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10 of the Greatest Sophomore Thrash Albums of the 1980’s (Part 1)

Second albums. Difficult for some. But not for these talented bastards.

And remember, this is just Part 1….there’s more in this series to come!

Presented in order of release as opposed to any kind of ranking….

Metallica – Ride The Lightning (1984) [USA]

Metallica – Ride The Lightning (CD) - Discogs

Released almost a year to the day after their genre defining debut, Kill ‘Em All, hit the shelves, Metallica’s monumental progression was palpable and Ride The Lightning should be revered as Metallica’s greatest achievement (Yes, we rate it above Master Of Puppets).

From the misleading medieval acoustic intro to “Fight Fire With Fire” – which culminates in one of Metallica’s most neck wrecking songs – to “Creeping Death”, a song that deserves its place in the metal hall of fame, Ride The Lightning remains virtually untouchable.

This album slayed the competition during the genre’s formative years and laid down an insurmountable challenge to their peers; this is thrash, Hetfield, Ulrich, Hammett and Burton roared in your face…..can you beat it? Unsurprisingly, not many could!

As electrifying today as it was 40(!) years ago.

Razor – Evil Invaders (1985) [Canada]

Razor – Evil Invaders (1985, Vinyl) - Discogs

Canada’s Razor released 2 albums in 1985 but with its sharp riffing and bone-crushing songs, sophomore effort Evil Invaders just edges Executioner’s Song as the better of the two.

Thrash metal doesn’t come thrashier – or more metallic for that matter – than this auditory assault on the senses that can literally strip skin from bone (or endo-skeleton, if the cover art is anything to go by).

“Tortured Skull” and “Instant Death” are the highlights but the whole album hits warp speed for the majority of its running time so you may as well just sit back, crack open a beer and consume it all (beer and album)!

Dark Angel – Darkness Descends (1986) [USA] 

Dark Angel – Darkness Descends (2016, Clear / Blue / Orange Splatter,  Vinyl) - Discogs

Unbridled ferocity, technical supremacy and relentless aural battery….is there a more succinct description of what is arguably the greatest thrash metal album of all time?

Featuring the likes of the rampaging “Merciless Death”, the incendiary “The Burning Of Sodom” and the progressively minded “Black Prophecies“, the first indication of the 100+ riffs per song and epic song length mentality the band would explore on later releases was writ large on Dark Angel‘s terrifyingly tenacious, genre-defining, sophomore effort.

The eerie yet elegant bass intro to the aforementioned “Merciless Death” aside, moments of respite were few and far between on Darkness Descends, as Dark Angel focused on thrashing harder, faster and with more gritted teeth malevolence than any other band on the planet…..and that includes the mighty Slayer!

Onslaught – The Force (1986) [UK]

Onslaught – The Force (2019, Vinyl) - Discogs

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 the 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, Onslaughtwere 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.

Holy Moses – Finished With The Dogs (1987) [Germany] 

Holy Moses – Finished With The Dogs (2016, CD) - Discogs

On an album that never fails to impress, it was the attitude of Holy Moses that hit hardest; a fearless, punk and grindcore-infused, middle-finger to the face of mainstream sensibilities that set them miles apart from many of their contemporaries.

Each track snapped and snarled but it’ was “Current Of Death” that hit hard enough to put you into a coma (Death Angel nicked Sabina Classen’s irrefutably catchy “whoah, whoah, whoah” delivery on 2004’s “Thrown to The Wolves” incidentally) while “Fortress Of Desperation” settled into a groove that’ll have you bangin’ ’till you puke.

In 1987, these dogs didn’t just bite, they sank rabies-infected fangs deep into your neck and tore out chunk after chunk of bloodied flesh; brutal, uncompromising and utterly merciless.

Growl. Grrr. Woof!

Overkill – Taking Over (1987) [USA]

<br />Overkill - Taking Over

Taking the honour of never releasing a bad album (and they’ve released 20 of the buggers!), Overkill‘s 1987 effort, Taking Over, remains a firm fan favourite and is home to some of these East Coast maniacs finest compositions.

The uncompromisable “Wrecking Crew” and “Deny The Cross” may be the most recognisable tracks but the whole album is filled with the same level of menace and high speed hostility. 

High on energy and fuelled by aggression, it’s arguable that Overkill never sounded this raw and unpolished again, with these New Jersey boys’ punk roots still informing the core of their sound and ultimately transforming Taking Over into one of Overkill’s most feral releases!

Tankard – Chemical Invasion (1987) [Germany]

Tankard – Chemical Invasion (1987, CD) - Discogs

Tankard have never strayed from their beer and whiskey soaked path but they’re so much more than a mere gimmicky joke band…. and Chemical Invasion was the one album to prove their indelible importance to the Teutonic thrash scene.

Like the mad scientist depicted on the album artwork, Tankard throw everything into their heady brew of intense drumming, barely controlled riffs and histrionic vocals. Seemingly just one more drink away from careening out of control entirely, Tankard’s hellish fury occasionally calms, the open acoustic guitar strum of “For A Thousand Beers” providing ample proof that these guys could play and play well.

Chemical Invasion is an album that demands to be listened to drunk with the room spinning and projectile puke just one more whirlwind head-bang away…true party thrash!

Whiplash – Ticket To Mayhem (1987) [USA]

Whiplash – Ticket To Mayhem (1986, Vinyl) - Discogs

Heralding World War III on opener “Perpetual Warfare”, New Jersey’s Whiplash were a 3-piece of considerable power and tenacity, making up in ferocity what they lacked in panache.

However, Ticket To Mayhem found Tony Portaro, Tony Bono and Joe Cangelosi balancing the relentlessly ferocious energy carried over from debut album Power and Pain with a few moments of considered introspection, no more so than on semi-ballad “Last Nail In The Coffin”.

Of course, all-out thrash anthems were still present and accounted for, with “Spiral Of Violence” and “The Burning Of Atlanta” unleashing merry hell, but Ticket To Mayhem showcased a more mature, more refined and focused Whiplash; one capable of delivering a more nuanced album than previously thought possible.

Coroner – Punishment For Decadence (1988) [Switzerland]

Coroner - Punishment For Decadence (LP) - Muziker

Coroner‘s pure riff nirvana was a byname for technical thrash perfection and their innate ability to write astoundingly aggressive, ever-surprising songs in such a succinct manner made them leaders of their field…..and, for many, Punishment For Decadence was the pinnacle of their achievements.

These pioneering Swiss tech thrashers didn’t give two-fucks about genre convention – such was the intensity in which they carved their own path – and Punishment For Decadence confirmed, once and for all, that we were dealing with three individuals of unfathomable skill. “Masked Jackal” may have been the ‘hit’ (we use that term loosely) but the whole album is indispensable.

The most consistently impressive technical thrash band of the 80’s. 


Flotsam and Jetsam – No Place For Disgrace (1988) [USA]

No Place for Disgrace by Flotsam and Jetsam on Apple Music

Following up debut album and instant classic Doomsday For The Deceiver was never going to be an easy task for the then Jason Newsted-less Flotsam and Jetsam. So what did they do? They knocked it out of the fucking park, that’s what they did!

Embracing a sound that was ever more melodic but still laced with grit and crunch, Flotsam and Jetsam didn’t try to one-up their corrosive debut, instead they simply finessed their sound and emerged as a more confident band; one with a shit ton of quality songs in their arsenal. Seeking to push thrash away from mindless violence into ever more expansive realms, Flotsam’s welcome addition of more melodic riffs – alongside Eric A.K. Knutson’s falsetto screams and altogether more varied range – resulted in an album that was epic in scope while still hitting that thrash sweet spot.

While a few harder cuts – such as “Hard On You” and “I Live, You Die” – had the ability to nail you to the wall, it was Flotsam’s more considered and balanced moments that left a lasting impression – check out the magisterial beauty of the title track (from the 3 minute mark) if you need convincing that No Place For Disgrace was melodic thrash at its absolute finest! 

About Chris Jennings (1985 Articles)
I love metal. Always have. Always will. As editor of Worship Metal - a site dedicated to being as positive about metal and its myriad of sub-genres as possible - my aim is to 'worship' metal through honest reviews, current news and a wide variety of features; offering the same exposure to underground bands as we do to mainstream/well known acts. Our mantra; the bands are partners and we exist to serve the bands \m/

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