Forget The Big 4 and their million selling behemoths, these 25 cult American thrash albums were equally as accomplished, equally as ferocious and equally as groundbreaking and fully deserved to sell as many copies as Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax….except they didn’t.
Exodus – Bonded By Blood (1985)
Exodus should have had it all; the fame, the fortune and their fair share of thrash metal’s spoils.
As it turned out, one of thrash’s most legendary albums comes from a band who hovered on the periphery of The Big 4 without ever making that leap into the big league. A bullshit situation! It’s fairly common knowledge that Bonded By Blood was actually recorded in 1984, but was held back for a ridiculous 9 months due to record label wrangling and that lost time proved to be more than just significant.
Instead of spearheading the scene they helped to create, Exodus found themselves endlessly playing catch up and they simply ran out of puff; forever chasing the pack and never actually gaining ground. But, Exodus were at the forefront of thrash, capable of out-riffing their Bay Area peers and, pound for pound, they were the heaviest, most dangerous, most unpredictable and most ferociously adept outfit on the block.
“Bonded By Blood”, “A Lesson In Violence”, “And Then There Were None”, “Piranha”, and “Strike Of The Beast” are all thrash gold, tarnished by bad timing but true treasures in thrash’s trove. While many bands would try to tap into the virulent violence that positively oozes from each track, none could match the intensity conjured by Paul Baloff, Gary Holt, Tom Hunting, Rick Hunolt and Rob McKillop.
Dark Angel – Darkness Descends (1986)
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!
Flotsam And Jetsam – Doomsday For The Deceiver (1986)
One of the greatest thrash debuts known to man, Flotsam and Jetsam‘s Doomsday For The Deceiver led the world to believe that a new thrash superpower had arrived (not quite, unfortunately) with a collection of tunes both overwhelmingly powerful and expertly performed.
Taking the very best bits of speed metal, power metal and thrash metal – and perfecting them amongst a flurry of cranking bass, warp-speed riffs and Erik A.K’s formidable pipes – the likes of the feral “Hammerhead”, the intense “Iron Tears” and the epic ability of the exquisite title track mark out Doomsday For The Deceiver as an undisputed all-time thrash classic.
Many will recall the rarely used 6K mark awarded by Kerrang back in ’86 and that laughable sentiment surprisingly rings true. From intense bursts of thrashing rage (“Desecrator,” the aforementioned “Iron Tears”) to almost progressive metal, multi-tentacled epics, Doomsday For The Deceiver had everything!
Metal Church – The Dark (1986)
Combining traditional metal with thrash, Metal Church had a powerhouse frontman in the shape of David Wayne and riffs most bands would skin their own mothers for. Their self titled debut is an undisputed classic and follow-up, The Dark, almost hit those same heady heights.
Featuring all-time ‘Church’ classics “Ton Of Bricks”, “Start The Fire”, the intimidating power ballad – and minor hit – that was “Watch The Children Pray” and the creepy title track, The Dark may have been one of the more melodic thrash releases of ’86 but it was also one of the finest and the most accomplished.
Side 2 may have failed to maintain the velocity of the ‘5 for 5’ hit rate of side 1 but there’s no escaping the fact that Metal Church and The Dark were both a monumental influence on the burgeoning thrash scene.
Holy Terror – Terror And Submission (1987)
Holy Terror’s debut from 1987 remains one of the more aggressive albums from thrash’s golden age and this cult band deserved far greater acclaim for this and its equally accomplished follow-up, Mind Wars.
One of the most original sounding thrash bands of the 80’s, Terror And Submission recalls the classic clatter of Venom and Possessed and retains the filthy sound that thrash originally pioneered before Metallica and Megadeth etc bought a commercialised sheen to the genre. Still indebted to the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, “Evil’s Rising” particularly paid homage to the classic sounding, harmonised riffs of Diamond Head and Tygers Of Pan Tang while “Blood Of The Saints” updated Judas Priest’s British Steel for speed obsessed thrash enthusiasts.
Caught between speed metal’s barely in control histrionics and the melody of the NWOBHM, it’s the insanely varied vocals that push Terror And Submission into the realms of ‘classic’ status. Delivering a tour-de-force of ear-shattering shrieks and screams, melodic high’s and deathly low’s and thrash metals’ obligatory mid-range rasp, Keith Deen should be revered as one of the finest vocalists in thrash metal history; precious few could compete with his sheer skill and diversity.
Acknowledged as a semi-obscure classic among thrash die-hards, Terror And Submission remains a unique and under-appreciated entry in the history of thrash metal.