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5 Albums That Kept THRASH Alive in the Mid to Late 90s (Part 1)

Remember, this is just Part 1....there is more in this series to come!

After the release of some seminal thrash albums in the early 90’s (Megadeth’s Rust In Peace / Dark Angel’s Time Does Not Heal / Annihilator’s Never, Neverland / Death Angel’s Act III / Heathen’s Victims Of Deception to name but a few) those flannel-wearing whinge-bags of grunge took over and thrash kinda died on its arse, seemingly overnight.

While some bands split and others adapted their sound to meet the demands of a new audience – Metallica went weird on Load/Reload, Anthrax swapped thrash for straight-up heavy metal on Sound Of White Noise, Megadeth took the mainstream hard rock option on Risk, Exodus and Forbidden turned to groove metal on Force Of Habit and Green respectively, Nuclear Assault went AWOL entirely, Kreator went goth on Outcast and Sepultura embraced nu-metal on Roots – a few belligerent bastards refused to bow down to changing trends and thrashed like never before!!

Here’s 5 albums by bands that didn’t give a flying fuck that thrash’s glory days were behind them, keeping thrash alive until its long-awaited resurgence in the early 00’s….

Aura Noir – Black Thrash Attack (1996) [Norway]

You can always rely on the Norweigans to shake shit up and in 1996, a good shakin’ was exactly what thrash needed!

A blackened thrash album (what else was it gonna be!), Aura Noir’s Black Thrash Attack fully lived up to its name with a remorseless assault that immediately marked Aura Noir out as integral to the scene. Blistering opener, “Sons Of Hades”, discarded the courtesy of an intro – or even some sense of warning of what was to come – and simply delivered nothing but blackened thrash perfection. While the charred-hell of early Sodom and Destruction were obvious inspirations, Aura Noir were looking to the future and the mid-tempo stomp of “The One Who Smite” offered enough variation to elevate Black Thrash Attack to modern classic status.

One of the finest albums ever released under the blackened thrash moniker, Aura Noir’s full length debut did more than just give thrash a necessary shot in the arm….it took the genre to new heights and opened new doors entirely!

Faustus – …and Still We Suffer (1996) [USA]

Faustus – ...And Still We Suffer (2009, CD) - Discogs

…and Still We Suffer may have arrived a little late in the day but there’s no denying that this semi-obscure effort from Seattle’s Faustus was a brave, complex and, ultimately, highly rewarding slab of progressive thrash metal. This was thrash made for the true fans; those committed souls who had continued to fly the thrash flag in the face of death metal, grunge and groove metal and …and Still We Suffer was their well-deserved reward!

With more than a hint of Nevermore and Anacrusis informing their sound, Faustus were undoubtedly looking to push thrash into ever more expansive realms; unleashing a tirade of ingenious riffs, multi-faceted vocals and ever-shifting time signatures in the process. While “Erosion” had an Atheist vibe – which removed the majority of the death metal elements but retained that recognisable free-form nature – it was “The Hell We Make” which provided the most succinct summation of Faustus‘ skill.

While at times Faustus‘ approach may have appeared scattershot (which can be attested to their abundance of ideas), it was actually their undying commitment to challenging trends, their obvious technical ability, their go-for-broke mentality and high octane performances which marked them out as a band with plenty to offer.

The Haunted – The Haunted (1998) [Sweden]

Often labelled as melodic death metal, The Haunted’s debut album may warrant such a comparison but at heart this Swedish collective – and particularly the opening track “Hate Song” –  were 100% thrash at heart and the seeds for thrash’s comeback in the preceding decade were resolutely sown on this debut release.

Barely taking a breather, The Haunted constructed an emphysematous modern thrash sound that leapt out of the gates like a rabid dog; ushering in an era of death-thrash in the process that the likes of Testament would harness as the genre re-established it’s dominance in the new millennium.

We could debate whether this is thrash until the cows come home but it’s position as an album that kept thrash alive should not be argued. The Haunted’s insanely fast and aggressive songwriting took thrash metal’s blueprint and added a modern twist, technically fooling their audience into thinking  they were hearing something new when the backbone of thrash was so blatantly at the core of their sound.

Divisive this may be, but credit where credit’s due. Without The Haunted, thrash’s comeback may not have been so seamlessly executed….and for that we remain eternally grateful!

Razor – Decibels (1997) [Canada]

Launching a ‘comeback’ in 1997 was a brave move for Canada’s Razor and this urban thrash onslaught –  their first release in 6 years  – thrashed hard regardless of the fact that thrash was not exactly en vogue in the late 90’s.

Intimidatingly menacing, the title track, “Jimi The Fly” and  “Great White Lie” showed no mercy either at high speed or a mid-paced bludgeoning; Razor reassuringly adopting an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ attitude to their punishing arrangements.

Heavy on the distorted riffs and vocals, Decibels may not have been vintage Razor – check out Evil Invaders and Shotgun Justice for prime examples of their finest work – but the chainsaw’s ripping through flesh guitars found on Decibels were admirably crunchy and Razor certainly bowed out gracefully (or should that be disgracefully) with their last album until 2022’s Cycle Of Contempt announced their return once again.

Ritual Carnage – The Highest Law (1998) [Japan]

A love letter to the glory days of thrash supremacy, Japan’s Ritual Carnage rewound the clock with their debut The Highest Law, an album that struck at the heart of the genre with its frantic pace, satanic lyrics, proto-death metal leanings and more than a cursory nod to the legendary likes of Onslaught, Nasty Savage and Exumer.

A remorseless thrash attack from the East, these quick-fire bursts of speed and aggression sprayed thrash bullets with wanton abandon, hitting each and every target with their throwback sound.

With more intensity that any of The Big 4 had mustered in years, thrash needed Ritual Carnage in 1998. It needed an album like The Highest Law and with no let up in fury and velocity this weaponised assault signalled that a thrash re-birth was in the offing!

Also in this Series:

5 Albums That Kept THRASH Alive in the Mid to Late 90s (Part 2)

5 Albums That Kept THRASH Alive in the Mid to Late 90s (Part 3)

About Chris Jennings (1986 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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