Intruder – A Higher Form of Killing (1989) [USA]
Intruder‘s second album was an aural assault that blew conceptions of thrash apart. Instrumental “Time of Trouble” aside, opener “The Martyr” had not one but three intro riffs before we even got to the meat of the piece, and each one ramped up the urgency and the expectancy like a catholic priest watching the new choir boys march in. And the pace did not let up. Shit, it’s heavy, even in 2021.
Guitarists Arthur Vinett and Greg Messick played their hearts out on this record, with their down-picked, string skipping madness played so fast your left hand will look like a Taiwanese prostitute giving a 30 second handjob. Anthrax were famous for the left-hand speed (picking, not handjobs. Well….) but this was another level.
There was humour too. “Mr Death is here!” exclaimed Mr. Death on the last track (Did he get paid for his guest appearance?). And we can’t speak about AHFOK without mentioning the awesome Monkees cover “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone” in which John Pieroni growled his way through a great Mickey Dolenz pastiche….but it’s the chorus harmony vocals that still make you sit up and take notice!
Mandator – Initial Velocity (1988) [Netherlands]
With Initial Velocity, Mandator’s schizophrenic mix of thrash, speed metal and power metal attempted to sate the appetites of all scenes in one sitting, without ever quite hitting the sweet-spot.
With speed metal elements hanging around since their days as Mysto Dysto, encountering the frenzied riffing of “Power Of The Law” comes as no surprise. What is surprising is the likes of “Black Rose” which starts life as a speed metal work-out before a ‘delicate’ AOR passage sends the song into unexpected territory, as it solos its way to a power metal high.
Never quite settling on one style causes consternation but there’s enough quality song writing here to balance out the frustrations, with the feral likes of the Exodus-esque “Faces Of Death” and “Posers” (an apt title, given the Exodus comparison) hitting hard and fast. A whole album of this material may have stood Mandator in better stead but there’s also a lot to be said for the more considered, progressively-minded, likes of “Jack Boots & Leather Caps”.
An oddity, but no less interesting because of it!
Minotaur – Power Of Darkness (1988) [Germany]
Shrouding metal fans in nothing but complete darkness was Minotaur, a blackened thrash band capable of nothing but the most hideously raw thrash imaginable.
Minotaur should have gone down in history as one of the proto-death bands, as important to the rise of death metal as Possessed, Slayer, Death Strike, Repulsion and Hellhammer. The fact that Minotaur are often not uttered in the same breath is a crime as Power Of Darkness was also at the forefront of changing trends. Hell, they released a single titled Death Metal in 1990…..of course, by then it was too little, too late for Minotaur to truly be noticed!
Featuring a Mille Petrozza-like vocalist in the form of Andi Richwien, his untamed black metal-esque shriek was just a part of Minotaur’s early embrace of unhinged chaos, with the fast and frantic likes of the appropriately monikered “Apocalptic Trials” and “Necromancer” backed by dynamically varied, brutal blasts of untamed musicianship.
An essential proto-death / Teutonic thrash classic!
Mutilator – Immortal Force (1987) [Brazil]
Highly influential in the Brazilian thrash / extreme metal scene, Mutilator‘s full-length debut was a death/thrash colossus and this Brazilian version of Slayer was as rough, ready and downright reprehensible as they come!
Living up to its name, Immortal Force was an unnatural assault on the senses with its lo-fi production and chaotic nature ably conveying its intimidatingly savage approach via potent energy and unhinged malice. None more so than on blistering closer, “Paranoic Command”; a song so relentlessly un-remorseful that Kerry King himself would have shit the bed upon hearing it.
In what was a crowded scene, Mutilator out-thrashed the majority of their peers and released a bone fide underground classic at the first time of asking.
Num Skull – Ritually Abused (1988) [USA]
Ritually Abused may have been ritually ignored on release but there’s no denying its thrash pedigree and albums this savage rarely reared their snarling, slathering head in the late 80’s.
Redefining what it meant to be truly brutal, Num Skull‘s debut may have been neanderthal in essence but fans of Kreator’s early noise – and those fond of the ferocity of Reign in Blood era Slayer and Exodus circa Bonded By Blood – would undoubtedly offer themselves up to the kind of abuse Num Skull were dishing out.
Speed, aggression and unbelievably unhinged vocals characterised album highlights “The Henchman”, the Exodus-esque “No Morals” and the utterly merciless title track….true American hate performed by absolute maniacs!