beat propelled thrash attack that surrounds it.
As far as Belgian thrash is concerned, Evil Sinner’s one and only release is an underground classic in every way!
Channel Zero – Channel Zero (1992)
Fundamentally known for their groove metal output, Channel Zero‘s debut was actually a full on thrash affair, featuring Metallica-sized riffs and no end of satisfying chug!
In awe of the melodic crunch favoured by Forbidden, Defiance etc, Channel Zero were equally as dept at delivering massive thrash tunes laced with groove and a progressive edge, and no more so than on infectious opener “No Light (At The End Of Their Tunnel)” and the tech-savvy “Painful Jokes”.
Being in awe of the 80’s certainly didn’t hamper Channel Zero’s prospects, as you’d be hard pressed to find a more consistent thrash album in ’92. And, while they would become a more mainstream proposition as the years rolled by, their self-titled debut stands tall as one of Belgian thrash metal’s greatest achievements.
Cyclone – Brutal Destruction (1986)
Belgium’s Cyclone weren’t particularly active – just 2 albums in a 9 year career – but they were the instigators of some distinctive riffage and Brutal Destruction remains an underrated collection of tenacious, tightly focused and terrorising thrash anthems.
Admittedly, Brutal Destruction may sound antiquated to modern ears but this semi-forgotten title had some clout in 1986! Slightly dubious title aside, “Incest Love”(?!) remains one hell of a closer while the razor-sharp riffs and unrefined shrieks found on “Long To Hell” and “Fall Under His Command” still leave scars!
One of those albums that belongs in a true thrashers collection – even though it may not receive a regular airing – Cyclone’s sound was more mid-level American than European and for this reason alone, Cyclone were up against it; they were never going to make an impact in the US when bands of this calibre were already ten a penny.
Regardless, Cyclone had much to offer and no more so than on the outstanding Inferior To None that followed 4 years after….and there’s more on that particular album later!
Asphyxia – Exit: Reality (1991)
Asphyxia were yet another bunch of Belgians that were full of promise but released just the one full length album. In this case, it was the scintillating Exit: Reality; a Bay Area-esque cruncher which can stand toe-to-toe with any second-tier Californian act!
Delivering the kind of huge choruses, moshable bounce and deadly gang vokills that made Atrophy so irresistible, Asphyxia’s gruff delivery was matched only by their speed and unforgiving assault. With no time for showboating or thrash balladry, Exit: Reality‘s 10 tracks simply ripped with 100% authenticity.
Above average thrash from an unfairly ignored band!
Chemical Breath – Fatal Exposure (1992)
An unsung technical death/thrash classic, Chemical Breath‘s astonishing Fatal Exposure can be uttered in the same breath as Pestilence’s Consuming Impulse and Death’s Human and should be revered as a monumental achievement, regardless of geographical location!
Precious few bands can match the intensity and skill of these awe-inspiring Belgians and anyone with a penchant for labyrinthine song structures, baffling tempo shifts and the pioneering spirit of early 90’s death/thrash will fall in love with Chemical Breath’s exquisite debut.
Admittedly, Fatal Exposure is a little more death than thrash – and squeezing it on to this list may prove to be divisive – but any opportunity to wax lyrical about this astonishing piece of work should be grasped with both hands.
After hearing it, you’ll thank us for it!
Target – Mission Executed (1987)
Utterly obscure yet teeming with raw talent, Target‘s debut album, Mission Executed, was a technical blast of feral thrash that, in 1987, was way ahead of the pack in terms of ideas and execution.
Drawing on the likes of Artillery, Mekong Delta and Living Death for inspiration, a welcome dose of intensity backed Target’s technical verve as these Belgians went about destroying ear-drums over 8 tracks of nerve-shredding THRASH!
Although Mission Executed lacked anything approaching filler, it was actually the opening one-two of “Mission To The Andes” and “Hordes Of Insanity” that hit the hardest; a double-whammy of fiendish grooves and whip-crack time changes that marked Target out as potential world-beaters.
Make no mistake, Mission Executed was Euro-thrash at its absolute finest….and to deliver an album of this quality and remain so unrecognised is a crime that deserves to be tried in The Hague!
Cyclone – Inferior To None (1990)
We normally stick a to one album per band mantra but Cyclone‘s sophomore effort is the greatest thrash album ever produced by a Belgian band, so we could hardly leave it out could we!
Suffering from severe underexposure dented Cyclone’s chances of escaping the underground but Inferior To None (a convincingly apt title if ever we’ve head one!) should have been the album to achieve it. Embracing a technical thrash aesthetic, Cyclone upped their game considerably with some of the tightest playing around and a gamut of ear-pleasing solos.
Four years on from their Brutal Destruction debut and these guys had used the time well, finding their groove and improving on every aspect of their sound with universally stunning results.
Inferior To None is perfect thrash. Why isn’t it more well known? Go figure!
Check out our other related thrash features in this series: