The 12 Albums That Kept Thrash Alive During The Mid to Late 1990’s (1994-1999)
The world had turned to grunge but these thashers just kept on thrashin'!
After the release of some seminal thrash albums in the early 90’s (Megadeth’s Rust In Peace / Dark Angel’s Time Does Not Heal / Annihilator’s Never, Neverland / Death Angel’s Act III/ Vio-lence’s Oppressing The Masses / Heathen’s Victims Of Deception to name a few) those flannel-wearing whinge-bags of grunge took over and thrash kinda died on its arse, seemingly overnight.
While some bands split and others adapted their sound to meet the demands of a new audience – Metallica went all country on Load/Reload, Anthrax swapped thrash for straight-up heavy metal on Sound Of White Noise, Megadeth took the mainstream hard rock option on Risk, Exodus and Forbidden turned to groove metal on Force Of Habit and Green respectively, Nuclear Assault went AWOL entirely, Kreator went goth on Outcast and Sepultura embraced nu-metal on Roots – a few belligerent bastards refused to bow down to changing trends and thrashed like never before!!
Here’s 12 albums by bands that didn’t give a flying fuck that thrash’s glory days were behind them, keeping thrash alive until its long-awaited resurgence in the early 00’s….
Overkill – W.F.O (1994)
After a successful excursion into Groove Metal on 1993’s I Hear Black – a vastly undervalued album incidentally – just a year later Overkill returned to their good ol’ Thrashin’ ways with W.F.O. The result was an old-school blast of furious Thrash that reminded fans why they fell in love with these New Jersey noiseniks in the first place.
Home to killer opener “Where It Hurts” (these boys never fail to deliver an absolute belter of an opening track) and Thrash juggernauts “Fast Junkie” and “Up To Zero” it was the ridiculously infectious “Bastard Nation” that stood out from the pack; faithfully thrashy yet surely designed to be a monster ‘hit’ if the bastards had just paid attention!
W.F.O. (or Wide Fucking Open for its full title) proved to be the last hurrah for Overkill’s glory days as the 90’s all but stalled their progress. Nevertheless, W.F.O should be celebrated as a classic 90’s Thrash album that bucked prevailing trends and thrashed like a mutherfucker!
Slayer – Divine Intervention (1994)
While Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax were pratting around with their sound, trying desperately to maintain the attention of an apathetic audience, Slayer ignored changes in trends completely and released a no holds barred Thrash album; no ballads, no groove metal, no rapping, no country music crap….just 100% THRASH!!
Proving to be the bands last truly great album – don’t argue, their releases have been undeniably patchy since Divine Intervention‘s release – Kerry King took the lion’s share of the songwriting duties and swapped the accessible nuances of Seasons In The Abyss for ferociously corrosive short-bursts of barely controlled rage.
Re-familarise yourselves with “Sex.Murder.Art” and “Dittohead“, songs that are as rough and ready as they are clinically effective as ample proof that this was one 90’s Thrash album that hadn’t even noticed Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains etc quietly stealing their audience. But then that’s a contradiction in terms as Slayer fans are, always were, resolutely loyal and MTV abandoning Thrash for Grunge was never a scenario any Slayer fan worth their salt would ever contemplate doing.
Slayer didn’t need to worry about changing trends in 1994, they just needed to keep on Thrashing; which is exactly what Divine Intervention did!
Tankard – The Tankard (1995)
True Tankard fans often rate The Tankard as the German stalwarts most under-appreciated album and for bloody good reason.
Containing the most diverse set of songs of the German’s 29 year career, The Tankard may not be as instantly infectious as their classics Zombie Attack, Chemical Invasion and The Morning After but it arguably contains the finest songs these Teutonic beer-lovin’ terrors have ever penned (or regurgitated). From the insanely catchy chorus of “Minds On The Moon” to the Punky tempos of “Close Encounter“, Tankard’s 7th album may still be the most streamlined and immediately accessible of their entire career.
The fact they delivered their most complete album slap bang in the middle of a decade that didn’t give a fuck about Thrash proves their commitment to the cause. Tankard will always Thrash, they’re as reliable as the result of mixing grain, hops, yeast and water!!
Sodom – Masquerade In Blood (1995)
Opening with the frantically raw “Masquerade In Blood“, Sodom‘s return to Thrash after their dalliances in Death Metal on 1992’s Tapping The Vein and Hardcore Punk on 1994’s Get What You Deserve was a courageous attempt to keep the Thrash flag flying in the virtually Thrash-free 90’s.
The Death Metal and Hardcore Punk influences do remain on Sodom’s 7th studio effort but are explored via a more faithful Thrash framework. The result was a Thrash album that recalled Motörhead at their heaviest while exhibiting a total disregard for Thrash’s diminishing appeal. Check out Murder In My Eyes for a quick fix of Sodom’s relentless battery during an era that was embracing contemplation and soul-searching over machismo and aural assault.
Resolutely heavy and as ugly as a bus full of Ronaldinho look-a-likes, Masquerade In Blood made up in Thrashy mid 90’s goodness what it lacked in songwriting skill and subtelty. Bludgeoning.
Iced Earth – Burnt Offerings (1995)
As enamoured with Power Metal as Thrash, Iced Earth’s 3rd album undoubtedly counts as a 1990’s trend-defying Thrash experience that added oodles of depth to its powerhouse musicianship.
Dramatic and terminally unfashionable, it’s incredible such histrionic and horror-indebted Heavy Metal ever found an audience but Iced Earth have always been capable of releasing trend-defying Thrash/Power Metal albums that appeal to those who long for immersive narrative, palpable atmosphere and epic songwriting alongside their staccato riffs and soaring vocal lines.
An often forgotten classic in Iced Earth’s formidable back catalogue, the dark and foreboding self titled track , the Thrash balladry of “Last December” and the bold, brave and adventurous closer “Dante’s Inferno” help to form an experience that may not be the greatest Iced Earth have delivered but in a decade that looked down upon this sort of Progressive Thrash with disdain, should be revered as a middle finger in the face of 90’s corporate Metal.
Witchburner – Witchburner (1996)
Who launches a Thrash career in the mid 1990’s? Witchburner that’s who!
Ignoring the fact that Thrash was as dead as dead gets, these German miscreants took the Teutonic influence of Kreator, Destruction, Darkness and Necronomicon and unleashed some of the most brutally evil Thrash noise heard in years.
The fact that no one paid a blind bit of attention was moot. Thrash was still alive screamed Witchburner and be it primitive, lo-fi and completely devoid of panache and variation, it’s worth acknowledging that Witchburner’s debut at least attempted to go against the tide of public opinion and keep Thrash alive.
Check out the mid-tempo harassment of “Hammer Of Destruction” for evidence of Witchburner’s defiantly simple homage to the genre’s greats; it may be barbarically uncomplicated but in 1996 this kind of Thrash was a putrid breath of much-needed fresh air.
Razor – Decibels (1997)
Launching a comeback in 1997 was a brave move for Canada’s Razor and this urban Thrash onslaught – their first release in 6 years – Thrashed hard regardless of the fact that Thrash was not exactly en vogue in the late 90’s. Intimidatingly menacing, the title track, “Jimi The Fly” and “Great White Lie” showed no mercy either at high speed or mid-paced bludgeoning; Razor reassuringly adopting an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ attitude to their punishing arrangements.
Heavy on the distorted riffs and vocals, Decibels may not have been vintage Razor – check out Evil Invaders and Shotgun Justice for prime examples of their finest work – but the chainsaw’s ripping through flesh guitars are admirably crunchy and Razor bowed out gracefully (or should that be disgracefully) with their last album to date.
Sadus – Elements Of Anger (1997)
One of the most unique Thrash bands ever to exist, Sadus’ thrilling amalgamation of Thrash, Death and Progressive Metal reached an arguable peak with the mid-paced stomp of 1997’s Elements Of Anger.
Steve DiGiorgio’s fretless Bass wizardry impressed as always but it was the experimental song structures Sadus were renowned for that marked out their 4th album as a Prog-Thrash monster in the latter half of the 90’s.
“Words Of War” and “Power Of One” may be streamlined when compared to the frankly bonkers nature of the tracks found on Swallowed In Black (1990) and Illusions (1988) but this semi-accessible approach stood in Sadus’ favour; their unique songwriting style and technically astonishing avenue of Thrash gifting real hooks and subtle melody alongside the aggressive savagery.
Eye-opening stuff no matter what the decade.
Whiplash – Thrashback (1998)
The album title alone lays out Whiplash‘s stall from the outset….it was time to bring Thrash back and Whiplash were the band to take the bull by the horns and start Thrashin’ like it was the 1980’s again!
Reuniting the acclaimed line-up that delivered the 80’s classics Power And Pain and Ticket To Mayhem, Whiplash may not have matched the highs of those two albums but their endeavour to return Thrash to it’s rightful place at the very top of the Metal hierarchy was a commendable and frankly necessary stepping-stone to the genre’s inevitable comeback a few short years later.
The tin-can widdly riffs (that’s the only description that seems to fit Whiplash’s signature guitar sound) of old were back on “Stab” and “Thrash ‘Til Death‘s” can’t-be-argued-with lyric of “no compromising we’ll Thrash ’til death” cemented Whiplash’s place as one of the few bands fearless enough to kickstart Thrash’s long awaited resurgence.
The Haunted – The Haunted (1998)
Often labelled as Melodic Death Metal, The Haunted’s debut album may warrant such a comparison but at heart this Swedish collective – and particularly the opening track “Hate Song” – were Thrash at heart and the seeds for Thrash’s comeback in the preceding decade were resolutely sown on this debut release.
Barely taking a breather, The Haunted constructed an emphysematous modern Thrash sound that leapt out of the gates like a rabid dog; ushering in an era of Death/Thrash in the process that the likes of Testament would harness as the genre re-established it’s dominance in the new millennium.
We could debate whether this is Thrash until the cows come home but it’s position as an album that kept Thrash alive should not be argued. The Haunted’s insanely fast and aggressive songwriting took Thrash Metal’s blueprint and added a modern twist, technically fooling their audience into thinking they were hearing something new when the backbone of Thrash was so blatantly at the core of their sound.
Divisive this may be, but credit where credit’s due. Without The Haunted, Thrash’s comeback may not have been so seamlessly executed and for that we remain eternally grateful!
Annihilator – Criteria For A Black Widow (1999)
Annihilator‘s 7th album announced the return of former frontman Randy Rampage and Annihilator found their voice again, releasing their strongest set of tunes since Alice In Hell and Never, Neverland caught the world’s attention a decade prior.
Why Randy Rampage and Jeff Waters decided to wait until the tail end of the 90’s to have another crack at it is anyones guess but the quality of the material on display hinted at a productive partnership that deserved a second chance to shine.
One of the few bands to remain staunchly active during the 90’s, Annihilator were never really away but Criteria Of A Black Widow was a real return to form and “Back To The Palace“, “Nothing Left” and “Bloodbath” proved once and for all that an on-fire Jeff Waters and an on-fire Randy Rampage were a formidable partnership made in Thrash heaven!
Testament – The Gathering (1999)
Now we’re talking!
Proof that Thrash was truly going to be a dominant force once again can be layed at the feet of one of the greatest Thrash bands in existence; the mighty Testament!
Recruiting two legendary Thrash elder statesman in the considerable form of Dave Lombardo (Slayer) and Steve DiGiorgio (Sadus, Death), Testament’s core duo of Chuck Billy and Eric Petersen laid down the ultimate challenge to Thrash Metals’ revivalists; keep up with this they demanded, unsurprisingly most couldn’t.
From the virtually unparalleled ferocity of album opener “D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate)” and the thrashy grooves of “Down For Life” to the demolition job Death/Thrash of “Legions Of The Dead” and the fiendish melodies of “Riding The Snake“, this supergroup signalled Thrash’s rebirth in a manner that marks The Gathering out as an album that still sounds nothing less than magnificent 21 years later.
With this release it was clear Thrash had well and truly returned and within just a few short years the likes of Destruction, Death Angel, Exodus, Kreator and Heathen would release monumental modern thrash albums in the shape of The Antichrist, The Art Of Dying, Tempo Of The Damned, Enemy Of God and The Evolution Of Chaos respectively; thrash was back and it’s still as relevant as ever!
No Ritual Carnage The Highest Law?
What a shitty mainstream list….
Fair point on Ritual Carnage but shitty? Not really fella. Work goes into these things and to dismiss them so curtly is pretty low. Why be so negative?
Don`t take this comment to seriously (except the ritual carnage part..).
There are some good albums on this list and i do understand there is some research on this.
But from the most bands on this list i prefer their earlier work (but thats a matter of taste)..
Sorry for my English its not my native language.
Your English is great, thanks for commenting again. I would agree, the earlier work of the majority of the bands on this list is better….but this article was focusing on the Thrash albums that kept Thrash alive during the mid to late 90’s. It’s off topic to discuss earlier work \m/
Devastation – Idolatry
Demolition Hammer – Epidemic of Violence
Exhorder – The Law
Shitty mainstream list is right. This is a list of the albums that almost killed thrash in the 90’s… with the possible exception of The Haunted.
Again, as it says in the intro “After the release of some seminal Thrash albums in the early 90’s” (The Law and Epidemic Of Violence were ’92) thrash took a nosedive and this list focuses on those albums that kept thrash alive (just) during the remainder of the decade.
Hey Guys which disk is the cover art?
That would be Sodom’s Masquerade In Blood \m/
No megadeth seriously?
Seriously! Rust In Peace withstanding (and that was 1990 so barely constitutes keeping Thrash alive in the 90’s) every Megadeth album in the 90’s was basically Mainstream Metal – Countdown To Extinction, Youthanasia, Cryptic Writings and Risk are definitely not Thrash.
Witchburner, Whiplash, and Razor are now being considered as mainstream? Sorry Debruut, that isn’t even true now, much less during the 90s. Frankly, none of these records was “mainstream” during the 90s, which is partly the point. These bands soldiered on during a period where the style was dismissed or frowned upon. However, thanks for calling out Ritual Carnage as I wasn’t familiar with them.
Enjoyed the article, Chris!
Ha! Well said sir! You seem to have hit the nail on the head and I was also surprised that the bands you mention were considered ‘mainstream’ in a previous comment. If Whiplash, Razor etc are mainstream what the hell does that make Metaliica, Megadeth etc!!!! 😉 Many thanks for the positive comment \m/
I think you picked the wrong Sodom album. It is the ever underrated Till Death Do Us Unite that deserves the title. And I must say I prefer every other Sodom release from the 90s over Masquerade in Blood, which seems to also suffer from its murky production (especially the guitars). Not a bad album but the rest, and particularly Till Death Do Us Unite are just way better. Suicidal Justice, Hanging Judge, No Way Out are prime examples of the ferocity of that album.
Also, I will say that Divine Intervention is way overrated. That year Testament did WAY better in the inspiration/songwriting department. DI is just dry. It’s intense and violent but there is no magic/awe-inspiring/Hanneman-sickness riffology and it’s the first album that Tom Araya’s performance takes a dive (really not a fan of his hardcore deliveries). I was greatly disappointed when it came out and I will never accept it as one of their great albums, it cannot possibly measure up to its predecessors, Dead Skin Mask alone or War Ensemble destroy it.
Thumbs up for Tankard, extreme dedication and not one day dead as they say. Just have to say that I am a huge fan of their 00s run, starting with 2000’s Kings of Beer, which definitely belongs in their best albums list.
I like Masquerade In Blood, it just seemed so defiantly, finger-in-your-face Thrash at a time when Thrash was considered a lost cause. The murky production adds to the ‘couldn’t give a f*ck attitude but (and that’s a big but) this is all just a matter of opinion.
Regarding Slayer, I think you’ve missed the point. Not once do I say Divine Intervention is a superior album to Season In The Abyss etc, it’s clearly not. It is a 100% 90’s Thrash album though and for that alone it HAD to be included. It’s also a whole lot better than Diabolus in Musica which was a nu-metal derived travesty and in hindsight Divine Intervention clearly marked the end of Slayer’s golden era.
Gotta love Tankard! Those boys have flown the Thrash flag like virtually no other band and their post 00’s output has been consistently strong.
Thanks for the comments Vic \m/
Re: Slayer, I know you didn’t say Divine Intervention was better than Seasons and I am glad to see the “it’s clearly not” comment! I guess I could put it this way: Seasons is not clearly inferior to South of Heaven and South of Heaven is not clearly inferior to Reign in Blood and so on. Meaning, the golden era stops at Seasons. Divine Intervention might carry some inertia from the golden era (to the fan psyche as well) and it’s not a bad album per se (it is for Slayer’s standards though, which was my original point) but is it clearly the starting point of the downfall. We agree that Diabolus in Musica was when Slayer (Hanneman actually, he basically wrote the whole album himself, minus one song) hit rock bottom, so an album that is better than that is not really an amazing accomplishment.
Other than that, I can appreciate Masquerade in Blood and it’s almost swedish death vibe( the Sunlight Studios, not the pseudo-Gothenburg kind!) but like I said, it’s the songs that do it for me, which is why I prefer Get What You Deserve and esp. “Till Death…” In any case, Sodom had (have) a very consistent discography and along with Tankard kept their ground firmly. Respect.
Hey Vic. A fair point well argued mate. I still hold Divine Intervention in high regard but I see your point. I’m going to give Sodom’s “Till Death…” another spin, it never resonated with me in the past but it could be time for a rethink! Thanks for reading, commenting and debating man, much appreciated. All the best \m/
“Resolutely heavy and as ugly as a bus full of Ronaldinho look-a-likes”
Hahahaha, that’s a good one!
By the way nice post.
Thanks Hans…glad you enjoyed it buddy \m/
Overkills finest moment during the 90s was undeniably “From the Underground and Below”. A far more thrashier album than WFO, which is crap by comparison.
Also any 90s thrash list not including Aura Noir is incomplete. Not because they are the best band out there, but they brought back thrash at a point when black metal reigned supreme.
I agree with you there, From The Underground And Below is better but it contains far too many groove elements for it to compete with W.F.O in the context of this article Kai. Thanks for reading and commenting \m/
Hello you forgot one of the best thrash albums of 90’s
Infernal Majesty – Unholier Than Thou !
Stay heavy ^^
Now that is the best call so far! Yep, completely forgot it and I hang my head in shame. Spot on Sacha! \m/
Where’s Aftermath – Eyes of Tomorrow?
Not forgotten Peter, look for it in our soon to be published follow-up! \m/
Good list indeed my friend, but you can not say that Metallica went all country in Load/Reload for just one song in their catalogue. They blended blues, hard rock and heavy metal.
In all honesty, we were kind of taking the piss but the point that they ditched thrash remains valid! \m/
TESTAMENT = LOW
KREATOR = CAUSE FOR CONFLICT
SODOM = CODE RED
ATTOMICA= DISTURBING THE NOISE
Hi…good article…I would add:
Dark Angel-time does not heal
Sepultura – arise
Macchine Head – burn my eyes
Coroner – mental cortex
Pantera – The great southern trendkill
Voivod – Phobos
Epidemic – Decameron
Necrodeath – Mater Of all evil
Sorry for The double C on m.head…. :-))))
And cortex? Hahaha my stupid phone…
Here is what you SHOULD’VE added to this list:
Xentrix – Scourge (1996)
Acid Drinkers – Infernal Connection (1994)
Epidemic – Exit Paradise (1994)
All three of those should have been put on here for on Wikipedia all of them are labeled as JUST thrash
Good shout on all 3….look for them in a later, follow-up, feature!
I have 2 more albums for the follow-up:
Tankard – Disco Destroyer (1998)
Nevermore – Dreaming Neon Black (1999)
Can’t fault your choices! Thanks for the comments 🙂 \m/
One extra album:
Sodom – Code Red (1999)
Two extras by looking up in the metal archives:
Betrayer – Calamity (1994)
Paingate – Sacrifice (1995)
ANACRUSIS – Manic Impressions (1991)
ARTILLERY – By Inheritance (1990)
CHANNEL ZERO -Channel Zero (1992)
CYCLONE – Inferior To None (1992)
CYCLONE TEMPLE – I Hate Therefore I Am (1991)
DARK ANGEL – Time Does Not Heal (1991)
DECEASED -Fearless Undead Machines (1997)
DELIVERANCE – Weapons Of Our Warfare (1990)
DEMOLITION HAMMER – Epidemic Of Violence (1992)
DEVASTATION – Idolatry (1991)
EVIL DEAD – The underworld (1991)
EXODUS – Impact Is Imminent (1990)
FORBIDDEN – Twisted Into Form (1990)
HEATHEN – Victims Of Deception (1991)
SACRIFICE – Soldiers Of Misfortune (1990)
SEPULTURA – Arise (1991)
VIO-LENCE – Oppressing The Masses (1990)
The beginning of the 90s was great for Thrash Metal, a lot of classics!!!
I’ll just refer to the intro “After the release of some seminal Thrash albums in the early 90’s (Megadeth’s Rust In Peace / Dark Angel’s Time Does Not Heal / Annihilator’s Never, Neverland / Death Angel’s Act III/ Vio-lence’s Oppressing The Masses / Heathen’s Victims Of Deception to name a few) those flannel-wearing whinge-bags of Grunge took over and Thrash kinda died on its arse, seemingly overnight”….
Just to clarify, this article is about the albums that kept thrash alive in the 90’s, after it had died on its arse as the decade drew on. Hence, it starts in 1994.
Hope that clears things up and explains why the excellent albums you mentioned weren’t included.
ok, got it! Thanks for answering!
No SACRIFICE “apocalypse…” and FORBIDDEN “Distorsion? No RITUAL CARNAGE? And you put shit like OVERKIILL, ICED EARTH or TESTAMENT on that list… bands are are just not Thrash…. silly. End of story. The SLAYER, SACRIFICE and FORBIDDEN records are the three albums that really carried the Thrash flame before the newer bands discovered Thrash existed (THE HAUNTED existed)… The list wasn’t that bad compared to so many of those things floating around but ignoring SACRIFICE and FORBIDDEN (no green bullshit of course) is lame.
You sound angry. Sorry. Didn’t mean to make you angry. Still, in an attempt to cheer you up, I’ll direct you to the follow-up article which at least included Ritual Carnage. http://www.worshipmetal.com/features/12-more-albums-that-kept-thrash-alive-in-the-90s/
Dude, I’m a HUGE fan of Sacrifice and Forbidden (absolutely love ‘Distortion’), but why are you being such a dick saying Testament and Overkill are not thrash? It doesn’t even make any sense, those 2 bands have almost single-handedly kept the US thrash metal underground alive for over 30 years! Jeesh…
Well said sir!
My favorites are:
Aura Noir – Black Thrash Attack
Destroyer 666 – Unchain the Wolves
Desaster – Hellfire’s Dominion
Sabbat – Karisma
Bewitched – Diabolical Desecration
Nifelheim – Nifelheim
Cranium – Speed Metal Slaughter
Absu – The Third Storm of Cythraul
Nocturnal Breed – Aggressor
Gehennah – Hardrocker
Yep, most of them being “Black/Thrash” but underrated gems in my opinion.