UK thrash has always been considered second-rate when compared to the output of Germany, Brazil and the USA. But, as these 5 outstanding UK thrash albums prove, rewind the clock back 35 years ago and us Brits were churning out high-quality thrash releases too!!
Acid Reign – The Fear (1989)
As first impressions go, opening with the silly but entertaining, nibbles-obsessed, “You Never Know (WTNWS)” may have initially pegged these self-proclaimed masters of UK Apple-Core as a bunch of ne’er-do-well pranksters….but be sure about one thing, Acid Reign‘s debut full length album, The Fear, was anything but a joke!
“Insane Ecstasy”, “Humanoia” and the title track are three of the greatest tracks the UK thrash scene has to offer – and the rest of the album is no slouch either – and ably showcased Acid Reign‘s penchant for often elaborate song structures and the ability to unleash a shit-ton of riffs (seriously, so many riffs!) on an unsuspecting UK public.
If The Fear proved anything, it’s that Acid Reign weren’t considered one of the “Big 4” of British thrash for nuthin’!
Onslaught – In Search Of Sanity (1989)
Onslaught‘s In Search Of Sanity may be a UK thrash anomaly – in that it’s unrecognisable in comparison to the material that preceded it – but despite the fact that the satanic slayer-isms of 1986’s brutal The Force had been jettisoned entirely, In Search Of Sanity still stands proud as a cult item well deserving of high praise for its performances and ambition!
While In Search Of Sanity was more Metal Church than Slayer – and cleaner than a Nun’s saintly undercarriage in the process – its go-for-broke mentality should have been applauded; thrash was huge in ’89 and Onslaught shouldn’t apologise for wanting their own large slice of the thrash pie. The introduction of Grim Reaper’s Steve Grimmett on vocals may have upset the purists (and let’s be honest here,Onslaught aren’t really Onslaught without a gravelly-throated ‘screamer’ behind the mic) but the man lent a polished sheen to proceedings which few thrash bands (UK or otherwise) could match!
Quite possibly the finest commercial thrash album ever produced by a UK band, Onslaught were aiming for worldwide recognition when they released this melodic thrash masterclass at the tail end of the 80’s and should have led to greater things!
Sabbat – Dreamweaver (Reflections of Our Yesterdays) (1989)
The second full-length album from British pagan thrashers Sabbat swiftly followed their outstanding debut, History of a Time to Come, and this all-time classic follow-up ventured ever further into singer / lyricist Martin Walkyier’s strong interest in Wyrdism, Celtic mysticism, Anglo-Saxon spirituality and paganism.
Dreamweaver – a concept album based on the 1983 book The Way of Wyrd: Tales of an Anglo-Saxon Sorcerer by British psychologist Brian Bates – ably demonstrated the sheer poetry conjured by this most unique of thrash bands. Not least in Walkyier’s expansive lyricism but in Andy Sneap’s ability to conjure magic from his epic and progressively technical compositions.
“The Clerical Conspiracy”, “Wildfire”, “Do Dark Horses Dream of Nightmares?”….. all solid gold (but then you know that already)!
Exceptional doesn’t quite do this album justice.
Slammer – The Work Of Idle Hands (1989)
Slammer‘s debut, The Work Of Idle Hands, has aged considerably well, with it’s professional production and solid foundations belying it’s semi-forgotten status. With a street-smart atmosphere pervading throughout, and Paul Tunnicliffe’s convincing raspy vocals giving each track an urbanised edge, the likes of “Tenement Zone” and the expansive “Hellbound” stand-out from the pack….but the entire album is worthy of your time.
Slammer‘s sound may not be original, but they were damn good at what they did and if consistently impressive and aggressive guitar work is your bag, you’d do well to hunt down a copy. But beware, this really is a lost classic and hard to track down at a reasonable price!
Highly reminiscent of Testament at their most accessible, Slammer had a sound that was tailor-made for the American market and should have lead to significant album sales and worldwide recognition. As it turned out, Slammer were just another British thrash band who should have made a big splash on both sides of the pond but failed to make more than a ripple; only with hindsight can we see they had much more to offer.
Xentrix – Shattered Existence (1989)
Xentrix arrived with an almighty bang when Shattered Existence exploded onto the UK thrash scene back in 1989. Here was a band that could go toe-to-toe with the 2nd wave thrash bands from the United States and they were our’s (if you’re British, of course) to savour!
Home to some serious big-thrash-hitters – “No Compromise”, “Crimes”, “Balance of Power” and “Dark Enemy” – Shattered Existence was a winner from the get-go. With Chris Astley’s dry, Chuck Billy-esque bellow, a strong ear for melody and some killer riffs in their arsenal, Xentrix were capable of thrashing as fast as any of their peers while incorporating groove, technicality and a sense of urbanised menace.
For a short while there, Xentrix appeared to be the one British band who would infiltrate the big leagues.
Should. Have. Been. Huge.