Grinder – Dead End (1989) [Germany]
Beginning with “Agent Orange” (not a cover of Sodom’s classic but a classic of their own making), Grinder‘s stomping, militarised, rotor-riffs flow flawlessly into the kind of quality melodic thrash that should have adhered these German thrashers to millions.
Channeling the highly melodic noise of Flotsam and Jetsam and Anthrax, Grinder stillmanaged to create something a little different in the thrash world; no easy task by the time the late 80’s rolled around. Playing with structure and speed, Grinder’s skill lay in fluid bass lines and taking the turn least expected. The result? An album that remains unpredictable and surprisingly unique.
In particular, Dead End‘s title track is a thrash monster, a totally unique speed/thrash workout which traverses more moods and more terrain than most thrash albums manage in their entirety!
Hermética – Ácido Argentino (1991) [Argentina]
Hermética, Argentina’s premier thrash export, unleashed their pieza de resistencia when they released sophomore album, Ácido Argentino, back in 1991.
A huge record in the Argentinian underground scene, Ácido Argentino proved highly influential to countless bands who followed in Hermética’s wake. It remains a revered release in its native land and while it may not be well known outside of South America, that’s no reason to dismiss its charms now. Forged with speed metal riffs, Claudio O’Connor’s acid-tongued delivery (think Accept’s Udo Dirkschneider meets Artillery’s Flemming Rönsdorf) and a relentless percussive battery, Ácido Argentino may seem positively naive to modern ears but its initial impact should not be underestimated.
While opener “Robó un auto” was heavier on the ‘metal’ than the ‘thrash’ – with more than a little Accept informing their sound – it wasn’t long before these semi-melodic thrashers upped the ante with the high speed onslaught of “La revancha de América” and the aggressive stomp of “Predicción”. Allowing bassist Ricardo Iorio to step up to the mic on “Del camionero” may have been a mistake but there’s way more hits than duds on Ácido Argentino to balance out the odd misfire.
Hydra Vein – After The Dream (1989) [UK]
This swift follow-up to Hydra Vein‘s debut album, Rather Death Than False Of Faith (1988), may have been a little rushed – with only 6 songs making up its brief 30 min runtime – but that doesn’t detract from the quality on display throughout this often overlooked gem.
By upping both the aggression and the technicality some of the naive feral charm of Hydra Vein’s debut may have been lost but that’s not to say that After The Dream was without it’s own Slayer-esque appeal. Warbled intro shriek on opening track “7-U-S-C” aside, the tracks found here are uniformly engaging and thrashed up to fuck, resulting in a sophomore album that should have pushed Hydra Vein to the very top of the UK thrash pile.
Not quite in the same league as Rather Death Than False of Faith but undoubtedly one of the better UK thrash metal albums released at the tail end of the 1980’s!
Intruder – A Higher Form of Killing (1989) [USA]
Intruder‘s second album was an aural assault that blew conceptions of thrash apart. Instrumental “Time of Trouble” aside, opener “The Martyr” had not one but three intro riffs before we even got to the meat of the piece, and each one ramped up the urgency and the expectancy like a catholic priest watching the new choir boys march in. And the pace did not let up. Shit, it’s heavy, even in 2021.
Guitarists Arthur Vinett and Greg Messick played their hearts out on this record, with their down-picked, string skipping madness played so fast your left hand will look like a Taiwanese prostitute giving a 30 second handjob. Anthrax were famous for the left-hand speed (picking, not handjobs. Well….) but this was another level.
There was humour too. “Mr Death is here!” exclaimed Mr. Death on the last track (Did he get paid for his guest appearance?). And we can’t speak about AHFOK without mentioning the awesome Monkees cover “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone” in which John Pieroni growled his way through a great Mickey Dolenz pastiche….but it’s the chorus harmony vocals that still make you sit up and take notice!
Minotaur – Power Of Darkness (1988) [Germany]
Shrouding metal fans in nothing but complete darkness was Minotaur, a blackened thrash band capable of nothing but the most hideously raw thrash imaginable.
Minotaur should have gone down in history as one of the proto-death bands, as important to the rise of death metal as Possessed, Slayer, Death Strike, Repulsion and Hellhammer. The fact that Minotaur are often not uttered in the same breath is a crime as Power Of Darkness was also at the forefront of changing trends. Hell, they released a single titled Death Metal in 1990…..of course, by then it was too little, too late for Minotaur to truly be noticed!
Featuring a Mille Petrozza-like vocalist in the form of Andi Richwien, his untamed black metal-esque shriek was just a part of Minotaur’s early embrace of unhinged chaos, with the fast and frantic likes of the appropriately monikered “Apocalptic Trials” and “Necromancer” backed by dynamically varied, brutal blasts of untamed musicianship.
An essential proto-death / Teutonic thrash classic!
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