No disrespect to Kreator, Destruction, Sodom and Tankard but German thrash has so much more to offer than just Pleasure To Kill, Eternal Devastation, Agent Orange and Chemical Invasion! With a rich history of underground classics and a devastating array of tech/prog thrash masterpieces toiling away in the background, it’s high time those often sidelined albums in German thrash history had their day!
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.
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
Deathrow – Deception Ignored (1988)
We’ll end on a high and 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 technical masterpiece from a band way ahead of the curve and the most impressive German thrash album in existence!
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!
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!
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.
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.
Mekong Delta – Dances Of Death (And Other Walking Shadows) (1990)
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 / The Principal Of Doubt / Kaleidoscope / Visons Fugitives) as each and every one can be considered a milestone of progressive thrashmetal.
We’ve gone for Dances Of Death….Mekong Delta’s highly technical, yet undeniably aggressive, fourth album that often bordered on undecipherable madness, with labyrinthine song structures and abstract riff-patterns jostling for attention amidst a sturdy thrash framework.
With “Dances Of Death” broken down into 8 movements over 19 thrilling minutes, Mekong Delta’s prog intentions couldn’t have been made clearer and while it may not be an easy album to dive into, if you’re going to get the most out of this rewarding beast, then you’d better face the fucker head-on!
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!
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!
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.
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 Coroner and Deathrow’s 80s technical output, Vendetta’s 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!