While thrash in the 80’s was generally an American phenomenon, the Japanese were content to throw a steady stream of often ferociously violent, and also technically astounding, albums our way! (presented in alphabetical order as opposed to ranking)…..
Doom – Complicated Mind (1988)
At this stage in their formidable career, Doom were defiantly daring Voivod to go ‘weirder’ and were ably conjuring up the same kind of dissonant, off-kilter melodies and warped ideas as Canada’s favourite sons. That’s not to say that Doom were ripping off Piggy and Snake and co. wholesale but you could throw Complicated Mind‘s title track onto Killing Technology and no one would have batted an eyelid!
Still, inevitable comparisons with Voivod aside, Doom were their own beast and 1988’s Complicated Mind remains one of their greatest achievements. With Koh Morota’s incredible fretless bass work drawing comparisons with the genius that is Steve Di Giorgio, and the tightly-wound, futuristic riffing of Takashi Fujita blind-siding all but the most dedicated of progressive thrash enthusiasts, it’s crystal clear that Doom have always been a very special band.
Also recommended: Both Doom‘s debut album, No More Pain (1987) and 1989’s expansive and experimental Incompetent… deserve equal adulation.
Gargoyle – Misogi (1989)
If bat-shit crazy thrash from the land of the rising sun tantalises your 80’s thrash lovin’ tastebuds then Gargoyle‘s debut album, Misogi, will go down smoother than a particularly expensive bottle of prime Saké.
Never settling for a second, Gargoyle‘s haphazard harem of disparate styles equates to a rollicking good time and is as utterly unpredictable as it is entirely engrossing!
From funk to folk to old-school thrash to neo-classical shred, Misogi incorporates the lot and with frontman Kiba warbling and wailing his way through a series of odd vocal tics and off-beat melodies, there’s nothing on Misogi that won’t prove to be unexpected and uniquely enjoyable.
Jurassic Jade – Gore (1989)
Jurassic Jade were born to thrash. Pure and simple.
Taking the German approach to angular and authentically aggressive thrash, Jurassic Jade distanced themselves from the majority of their fellow countrymen via their deadly and direct approach. Unlike Doom, Gargoyle etc, Jurassic Jade made no room for the avant-garde, with debut album Gore content to let its riffs and frontwoman’s Mille Petrozza-esque (Kreator) terrifying growls and shrieks do the talking….. and what they were saying was only 100% authentic, old-school thrash will do!
Surprisingly, Gore‘s finer moments came at the tail end of the album with the arrival of the nerve-shreddingly fast “Panic Anxiety”, the mid-tempo stomp of “Child Abuse”, “Yoru No Omoi’s” unsettling interlude and album highlight, “Far East Of Hades”, which closes the album in a formidably heavy style.
Gore is perhaps more predictable than many of the albums included in this list, but it’s no less convincing because of it!
Outrage – Black Clouds (1988)
Black Clouds is the 1988 full-length release from Japanese thrashers Outrage…..and what an album it is!
Indebted to the Bay Area (and particularly Megadeth), Outrage were adept at writing crunchy thrash numbers which were both satisfyingly heavy and catchy as fuck. Opener “Curtain Of History” is an absolute triumph (and also recalls the stomp of prime Xentrix, replete with Chris Astley rasp) as it bulldozes its way through the rough terrain.
The ‘obligatory’ thrash ballad is present and accounted for in the formidable shape of the “In My Darkest Hour” esque title track, but its the satisfying Bay Area crunch you’re here for, and Outrage provide it in spades. Sure, the majority of the songs on Black Clouds sound much the same but when they’re this good, who really gives a shit.
Sacrifice – Crest Of Black (1987)
Heavily influenced by Venom and Celtic Frost, this charred debut from Sacrifice is a primitive, gargling, thrashing time capsule of orthodox 80’s thrash.
Devoid of technicality, lacking in finesse and completely focused on bludgeoning you senseless, these guys sound like they recorded their first rehearsal and then unleashed it on the world.
Which isn’t a complaint!
When you come from a country who revels in avant-garde weirdness (as has already been discussed in some of the albums above!) it’s refreshing to hear a Japanese band simply let rip and honour the pioneering work of the aforementioned Venom and Celtic Frost, alongside the blackened thrash of early Sodom and Destruction.
Sacrifice surely were riding a crest of black…..and, in the Far East at least, there were none blacker!
Also in this Series: