Thrash not heavy enough? Death metal too heavy? Fear not! Death/thrash met you in the middle…. and in the late 80s and early 90s this fusion of the two genres gave us some incredible albums!
This is just part 1…. there’s plenty more to come!
Presented in alphabetical order as opposed to any kind of ranking….
Cancer – Death Shall Rise (1991) [UK]
Aside from Bolt Thrower and Carcass, the UK’s death metal contribution was never particularly lauded and yet the likes of Cancer – and particularly their sophomore album, Death Shall Rise – were equal to anything arriving from the States and showcased a band whose firm grasp on death/thrash was second to none.
It can’t be a coincidence that the arrival of ex-Obituary / ex-Death guitarist James Murphy saw Cancer taking huge strides forward from their rough and ready debut with opener “Hung, Drawn and Quartered” instantly heralding itself as an all time classic. Roping in Deicide‘s Glen Benton also lent them a certain cache but Cancer weren’t really in need of special guests to get their point across; the frenzied thrashing of “Burning Casket” and the no-nonsense onslaught of “Corpse Fire” was convincing enough!
The epitome of a cult classic.
Epidemic – Decameron (1992) [USA]
Arriving rather late on the scene, Epidemic’s fusion of thrash and death metal was understandable as by 1992 death metal had already begun to ensnare those fans looking for ever heavier sounds.
With complete disregard for the level of melody the majority of mainstream metal bands had been playing with – this was around the time of Testament’s ultra-melodic The Ritual, Death Angel’s next-level Act III and the behemoth that was Metallica’s Black Album – Epidemic’s death/thrash was relentless in its attack and rivalled the sounds emanating from the likes of Ripping Corpse and Baphomet.
An often forgotten gem from the early 90’s, this incensed body of work shunned the expected formula of the day and went straight for the jugular, with quick-fire bursts of slashing and hacking rage!
Incubus (aka Opprobrium) – Serpent Temptation (1988) [USA]
Not those digerideroo-blowing nu metal wombats, this is the real Incubus; a towering death/thrash colossus who annihilated their 80’s competition with debut album, Serpent Temptation!
Incubus/Opprobrium were extreme (in every sense of the word) and they were absurdly talented, tempering their ferocity with intricate riffing and a superb sense of dynamics. It has to be said, this shit was astonishingly heavy back in ’88; a savage re-appropriation of thrash metal’s fundamental’s strapped to death metal’s still to be completed blueprint. The results were almost beyond comprehension, with Incubus paving the way for countless acts who took thrash/death into ever heavier realms as the 90’sdawned and death metal took hold.
A hyper-speed, proto-death metal classic, Serpent Temptation deserves to be considered an equal of Dark Angel’s Darkness Descends, Slayer’s Reign In Blood and Kreator’s Pleasure To Kill and should have been heard by everyone!
Possessed – Seven Churches (1985) [USA]
Possessed‘s debut album, Seven Churches, pre-dates death metal and subsequently takes the majority of its influences from established genres of the era – notably speed and thrash metal – but, without it, death metal may never have taken form and must be considered a definitive release in the history of the genre.
Released 2 years prior to Death’s Scream Bloody Gore, Possessed took a cut and paste approach to their music by incorporating the viciousness of Venom, the speed of Motörhead and the thrashing, atonal guitars of early Exodus and Slayer, eventually stumbling upon an innovative and primitive sound which allied thrash and, what would become, death metal like no one else before them.
“The Exorcist”, “Burning In Hell” and “Seven Churches” were held together by Jeff Becerra’s unholy roar, simultaneously aping Lemmy from Motörhead yet producing a guttural tone that would go on to be the bread and butter of death metal.
The mutha’ of ’em all!
Ripping Corpse – Dreaming With The Dead (1991) [USA]
Featuring the considerable talents of Erik Rutan (later of death metal legends Morbid Angel and founder of the mighty Hate Eternal), Dreaming With The Dead remains the one and only full length album from the underrated Ripping Corpse.
Fearlessly fusing elements of groove, doom and thrash with a progressive flair for schizophrenic time signatures and razor-sharp technique, Dreaming With the Dead is quite the anomaly, standing proud on its own as an album of considerable skill and identity.
Ultra thrashy and brutal as fuck, Ripping Corpse may have failed to officially follow up this colossal release (their ‘lost album’ remains unreleased and unmastered) but they made an indelible mark on the American death metal scene with Dreaming With The Dead!
Sepultura – Beneath The Remains (1989) [Brazil]
An all-time death/thrash classic, Beneath The Remains fully marked the emergence of one of metal’s most enduring talent’s and laid down the gauntlet to thrash metal bands the world over. According to vocalist Max Cavalera, Sepultura had “really found [their] style” on this album and you’d be a fool to argue with that particular sentiment.
The epitome of all killer – no filler, a de riguer acoustic intro gave way to Beneath The Remains’ incendiary title track and the ‘Seps’ were off and running; thrashing with more aggression and more intensity than the majority of their peers could ever hope to muster. “Inner Self” and “Stronger Than Hate” then offered the ‘hits’ before the riff-fest of “Mass Hypnosis” garnered Sepultura ultimate technical bragging rights!
A brutal indictment of growing up in the favelas of Brazil, Sepultura harnessed their experiences and produced a visceral, primitive sound, bringing world music to the thrash scene and setting themselves up as one of extreme metal’s finest ever bands.