1988 saw us Brits unleashing some truly monstrous albums on the world….
Bolt Thrower – In Battle There Is No Law!
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!
Carcass – Reek of Putrefaction (1988)
Genre: Grindcore / Goregrind
From Napalm Death to Carcass; could Bill Steer be the one musician who made the most important contribution to grindcore and UK extreme metal in the late 80’s? Arguably so, as it was his lead guitar work on Reek Of Putrefaction and From Enslavement To Obliteration that enabled grindcore to take massive strides forward, with his pioneering work heavily influencing the hordes of grindcore and death metal bands that followed.
With the filthiest sound ever recorded accompanying some of the most grotesque lyrics ever uttered, Reek Of Putrefaction is a grindcore classic. Generally frightening, Carcass were not fucking around on their ferocious debut and this is a band far removed from the melodic death metal titans they would become.
Reek Of Putrefaction is nowhere near the complete grindcore album, with its incomprehensibly muddied production stifling the bands obvious talents…. but it is a vitally important stepping stone in grindcore’s evolution.
Iron Maiden – Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son
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!
Napalm Death – From Enslavement To Obliteration
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.
Sabbat – History Of A Time To Come
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!
Honourable mentions: Hydra Vein – Rather Death Than False Of Faith / Judas Priest – Ram It Down / Ozzy Osbourne – No Rest For The Wicked / Saxon – Destiny / Virus – Force Recon