Happy 35th birthday you beautiful bastards…..
Anacrusis – Suffering Hour [USA]
Genre: Progressive Thrash
The only album in Anacrusis‘ formidable back catalogue to be classifiable as true ‘thrash’, Suffering Hour remains an often overlooked moment in thrash/progressive thrash history.
Joining the likes of Watchtower, Voivod and Mekong Delta in constructing complex arrangements which flowed through dozens of exhilarating tempo changes, Anacrusis’ youthful exuberance, and disjointed clamour, exhibitied an alluring charm and a focused desire to challenge thrash metal’s boundaries.
Suffering Hour had it all; intelligence, alarming momentum, hollowed-out groove, fiendish rhythms, atonal experimentation, a forebodingly dark and dense sound and a character all of its own. Precious few albums are capable of surprising the listener with each repeat listen but Suffering Hour still manages to startle and astonish 35 years later!
Angel Dust – To Dust You Will Decay [Germany]
Genre: Power / Thrash
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!
Bathory – Blood Fire Death [Sweden]
Genre: Black Metal / Viking Metal
Bathory‘s Blood Fire Death fully embodied the idea of attaining perfection while taking extreme metal to new heights on its release in 1988. Featuring tension filled orchestral arrangements which provided a thrilling contrast and unheard of depth to Quorthon’s banshee wail and rasping malevolence, Bathory’s crowning achievement completely changed the face of black metal in one stride.
Featuring high fidelity production, complex arrangements, melody(!), unparalleled atmosphere and a sense of scope and execution rarely heard in metal, Quorthon was already re-shaping the genre he single-handedly invented with Bathory, The Return….and Under The Sign Of Black Mark.
The sound of galloping roughshod into battle made flesh, this truly epic album is as revelatory today as it was 35 years ago; the work of a man who envisaged ‘bigger’ (in every sense of the word) things for black metal.
Blind Illusion – The Sane Asylum [USA]
Genre: Progressive Thrash
Blind Illusion‘s debut is a cult item of considerable aplomb, growing in stature as the years roll by and claiming its place as one of thrash metal’s unsung gems!
Featuring guitarist Larry LaLonde (Possessed) and bassist Les Claypool (before they went on to form Primus) and produced by Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, The Sane Asylum is one of those unique recordings which practically defies categorisation, such is its idiosyncratic nature and distinct lack of conformity.
An alchemic brew of jazz-influenced, progressive time changes and abstract song structures, The Sane Asylum was conveniently wrapped up in a technical thrash bow, a description which doesn’t even come close to describing the sheer madness at work here.
Quite unlike anything recorded before or since.
Bolt Thrower – In Battle There Is No Law! [UK]
Genre: Death Metal / Grindcore
Crusty ol’ grinders Bolt Thrower certainly laid down the law with their uncompromisingly raw debut, In Battle There Is No Law!
A crushing mix of crust punk, grindcore, hardcore and death metal, Bolt Thrower‘s debut was vicious, implacable, socio-politically charged and noticeably faster, and certainly less polished, than the albums that followed it…but it was no less convincing because of it. In fact, In Battle There Is No Law! was a sonic storm of unparalleled brutality and savagery when compared to much of what called itself ‘death metal’ in 1988. Just give the title track a spin and try denying that Bolt Thrower, for a short while there, were the heaviest band on the fuckin’ planet.
1989’s Realm of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness, 1991’s War Master and 2005’s Those Once Loyal may take all the plaudits (let’s be honest, Bolt Thrower never put out a bad album but these are most definitely highlights) but In Battle There Is No Law! was where it all began. And it began with one hell of a bang.
Hail Bolt Thrower!
Candlemass – Ancient Dreams [Sweden]
Genre: Doom Metal
An absurdly catchy ten-tonne riff kick-starts Ancient Dreams‘ opening track “Mirror, Mirror” and the listener is instantly bombarded with gloriously over-the-top doom metal performed by masters of the craft. And, if we’re talking masters of classic doom then we must be talking about Candlemass; a band that defines the genre like no other.
With lead singer Messiah Marcolin and his vibrato-laden operatic style now fully bedded in, his soaring vocals perfectly counterbalanced Leif Edling’s punishingly inventive, power-chord riffs; channelling Black Sabbath while simultaneously moving the doom metal into ever expansive realms.
Unafraid to incorporate choruses as big as an obscenely overweight blue fuckin’ whale, these were songs that climaxed in a crescendo of operatic noise, with not a single second wasted as Candlemass fully realised their distinctive, dark vision.
A doom metal classic, pure and simple.
Crimson Glory – Transcendence [USA]
Genre: Progressive Metal / Power Metal / Heavy Metal
Approaching progressive metal from a fast-paced, power metal angle, Crimson Glory‘s seminal second album was a full-on metal assault with its opening two tracks, Lady In Winter and Red Sharks, providing a welcome kick to the nuts.
So far, not so progressive we hear you cry!
Well, it’s true, Transcendence often smacked of straight-up American heavy metal but its progressive nature subtly revealed itself, the band enhancing progressive metal’s standing via lyrical concepts and rapid-fire tempo changes. “In Dark Places”, the album highlight, was a progressive metal updating of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” and “Burning Bridges” took the slow burn approach to epic balladry; consummate musicianship backed up by vocalist Midnight’s powerful, classic metal delivery.
If released today, Transcendence‘s classic metal stylings and adventurous compositions would still turn heads, as its ability to stretch minds and bang heads is as formidable as ever!
Crumbsuckers – Beast On My Back (B.O.M.B.) [USA]
Genre: Thrash / Crossover
All but abandoning their crossover roots, Crumbsuckers went full on metal with B.O.M.B, an album which failed to fully capitalise on the appeal garnered by debut album Life Of Dreams, despite Crumbsuckers’ obvious musical progression and their burgeoning reputation.
Ultimately, the majority of the hardcore scene were more than little pissed at their change in direction but Crumbsuckers had already released an almost perfect, pioneering crossover record….so why shouldn’t they set their sights on the big time and deliver the kind of metallic masterpiece which (should) have led to greater things?!
As it turned out, Beast On My Back would be Crumbsuckers last hurrah but 35 years later this twisting, turning schizophrenic beast of a record remains a colossal riff feast!
Crumbs? This beast was a real fuckin’ meal!
Death – Leprosy [USA]
Genre: Death Metal
Emerging at a time when death metal was still barely in nappies, Death‘s Leprosy was the next logical step after the neanderthal bludgeoning of Scream Bloody Gore had laid waste to thrash back in 1987.
Notably progressive when compared to Death‘s solid debut, the late, great, Chuck Schuldiner upped the ante in every department on this sophomore effort.
With a vast improvement in songwriting, Death were already leaving their peers in the dust, and Leprosy‘s 8 tracks of sublime brutality arguably defined the genre before it had even begun.
Quite simply an album whose importance to death metal cannot be underestimated.
Fates Warning – No Exit [USA]
Genre: Progressive Metal
Similar in style to Crimson Glory, Fates Warning were another band to adopt a power/thrash approach to progressive metal. Formidable and frenetic, it’s the 22 minute epic,“The Ivory Gate of Dreams” which looms large over prog metal history; Fates Warning taking the genre by the scruff of the neck and dragging it kicking and screaming into mainstream acceptance.
No Exit alsothrashed hard, check out “Anarchy Divine”, while incorporating progressive metal’s composite structures and Ray Alder’s intensly powerful vocals continued where his predecessor, John Arch, left off; vocals that may be an acquired taste but were to become a staple in late 80’s/early 90’s prog metal.
No Exit is as surprisingly experimental now as it was in 1988, its rampant time changes and Ray Alder’s intensely powerful vocals proving as indelibly effective as ever.
Helloween – Keeper Of The Seven Keys: Part II [Germany]
Genre: Power Metal
The third studio album from German power metal legends Helloween, Keeper Of The Seven Keys: Part II may not have surpassed its predecessor (Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part I, obviously!) but it more than matched its illustrious counterpart in virtually every area!
“You Never Walk Alone” provided the ‘heavy’ while “Rise And Fall” served up the cheese, but it was the epic title track and singles “Dr Stein” and the ubiquitous “I Want Out” that elevated Keeper Of The Seven Keys: Part II into the enviable ranks of must-hear status.
Alongside Keeper Of The Seven Keys: Part I, this album has quite rightly gone down in history as a heavy metal/power metal classic, long since adored and acclaimed as an album ripe with virtuoso performances, knowing humour and the strongest sense of identity imaginable.
Iron Maiden – Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son [UK]
Genre: Heavy Metal / Progressive Metal
Iron Maiden’s first real dip into ‘proggy waters’ came on 1988’s bona-fide classic, Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son.
Adding keyboards to their trademark sound upped the already intensified drama and the epic title track indicated that Maiden were no strangers to abrupt time changes and high-brow concepts.
Their trademark gallop wasn’t gone – “The Evil That Men Do” maintained the desired grit of old – but a new found finesse now accompanied the memorable choruses and elaborate structures. Somehow, despite composing some of the most progressive songs of their illustrious career, Maiden were still savvy enough to include their obligatory hit single in the shape of “Can I Play With Madness”; a song that maintained the high quality found on the preceding “Wasted Years”, “2 Minutes to Midnight”, “The Trooper” and “Run To The Hills”.
Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son remains a significant moment in Maiden’s formidable back catalogue and we doubt anyone would be unhappy if Maiden released an album of this calibre in 2023!
Jason Becker – Perpetual Burn [USA]
Genre: Neoclassical Metal / Shred
The name Jason Becker has become synonymous with his ongoing battle with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, a condition that was first diagnosed at the tender age of just 20. However, this shining beacon of unfathomable potential had already made his mark on the scene with Cacophony‘s Speed Metal Symphony and this was cemented with the release of 1988’s Perpetual Burn, an album that stands tall as one of the finest shred albums of the era.
Featuring 8 tracks of blistering speed and unbridled dexterity, this all-instrumental solo album ably showcased Becker’s considerable talents. With his ability to organically construct satisfyingly succinct compositions – as opposed to engaging in shameless bouts of disparate fretboard exhibitionism – Becker expertly balanced a suitably metallic edge (“Temple Of The Absurd”) with the more traditional neoclassical style of “Air”; resulting in an album that has everything you could ever want from a shred release.
Jason Becker‘s career may have been curtailed by a cruel twist of fate but Perpetual Burn‘s ability to amaze remains undiminished.
King Diamond – Them [Denmark]
Genre: Heavy Metal
The third studio release from the inimitable King Diamond resulted in another gothic concept album which trounced the competiton in both scope and execution.
A unique artistic vision came as standard as this stage in the game but King upped the ante when it came to grandiose spectacle, with his myriad of voices – and particularly his shrill falsetto – providing the drama while Andy LaRocque’s exquisite riffs, exalted harmonies and impressive solo’s provided an ever-shifting, ever-evolving backdrop.
Them was simply exemplary metal from the most recognisable voice in all of 80’s metal and remains King Diamond’s biggest selling record to this day!
King’s X – Out Of The Silent Planet [USA]
Genre: Hard Rock / Progressive Metal
Out of the Silent Planet was the debut album from Kings X and this most unique proposition instantly adhered themselves to those looking for complex arrangements and more than a little melody!
Kings X’s fearless experimentation and melding of styles on Out of the Silent Planet placed them firmly in the progressive metal camp, even if the ‘metal’ may not be as metallic as many of the bands in this feature. Quintessentialy a bands’ band, Kings X took the best bits of Pink Floyd, Rush and The Beatles and added funk, soul and harmonies so rich that if it weren’t for Ty Tabor’s crunchy riffs scattered throughout, they could almost qualify as prog-pop.
Predating a grunge sound that Alice In Chains would build an entire career around, Kings X’s accomplished debut would prove to be highly influential and this astonishing album still sounds fresh and vital today.
Liege Lord – Master Control [USA]
Genre: Speed Metal / Power Metal / Heavy Metal
Liege Lord’s debut album, Freedom’s Rise, was very good and their sophomore album, Burn To The Touch, was great but Master Control was an absolute powerhouse of an 80’s American heavy metal album; a pure power metal/speed metal/heavy metal juggernaut, enhanced by the arrival of new vocalist Joe Comeau.
Comeau‘s vocals (future member of East Coast thrash legends Overkill and Canadian thrash royalty Annihilator) were a revelation, strengthening Liege Lord’s sound with his Bruce Dickinson on steroids delivery. The results should have been strong enough to propel Liege Lord into the big leagues…..but the world wasn’t quite ready.
In keeping with the era, Master Control may have been slightly thrashier than previous material – and would prove to be a fitting swansong (although Liege Lord did reunite in 2013) – but it was an album that arguably perfected power metal way before the world was ready to savour that particular sub-genre’s delights!
Unfortunately, Liege Lord were just a little too early in the game for metal fans who were still addicted to thrash, thrash and more thrash!
Marty Friedman – Dragon’s Kiss [USA]
Genre: Neoclassical Metal / Shred
If you’ve ever wondered why Dave Mustaine recruited Marty Friedman for Megadeth, just one listen to the sheer bravado of Dragon’s Kiss will provide you with your answer!
Harnessing his flair for pure heavy metal histrionics with added layers of gloss, imagination and flamboyance, Dragon’s Kiss proved that the metal world had an exotically distinctive soloist and shred extraordinaire on their hands!
With Jason Becker contributing his considerable talents to both opener “Saturation Point” and “Jewel”, it’s immediately apparent why the two teamed up – to thrilling effect – in Cacophony.
However, while great together, individually these two were capable of producing even better results….and no more so than on Dragon’s Kiss, Marty Friedman‘s jaw-dropping, all-instrumental debut.
Megadeth – So Far, So Good… So What! [USA]
Renowned for being beyond tight – a weapons-grade, precision-tooled, nuclear-warhead of a band with insane technical ability – Megadeth sounded unhinged on their 3rd album; as if Dave Mustaine’s world was falling apart and his only response was to come out snarling, brawling and bound for self-destruction.
“Set The World Afire” ravages the ears like no other track in Megadeth’s arsenal. It’s simply pure thrash perfection, utterly feral and driven by a sense of derailing chaos led by the palpable pairing of Mustaine and ‘new kid’ Jeff Young. “In My Darkest Hour”, the most heartfelt track of Mustaine’s prestigious career, is a triumph that showcased another side to Megadeth’s talismanic figure and one that represented the heart and soul of this often misunderstood frontman. Torn apart by the news of Cliff Burton’s passing, you can still hear the crackle of emotion in this thrash ballad par excellence.
While So Far, So Good… So What! may not be as essential as Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?, it is an essential 80’s thrash album and one that should be revered as a challenging, yet bullish, minor masterwork from one of thrash metal’s greatest ever bands.
Metallica – …And Justice For All [USA]
Genre: Thrash / Progressive Thrash
Rightfully celebrated as a milestone in thrash history, Metallica would never be this expansive and this experimental again. …And Justice For All rivalled technical thrashers Heathen, Realm and Believer in the progressive thrash metal stakes, as Metallica recovered from the death of Cliff Burton by proving they could not only survive without his guidance, they could flourish! And, while itmayhave its flaws – bone-dry production and Jason Newsted’s mostly inaudible bass spring have been discussed endlessly – it remains a milestone of progressive thrash.
With a clinical approach bordering on maniacal obsession the likes of the epic “…And Justice For All” and “One” were the epitome of surgical precision and it was left to “Dyers Eve” to remind fans that this was the band that once penned “Whiplash”!
“Do you hear what I hear?”, snarled James Hetfield on the absurdly catchy, stop-start rifferama of “Eye Of The Beholder”. We did James, we loved it then…..and we still love it now!
Napalm Death – From Enslavement To Obliteration [UK]
Before they added death metal to their sonic onslaught, Napalm Death recorded the pinnacle of UK grindcore in From Enslavement To Obliteration. The sound of urban squalor terrifyingly committed to tape, Napalm Death’s Scum may have been more influential but From Enslavement To Obliteration is the superior album and the culmination of Napalm Death’s fearless experimentation in their early years.
Embracing distortion in all its guises, From Enslavement To Obliteration‘s 27 tracks (including The Curse EP) proved to be a turning point in grindcore and set the standard for countless bands who were inspired to follow in Napalm Death’s bloodied footsteps.
Napalm Death would splinter after this groundbreaking release; vocalist Lee Dorrian embracing doom metal with Cathedral and guitarist Bill Steer concentrating on Carcass, distancing himself from Napalm Death’s political agenda and adding gallons of gore to his grind in the process. But, it’s on From Enslavement To Obliteration that these icons of extreme metal made their greatest mark.
Opprobrium (aka Incubus) – Serpent Temptation [USA]
Genre: Death / Thrash
Not those digerideroo-blowing nu metal wombats, this is the real Incubus (before the enforced name change); a towering death/thrash colossus who annihilated their 80’s competition with debut album, Serpent Temptation!
Opprobrium / Incubus were extreme (in every sense of the word) and they were absurdly talented, tempering their ferocity with intricate riffing and a superb sense of dynamics. It has to be said, this shit was astonishingly heavy back in ’88; a savage re-appropriation of thrash metal’s fundamental’s strapped to death metal’s still to be completed blueprint. The results were almost beyond comprehension, with Incubus paving the way for countless acts who took thrash/death into ever heavier realms as the 90’sdawned and death metal took hold.
A hyper-speed, proto-death metal classic, Serpent Temptation deserves to be considered an equal of Dark Angel’s Darkness Descends, Slayer’s Reign In Blood and Kreator’s Pleasure To Kill!
Overkill – Under The Influence [USA]
Taking the honour of never releasing a bad album (and they’ve released 19 of the buggers!), Overkill‘s 1988 effort, Under The Influence, remains a firm fan favourite and is home to some of these East Coast maniacs finest compositions.
The uncompromisable “Shred” and “Hello from the Gutter” (Overkill’s breakthrough which received heavy rotation on MTV’s Headbangers Ball) 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 Under The Influence into Overkill’s most feral beast!
Pestilence – Malleus Maleficarum [Netherlands]
Genre: Death / Thrash
Before they became a progressive death metal force to be reckoned with, Pestilence kicked thrash firmly in the a-hole with their debut album, Malleus Maleficarum!
A vicious onslaught of repulsive death/thrash, Pestilence were already on the path to hellish enlightenment when they recorded this astonishingly abrasive beast of a debut album.
Death metal classic Consuming Impulse may have been a year away but Pestilence were already barrelling their way in the right direction, keeping one foot in thrash metal’s comfortable and recognisable living quarters while the other made a bolt for the exit, heading into the unknown darkness of death metal’s fertile beginnings.
One of the crowning achievements of death/thrash and no mistake!
Queensrÿche – Operation: Mindcrime [USA]
Genre: Progressive Metal
A landmark concept album from a band who epitomised ‘progressive’ in the 1980’s.
Operation:Mindcrime virtually needs no introduction, its place in progressive metal history so firmly set in stone that it practically holds together the entire foundations of the scene.
As concept albums go, it’s also a masterclass in world building, each track serving the narrative perfectly yet never forgetting that infectious melody and memorable riffs are equally as important as ushering metal into new directions; “Spreading The Disease” and “Revolution Calling” proving that ambitious concept albums can be fiercely intelligent and still rock hard!
Queensrÿche returned to their finest hour in 2006 with Operation: Mindcrime II and vocalist Geoff Tate eventually adopted the moniker after the band splintered in 2012; proof that this undisputed progressive metal classic is as important today as it was 35 years ago.
Realm – Endless War [USA]
Genre: Technical Thrash
A technical thrash masterclass, Realm’s histrionic, kinetic and brain-scrambling debut still pummels the senses with its falsetto vocals and stampeding rhythms; threatening to career off the precipice of plausibility at any moment!
Straddling the fine line between thrash, power metal and speed metal – Toxik are a fitting comparison – Realm’s supreme confidence in finessing the core ingredients of these sub-genres was only outweighed by their sheer technical virtuosity. The guitars are virtually impossible to pin down, a cacophonous aural caning containing endless shredding, lightning-quick picking, intricate leads, the odd surprising acoustic section and more sickle-sharp rhythm’s and hair-raising solo’s than seems humanly possible to assimilate.
The frenetic pace of the entire album only shifted into a (slightly) lower gear for the likes of the slow-burning “Eminence” and the borderline balladry of “Second Coming“, while the classic sound of “All Heads Will Turn To The Hunt” helped to calm the pace of the attention deficit soloing and endless shifts in tempo that permeated through this accomplished debut.
Rigor Mortis – Rigor Mortis [USA]
Rigor Mortis‘ self titled debut opened with a furious instrumental that pretty much set the scene for the entire record. Violently relentless, Rigor Mortis‘ raw production, animalistic tendencies and jugular-slashing riffs lent them a kinship to Death‘s Scream Bloody Gore, Possessed‘s Beyond The Gates and Kreator’s absolute classic Pleasure To Kill…but these were an animal all of their own making, with the formative years of death metal clearly heard within guitar god Mike Scaccia’s (R.I.P) lightning-speed tremolo picking and the abrasive rasping vocals of Bruce Corbitt (R.I.P).
The whole record is nigh on flawless but if an introduction to these speed-freaks is required then listen to “Demons”….you’ll soil yourself!
Some may argue Rigor Mortis epitomised 80’s thrash metal…..and some people are right!
Riot – Thundersteel [USA]
Genre: Power Metal / Heavy Metal
Trust Riot to deliver a balls-out true metal album in an era dominated by thrash. And, trust Riot to outshine practically all those thrash albums with an album that bled molten-hot metal like no other!
If Riot were attempting to outshine Judas Priest on Thundersteel then they succeeded. There are times – particularly on the title track and the ridiculously brilliant “Fight Or Fall” – when you’d be forgiven for thinking that Thundersteel was on repeat play when Priest were recording Painkiller, such is the hyper-speed machismo of this relentless explosion of an album.
Home to a barrage of blistering riffs, Tony Moore’s air raid siren (and very Halford-esque) vocals and skilled songwriting, this seemingly forgotten classic was one of the finest metal albums of the decade and deserves to be regarded as such!
Sabbat – History Of A Time To Come [UK]
There are too few superlatives to convey the true majesty of Britain’s finest ever thrash album.
Sabbat were one of the most unique bands in thrash history, regardless of origin, and although short-lived, their overall contribution to the scene remains unparalleled. Propelled by the ingenious riffs of producer extraordinaire Andy Sneap (Arch Enemy, Nevermore, Testament) and Martin Walkyier’s uniquely unfettered and untameable vocals, Sabbat’s philosophically pagan take on religion was groundbreakingly raw and real; an honest summation of the world and it’s failings.
The opening tracks, “A Cautionary Tale”, “Hosanna In Excelsis” & Behind The Crooked Cross” are exemplary, an unholy triumvarite of trailblazing thrash that perfectly encapsulated Sabbat’s religion-baiting sound. However, it was the intelligence on display that truly ranked them as one of the genre’s greats. Here was poetry set to furious thrash, the likes of which has never been heard again.
History Of A Time To Come is mandatory listening for every thrasher on the planet and has barely aged…..its place in the thrash history books permanently set in stone!
Sieges Even – Lifecycle [Germany]
Genre: Progressive Thrash
Sieges Even may have gone on to become a more considered, melodic progressive metal act but their debut was a beast of technical/progressive thrash, powered by the almost falsetto delivery of Franz Herde.
Comparisons with Watchtower remain rife but to dismiss Lifecycle as a mere clone of Control And Resistance would be missing the point. This was an era of exploration and of pushing boundaries, which is exactly what Sieges Even were doing from the outset.
Sure, both bands were influenced by the prog giants of the 70’s – alongside the thrash boom led by Metallica – but Sieges Even took everything that much further, splicing the DNA of prog and thrash to create a new, extreme, version of both. The results were extraordinary, dazzling the mind with a series of labyrinthine structures that were brooding, malevolent and practically beyond judgment!
Slayer – South Of Heaven [USA]
Given that Slayer have now departed our world – leaving a thrash hole that’s currently too big to even fathom – we’d be remiss not to include their 4th album, South Of Heaven.
Purposefully slowing down and experimenting like never before, South Of Heaven may ‘feel’ like the odd man out when sandwiched between both the genre defining Reign In Blood and the colossal Seasons In The Abyss, but Slayer arguably perfected their sinister groove on the likes of the title track, chugged harder than ever on”Behind The Crooked Cross” (with Tom Araya’s singing proving equally as effective as his familiar lion-esque roar) and thrillingly combined the old with the new on “Ghosts Of War”.
The pummelling “Silent Scream” may have reminded the world that this was still the same band who penned the unfathomably ferocious Reign In Blood just two years prior, but South Of Heaven was distinctly the sound of a band becoming stronger, more confident and ready to challenge pre-conceptions at a time when Reign In Blood Part II would surely have been the safer option!
Suicidal Tendencies – How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can’t Even Smile Today [USA]
Genre: Thrash / Crossover Thrash
These American crossover thrash icons hit the big time with their 3rd album, How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can’t Even Smile Today, an album which embraced metal without fully ditching Suicidal Tendencies‘ hardcore roots.
Mike Muir’s reflective social commentary was as barbed as ever, raging against the world while remaining blackly humorous, but it was the combination of Rocky George’s shredding solo’s and Mike Clark’s mighty metallic riffs which transformed How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can’t Even Smile Today into an all-time classic.
“Pledge Your Allegiance” may very well be the ultimate metal brotherhood anthem while ‘hit single’ “Trip To The Brain” and the likes of “If I Don’t Wake Up”, “The Miracle” and the title track remain crossover mainstays.
The result? A-grade crossover thrash from one of the scene’s most charismatic bands!
Sword – Sweet Dreams [Canada]
Genre: Heavy Metal
The epitome of metal in its purest form, Sword’s Sweet Dreams bucked the trends of the decade and simply metalled the fuck up, embellishing the quality found on of 1986’s outstanding Metalized by adding even more melody and a shit-ton of shred!
Neither thrash, power or speed metal, Sweet Dreams was simply a traditional metal album, built on effective riffs, convincing vocals and massive hooks. In fact, Sword seemed to have perfected a melodic Megadeth sound years before Dave Mustaine courted the mainstream while incorporating the flamboyant, fun and frantic nature of arena-worthy 80’s metal.
100% heavy metal led by Rick Hughes’ outstanding vocals, Sweet Dreams retains its charms 30 years after the fact….there can be no better recommendation than that!
Testament – The New Order [USA]
We maintain that The New Order is Testament‘s greatest album, 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. Reeking of quality, Testament’s The New Order is mandatory listening for anyone with even a passing interest in thrash and epitomises why thrash dominated the 80’s like no other genre!
Vendetta – Brain Damage [Germany]
Genre: Thrash / Technical Thrash
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!
On a par with the awe-inspiring work found on Artillery‘s By Inheritance and Annihilator‘s Alice In Hell, 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!
Vio-Lence – Eternal Nightmare [USA]
Quite simply one of the most fearless, ferocious and downright feral thrash albums ever recorded, Vio-Lence‘s debut, Eternal Nightmare, is the thrash connoisseur’s album of choice and ranks as high in both the aggression and sheer insanity stakes as Slayer’s Reign In Blood, Exodus’ Bonded By Blood and Dark Angel’s Darkness Descends!
Originally home to Machine Head men Robb Flynn and Phil Demmel (but you knew that already), just 7 tracks of thrash perfection was all it took to announce that a new breed of thrash maniacs were in town – that ‘town’ being, of course, San Francisco’s Bay Area – and with the likes of “Kill On Command”, “Bodies On Bodies” and “Calling In The Coroner” in their arsenal, Vio-Lence were on a collision course with underground notoriety and unending acclaim.
Sean Killian’s vocals remain an acquired taste but those ‘in the know’ understand that without him, Vio-Lence were nowhere near as unique nor as thrilling a prospect.
As great thrash debuts go, Eternal Nightmare still takes some beating!
Honourable mentions (and there’s a shit load….which all deserve a list of their own!): Anthrax – State of Euphoria / Assassin – Interstellar Experience / Atrophy– Socialized Hate / Blind Guardian – Battalions Of Fear / Brocas Helm – Black Death / Cacophony – Go Off! / Carcass – Reek of Putrefaction / Coroner – Punishment For Decadence / Danzig – Danzig / Death SS – …In Death Of Steve Sylvester / Death Angel – Frolic Through The Park / Doom – Complicated Mind / D.R.I – 4 of a Kind / Flotsam and Jetsam – No Place For Disgrace / Forbidden – Forbidden Evil / Helstar – A Distant Thunder / Heretic – Breaking Point / Hexenhaus – A Tribute To Insanity / Hittman – Hittman / Hobbs Angel Of Death – Hobbs Angel Of Death / Holy Terror – Mind Wars / Judas Priest – Ram It Down / KAT – Oddech Wymarłych Światów / Kingdom Come – Kingdom Come / Kix – Blow My Fuse / L.A. Guns – L.A. Guns / Living Colour – Vivid / Manilla Road – Out Of The Abyss / Manowar – Kings Of Metal / Meanstreak – Roadkill / Mekong Delta – The Music of Erich Zann / Meliah Rage – Kill To Survive / Ministry – The Land Of Rape And Honey / Minotaur – Power Of Darkness / Necronomicon – Escalation / Nuclear Assault – Survive / Ozzy Osbourne – No Rest For The Wicked / Pantera – Power Metal / Prong – Force Fed / Protector – Golem / Rage – Perfect Man / Rata Blanca – Rata Blanca / Razor – Violent Restitution / Running Wild – Port Royal / Sadus – Illusions / Saint Vitus – Mournful Cries / / Sanctuary – Refuge Denied / Scanner – Hypertrace / Stone – Stone / Tankard – The Morning After / Tarot – Follow Me Into Madness / Vengeance Rising – Human Sacrifice / Vicious Rumors – Digital Dictator / Voivod – Dimension Hatröss / Wargasm – Why Play Around?….. we could go on and on!