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10 of the Greatest Sophomore Thrash Albums of the 1980’s (Part 4)

Source // mediaboom.org

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

These may be a little more obscure but they’re no less essential than those albums detailed in Parts 1, 2 and 3 of this series!

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

Flames – Merciless Slaughter (1986) [Greece]

Merciless Slaughter — Flames | Last.fm

Horrific cover art + nasty as fuck sound = Greece’s Flames; an unholy racket of lightning fast trebly riffs and barked vocals….in other words, awesome 80’s thrash!

Another record lost in the avalanche of outstanding titles from 1986, Merciless Slaughter still holds up as an intriguing time-capsule from an era when thrash was king and should seriously surprise those yet to hear its delights!

Tupperware drums aside, Flames picked up a (disembodied) head of steam and their dirty raucous sound still packs a killer, Possessed-inspired, punch with the likes of “Evil” neatly summarising all that was great about Flames’ classic proto-death metal leanings. 

Hirax – Hate, Fear And Power (1986) [USA]

Hirax’s second album was thrash how it was meant to be played; short, sharp and shockingly savage.

Marching on from their iconic debut, Hate, Fear and Power was a multi-rhythmic nail bomb; firing off in all directions and causing maximum, head-banging, damage. At a mere 16 minutes in length, you could be forgiven for labelling Hate, Fear and Power as an EP but that would do a disservice to the streamlined-focus on display. And, with thrash undoubtedly burning its way through to the very core of scene legend Katon W. DePena and his compadres, this crossover thrash classic burns just as bright nearly 40 years after its release.

Nuthin’ but 16 minutes of hate, fear and power….funnily enough!

Deathrow – Raging Steel (1987) [Germany]

DEATHROW - Raging Steel - Amazon.com Music

A notable improvement over Riders Of Doom (aka Satan’s Gift), 1987’s swift follow-up, Raging Steel, continued down the same hyper-speed path without managing to distance Deathrow from the pack.

Hints of the technically audacious output to come were evident during the clean sections of “Dragon’s Blood” and the abrupt time changes of “The Thing Within” but, primarily, Raging Steel was just a faster version of Celtic Frost with semi-progressive flourishes thrown in for good measure.

This is not a slur, Deathrow were fucking brilliant at what they did but so much more was on the horizon (we refer to the technically astonishing Deception Ignored, of course)!

Highly recommended nonetheless. 

Angel Dust – To Dust You Will Decay (1988) [Germany]

Angel Dust – To Dust You Will Decay (2016, Vinyl) - Discogs

To Dust You Will Decay may have signalled a slight change in direction from the speed metal of their debut but Angel Dust were still very much thrashing…. just with a little more nuance. As happy in the company of Helloween as they were their Bay Area influences, Angel Dust were well on their way to becoming a 100% power metal act but, for now, they were power/thrash personified and operating at the peak of their powers.

While the full on power metal majesty of “Into The Dark Past (Chapter II)” was a strong indication of what was to come, it was the likes of “The King” and the title track that thrashed hard and fast and with plenty of grit and determination. While the aggression of old was notably dialled down, in its place was a burgeoning maturity and a more memorable set of mostly melodic songs, with the satisfying chug and soaring solemnity of “Wings Of An Angel” superbly straddling the fine line between full-on power metal and old-school thrash. 

With personnel changes reaping rewards – out went guitarist/ vocalist Romain “Romme” Keymer and guitarist Andreas Lohrum and in came Stefan K. Nauer, Vinni Lynn and ex-Scanner vocalist S.L.Coe – To Dust You Will Decay stands tall as Angel Dust’s undisputed masterpiece!

Doom – Complicated Mind (1988) [Japan]

At this stage in their formidable career, Doom were defiantly daring Voivod to go ‘weirder’ and were ably conjuring up the same kind of dissonant, off-kilter melodies and warped ideas as Canada’s favourite sons. That’s not to say that Doom were ripping off Piggy and Snake and co. wholesale but you could throw Complicated Mind‘s title track onto Killing Technology and no one would have batted an eyelid!

Still, inevitable comparisons with Voivod aside, Doom were their own beast and 1988’s Complicated Mind remains one of their greatest achievements. With Koh Morota’s incredible fretless bass work drawing comparisons with the genius that is Steve Di Giorgio, and the tightly-wound, futuristic riffing of Takashi Fujita blind-siding all but the most dedicated of progressive thrash enthusiasts, it’s crystal clear that Doom have always been a very special band.

Highly intricate and telepathically linked, the minds behind Complicated Mind were operating on a different sphere to us ‘mere mortals’ and this progressive thrash masterclass still resonates today!

Virus – Force Recon (1988) [UK] 

Perennial underdogs of the UK scene, Virus proved their worth with their second album, Force Recon. 

This punk/thrash overload from one of the UK’s most violent band of thrashers kicked even the most hardened thrasher square in the mush when it was released in 1988, with the arrival of guitarist Coke Finlay appearing to light a considerable fire up Virus‘ collective arse!

To say that Force Recon was an improvement on debut album Pray For War would be a massive understatement. Fast, savage and punky as all hell, the production may be shite but the songs shine through, with the likes of “Testify to Me” and “Viral Warfare” proving particularly potent.

Just a little good, friendly, violent fun….UK style!

Anihilated – The Ultimate Desecration (1989) [UK] 

Anihilated – The Ultimate Desecration (1989, Vinyl) - Discogs

Anihilated‘s second album is a British thrash milestone, incorporating Exodus‘ brash brutality and Slayer‘s knack for intimidating menace and groove to form an album worthy of serious attention.

The grisly grooves of instrumental “Desolation” set the scene as Anihilated‘s malevolent, sickle-sharp riffing crunches straight into high gear on “Into The Flames Of Armageddon”. The album never lets up from here on in; quality track follows quality track with raspy, sandpaper vocals, wall-of-sound drums and Hell Awaits era Slayer riffs combining furiously to thrash your face clean off.

The Slayer comparisons can be a little too familiar at times but if you’re gonna be inspired, be inspired by one of the best…. and if being the British Slayer is a bad thing, then we’ll be damned!

Of all the bands to arise during thrash’s recent re-birth, Anihilated truly showcased the breadth of talent the UK have to offer, culminating in Anti Social Engineering, one of the finest UK thrash albums ever recorded….and we ain’t fuckin’ kidding….this album absolutely slayed the competition in 2015!

Attomica – Limits Of Insanity (1989) [Brazil]

Attomica – Limits Of Insanity (2016, Digipack, CD) - Discogs

Brazilian thrashers Attomica had already made quite a splash with their 1987 self-titled debut and Limits Of Insanity attempted to capitalise on that goodwill by cleaning up their previously raw sound and delivering thunderous, semi-melodic thrash to the baying masses.

With the vocals attaining an ever more power metal sound, those expecting a Brazilian pounding a la Sepultura may have been surprised by the sheer accessibility of this underrated album. Instead, Attomica dialled down the aggression and went for the mainstream’s throat.

Of course, the mainstream wasn’t interested but that doesn’t mean that the sheer array of outstanding mid-tempo riffs on Limits of Insanity can’t be fully appreciated now!

Grinder – Dead End (1989) [Germany]

Grinder – Dead End (2013, CD) - Discogs

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 AnthraxGrinder still managed 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!

Viking – Man Of Straw (1989) [USA]

Viking – Man Of Straw (1989, Vinyl) - Discogs

A classic slice of technical thrash, Viking‘s Man Of Straw had all the necessary ingredients to propel them into the upper echelons of thrash’s hierarchy but would prove to be their last album before regrouping with Dark Angel’s Mike Gonzalez and Gene Hoglan and Vindicator’s Justin Zych to record 2015’s excellent No Child Left Behind.

A massive improvement on their Do Or Die debut, the incendiary guitar work of Brett Eriksen (Dark Angel) and the improved songwriting and performances across the board marked out Viking as a thrash metal band to be reckoned with. From the barely in control thrash attack of “They Raped The Land” to the riff-fests of “White Death” and “Man Of Straw”, and the truly epic Sodom-esque “Winter”, Viking rarely faltered on an unsung classic custom built for fans of Vio-lence and Dark Angel.

It speaks volumes that Brett Eriksen went on to ply his trade with Dark Angel – and contribute massively to their classic album Time Does Not Heal – as Man Of Straw is the perfect precursor to the exhausting number of riffs and vocal patterns found on Dark Angel’s seminal 4th album.

Also in this Series: 

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

10 of the Greatest Sophomore Thrash Albums of the 1980’s (Part 2)

10 of the Greatest Sophomore Thrash Albums of the 1980’s (Part 3)

About Chris Jennings (1978 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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