Considering the UK invented heavy metal, it’s always frustrating to reflect on how ‘seemingly’ unsuccessful we were at thrash metal! Predominantly an American phenomenon, UK thrash always rode the coattails of our Transatlantic cousins when, in retrospect, British thrash bands actually had much to offer.
Presented in alphabetical order as opposed to any kind of ranking….
Acid Reign – The Fear (1989)
As first impressions go, opening with the silly but entertaining, nibbles-obsessed, “You Never Know (WTNWS)” may have initially pegged these self-proclaimed masters of UK Apple-Core as a bunch of ne’er-do-well pranksters….but be sure about one thing, Acid Reign‘s debut full length album, The Fear, was anything but a joke!
“Insane Ecstasy”, “Humanoia” and the title track are three of the greatest tracks the UK thrash scene has to offer – and the rest of the album is no slouch either – and ably showcased Acid Reign‘s penchant for often elaborate song structures and the ability to unleash a shit-ton of riffs (seriously, so many riffs!) on an unsuspecting UK public.
If The Fear proved anything, it’s that Acid Reign weren’t considered one of the “Big 4” of British thrash for nuthin’!
Deathwish – Demon Preacher (1988)
With opener “Death Procession” leading us on a morbid march through bell-tolling, doom-inflected pathways, the classic sounds of 70’s UK heavy metal soon met the crunch of Bay Area thrash on the Slayer-esque title track and Deathwish’s inspirations immediately became apparent.
A marriage made in heaven (or should that be hell), this juxtaposition of the UK’s world-conquering 70’s output and the equally successful US thrash sound pioneered by Metallica, Slayer et all is an all-time UK thrash classic.
Deathwish’s gritty thrashed-up reworking of Sabbath’s all time classic, “Symptom Of The Universe” was an unexpected triumph but 70’s worshipping cover songs weren’t all Deathwishhad in their locker. “Wall Of Lies” and the unfathomably epic “Prey To The Lord” were a sonic boom of rabid riffing fulfilling the hype this underrated band had once generated.
Demon Preacher should be considered a minor masterpiece, the sounds of the pioneering 70’s combining flawlessly with the fresh and vital thrash attack from across the Atlantic.
Detritus – If But For One (1993)
An anomaly for (ironically) more than one reason, Detritus‘ second full length album remains one of the most experimental UK thrash albums in existence – one which found this Christian thrash act branching out in all manner of unexpected directions.
Still resolutely thrash, it’s the far-reaching compositional skill that elevated this album into the category of ‘must-hear’ with subtlety and acoustic dexterity nestling nicely next to honest-to-goodness thrashing (and a thrashed-up sea shanty, for fucks sake!).
Truly a one of a kind album, those thrashers who enjoy a band who go for broke and take thrash into pastures new need to hear this album to fully appreciate the talent and potential on display.
Hellbastard – Natural Order (1990)
Newcastle’s Hellbastard may have started life as a crusty old group of grinders but by the time 1990’s rowdy Natural Order arrived, things had turned defiantly and indefatigably thrashy!
Few UK thrash acts sounded as raw as Hellbastard and they were just as happy in the company of Carcass, Bolt Thrower, Godflesh and Napalm Death as they were with their thrashier comrades. “Justly Executed” was quite rightly included in Earache’s 1991 sampler Grindcrusher, nestling Hellbastard confortably alongside those extreme metal legends just mentioned. With blinding speed, an arsenal of riffs and a dab hand at attention maintaining tempo changes, Natural Order remains a pretty fine technical thrash album and an underground cult classic.
Throwing a curveball every now and then by incorporating tender acoustic moments (“TAF” & “A Minor Point”) that were, admittedly, commonplace – but never as medieval in sound as here – die hard fans of the band may have balked when they first heard this transition to thrash in 1990 but Natural Order still reeked of the streets. Hellbastard’s crust punk beginnings were still evident, intrinsically linking Natural Order to the movement they pioneered and, in essence, cementing their place alongside fellow UK crust thrashers Amebix and Sacrilege; an unholy triumvirate of crustcore / thrash.
Onslaught – The Force (1986)
The first band to truly raise hell in the name of British thrash, Onslaught turned heads with their punk-infused debut, Power From Hell, but it was with 1986’s The Force that they truly announced their arrival in the scene.
The Force was an appropriate title, as Onslaught‘s forceful and vitriolic sound hit you like a ten ton hammer; thrashing harder than most and with as much conviction as they likes of Dark Angel and early Slayer.
Still considered an all-time thrash classic, The Force is probably the most convincing thrash album ever recorded by a British band. Capable of ripping your head clean off, Onslaught were a powerhouse who unleashed a multitude of sinister, stabbing riffs without even breaking a sweat. It all seemed too easy and their place in the thrash elite should have been virtually guaranteed.