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.
Fast forward to the present day and a number of modern bands are still flying the flag for British thrash, with Evile, Gama Bomb, Solitary and original hell-raisers Onslaught, Acid Reign, Anihilated, Virus and Lawnmower Deth holding their own against the big guns, it’s unfortunately business as usual when it comes to popularity….with the U.S still leading the way.
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.
A one album per band mantra has been adopted to allow for diversity. If we’ve forgotten your favourite, leave a comment below….let’s get some chatter going!
10. 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!
If you 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!
9. 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 more marketable areas.
8. 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!
7. Cerebral Fix – Death Erotica (1992)
Straddling a fine line between death metal and thrash, Cerebral Fix were the real deal and stood out as a band with an original sound that screamed grit, bile and evil intentions.
Released during thrash metal’s last hurrah (damn you grunge!), Death Erotica was probably the last great British thrash album….but what a way to go out! Make no mistake, Cerebral Fix wrote very dark, very heavy thrash metal with the gruffest vocals this side of a razor-throated billy goat.
In contrast to their speed orientated peers, Cerebral Fix would settle into a relentless groove, punishing the listener with gloomy riffs and demon-baiting vocals. Consequently, Death Erotica is notable for its punishingly hateful tone….not they were above a bit of fun every now and then. “Too Drunk To Funk” and their cover of Judas Priest’s “Livin’ After Midnight” lighten the mood and allow some recovery after the battery that had preceded them.
If you liked this, check out: The gritty death/thrash magnificence of Tower of Spite (1990).
6. Lawnmower Deth – Ooh Crikey It’s… Lawnmower Deth (1990)
Whether you considered Lawnmower Deth a thrash parody or a pain in the arse, there was no ignoring them and Ooh Crikey It’s… Lawnmower Deth is certainly not an album you forget in a hurry!
While most thrash bands were attempting to scare the shit out of you with their oh-so-serious demeanor, Lawnmower Deth bought the fun and the frolics to a scene which often suffered from a sense of humour bypass.
One look at the song titles told you all you needed to know: “Flying Killer Cobs From the Planet Bob”, “Got No Legs? Don’t Come Crawling To Me” and “Sumo Rabbit And His Inescapable Trap Of Doom”. If those titles don’t peak your interest, then nothing will!
Jokes aside, these guys sure could play and their manic, attention-deficit brand of thrash remains a joy to listen to; as long as you’re willing to give yourself to their unique sense of humour, of course!
Another British band who came back from the dead to spread havoc once more, Lawnmower Deth reunited in late 2008 and have gone from strength to strength ever since. In 2017, the cheeky fuckers even teamed back up with 80’s pop princess Kim Wilde, in an attempt to nick the Christmas no.1 spot!
If you liked this, check out: 1992’s Return Of The Fabulous Metal Bozo Clowns simply took things a step further….if that was at all possible!
5. Acid Reign – Obnoxious (1990)
Another British band to often embrace the sillier side of thrash, 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 – alongside two brand new singles in the formidable shape of “Plan Of The Damned” and “The Man Who Became Himself”
If you liked this, check out: The new singles! Both “Plan Of The Damned” and “The Man Who Became Himself” proved there’s plenty of bite left in this apple-core brigade!
4. Anihilated – The Ultimate Desecration (1989)
Anihilated‘s second album is a British thrash milestone, incorporating Exodus’ brash brutality and Slayer’s knack for intimidating menace and groove to form an album worthy of serious attention.
The grisly grooves of instrumental “Desolation” set the scene as Anihilated’s malevolent, sickle-sharp riffing crunches straight into high gear on “Into The Flames Of Armageddon”. The album never lets up from here on in; quality track follows quality track with raspy, sandpaper vocals, wall-of-sound drums and Hell Awaits era Slayer riffs combining furiously to thrash your face clean off.
The Slayer comparisons can be a little too familiar at times but if you’re gonna be inspired, be inspired by one of the best and if being the British Slayer is a bad thing, then we’ll be damned!
Of all the bands to arise during thrash’s recent re-birth, Anihilated truly showcase the breadth of talent the UK have to offer. A new album arrives in 2015 and expectations are high if the quality delivered on 2010’s Scorched Earth Policy and 2013’s iDeviant are anything to go by.
If you liked this, check out: Anti Social Engineering (2015), one of the finest UK thrash albums ever recorded….and we ain’t fuckin’ kidding! This album absolutely slayed the competition in 2015!
3. Xentrix – For Whose Advantage (1990)
Touted as Britain’s answer to Metallica (not quite), Xentrix embraced an Americanised sound which should have seen them rapidly rise to the very top of thrash metal’s ranks.
In reality, their relatively ‘safe’ sound was only ever going to take them so far, and they eventually found themselves lumped in with the plethora of identikit bands who arrived late in the thrash game. Sadly, it’s only with the luxury of hindsight that For Whose Advantage? reveals its true worth and it’s undoubtedly an essential addition to any thrash collection.
Cold, crisp riffing, mid-paced thrashing and Chris Astley’s confident bellow elevated album highlights “Questions?” and “The Bitter End”, and the entire album benefited from a crystal clear production job to rival the genres greats. For Whose Advantage? may tread familiar territory but it’s important to note that there’s nothing wrong with reliability – Motorhead and AC/DC built entire careers on it! – and Xentrix were fast becoming Britain’s most consistent band.
Grunge would curtail any further progress as thrash became a dirty word, but for a short while Xentrix appeared to be the one British band who would infiltrate the big leagues.
If you liked this, check out: Shattered Existence, Xentrix’s outstanding debut that almost matches For Whose Advantage? in every respect!
2. Onslaught – The Force (1986)
The first band to truly raise hell in the name of British thrash, Onslaught turned heads with their punk-infused debut, Power From Hell, but it was with 1986’s The Force that they truly announced their arrival in the scene.
The Force was an appropriate title, as Onslaught’s forceful and vitriolic sound hit you like a ten ton hammer; thrashing harder than most and with as much conviction as the likes of Dark Angel and early Slayer.
Still considered an all-time thrash classic, The Force is probably the most convincing thrash album ever recorded by a British band. Capable of ripping your head clean off, Onslaught were a powerhouse who unleashed a multitude of sinister, stabbing riffs without even breaking a sweat. It all seemed too easy and their place in the thrash elite should have been virtually guaranteed.
So, what went wrong? The dreaded line-up changes reared their head (out went screecher Sy Keeler, in came traditional metal vocalist Steve Grimmet) and it would take an incredible 21 years for them to come full circle and record an album to rival The Force. In 2007, Onslaught released the sonically devastating Killing Peace and the thrash fraternity breathed a collective sigh of relief; the boys were back and they have fast become the UK’s finest thrash exports once again.
Long may they reign as Britain’s thrash kings!
If you liked this, check out: The aforementioned Killing Peace (2007), a modern thrash classic to rival anything released post 2000 by Exodus, Testament and Slayer etc!
1. Sabbat – History Of A Time To Come (1988)
There are too few superlatives to convey the true majesty of Britain’s finest ever thrash album.
Sabbat were one of the most unique bands in thrash history, regardless of origin, and although short-lived, their overall contribution to the scene remains unparalleled.
Propelled by the ingenious riffs of producer extraordinaire Andy Sneap (Arch Enemy, Nevermore, Teastament) and Martin Walkyier’s uniquely unfettered and untameable vocals, Sabbat’s philosophically pagan take on religion was groundbreakingly raw and real; an honest summation of the world and it’s failings.
The opening tracks, “A Cautionary Tale”, “Hosanna In Excelsis” & Behind The Crooked Cross” are exemplary, an unholy triumvarite of trailblazing thrash that perfectly encapsulated Sabbat’s religion-baiting sound. However, it was the intelligence on display that truly ranked them as one of the genre’s greats. Here was poetry set to furious thrash, the likes of which has never been seen again.
History Of A Time To Come is mandatory listening for every thrasher on the planet and has barely aged; its place in the thrash history books permanently set in stone!
Check out our other related thrash features in this series: