Fates Warning – No Exit [USA]
Similar in style to Crimson Glory, Fates Warning were another band to adopt a power/thrash approach to progressive metal.
No Exit thrashed hard, check out “Anarchy Divine”, while incorporating progressive metal’s composite structures and Ray Alder’s intensly powerful vocals continued where his predecessor, John Arch, left off; vocals that may be an acquired taste but were to become a staple in late 80’s/early 90’s prog metal.
Formidable and frenetic, it’s the 22 minute epic,“The Ivory Gate of Dreams” which looms large over prog metal history; Fates Warning taking the genre by the scruff of the neck and dragging it kicking and screaming into mainstream acceptance.
No Exit is as surprisingly experimental now as it was in 1988, its rampant time changes and falsetto vocals proving as indelibly effective as ever.
Blind Illusion – The Sane Asylum [USA]
Blind Illusion‘s debut is a cult item of considerable aplomb, growing in stature as the years roll by and claiming its place as one of thrash metal’s unsung gems!
Featuring guitarist Larry LaLonde (Possessed) and bassist Les Claypool (before they went on to form Primus) and produced by Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, The Sane Asylum is one of those unique recordings which practically defies categorisation, such is its idiosyncratic nature and distinct lack of conformity.
An alchemic brew of jazz-influenced, progressive time changes and abstract song structures, The Sane Asylum was conveniently wrapped up in a technical thrash bow, a description which doesn’t even come close to describing the sheer madness at work here.
Quite unlike anything recorded before or since!
Sieges Even – Lifecycle [Germany]
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!
Voivod – Dimension Hatröss [Canada]
One of thrash metal’s most distinctive bands, Canada’s Voivod have spent their entire career releasing music that barely stays within the confines of thrash and purposefully flaunts the rules. However, Dimension Hatröss was arguably the first time Voivod perfected their noise and channeled their unearthly visions into their most wilfully obscure – yet somehow coherent – collection of songs ever.
Atypical and abstract, the riffs of Piggy and vocal delivery of Snake remain utterly unique and otherworldly and this twisting, turning, tumultuous sci-fi fever-dream made flesh still sounds like absolutely nothing else on earth. With the likes of “Tribal Convictions”, “Brain Scan” and (the aptly titled) “Experiment”, Voivod were lightyears ahead of the pack and their peers (if they truly have ever had any) are still frantically trying to keep up.
Not too shabby for an album that’s nearly 35 years of age!
Doom – Complicated Mind [Japan]
At this stage in their formidable career, Doom were defiantly daring Voivod to go ‘weirder’ and were ably conjuring up the same kind of dissonant, off-kilter melodies and warped ideas as Canada’s favourite sons. That’s not to say that Doom were ripping off Piggy and Snake and co. wholesale but you could throw Complicated Mind‘s title track onto Killing Technology and no one would have batted an eyelid!
Still, inevitable comparisons with Voivod aside, Doom were their own beast and 1988’s Complicated Mind remains one of their greatest achievements. With Koh Morota’s incredible fretless bass work drawing comparisons with the genius that is Steve Di Giorgio, and the tightly-wound, futuristic riffing of Takashi Fujita blind-siding all but the most dedicated of progressive thrash enthusiasts, it’s crystal clear that Doom have always been a very special band.
Highly intricate and telepathically linked, the minds behind Complicated Mind were operating on a different sphere to us ‘mere mortals’ and this progressive thrash masterclass still resonates today!