In 2020, the old-guard of thrash were out in force and reminding the new pups just how this thrash shit is really done!
Worship Metal’s 5 Greatest Releases From Old-School Thrash Bands in 2020…..
Sodom – Genesis XIX
Released: November 27th, 2020 via Steamhammer
After a somewhat surprising lineup change from previous album, Decision Day (2016) – and bringing back legendary axeman Frank Blackfire (Assassin, ex-Kreator) in the process – German thrash legends Sodom have fired back with full force with their 16th album, the unhinged and ferociously feral Genesis XIX.
To put it bluntly, Genesis XIX was a revelation and one that built on the promise indicated by Sodom’s Partisan EP released back in 2018. The return of Blackfire clearly reinvigorated the band and, in particular, Tom Angelripper’s vocals arguably never sounded better. The songwriting was also some of the finest of Sodom’s career to date – period.
Sodom operating as a quartet for the first time in their history was a joy to behold as they clearly belied their 40 years in the business. You could argue that they’ve never sounded hungrier and the likes of classic blackened thrash cuts “Sodom & Gomorrah”, “Euthanasia” and “Glock ‘n’ Roll” all evoked that special feeling found on early Sodom classics Obsessed By Cruelty (1986) and Persecution Mania (1987)
Heathen – Empire of the Blind
Released: September 18th 2020 via Nuclear Blast
Empire of the Blind is every inch the album you were hoping Heathen would release after 10 years away. It’s 100% ‘Heathen’ through and through, with this most recognisable of thrash bands sounding as vital as ever. Heathen may make us wait an inordinately long time for new material but they never, ever disappoint and fans of the band (old and new) will inevitably fall in love with Empire of the Blind after the very first listen. Yes, it’s that fuckin’ good!
Renowned for lengthy sojourns into epic thrash territory, it’s surprising (and refreshing) to find Heathen in full attack mode; stripped back, succinct and convincingly serving up a prime exercise in melodic thrash with added bite. Intro aside, opener, “The Blight”, may be as ‘Exodus’ as they come (no surprise as Lee Altus is in Exodus and Kragen Lum fulfilled live duties for ’em for the best part of the last 7 years) but Holt and Zetro would miss the nuance Heathen bring to the song, with their penchant for balancing raw aggression and muscular melody perfectly demonstrated.
Testament – Titans of Creation
Released: April 3rd, 2020 via Nuclear Blast
Expectations were high for this album and it is fair to say that Testament far surpassed them. Performances across the board were astounding (no surprises there) and Chuck Billy’s throat remained as versatile as ever.
Lets’ face it, alongside Death Angel, Titans of Creation simply confirmed Testament’s standing as the most consistently impressive old-school band (with a fully adapted modern sheen) in thrash and the likes of exhilarating openers “Children of the Next Level” and “WWIII” were rhythmic bulldozers.
These guys have always been peerless thrash songwriters and Titans of Creation was positively overflowing with quality. From the unabated ferocity of first ‘single’ “Night of the Witch” to the melodic chug of “Symptoms” and onto the gloriously old-school thrash of “Curse of Osiris”, Testament barely put a foot wrong.
Onslaught – Generation Antichrist
Released: 7th August 2020 via AFM Records
Onslaught are a UK thrash institution. Scratch that. Onslaught are a thrash institution regardless of geography. From seminal 80’s release The Force (an album that, at the time, rivalled Slayer in the ferocity stakes) to the divisive, but blatantly brilliant and mainstream-courting In Search Of Sanity (1989), and onto their 3 albums post 2004 reformation, Onslaught have delivered nuthin’ but thrash gold!
Which brings us neatly to album number seven, Generation Antichrist, an album NOT fronted by renowned and instantly recognisable frontman Sy Keeler. Gulp. A new singer is always a difficult sell but, if Onslaught’s savage reputation is anything to go by, they surely adorned themselves with a reliable replacement? We’ll come back to this particular point later as for now we’re moving onto the music.
Simply put, Generation Antichrist contained 9 tracks of blistering old-school thrash, with a modern sheen, delivered in the manner we have continued to adore and respect ever since ‘comeback’ album Killing Peace floored us in 2007. Fortunately, Dave Garnett’s vocals were admirably seamless in their transition but, in particular, Nige Rockett deserves to be singled-out, not just for his exemplary work here, but also for his overall contribution to thrash over nearly four decades; such is his unwavering dedication to the cause and his innate ability to pen riffs that pin you to the wall.
In recent years, Anihilated’s Anti-Social Engineering, Xentrix’s Bury The Pain and Acid Reign’s The Age of Entitlement have considerably raised the old-school UK thrash bar, and it was left to Onslaught to pole-vault clear over it. Sy Keeler may be gone but with Generation Antichrist, Onslaught live on!
Mr Bungle – The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny
Released: October 30th, 2020 via Ipecac Recordings
As comebacks go, the re-emergence of experimental avant-garde darlings Mr Bungle as an old-school thrash outfit was the most surprising and most welcome of 2020!
This is Mr Bungle we’re talking about here though, so were we really surprised that they reunited as a thrash metal band to perform their 1986 demo album The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny? No, not really. Anything goes with these fellas.
Were we also surprised that Mike Patton, Trey Spruance and Trevor Dunn recruited thrash legends Scott Ian (Anthrax) and Dave Lombardo (ex-Slayer) to give ’em a helping hand? Nope. Seemed like the clever thing to do.
As for the music, The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny was a crossover thrash masterpiece; one that bore all the marks of an 80’s endeavour but upgraded for a 2020 audience hungry for nostalgia with a modern sheen. After 35 years in the wilderness, this music was finally given its due respect…and rightfully so!
Honourable mentions: Accuser – Accuser / Annihilator – Ballistic, Sadistic / Assassin – Bestia Immundis / Evildead – United States of Anarchy / Poltergeist – Feather Of Truth / Sepultura – Quadra / Virus – Evilution Apocalypse / Vulcano – Eye In Hell