British Thrash: The 10 Greatest Old-School Albums
God save our noble THRASH!
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.
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.
Liked that? Try this: Insanity Addicts (1990) was Slammer‘s second EP and a decent stab at taking their sound into ever more marketable areas.
Re-Animator – Condemened 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!
Liked that? Try this: 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.
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 showcased the breadth of talent the UK have to offer, culminating in Anti Social Engineering, one of the finest UK thrash albums ever recorded….and we ain’t fuckin’ kidding….this album absolutely slayed the competition in 2015!
Liked that? Try this: Anihilated’s debut album, Created In Hate; one of the most furiously feral thrash albums to ever emerge from the shores of the UK.
Deathwish – Demon Preacher (1988)
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).
“God’s Gift” by Toranaga (1990) would definitely make my top 10. But not a bad list, not bad at all.
Energetic krusher great British thrash band
Good call Martin, another great British Thrash band! \m/
Slammer was a crackin call . Loved that album . Lawnmower deth just awesome and needed to be above number one amongst the outer planets !
Thanks Paul. Good to see British Thrash getting some much needed love \m/
Virus Force Recon 1988 was better outsold Lunacy
A close call, both are excellent albums. Lunacy, regardless of album sales,just seemed the more complete album to me. Thanks for reading and commenting \m/
All the way through I thought you’d run out before you got to ten great British thrash records…. And then you show me history of a time to come, a record that blew me away and spent many, many hours on my turntable. Unquestionably awesome, thanks for the reminder.
Unquestionably awesome pretty much sums that album up perfectly. Thanks for reading and commenting Simon\m/
Lawnmower Deth are timeless, their live shows with Evil Scarecrow absolutely smash all over the competition. I still love that album as much as the day I bought it about 24 years ago, long live the mower liberation front! \m/
Couldn’t agree more \m/
Great list of great bands I grew up to, forgot some of these albums. Defo will be back on the turntable.
Thanks Davy. All the albums mentioned have aged remarkably well. Enjoy listening to ’em again! \m/
Some great albums in there. Own several of those myself. I would have included albums by Deathwish, Arbitrater and Pariah as well.
Thanks Kris. Deathwish’s At The Edge Of Damnation very nearly made it in, consider it placed at No.11 \m/
Pariah! Another excellent call… I’d forgotten about those guys too! Yup gimme pariah over xentrix any day. First album was awesome, then the second had that insanely long guitar duel in the second song that made me laugh every time I heard it! Happy days….
Poor Xentrix! I’m gonna have to revisit Pariah, they never really did it for me but I’ll give ’em another go. Thanks for reading and commenting Simon \m/
Deathwish-Demon Preacher..top album
Followed `Virus’ from Pray For War too, Saw Lawnmower Deth in a small pub in Derby..Excellent!
Top album indeed! \m/
Remember this lol http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/B007W0FJ7A?pc_redir=1413737077&robot_redir=1
Sacrilege, Virus, Re-Animator, Acid Reign, Lawnmower Deth….that compilation sounds awesome!
Can’t believe I forgot to mention DAM as well. Love their Human Wreckage album.
Human Wreckage and Inside Out are both right little rippers!
Great article, will definitely check these albums out. Glad Thrashist Regime got mentioned, their first album (Fearful Symmetry) is tremendous, and they’re amazing live. They’re working on a new LP that sounds like it’ll be killer!
Thanks Steven, some great albums, the majority of which are truly underrated. Thrashist Regime get my vote, looking forward to some new material! \m/
Thanks for the positive words. It’s good to be reminded that not everyone agreed with the bad press the album got at the time at the time.
Hey Paul, for every hater I’m sure you’ll find twice as many who appreciated the efforts of Slammer, Virus, Anihilated etc. Nothing but British classics in this article \m/
Sabbat – History Of A Time To Come Is A Thrash Masterpiece!
Damn right it is! \m/
Any list of mandatory thrash albums would be sorely incomplete without Sabbat’s ‘History of a Time to Come,’ and when talking about British thrash, having it anywhere but at #1 is a fuckin’ crime.
It’s all killer and no filler, and with one of the greatest lyricists our genre will ever see.
Couldn’t agree more Kevin. It’s the one British Thrash album that stands toe to toe with the all time greats of Thrash \m/
Good lord! I’d totally forgotten about Slammer and Cerebral Fix. As a young lad, Xentrix were our great white hope. Sadly, if you fly too close to Metallica, the wax holding your wings together melts and you fall to earth!
Cerebral Fix are still going strong and Xentrix are back! Probably better than Metallica nowadays as well 😉
Very good list indeed, Sabbat rightfully `….numero uno…`, only difference is, i would have, `D.A.M, 2nd, Seventh Angel 3rd, and Deathwish & Detritius, both scraping into the 10. Those Lawnmower knobs, do not deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as other great bands. D.A.M, were not given enough credit for taking a more edgier, darker sound, compared to some of the more mainstream rubbish of some other British bands.
All good Brendan, can’t really argue with any of your suggestions. Perhaps a ’20’ list would have been a better idea! I have to defend Lawnmower Deth, having seen them live just last weekend all I can say is their defiantly British sense of humour and seriously great musicianship mark them out as one of Thrash’s (and UK Thrash’s) most unique bands…I love ’em!
In hindsight, omitting D.A.M and Seventh Angel was probably an error but in the same breath I can’t pick the albums to remove in order to fit them in. Such a conundrum!! 😉 Thanks for the comments Brendan \m/
Erm…anyone heard of a band called Venom?
Borderline Thrash (at best) but a good shout Chris \m/
Seventh Angel is another thrash entry from the UK and Detritus who sounds almost like Metallica from Master of Puppets (and they employ the use of a saxophone with the pacing of their lyrics.)
Seventh Angel are/were exceptional Nickolaus….check out Ian Arkley’s current Doom Metal project My Silent Wake….amazing stuff! \m/
Great shouts, great article. I seem to remember poor Slammer getting pelters in Metal Forces letters page and fanzines due to them being signed up to a ‘Major Label’. Did I dream that or can anyone else remember? Fantastic album, very over looked
Cheers Matthew. We love a bit of Slammer here, underrated indeed!
My next suggestion:
Canadian Thrash: The 10 Greatest Old-School Albums
It shall be done!
Just thought I’d put a mention in for
Gomorrah – Reflections…
Holosade – Hell House