Thrash in the 80’s was generally an American phenomenon. That’s a fact.
While the Canadians and the Germans were hot on their tails, us Brits were often left languishing in their wake.
But in retrospect, British thrash bands actually had much to offer, album sales and general exposure may have been significantly lower than desired but the talent and musicianship was clear to see…as these 5 outstanding albums ultimately prove (presented in alphabetical order as opposed to ranking).
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 – The Force (1986)
The first band to truly raise hell in the name of British thrash, Onslaught turned heads with their punk-infused debut, Power From Hell, but it was with 1986’s The Force that they truly announced their arrival in the scene.
The Force was an appropriate title, as Onslaught‘s forceful and vitriolic sound hit you like a ten ton hammer; thrashing harder than most and with as much conviction as the likes of Dark Angel and early Slayer.
Still considered an all-time thrash classic, The Force is probably the most convincing thrash album ever recorded by a British band. Capable of ripping your head clean off, Onslaught were a powerhouse who unleashed a multitude of sinister, stabbing riffs without even breaking a sweat. It all seemed too easy and their place in the thrash elite should have been virtually guaranteed.
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.
Sabbat – History Of A Time To Come (1988)
Yep. Sabbat again.
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 seen 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!
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.
Also in this series: