Second albums. Difficult for some. But not for these talented bastards.
And remember, this is just Part 2….there’s more in this series to come!
Presented in order of release as opposed to any kind of ranking….
Anthrax – Spreading The Disease (1985) [USA]
Spreading The Disease is an undeniable thrash classic. Sophisticated and controlled – yet bouncy and energetic enough to get any mosh-pit jumping – it was on this album that Anthrax found their melodic yet crunching sound; a sound that catapulted them to the forefront of the then fledgeling thrash metal scene.
Benefitting from Joey Belladonna’s relatively unique-to-thrash singing style, Spreading The Disease is home to some of Anthrax’s greatest tracks with “A.I.R”, “Madhouse”, “Medusa” and “Gung Ho” still registering high on the thrash richter scale.
If 1985 was renowned for anything it was for Anthrax, Slayer and Megadeth making their mark on the thrash scene and Spreading The Disease was an undeniably important release. Metallica had some serious competition to contend with and The Big 4 were upon us!
Slayer – Hell Awaits (1985) [USA]
Slayer‘s Hell Awaits was conceived to shock and awe…..and it worked, perfectly!
In 1985, Hell Awaits was the sound of pure evil filtered through squealing feedback, archaic chanting and progressively technical dark-thrash odes to Satan and his happy home. The ghastly and terrifying title-track remains one of Slayer’s defining moments while “Necrophiliac” and “Kill Again” foreshadowed Reign In Blood‘s oncoming speed and ferocity.
Slayer were arguably never this progressively minded again and Hell Awaits has stood the test of time as a cornerstone in thrash metal and extreme metal’s development.
Kreator – Pleasure To Kill (1986) [Germany]
This precociously vicious shit-storm instantly struck a chord with thrashers worldwide and, with Pleasure To Kill, Kreator found themselves leading the way in the Teutonic scene. Unhinged to the point of incarceration, Pleasure To Kill‘s track-list borders on a greatest hits selection with the wall of noise maelstrom of “Ripping Corpse”, the unforgettable “Pleasure To Kill”, the death metal influencing “Riot Of Violence” and the epic and surprisingly complex “The Pestilence” all meriting classic status.
An inspiration to countless bands, death metal and grindcore legends Napalm Death covered “Riot Of Violence” and even they couldn’t match the intensity and ferocity of its original incarnation!
Kreator altered the German thrash landscape with Pleasure To Kill and mayhem of this calibre never sounded so good again!
Sacrifice – Forward To Termination (1987) [Canada]
Part of Canada’s “big four” alongside the potentially more recognisable names of Razor, Voivod and Annihilator, Sacrifice‘s 2nd album, Forward To Termination, was a fast and ferocious shit-storm of an album.
A marked improvement on their admittedly decent debut Torment In Fire, 1987’s Forward to Termination upped the ante in almost every department while also maturing at an astonishing rate. A virtually perfect amalgamation of snarling attitude, ingenious riffs and diverse song structure, Forward To Termination – and the likes of the cult favourite “Re-Animation” in particular – have gone down in history as an all time classic of Canadian thrash!
With this outstanding album, Sacrifice proved once and for all that Canada had thrash bands that could rival those found in the USA and Germany and they should have found themselves at the top of the thrash pile.
Deathwish – Demon Preacher (1988) [UK]
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 meets the crunch of Bay Area thrash on the Slayer-esque title track and Deathwish‘s inspirations are immediately 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 best exemplified on Deathwish‘s gritty thrashed-up reworking of Sabbath‘s all time classic, “Symptom Of The Universe”. Cover version’s by their very nature are generally disappointing but this updated version of Iommi’s classic riff-fest for a thrash audience remains recognisable but utterly feral.
However, the 70’s worshipping song structures weren’t all Deathwish had 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. A nod to the future and a nod to the past in essence, Deathwish were happy to complete the circle by closing with the acoustic Zeppelin-esque instrumental “Past Life”, restoring balance and a sense of closure in the process.
Target – Master Project Genesis (1988) [Belgium]
Target‘s sophomore release, Master Project Genesis, was the greatest Belgian thrash album of the 80s, bar none! Light years ahead of their contemporaries, Target’s technical thrash prowess was writ large over Master Project Genesis‘ 8 scintillating tracks, with the band improving on their already impressive debut, Mission Executed (1987) and delivering a succession of tracks that sounded like the next gen of thrash bands had arrived.
Once you’ve picked your jaw up from the floor upon hearing the stop-start riff-a-rama of the surprisingly melodic “Ultimate Unity”, the sheer brilliance of “Digital Regency” smacks you around the chops are you’re left reeling from the sheer scope and breadth of it all! The quality never lets up either.
As important a cult item as Deathrow‘s Deception Ignored and Realm‘s Suiciety, Target‘s Master Project Genesis deserves far more than the mere footnote in thrash history placing it currently holds. After all, this truly is some of the best technical thrash you’ll ever hear!
Testament – The New Order (1988) [USA]
We maintain that The New Order is Testament‘s greatest album (Practice What You Preach runs it a very close second); a full-bodied statement of intent from a band who knew they had an opportunity to not only compete with The Big 4 but surpass even their accomplishments!
History tells us that Testament would never quite break through to the same level as Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer but their recorded output defies that fact, and The New Order remains one of the most potent and consistently thrilling thrash albums in existence.
When an album reads like a greatest hits set you know you’re on to a winner and with the title track, “Trial by Fire,” “Disciples of the Watch and the iconic “Into the Pit” making up the core of this legendary album, The New Order‘s credentials speak for themselves.
Vendetta – Brain Damage (1988) [Germany]
They don’t come more unique than Vendetta‘s Brain Damage, an album that retained the required thrash crunch of the era while significantly maturing and offering unparalleled diversity to the discerning thrash fan.
This was the sound of a band that should have left the underground, seriously skilled and home to such consistently impressive songwriting that a breakthrough seemed inevitable. Alas, it just wasn’t to be. But, that’s no reason to overlook its merits now as Brain Damage‘s fiendishly catchy melodies and exquisite guitar work are as impressive now as they were back in 1988!
Vendetta’s technical prowess and crystal clear clarity showcased a band whose merits were writ large. After all, Brain Damage truly is an unsung masterpiece from the golden era of thrash!
Paradox – Heresy (1989) [Germany]
A fully paid up concept album, Heresy re-told the tale of the Albigensian Crusade of the 13th century and in the process redefined the limits of thrash, ironically marching forth on their own crusade to combine elegance with destruction.
Approaching thrash with far less malice than the likes of Sodom, Kreator and Destruction etc, Paradox instead embraced a power metal aesthetic, aligning themselves more with the likes of Metal Church, Anthrax (minus any silliness) and Onslaught circa In Search Of Sanity than with their Germanic brethren. It paid off too, helping Paradox to stand out from the pack and offering an accessibility that their teutonic peers simply didn’t offer at this point in time.
Featuring soaring twin harmonies, mind-frazzling solos and a rhythm section that could rival the tightest thrash acts around, Paradox were anything but their namesake; delivering instead a concise and melodic attack on the senses that was unrelenting in its clinical efficiency.
Sabbat – Dreamweaver (Reflections of Our Yesterdays) (1989) [UK]
The second full-length album from British pagan thrashers Sabbat swiftly followed their outstanding debut, History of a Time to Come, and this all-time classic follow-up ventured ever further into singer / lyricist Martin Walkyier’s strong interest in Wyrdism, Celtic mysticism, Anglo-Saxon spirituality and paganism.
Dreamweaver – a concept album based on the 1983 book The Way of Wyrd: Tales of an Anglo-Saxon Sorcerer by British psychologist Brian Bates – ably demonstrated the sheer poetry conjured by this most unique of thrash bands. Not least in Walkyier’s expansive lyricism but in Andy Sneap’s ability to conjure magic from his epic and progressively technical compositions.
“The Clerical Conspiracy”, “Wildfire”, “Do Dark Horses Dream of Nightmares?”….. all solid gold (but then you know that already)!
Exceptional doesn’t quite do this album justice.
Also in this Series: