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5 Albums That Kept THRASH Alive in the Mid to Late 90s (Part 4)

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, fortunately 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….

Annihilator – Criteria Of A Black Widow (1999) [Canada]

Annihilator‘s 7th album announced the return of former frontman Randy Rampage and the band found their voice again, releasing their strongest set of tunes since the double-header of Alice In Hell and Never, Neverland caught the world’s attention a decade prior.

Why Randy Rampage and Jeff Waters decided to wait until the tail end of the 90’s to have another crack at it is anyones guess but the quality of the material on display hinted at a productive partnership that deserved a second chance to shine.

One of the few bands to remain staunchly active during the 90’s, Annihilator were never really away but Criteria Of A Black Widow was a real return to form and “Back To The Palace“, “Nothing Left” and “Bloodbath” proved once and for all that an on-fire Jeff Waters and an on-fire Randy Rampage were a formidable partnership made in thrash heaven!

Nocturnal Breed – Aggressor (1997) [Norway]

With their debut album, cannily titled Aggressor, these untamed and unceremoniously vicious blackened thrashers unleashed a veritable underground classic of nastiness back in 1997!

With banshee shrieks providing the ‘black’ to Nocturnal Breed‘s metal, the music is/was defiantly retro-thrash in nature and, by adding a distinctly Scandinavian slant to the lo-fi clatter of very early Sodom, Destruction and Kreator, these Norweigans were actually way ahead of the curve and arguably perfected the sound Toxic Holocaust and Skeletonwitch would go on to make a career out of at the first time of asking.

The sporadic use of keyboards worked in their favour – check out catchy as fuck opener “Rape the Angels” – but it was ultimately the fiendish grooves and heads-down thrashin’ found on the likes of “Maggot Master” that made Aggressor so damn essential in the often thrash-less late 90s.

Overkill – From The Underground And Below (1997) [USA]

From The Underground And Below may have arrived slap-bang in the middle of Overkill’s mid-period groove metal era but it’s arguably their most consistent release from the mid to late 90s.

Slamming opener “It Lives” ranks as one of Overkill’s finest moments, its rumbling intro driving to the very core of the bands groove-thrash aesthetic with Bobby “Blitz” and Joe Comeau on fine from vocally; their voices complimenting each other like never before (or after!). The highlights were admittedly front-loaded, from the aforementioned “It Lives” to “Save Me” on to the stone-cold classic – and sure-fire ‘hit single’ if released in an era that gave a shit about singles – “Long Time Dyin‘” to the blast and bounce of “Genocya“, Overkill’s dark grooves and ominous atmosphere remains palpable and highly impressive.

That’s not to say that the remainder of the album was merely filler, far from it in fact. “Half Past Dead” (wasn’t that a shitty DTV Steven Seagal film?) and “Little Bit O’ Murder” maintained the unique style of this overlooked album; polar opposites but fine examples of Overkill’s ability to flip-flop between atmospheric slow-burners and balls-out thrashers.

Related content: The 5 Essential OVERKILL Albums

Sadus – Elements Of Anger (1997) [USA]

One of the most unique death-thrash bands ever to exist, Sadus’ thrilling amalgamation of thrash, death and progressive metal reached an arguable peak with the mid-paced stomp of 1997’s Elements Of Anger.

Steve DiGiorgio’s fretless bass wizardry impressed as always, but it was the experimental song structures Sadus were renowned for that marked out their 4th album as a prog-thrash monster in the latter half of the 90’s.

“Words Of War” and “Power Of One” may be streamlined when compared to the frankly bonkers nature of the tracks found on Swallowed In Black (1990) and Illusions (1988) but this semi-accessible approach stood in Sadus’ favour; their unique songwriting style and technically astonishing avenue of thrash gifting real hooks and subtle melody alongside aggressive savagery.

Eye-opening stuff – no matter what the decade.

Slayer – Divine Intervention (1994) [USA]

While Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax were pratting around with their sound, trying desperately to maintain the attention of an apathetic audience, Slayer ignored changes in trends completely and released a no holds barred thrash album in the mid 90s; no ballads, no groove metal, no rapping, no country music crap….just 100% bitchin’ THRASH!!

Proving to be the bands last truly great album – don’t argue, their releases have been undeniably patchy since Divine Intervention‘s release – Kerry King took the lion’s share of the songwriting duties and swapped the accessible nuances of Seasons In The Abyss for ferociously corrosive short-bursts of barely controlled rage.

Re-familarise yourselves with “Sex.Murder.Art” and “Dittohead“, songs that are as rough and ready as they are clinically effective as ample proof that this was one 90’s thrash album that hadn’t even noticed Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains etc quietly stealing their audience. Admittedly, that’s a contradiction in terms as Slayer fans are, and always were, resolutely loyal and abandoning the band was never a scenario any Slayer fan worth their salt ever contemplated doing.

Related content: The 5 Essential SLAYER Albums

Also in this Series

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

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 (1985 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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