Worship Metal casts its critical eye over the 10 Greatest Old-School Thrash Albums from the only country to truly rival the U.S in the thrash stakes; Germany!
Predominantly an American phenomenon, thrash metal spewed out a slew of solid bands throughout Europe, Australia and South America but positively erupted in Germany. The sheer number of considerably skilled Teutonic thrashers arriving on the scene in the mid 80’s was astonishing and mounted a serious challenge to America’s dominance.
Mixing a furious blend of skin-strippingly raw and bloodied riffs with unhinged, snarling vocals and breakneck speed, Germanic thrash bands had a sound all of their own. While the Americans were preoccupied with showmanship and lengthy compositions, the Germans concentrated on the most ugly, twisted and animalistic thrash imaginable. Why bother with refinement and composure when you can simply thrash harder, faster and with more venom than the rest!
The sheer number of worthy albums which were considered for this feature was extraordinary, with the Teutonic scene delivering quality release after quality release for the majority of the mid 80’s to the early 90’s.
With that in mind, a one album per band mantra has been adopted to allow for diversity.
Let the Teutonic terror begin…..
Iron Angel – Hellish Crossfire (1985)
You’ve got to give these guys credit, Iron Angel were ripping heads clean off way back in 1985 and their distinct brand of Germanic speed/thrash may sound a tad ‘meat n’ potatoes’ to modern ears but Hellish Crossfire was the shit over 30 years ago; diabolically evil, face-meltingly fast and leading metal into ever more dangerous realms!
Opener, “The Metalian”, kickstarts the tempo and Iron Angel never once drop the pace from then on in, unleashing merry hell in the name of real metal and peeling off riffs like the end of the world was truly nigh.
Totally in thrall to Satan, these sinners concocted an absolute blast of mid 80’s thrash that remains ridiculously addictive, and holds its position as a speed/thrash classic from the genre’s formative years.
Holy Moses – Finished With The Dogs (1987)
On Finished With The Dogs, Voivod’s off-kilter hooks and Dark Angel’s early-era clatter collided with the greatest female vocal performance in thrash history to produce a completely unique moment in the annals of Teutonic thrash.
On an album that never fails to impress it’s the attitude of Holy Moses that hits hardest; a fearless, punk and grindcore-infused, middle-finger to the face of mainstream sensibilities that set them miles apart from many of their contemporaries.
Each track snaps and snarls but it’s “Current Of Death” that hits hard enough to put you into a coma (Death Angel nicked Sabina Classen’s irrefutably catchy “whoah, whoah, whoah” delivery on 2004’s Thrown to The Wolves incidentally) while “Fortress Of Desperation” settles into a groove that’ll have you bangin’ ’till you puke.
In 1987, these dogs didn’t just bite, they sank rabies-infected fangs deep into your neck and tore out chunk after chunk of bloodied flesh; brutal, uncompromising and utterly feral.
Tankard – Chemical Invasion (1987)
Tankard are the German equivalent of New Jersey’s Overkill; both bands taking the honour of being the most consistent and productive thrash bands of their respective continents.
Tankard have never strayed from their beer and whiskey soaked path but they are much more than a mere gimmicky joke band and Chemical Invasion is the one album to prove their incredible importance to the Teutonic thrash scene.
Like the mad scientist depicted on the album artwork, Tankard throw everything into their heady brew of intense drumming, barely controlled riffs and histrionic vocals. Seemingly just one more drink away from careening out of control entirely, Tankard’s hellish fury occasionally calms, the open acoustic guitar strum of “For A Thousand Beers” providing ample proof that these guys could play and play well.
Chemical Invasion is an album that demands to be listened to drunk with the room spinning and projectile puke just one more whirlwind head-bang away…true party thrash!
Just don’t ever steal their beer, you won’t like the outcome!
Also recommended: With 1988’s The Morning After, Tankard’s sense of fun was amplified but so was their technical proficiency.
Exumer – Possessed By Fire (1986)
The Teutonic 4 of Kreator, Destruction, Sodom and Tankard really should make way for a 5th member, as Exumer‘s relatively obscure debut rivals the very best the German scene had to offer.
Possessed By Fire is a perfectly executed exercise in bestial devastation and should have elevated them to superstar status. Each track runs the gamut of time changes and mood-swings and exhibit an addiction to attention deficit that makes this one album nigh on impossible to resist.
Completely unpredictable, Exumer’s sound is defiantly thrash but not as intimidatingly raw as the albums produced by Destruction and Kreator at the time. In fact, at this stage in their career Exumer were actually the more accomplished musicians and gifted songwriters as indicated on the title-track, “Destructive Solution” and ‘A Mortal in Black”.
A legendary cult item that throughly deserves it’s lofty position in this list, Exumer’s debut is one outrageously ornate thrash album that will continue to attract new fans; its schizoid attitude and countless charms are just too damn addictable!
Paradox – Heresy (1989)
Now here’s a band with more talent in one finger than most band’s hold in their entire body parts combined and Heresy was the album to bring Paradox to the attention of thrashers on a global scale!
A fully paid up concept album, Heresy re-told the tale of the Albigensian Crusade of the 13th century and in the process redefined the limits of thrash, ironically marching forth on their own crusade to combine elegance with destruction.
Approaching thrash with far less malice than the likes of Sodom, Kreator etc, Paradox instead embraced a power metal aesthetic, aligning themselves more with the likes of Metal Church, Anthrax (minus any silliness) and Onslaught circa In Search Of Sanity than with their Germanic brethren. It paid off too, helping Paradox to stand out from the pack and offering an accessibility that their teutonic peers simply didn’t offer at this point in time.
Featuring soaring twin harmonies, mind-frazzling solos and a rhythm section that could rival the tightest thrash acts around, Paradox were anything but their namesake, delivering instead a concise and melodic attack on the senses that was unrelenting in its clinical efficiency.
It’s heresy not to own this album as this piece of thrash history is absolutely goddamn essential!
Vendetta – Brain Damage (1988)
They don’t come more unique than Vendetta‘s Brain Damage, an album that retained the required thrash crunch of the era while significantly maturing and offering unparalleled diversity to the discerning thrash fan.
This was the sound of a band that should have left the underground, seriously skilled and home to such consistently impressive songwriting that a breakthrough seemed inevitable. Alas, it just wasn’t to be. But, that’s no reason to overlook its merits now as Brain Damage‘s fiendishly catchy melodies and exquisite guitar work are as impressive now as they were back in 1988!
On a par with the awe-inspiring work found on Artillery‘s By Inheritance and Annihilator‘s Alice In Hell, Vendetta’s technical prowess and crystal clear clarity showcased a band whose merits were writ large. After all, Brain Damage truly is an unsung masterpiece from the golden era of German thrash!
Also recommended: 1987’s Go and Live… Stay and Die more than hinted at the genius that was to come!
Sodom – Agent Orange (1989)
Bidding a fond farewell to the knuckle-dragging sound of their Obsessed By Cruelty debut and harnessing the considerable progress made on Persecution Mania, Sodom tickled the fancy of the mainstream with their 3rd album, Agent Orange….and the world took notice!
Overnight, Sodom seemed to transform into world-beaters and Agent Orange is an all-time classic thrash album which cemented their place in Teutonic thrash history.
Think of a superlative and it applies to this album; originality, quality, intensity, variety, and technicality all ring true. Still capable of thrashing up a storm it was on the mid-paced chug of “Remember The Fallen” and “Magic Dragon” where Sodom’s monumental progress took form. Revelling in a confidence that allowed Agent Orange’s compositions to breathe, their less is more approach reaped endless rewards with thrillingly expansive dynamics well and truly achieved.
As deadly effective as the title would suggest, Agent Orange stood out in what was a banner year for thrash; to hold your own against the might of Annihilator’s Alice In Hell, Sepultura’s Beneath The Remains, Overkill’s The Years Of Decay and Kreator’s Extreme Aggression takes some doing….but Sodom proved more than worthy of the challenge.
Also recommended: Opening with the vicious “Nuclear Winter”, Persecution Mania (1987) instantly set out its stall as Tom Angelripper (vocals and bass), Frank Blackfire (guitars) and Witchhunter (drums) looked to political, social and war themes for inspiration.
Destruction – Infernal Overkill (1985)
These Germanic, bullet-belt strewn boys made one hell of an entrance when their full-length debut detonated over 35 years ago.
Blackened thrash was the order of the day and Infernal Overkill came out charred, scorched and searing; the heat generated from this trio of tormentors manifesting itself as fervourous thrashers “The Ritual”, “Thrash Attack” and “Antichrist”.
While Infernal Overkill may have lacked subtlety and finesse it more than made up for its shortcomings in frenzied raw power and youthful exuberance. Destruction would go on to define the Teutonic thrash scene and give rise to the unstoppable force of death metal….but it all began here!
Also recommended: Destruction released a technical thrash masterclass in the deformed shape of 1988’s Release From Agony and for more ‘classic thrash, you can’t go wrong with 1986’s thrashing whirlwind that is Eternal Devastation!
Deathrow – Deception Ignored (1989)
Where this came from is anyone’s guess!
After the relatively no-thrills thrash found on Deathrow’s Riders Of Doom aka Satan’s Gift and Raging Steel (both are worth checking out, incidentally), there was virtually no indication that Deathrow would break boundaries with their 3rd full length release!
Complex and rhythmically confounding – but never at the cost of a satisfying sense of structure – the likes of “Narcotic” were insane blasts of technical wizardry and should have marked Deathrow out as pioneers of progressive thrash metal this early in the game.
Instead, obscurity beckoned with Deception Ignored initially receiving a lukewarm response from a legion of confused fans. Fortunately, this outstanding album has gone on to be revered as a work of almost labyrinthian art; misunderstood by many but now beloved by those in the know.
A technical thrash masterpiece from a band way, way ahead of the curve!
Kreator – Pleasure To Kill (1986)
How could this genre milestone not be at Number 1?!
A landmark moment in thrash history, Kreator‘s Pleasure To Kill stands proud alongside Metallica’s Ride The Lightning, Slayer’s Reign In Blood, Megadeth’s Rust In Peace, Exodus’ Bonded By Blood, Dark Angel’s Darkness Descends, Forbidden’s Twisted Into Form and Anthrax’s Among The Living as one of the greatest thrash albums ever recorded.
This precociously vicious shitstorm instantly struck a chord with thrashers worldwide and Kreator found themselves leading the way in the Teutonic scene. Unhinged to the point of incarceration, Pleasure To Kill‘s track-list borders on a greatest hits selection with the wall of noise maelstrom of “Ripping Corpse”, the unforgettable “Pleasure To Kill”, the death metal influencing “Riot Of Violence” and the epic and surprisingly complex “The Pestilence” all meriting classic status.
An inspiration to countless bands, death metal and grindcore legends Napalm Death covered “Riot Of Violence” and even they couldn’t match the intensity and ferocity of its original incarnation!
Kreator altered the German thrash landscape with Pleasure To Kill and frankly, mayhem of this calibre never sounded so good again.
Also recommended: Take your pick from Terrible Certainty (1987), Extreme Aggression (1989) and Coma Of Souls (1990)….all are worthy of inclusion here!
More than worthy of a mention: Accuser –Who Dominates Who / Angel Dust – Into The Dark Past / Assassin – The Upcoming Terror / Assorted Heap – Mindwaves / Darkness – Death Squad / Despair – Beyond All Reason / Living Death – Protected From Reality / Megace – Human Errors / Mekong Delta – Dances Of Death (And Other Walking Shadows / Protector – Golem / Pyracanda – Two Sides Of A Coin / Risk – The Daily Horror News / Violent Force – Malevolent Assault Of Tomorrow
If we’ve forgotten your favourite old-school German thrash album, leave a comment below and we shall engage in banter…..
Check out our other related thrash features in this series: