While thrash in the 80’s and early 90’s was generally an American phenomenon the Canadians were hot on their tails, releasing a steady stream of ferociously violent yet technically astounding albums that helped to change the shape of thrash as we knew it!
Presented in alphabetical order as opposed to ranking…..
Annihilator – Alice In Hell (1989)
A simple and often stated fact: Jeff Waters is one of the finest metal guitarists of all time. You can’t argue with such a statement and his prodigious, precocious talent first came to the world’s attention on Annihilator‘s stunning debut.
In 1989, Alice In Hell represented technical thrash of the highest order, an album overflowing with ideas and executed with more panache and ability than virtually anyone outside of Megadeth. The unforgettably monikered Randy Rampage (R.I.P) led the charge – delivering one of the dirtiest, unrefined and downright unpredictable vocal performances in thrash metal history – and when welded to Waters’ exquisite riffs, thrash metal magic was inevitable.
Check out the blistering speed of “Human Insecticide” and the incredible interplay and sheer maddening bravado of “Alison Hell” for ample proof that an on-fire Jeff Waters, and an-on fire Randy Rampage, were a formidable partnership forged in the bowels of hell….or Canada!
Annihilator – Never, Neverland (1990)
With Annihilator’s technical prowess still in place – and the introduction of new vocalist Coburn Pharr bringing ever more melody – Never, Neverland is arguably the quintessential Annihilator album and Jeff Waters’ greatest achievement.
With a clean, crisp sound and a more focused approach, the likes of “The Fun Palace”, “Road to Ruin” and “I Am In Command” were a shredders dream but came smothered in melodic muscle and an almost absurd theatricality. Catchy, memorable and overflowing with riffs, Annihilator may have audibly softened when compared to their rougher debut, Alison In Hell, but they were far from becoming the mainstream-baiting ‘sell-outs’ that released 1993’s Set The World On Fire (not a bad album in our book, but weak in comparison to Never, Neverland).
Instead, the more frantic, technically audacious rifferama’s of “Sixes and Sevens” and “Phantasmagoria”were tempered by the infectious melodies found on “Stonewall” and Annihilator’s first, and probably most triumphant, thrash ballad “Never, Neverland” itself.
Annihilator would never be this good again.
Related content: Annihilator: Ranking The Canadian Thrash Legends’ 6 Vocalists!
Dead Brain Cells – Dead Brain Cells (1987)
How’s this for a debut!
To those in the know, DBC were a crossover thrash phenomenon. While those outside of the thrash underground may not have woken up to DBC‘s intrinsic charms until much later (if at all), those who caught on early to their crunching mix of hardcore-inflected technicality and speed were instantly taken by a band who should have made huge waves in the scene.
While “Lies” gave any late 80’s crossover act a run for their money it was the likes of “Tempest” – with its more ‘expansive’ leanings – which truly showcased what these Canadians were capable of….and would go on to achieve!
Also check out: 1989’s Universe is equal to Dead Brain Cells in virtually every way. Damn this band was good!
Dyoxen – First Among Equals (1989)
Taking the Voivod path to obscure-town, Dyoxen were a surprisingly melodic, yet highly skilled, set of technical thrashers.
While the Voivod comparisons are semi-apt, Dyoxen actually had more in common with Peace Sells-era Megadeth; such was their penchant for unveiling skilful and sickle-sharp, complex and caustic blasts of sophisticated thrash, replete with umpteen tempo changes and a shed-load of killer riffs.
These guys sure had the chops, but they just didn’t have the clout to shift them into the big leagues. Which is a crying shame, as First Among Equals was the equal of anything Annihilator, Megadeth, Forbidden etc. were serving up in the late 80’s!
Infernäl Mäjesty – None Shall Defy (1988)
Despite the cartoonish artwork which adorns their debut album, Infernäl Mäjesty were an undeniably savage act and they made an immediate impact on the underground with the release of None Shall Defy.
The antithesis of Razor, Annihilator and their ilk, Infernäl Mäjesty specialised in the sounds of the underworld and had more in common with the unholy terror of Slayer‘s Hell Awaits and Possessed‘s Seven Churches than anything released by fellow countrymen Exciter and Anvil (both of which were never truly thrash, and aren’t included in this list).
A key release in the ongoing development of death metal, None Shall Defy‘s march towards Satan came replete with a vile and ultimately evil aesthetic; one characterised by the unnerving sounds of blackened death/thrash perfection found on “S.O.S” and the scintillating title track.
Don’t let the sub-par cover art fool you, Infernäl Mäjesty meant serious business…..the devil’s business!