Rewind the clock back 35 years to 1988 and the Germans were churning out high-quality thrash….as these 5 cult classics prove!!
Angel Dust – To Dust You Will Decay
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!
Minotaur – Power Of Darkness
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!
Protector – Golem
Easily as heavy (heavier even) than anything released by Kreator, Destruction, Sodom etc at the time, Protector‘s debut album was the sound of the German thrash underground at its most corrosive and most frightening.
A relentless barrage of hyperactive, hyper-speed death / black / thrash riffs greeted those of us brave enough to embrace this sort of filth and an instant cult classic debut was born. Golem‘s blackened thrash attack was necro-enough to appeal to early Sodom, early Destruction and Possessed fans, and while the likes of Kreator were courting MTV, Protector were keeping the underground flame alive.
While time has not been quite so kind to Golem‘s relatively rudimentary charms as nostalgia will probably lead you to believe…. it still kicks almighty ass!
Tankard – The Morning After
Tankard‘s 3rd studio album was released in 1988 and was swiftly followed by the Alien EP the following year. At this stage, Tankard were a force to be reckoned with and their name was finally being uttered in the same breath as their German brethren in Kreator, Sodom and Destruction.
With The Morning After, Tankard’s sense of fun was amplified but so was there technical proficiency. These guys were improving at a rate of knots (despite the inebriation) and the likes of “Commandments” shamed Slayer in the speed stakes.
Tankard were fast becoming one of thrash metal’s most violent acts but there was still fun to be had. The frenetic likes of “Shit-Faced” and the title-track reinforced Tankard’s credentials as a party band to be reckoned with but their standing in thrash circles was only increasing with each release.
Notably punk in flavour, this relentless little shit of an album will still leave you with a head-banging hangover regardless of whether you sank 10 pints the night before!
Vendetta – Brain Damage
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!
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!