Considering the UK invented heavy metal, it’s always frustrating to reflect on how seemingly unsuccessful we were at thrash metal!
Predominantly an American phenomenon (although the Teutonic trio of Destruction, Kreator and Sodom were equally as accomplished), British thrash caused a few waves over the years but this was nothing compared to the Tsunami caused by Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax, Testament, Death Angel, Overkill, Exodus etc.
In retrospect, British thrash bands actually had much to offer, album sales and general exposure may have been significantly lower than desired but the talent and musicianship was clear to see. Largely forgotten over the years, it’s time to re-address the balance and take a look at the British thrash albums that really mattered.
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; an album that deserved far wider acclaim than it received.
If you’re a fan of frenzied Vio-Lence-esque riffs, killer gang-vocals and hooks that’ll snag you square in the chops from a hundred yards, then Virus are the band for you 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 again being overlooked in favour of an American contingent.
Virus were a band with a fearsome live reputation – with the clout to make some serious noise within the thrash metal scene – and Lunacy was ample proof that they were fast evolving into serious contenders.
As infectious as ever, Virus are very much active (check out 2020’s career highlight, Evilution Apocalypse).
If you liked this, check out: Force Recon (1988), pure ferocity and a UK companion piece to the feral likes of Dark Angel’s Darkness Descends and Kreator’s Pleasure to Kill!
Slammer -The Work Of Idle Hands (1989)
Slammer‘s debut, The Work Of Idle Hands, has aged considerably well, with it’s professional production and solid foundations belying it’s semi-forgotten status. With a street-smart atmosphere pervading throughout, and Paul Tunnicliffe’s convincing raspy vocals giving each track an urbanised edge, the likes of “Tenement Zone” and the expansive “Hellbound” stand-out from the pack….but the entire album is worthy of your time.
Slammer‘s sound may not be original, but they were damn good at what they did and if consistently impressive and aggressive guitar work is your bag, you’d do well to hunt down a copy. But beware, this really is a lost classic and hard to track down at a reasonable price!
Highly reminiscent of Testament at their most accessible, Slammer had a sound that was tailor-made for the American market and should have lead to significant album sales and worldwide recognition. As it turned out, Slammer were just another British thrash band who should have made a big splash on both sides of the pond but failed to make more than a ripple; only with hindsight can we see they had much more to offer.
If you liked this, check out: Insanity Addicts (1990) was Slammer’s second EP and a decent stab at taking their sound into ever more marketable areas.
Re-Animator – Condemned To Eternity (1990)
Arriving a little later in the day, Re-Animator still had enough potential to cause a stir and 1990’s Condemned To Eternity is their greatest achievement.
Another band in thrall to Testament’s semi-melodic approach (particularly in Kev Ingleson’s Chuck Billy-aping vocals), Re-Animator still possessed the required skill to amount a convincing thrash attack; proof positive that us Brits could thrash like fuck when we wanted to!
“Low Life” and the instrumental title track are the real highlights, both demonstrating the bands knack for experimental and yet vertebrae-shattering riffs. While “Low Life” may rip off Metallica‘s “Creeping Death” in its opening bars, that can be forgiven as the song goes on to establish itself as a frenzied neck-breaker in its own right, and the title-track challenges Death Angel‘s “The Ultraviolence” in the epic instrumental stakes.
In the end, Condemned To Eternity may be one for thrash diehards….but it’s no less convincing because of it!
If you liked this, check out: The previous year saw the arrival of Deny Reality, an EP that merely hinted at what was to come!
Hydra Vein – Rather Death Than False Of Faith (1988)
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.
Acid Reign – Obnoxious (1990)
Alongside Lawnmower Deth, Harrogate’s Acid Reign were another British band to often embrace the sillier side of thrash. However, Acid Reign reined in the lunacy on Obnoxious and the result was an album that embraced a previously untapped progressive edge.
Slowing down, slightly, Acid Reign adopted a more focused attitude, imbuing their intricate riffs and clever lyrics with a keener eye for detail and the results were impressive to say the least.
“Thoughtful Sleep” remains the album’s highlight, a technical excursion into a story of child neglect which surprises with its schizophrenic myriad of time changes and personalities. Intelligent, complex and highly original, in an ideal world this song alone would have elevated Acid Reign into the big leagues. As it turned out, they were unjustly overlooked and imploded shortly after Obnoxious‘ release.
Recent reappraisal of Acid Reign resulted in an eagerly awaited reformation (albeit without 3 of the members who penned Obnoxious) and the band released ‘The Apple Core Archives’ – a box set retrospective that was an absolutely essential purchase for anyone with even a passing interest in thrash. One of the finest thrash albums in recent history then followed in 2019, with The Age Of Entitlement blowing the competition out of the water!
If you liked this, check out: Many will (quite rightly) bemoan our inclusion of Obnoxious over 1989’s The Fear….but it’s our list and we’re sticking with it. How do you like them apples?! (The Fear is brilliant though).