90s British Thrash: The 5 Greatest Albums
Thrash in the 90’s generally remained an American phenomenon. It was dying on it’s arse as the decade drew on….but it was still ruled by those pesky yanks.
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 – Obnoxious (1990)
A British band known for often embracing the sillier side of thrash, Acid Reign reigned in the lunacy on their second album, Obnoxious, and the result was an album that embraced a previously untapped progressive edge; proving, once and for all, that us Brits had what it takes to step up to the next level.
Slowing down, slightly, ‘H’ and co. adopted a more focused attitude on Obnoxious, imbuing their intricate riffs and biting lyrics with a keener eye for detail and the results were impressive to say the least.
“Thoughtful Sleep” remains a highlight; a technical excursion into a story of child neglect which surprises with its schizophrenic time changes and multiple personalities. Intelligent, complex and highly original, in an ideal world this song alone would have elevated Acid Reign into the big leagues.
As it turned out, they were unjustly overlooked and imploded shortly after Obnoxious‘ release….but they’re back now!
Detritus – If But For One (1993)
An anomaly for (ironically) more than one reason, Detritus‘ second full length album remains one of the most experimental UK thrash albums in existence – one which found this Christian thrash act branching out in all manner of unexpected directions.
Still resolutely thrash, it’s the far-reaching compositional skill that elevated this album into the category of ‘must-hear’ with subtlety and acoustic dexterity nestling nicely next to honest-to-goodness thrashing (and a thrashed-up sea shanty, for fucks sake!).
Truly a one of a kind album, those thrashers who enjoy a band who go for broke and take thrash into pastures new need to hear this album to fully appreciate the talent and potential on display.
Hellbastard – Natural Order (1990)
Newcastle’s Hellbastard may have started life as a crusty old group of grinders but by the time 1990’s rowdy Natural Order arrived, things had turned defiantly and indefatigably thrashy!
Few UK thrash acts sounded as raw as Hellbastard and they were just as happy in the company of Carcass, Bolt Thrower, Godflesh and Napalm Death as they were with their thrashier comrades. “Justly Executed” was quite rightly included in Earache’s 1991 sampler Grindcrusher, nestling Hellbastard comfortably alongside those extreme metal legends just mentioned. With blinding speed, an arsenal of riffs and a dab hand at attention maintaining tempo changes, Natural Order remains a pretty fine technical thrash album and an underground cult classic.
Throwing a curveball every now and then by incorporating tender acoustic moments (“TAF” & “A Minor Point”) that were, admittedly, commonplace – but never as medieval in sound as here – die hard fans of the band may have balked when they first heard this transition to thrash in 1990 but Natural Order still reeked of the streets. Hellbastard’s crust punk beginnings were still evident, intrinsically linking Natural Order to the movement they pioneered and, in essence, cementing their place alongside fellow UK crust-thrashers Amebix and Sacrilege; an unholy triumvirate of crustcore/thrash.
Seventh Angel – Lament For The Weary (1992)
The UK seemed to enjoy experimenting with thrash, often combining seemingly disparate sub-genres to create an entirely new thrash experience. Sabbat and Skyclad incorporated pagan and folk influences, Cerebral Fix and Energetic Krusher embraced death metal while Seventh Angel chose to throw doom metal into the mix. The result was an original sound showcasing the finest moments of doom legends Candlemass and the technical meets traditional heavy metalthrash of Sanctuary, circa Into The Mirror Black.
Often impenetrably dark and yet morbidly melancholic, Seventh Angel‘s lumbering doom passages merged seamlessly with bursts of aggressive speed, fully ensconced in projecting pain and despair. Not an easy ride but a rewarding one, Lament For The Weary remains a weighty tome, relentless and remorseless and akin to gourging on the great works of literature; not for the faint-hearted in other words!
The UK may have been largely forgotten for its contribution to thrash but albums as brave, bold and brilliant as this will always attract the open minded. Lament For The Weary is a one of a kind album fully deserving of classic status and should be spoken about with the same reverence as the greats of thrash, UK or otherwise.
Liked that? Try this: 1990’s The Torment may not be as refined as Lament For The Weary but it’s still an absorbing release; astoundingly heavy and tempered by a dark and dramatic sound.
Xentrix – For Whose Advantage (1990)
Touted as Britain’s answer to Metallica (not quite), Xentrix embraced an Americanised sound which should have seen them rapidly rise to the very top of thrash metal’s ranks.
In reality, their relatively ‘safe’ sound was only ever going to take them so far, and they eventually found themselves lumped in with the plethora of identikit bands who arrived late in the thrash game. Sadly, it’s only with the luxury of hindsight that For Whose Advantage? reveals its true worth and it’s undoubtedly an essential addition to any thrash collection.
Cold, crisp riffing, mid-paced thrashing and Chris Astley’s confident bellow elevated album highlights “Questions?” and “The Bitter End”, and the entire album benefited from a crystal clear production job to rival the genres greats. For Whose Advantage? may tread familiar territory but it’s important to note that there’s nothing wrong with reliability – Motörhead and AC/DC built entire careers on it! – and Xentrix were fast becoming Britain’s most consistent band.
Liked that? Try this: While often maligned, we maintain that 1992’s Kin was a mature, refined and ultimately impressive release at the tail end of thrash’s glory days!
Also in this Series:
80s Canadian Thrash: The 5 Greatest Albums
80s German Thrash: The 5 Greatest Albums
80s British Thrash: The 5 Greatest Albums
Also check out:
British Thrash: The 10 Greatest Old-School Albums
German Thrash: The 10 Greatest Old-School Albums
Australian Thrash: The 10 Greatest Old-School Albums
Belgian Thrash: The 10 Greatest Old-School Albums
Canadian Thrash: The 10 Greatest Old-School Albums
Japanese Thrash: The 10 Greatest Old-School Albums
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