Continuing in the vein of our British thrash feature, 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.
After all, 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, the Teutonic scene delivering quality release after quality release for the majority of the mid to late 80’s. With that in mind, a one album per band mantra has been adopted to allow for diversity.
Let the Teutonic terror begin!
10. Necronomicon – Escalation (1988)
Retaining the necro-sound pioneered by Sodom and Destruction on their early releases Obsessed By Cruelty and Sentence Of Death, Necronomicon‘s raw, dirty riffs and barely contained malevolence may not be as well known as Sodom, Destruction and Kreator but it sure does compete.
Escalation‘s 8 tracks masterfully cave your face in with alarming frequency. “Death Toll”, “…and the Night Will Be Silent” and “Mosh The ABC” ring the tempo changes and even introduce Helloween-esque levels of power metal melody to an otherwise insanely fast and unyielding mix.
“Dirty Minds” is the one track doesn’t quite fit but it’s hard rock stylings are admittedly fun and there’s nothing wrong with writing catchy, up-beat thrash ditties; just ask Tankard!
Lo-fi and frenetic, Escalation is an absolute blast.
9. Violent Force – Malevolent Assault Of Tomorrow (1987)
Something of a cult curio, Malevolent Assault Of Tomorrow deserved to be revered instead of forgotten and it’s high time this agonisingly aggressive and frantic thrash gem was rediscovered.
Opening with the Motörhead-indebted “Dead City”, the album actually improves after this bout of hero worship is finished with. Settling into a groove of their own it’s on “Sign Of Evil”, “Vengeance And Venom” and “S.D.I” where Violent Force really prove their mettle.
100% committed to thrashing you senseless, their salaciously filthy riffs and demented drumming may be highly reminiscent of comrades Kreator, but Malevolent Assault Of Tomorrow is straight-to-the-face thrashing with absolutely no effort to confound tradition or break new ground; take that as a compliment by the way.
Sometimes thrash should be simple, brutal and without remorse and on their one and only full-length album, Violent Force ticked all three boxes and lived up to their name perfectly.
8. Protector – A Shedding Of Skin (1991)
Approaching the genre in a similar way to Brazil’s Sarcofago on their The Laws Of Scourge masterpiece, Protector‘s A Shedding Of Skin experiments wildly with daringly diversified dynamics and pacing which remains resolutely committed to stripping skin from bone.
Barring a few moments of slower-paced bruising on tracks such as “Death Comes Soon” and “Thy Will Be Done” this blasts harder than ten-tonnes of dynamite down a mine-shaft and should be as revered as a death/thrash progressive masterclass.
If Testament’s dalliances with death metal on the underrated Demonic caused involuntary liquid explosions then A Shedding Of Skin will require you to be hospitalised with dehydration; death/thrash has arguably never been executed better!
7. Accuser – Who Dominates Who (1989)
Approaching their brand of thrash metal with an eye for experimentation and a flurry of time-changes, Accuser‘s Who Dominates Who may have arrived at the tail end of the 80’s but it still had something new to say.
Each track on Who Dominates Who slams hard with colossal choruses, hardcore shouts and a grinding sound that relentlessly pummels its way into your brain. It’s pretty safe to say that Metallica’s stop-start chug and elaborate song-structures were Accuser’s main inspiration and that’s no surprise considering the year it was recorded.
On an album spilling over with epic thrash tracks it’s “Symbol Of Hate” and the title-track that pack the biggest one-two punch; each song meandering through endlessly inventive machine-gun riffs and full-force battery.
Accuser may never have been spoken off in the same breath as the genre’s greats but Who Dominates Who is the one album in their back catalogue that rises high above the status of also-rans.
6. 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!
5. Holy Moses – Finished With The Dogs (1987)
On Finished With The Dogs, Voivod’s off-kilter hooks and Dark Angel’s early-era clatter collide 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.
No one sounded like Holy Moses!
4. 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!
3. 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.
2. Destruction – Infernal Overkill (1985)
These Germanic, bullet-belt strewn boys made one hell of an entrance when their full-length debut detonated well over 30 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!
1. 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 with Ride The Lightning, Reign In Blood, Rust In Peace, Bonded By Blood, Darkness Descends and 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!
More than worthy of a mention: Deathrow – Raging Steel / Iron Angel – Hellish Crossfire / Living Death – Protected From Reality / Darkness – Death Squad / Assassin – The Upcoming Terror / Vendetta – Brain Damage
If we’ve forgotten your favourite old-school album, leave a comment below and let’s banter!