With a rich history of underground gems and a devastating array of tech/prog thrash masterpieces nestling next to classics from Kreator, Destruction, Sodom and Tankard, the German thrash metal scene of the 80’s and the early 90’s was as fertile as anywhere in the world!
With that in mind, Worship Metal has selected 35 of the greatest old-school German thrash albums in existence……
Risk – The Daily Horror News (1988)
Roll up, roll up, read all about it….daft Germans in excellent speed/thrash shocker!
With a pedigree dating all the way back to 1967(!), Risk took the relatively safe gamble of updating their hard rock/prog rock sound originally finessed when they carried the Faithful Breath moniker and went hell for leather with ‘debut’, The Daily Horror News.
With precise riffing and unruly speed, the raw nature of this obscurity may prove to be a shock to those expecting something a little cleaner from a band who had originally played their trade two decades prior. As it turned out, Risk proved more than adept at out-riffing the majority of their peers and seemed to have thrash flowing through their veins; a more cohesive and intelligent late 80’s speed/thrash album you’d be hard pressed to find.
Ridiculous artwork, cracking album!
Toxic Shock – Welcome Home…Near Dark (1990)
Improving on Change From Reality (Toxic Shock’s 1988 debut), Welcome Home…Near Dark would find the band signing with the ever-expanding Nuclear Blast and considerably improving on their craft in the process!
With a gutter-thrash aesthetic still prevalent, Toxic Shock also embraced a more expansive sound, revealing in a new found technicality that was both rough and ready, ugly and obnoxious and yet still capable of keeping up with the prog/tech heavy output of much of their peers.
Revelling in the beauty of brutality, moments on the title track were death metal in nature but it was the thundering “Dragons Eye (The Story Part I)” that, ironically, caught the eye….traversing a myriad of time changes and attitudes over 6 thrilling minutes.
If you consider yourself an old-school thrasher and you haven’t heard Welcome Home…Near Dark, consider yourself in need of an education!
Holy Moses – Queen Of Siam (1986)
Female thrash singers in ’86 were firmly making their mark on the scene and Holy Moses’ Sabine Classen was no exception. At this stage, Holy Moses were no great shakes in the songwriting department but what they lacked in dynamics was made up for with blunt force riffing and those throat-shredding vocals!
The rapid fire Venom-isms of “Walpurgisnight” and opener “Necropolis” indicate the influence the more ill-refined members of the NWOBHM had on these Germans and coupled with the unholy racket conjured by Sodom etc at the time, these ‘black’ metallers (Holy Moses’ words not ours!) were already catching up with the Teutonic three of Sodom, Kreator & Destruction.
While Queen Of Siam could never be described as the definitive Holy Moses release (that honour surely goes to 87’s rabid Finished With The Dogs), there’s a primitive charm on display here that rewards the listener to this day.
Finally, this may be a throwaway comment, but could Queen Of Siam be described as one of the earliest death metal releases? Sabine Classen’s vocals would certainly suggest so!
Angel Dust – Into The Dark Past (1986)
Before they fully embraced power metal, Germany’s Angel Dust had a pop at speed/thrash and as debuts go, Into The Dark Past was a fast, frantic, thrill ride! Resolutely obsessed with speed over finesse, these 8 ripping tracks were less Sodom and Kreator and more Iron Angel; a thrilling hybrid of speed and thrash that was equal parts melody and barbarity.
Romme Keymer’s vocals may have received a bit of stick over the years but they fit the music perfectly. Ugly, forceful, yet furnished with glimpses of power metal harmony, Keymer was actually an unorthodox yet perfect match-up.
Fans of Agent Steel, Grave Digger and Helloween should already be aware of Angel Dust’s early output. Those who missed out the first time round should applaud the relatively recent re-release of Into The Dark Past via No Remorse Records, grab a copy while you can and journey into Angel Dust’s actually bright past!
Grinder – Dead End (1989)
Beginning with “Agent Orange” (not a cover of Sodom’s classic but a classic of their own making), Grinder‘s stomping, militarised, rotor-riffs flow flawlessly into the kind of quality melodic thrash that should have adhered these German thrashers to millions…..and the quality just keeps on coming!
Channeling the highly melodic noise of Flotsam and Jetsam and Anthrax, Grinder still managed to create something a little different in the thrash world; no easy task by the time the late 80’s rolled around. Playing with structure and speed, Grinder’s skill lay in fluid bass lines and taking the turn least expected. The result? An album that remains unpredictable and surprisingly unique.
In particular, Dead End‘s title track is a thrash monster, a totally unique speed/thrash workout which traverses more moods and more terrain than most thrash albums manage in their entirety!
Tankard – The Morning After (1988)
Tankard‘s 3rd studio album was released in 1988 and was swiftly followed by the Alien EP the following year. At this stage, Tankard were a force to be reckoned with and their name was finally being uttered in the same breath as their German brethren in Kreator, Sodom and Destruction.
With The Morning After, Tankard’s sense of fun was amplified but so was there technical proficiency. These guys were improving at a rate of knots (despite the inebriation) and the likes of “Commandments” shamed Slayer in the speed stakes.
Tankard were fast becoming one of thrash metal’s most violent acts but there was still fun to be had. The frenetic likes of “Shit-Faced” and the title-track reinforced Tankard’s credentials as a party band to be reckoned with but their standing in thrash circles was only increasing with each release.
Notably punk in flavour, this relentless little shit of an album will still leave you with a head-banging hangover regardless of whether you sank 10 pints the night before!
Minotaur – Power Of Darkness (1988)
Shrouding metal fans in nothing but complete darkness was Minotaur, a blackened thrash band capable of nothing but the most hideously raw thrash imaginable.
Minotaur should have gone down in history as one of the proto-death bands, as important to the rise of death metal as Possessed, Slayer, Death Strike, Repulsion and Hellhammer. The fact that Minotaur are often not uttered in the same breath is a crime as Power Of Darkness was also at the forefront of changing trends. Hell, they released a single titled Death Metal in 1990…..of course, by then it was too little, too late for Minotaur to truly be noticed!
Featuring a Mille Petrozza-like vocalist in the form of Andi Richwien, his untamed black metal-esque shriek was just a part of Minotaur’s early embrace of unhinged chaos, with the fast and frantic likes of the appropriately monikered “Apocalptic Trials” and “Necromancer” backed by dynamically varied, brutal blasts of untamed musicianship.
An essential proto-death / Teutonic thrash classic!
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.
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 The Teutonic Three….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 remains an absolute blast.
Darkness – Death Squad (1987)
Severely lacking in anything approaching originality, you’d be forgiven for letting Darkness pass you by, their by-the-numbers thrash attack adhering a little too faithfully to the pioneering sounds already solidified by Sodom, Destruction and Kreator a few years earlier.
However, give Darkness a chance to shine (ironically) and you’ll experience a debut album that actually hits pretty damn hard with sustained and tightly controlled rage. Opening ‘oh so gently’ with the delicately strummed “Invasion Sector 12”, it’s the building intensity of a distant air siren and the unnerving sounds of bombs decimating the landscape that truly warns of things to come….with all-out-war eventually declared by these leather-clad thrashers!
A bevy of speed-obsessed ragers then follow, careening forth just on the right side of chaos with the likes of “Critical Threshold” and “Staatsfeind” providing the requisite blistering riffs and compulsory head-banging moments.
Pyracanda – Two Sides Of A Coin (1990)
Pyracanda‘s debut full length remains somewhat of an oddity but it’s an album that deserves accolades, not just for its melodic sensibilities – which ably recalled the majesty of Mike Howe-era Metal Church and fellow countrymen and label mates Grinder – but for its technical aptitude and supreme songwriting skill.
Unfavourably discarded in favour of the big guns of teutonic thrash, Pyracanda’s Two Sides Of A Coin actually holds up just as well as the early 90’s output of Kreator, Sodom et all. In fact, with their occasional speed metal tendencies, huge vocals and galloping riffs, Two Sides Of A Coin arguably delivers a timeless sound; easily fitting in with the current trend for trad metal/speed metal making Pyracanda more relevant than ever.
These melodic thrashers were absolute class, pure and simple!
Tankard – Zombie Attack (1986)
Released in arguably the finest year thrash has ever known (1986), Tankard‘s debut made a decent splash but still finds itself semi-forgotten when talking about the cream of thrash albums of 1986, even though its considerable merits are still more than evident!
With Tankard’s simple formula cemented from the get-go (a formula that they’ve barely deviated from), their potent brew of light speed thrash, beer, whiskey, parody and partying hard began in earnest on Zombie Attack and the world was introduced to the finest drinking/party thrash band on the planet.
Home to the thrash classic “(Empty) Tankard”, the remaining 9 tracks on Zombie Attack are just as urgent, just as infections and, frankly, just as timeless in 2019.
While they were perceived as a bit of a joke at this stage in their career, it’s important to note that Zombie Attack didn’t just lurch into view, it sprinted straight at you with eyes-bloodshot, teeth-gnashing and pint glasses raised….Tankard had arrived!
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!
Also recommended: Paradox’s debut Product Of Imagination (1987) was a technical slab of exhilarating power / thrash which more than hinted at what was to come just two years later!
Kreator – Coma Of Souls (1990)
In 1990, thrash was still a powerful force to be reckoned with and Kreator would unleash one last tirade of terrifying teutonic thrash before succumbing to inevitable change. Fortunately, fans were treated to one of the finest thrash releases of 1990, in the formidable shape of Coma Of Souls.
Following Extreme Aggression was always going to a challenge but, in 1990, Kreator were still a rampaging thrash machine, more than capable of surpassing the majority of their peers and delivering one last hurrah in the name of bestiality!
Elements of groove and Priest/Maiden-esque melody may have seeped into the the achingly catchy “People Of The Lie” and “Terror Zone” but there’s no denying that the likes of “Twisted Urges” and the appropriately titled “Agents Of Brutality” were frenetic bursts of feral thrash.
29 years on and Coma Of Souls remains a masterclass in melodic thrash metal.
Assorted Heap – Mindwaves (1992)
Assorted Heap‘s second album is a minor masterpiece. Pure and simple.
Hitting the prog ramp at high speed, Assorted Heap finessed their already impressive sound (1991’s far more aggressive The Experience Of Horror is also well worth checking out) and delivered an unsung classic of progressive thrash; the kind of calling card that should have seen them attain more than mere ‘cult’ status.
Transcending genre trappings with ease, Assorted Heap mirrored the wholesale changes and ‘anything is possible’ mentality of Sarcofago circa The Laws Of Scourge, ultimately delivering an album that lived and died by its palpable atmosphere and unique, often ornate, clarity of sound.
A distinctive moment in thrash….German or otherwise!
Also recommended: Debut album, The Experience Of Horror, was a far more brutal affair that bought more of a death / thrash approach to proceedings.
Violent Force – Malevolent Assault Of Tomorrow (1987)
Something of a cult curio, Violent Force‘s Malevolent Assault Of Tomorrow deserves 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 Tomorrowis straight-to-the-face thrashing with absolutely no effort to confound tradition or break new ground. That can be taken 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.
Living Death – Protected From Reality (1987)
Savage as all hell, Living Death‘s 3rd full length album was a speed/thrash onslaught that took thrash into ever more extreme spheres of madness, careening forth in a blitzkrieg of unhinged riffs and Thorsten Bergmann’s often unnerving banshee screams.
Perhaps an acquired taste, Living Death seemed to forfeit thrash metal’s accessible aspects for a more unholy approach but they did still find room for some serious showboating! Check out the masterful instrumental “Wood of Necrophiliac”, which finds time to incorporate obligatory 80’s acoustic guitar spliced with some serious chugging riffs, monk-like vocal chanting and an atmosphere which catapults the listener into the creepiest realms imaginable.
Raw, aggressive and unpredictable, this underrated thrash act were arguably never better than on Protected From Reality.
Also recommended: 1985’s Metal Revolution aptly kicked off Living Death’s progression towards a more aggressive form of thrash.
Assassin – The Upcoming Terror (1987)
Along with the likes of Exumer, Holy Moses and Vendetta, Düsseldorf’s Assassin were vastly underrated in the late 80’s with the lion’s share of German thrash talk revolving around Kreator, Sodom, Destruction and Tankard.
Admittedly, these crazed speed freaks weren’t quite in the same league as The Big Teutonic Four but they could riff up a frenzied riff storm when they wanted to and their debut, The Upcoming Terror, would prove to be their finest ever moment!
A true cult classic, Assassin got straight to the fuckin’ point on their debut with the likes of “Bullet” and “Nemesis” proving particularly aggressive and while we’re not in technical thrash territory, it’s Assassin’s hardcore punk approach that actually adds another level of dirt to this incendiary album.
Protector – A Shedding Of Skin (1991)
Protector’s 3rd album, A Shedding Of Skin, experimented wildly with daringly diversified dynamics and pacing while still remaining 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 revered as a progressive death/thrash masterclass from one of the most consistently reliable bands in German thrash history.
If Testament’s dalliances with death metal on the underrated Demonic caused you to suffer from involuntary liquid explosions then A Shedding Of Skin will require you to be hospitalised with dehydration; death/thrash has arguably never been executed better!
Also recommended: Protector’s debut, Golem, is as ferocious as they come and remains ample proof that there were none heavier in the Teutonic scene than this underrated band during the mid to late 80’s!
Exumer – Possessed By Fire (1986)
Exumer’s Possessed By Fire is a perfectly executed exercise in bestial devastation and should have elevated these Germans to superstar status.
Completely unpredictable, Exumer’s sound is defiantly thrash but not as intimidatingly raw as the albums produced at the time by their peers Destruction, Sodom and Kreator. In fact, at this stage in their career Exumer were the more accomplished musicians; each track running the gamut of time changes and mood-swings and exhibiting an addiction to attention deficit that still makes Possessed By Fire nigh on impossible to resist.
A legendary cult item, 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 to ignore!
Also recommended: 1987’s follow up album, Rising From The Sea, offered more of the same and was equally as effective!
Sieges Even – Lifecycle (1988)
Where to begin when discussing one of the finest moments in progressive thrash history?
Sieges Even may have gone on to become a more considered, melodic progressive metal act but their debut was a beast of technical/progressive thrash, powered by the almost falsetto delivery of Franz Herde.
Comparisons with Watchtower remain rife but to dismiss Lifecycle as a mere clone of Control And Resistance would be missing the point. This was an era of exploration and of pushing boundaries, which is exactly what Sieges Even were doing from the outset.
Sure, both bands were influenced by the prog giants of the 70’s – alongside the thrash boom led by Metallica – but Sieges Even took everything that much further, splicing the DNA of prog and thrash to create a new, extreme, version of both. The results were extraordinary, dazzling the mind with a series of labyrinthine structures that were brooding, malevolent and practically beyond judgment!
Also recommended: Sieges Even quickly went proper prog but 1990’s Steps will reward those whose tastes venture into the realms of the obscure.
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.
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 thrash!
Also recommended: While not as expansive or (r)evolutionary as Bran Damage, Vendetta’s debut, Go And Live…Stay And Die (1987), was an ideal introduction to the bands unique brand of thrash.
Destruction – Eternal Devastation
Hot on the tails of the US thrash elite were Germany’s own teutonic terror’s and Destruction‘s Eternal Devastation was a bestial invasion that let the world know that the Germans were coming!
Perhaps not quite hitting the heights of 1985’s Infernal Overkill, Destruction were still conjuring greatness and classic thrashers can be found here. From the all-time great that is “Curse The Gods” to the still surprising folk-thrash opening of “United By Hatred” and the air-raid siren soloing of “Life Without Sense”, Destruction sounded confident, brash and capable of anything on only their second full length release.
Early European thrash that consolidated Germany’s importance alongside the Bay Area acts, Eternal Devastation remains beloved by thrash fans the world over and for bloody good reason; it’s as devastating as ever.
Despair – Beyond All Reason (1992)
Technical German thrash doesn’t come much better than Beyond All Reason, the 3rd album from Despair and a milestone of the genre!
Superlatives come thick and fast when describing this unsung classic with Despair shredding with maximum intensity one minute, delivering keyboard-laden atmospherics the next and delivering nothing but virtuoso guitar work throughout.
In fact, it’s a crime that Beyond All Reason isn’t discussed with nearly as much enthusiasm as it should. This is a staggering piece of work, dazzlingly complex and rife with an advanced sense of barrelling chord progressions and off-kilter time changes.
There was something in the water in Germany during the late 80’s and early 90’s and Despair were the equal of Deathrow, Mekong Delta, Sieges Even, Vendetta and their ilk!
Also recommended: Despair’s 1988 debut, History of Hate, is as efficient and kick-ass a thrash metal album as you could ask for…..but the best was yet to come!.
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!
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 hit 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 snapped and snarled but it’s “Current Of Death” that hit 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” settled 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.
Sodom – Persecution Mania (1987)
Sodom‘s second full length album marked a notably drastic change of sound from the clattering black metal of 1986’s Obsessed By Cruelty, to the kind of thrash metal that continues to define Sodom’s persona some 30+ years later.
Opening with the vicious “Nuclear Winter”, Persecution Mania 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. This would become a consistent motif as time went on but was arguably perfected at the first time of asking with “Electrocution”, the title track itself and, particularly, “Bombenhagal” delivering the goods as Sodom went about delivering the tightest, meanest, leanest, collection of songs in their career.
However, for all the plaudits and notable progression in maturity, Persecution Mania would be considered Sodom’s greatest achievement if it weren’t for the arrival of the outstanding Agent Orange just 2 years later…..and there’s more on that particular masterpiece further on in this feature!
Mekong Delta – The Principle Of Doubt (1989)
A band whose entire 80’s and early 90’s discography probably all warrants mention here but we’ve gone with 1989’s The Principle Of Doubt as the best reflection of Mekong Delta‘s virtually unclassifiable sound.
Mekong Delta often operated on another level entirely and this, their 3rd full length album, was certainly no exception!The chug of Anthrax-esque riffs may have provided the core of their sound but Mekong Delta stood out from the pack via their otherworldly solos, frantic percussion and abstract background noise; resulting in a sonic maelstrom often inconceivable in its complexity.
To sound like you’re playing a different song to your bandmates and still fashion these sounds into something resembling a recognisable song structure is a feat in itself…..and yet, Mekong Delta managed it time and time again.
Just give the title track a spin and try telling us your head isn’t left spinning from the sheer madness of it all!
Also recommended: Let’s be fair, we could have included any one of Mekong Delta’s 80’s and 90’s albums (take your pick from Mekong Delta / The Music Of Erich Zann / Dances Of Death (And Other Walking Shadows) / Kaleidoscope / Visons Fugitives) as each and every one can be considered a milestone of technically-minded, progressive thrash metal.
Destruction – Release From Agony (1987)
Destruction may have started life as a rough ‘n’ ready blackened thrash band but by the time their third full length album, Release From Agony, arrived in 1987, they’d transformed themselves into a technical thrash act par excellence.
The mad butcher didn’t just strike back with this album, it hacked and sliced its way through the competition and while (originally) the quality of Release From Agony‘s production left a lot to be desired, the likes of “Sign Of Fear” and “Survive To Die” indicated that Destruction were now operating on a higher level than the majority of their peers.
A thrilling combination of insanely technical riffs and abstract song structures marks out Release From Agony as a true masterpiece of Teutonic thrash……and Destruction would, arguably, never be so wilfully obscure again!
Also recommended: While it really isn’t Destruction without Schmier at the helm, on 1989’s Cracked Brain Poltergeist’s André Grieder stepped up to the mic…..and the results weren’t half bad!
Kreator – Extreme Aggression (1989)
With their 4th record, Germany’s thrash giants Kreator finally coupled their frenzied attack with hooks and choruses catchy enough to make even your Great Gran nod furiously along!
With each track on Extreme Aggression maintaining a ridiculously high tempo, the Kreator boys ripped through 9 tracks of Teutonic fury featuring vicious, stabbing riffs and Mille Petrozza’s sandpaper vocals. They even scored an MTV hit with their video for “Betrayer”, gaining them valuable exposure in America; a considerable achievement for music as harsh and unrelenting as this.
Kreator’s second album, Pleasure to Kill (more on that later), may be revered as a death / thrash colossus but Extreme Aggression was the sound of a band arguably operating at the peak of their powers.
Deathrow – Deception Ignored (1988)
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, 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 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 masterpiece from a band way ahead of the curve and probably he most impressive German thrash album, from a technical perspective, in existence!
Also recommended: As previously mentioned, 1987’s Raging Steel is a fairly average German speed/thrash metal album in comparison but is not devoid of all charm.
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 own Extreme Aggression takes some doing….but Sodom proved more than worthy of the challenge.
Destruction – Infernal Overkill (1985)
These Germanic, bullet-belt strewn boys made one hell of an entrance when their full-length debut detonated nearly 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!
Kreator – Pleasure To Kill (1986)
How could this genre milestone not be at Number 1!
A landmark moment in thrash history, 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 again!