Kreator, Sodom, Destruction and Tankard; the “Big Four” of Teutonic thrash metal. Prime contributors to one of the major scenes of thrash metal in the 1980s and early 90’s, these four bands were responsible for some of the greatest thrash albums known to man.
Here’s the 10 best old-school albums released by these German big four of thrash……
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!