As the 90s dawned (and thrash was under increasing threat of death metal’s ongoing prevalence), the Canadians were still churning out high quality thrash at a rate of knots!
Here’s our selection of the 5 greatest 90s Canadian thrash releases…..
Annihilator – Never, Neverland (1990)
With Annihilator’s technical prowess still in place – and the introduction of new vocalist Coburn Pharr bringing ever more melody – Never, Neverland is arguably the quintessential Annihilator album and Jeff Waters’ greatest achievement.
With a clean, crisp sound and a more focused approach, the likes of “The Fun Palace”, “Road to Ruin” and “I Am In Command” were a shredders dream but came smothered in melodic muscle and an almost absurd theatricality. Catchy, memorable and overflowing with riffs, Annihilator may have audibly softened when compared to their rougher debut, Alison In Hell, but they were far from becoming the mainstream-baiting ‘sell-outs’ that released 1993’s Set The World On Fire (not a bad album in our book, but weak in comparison to Never, Neverland).
Instead, the more frantic, technically audacious rifferama’s of “Sixes and Sevens” and “Phantasmagoria”were tempered by the infectious melodies found on “Stonewall” and Annihilator’s first, and probably most triumphant, thrash ballad “Never, Neverland” itself.
Annihilator would never be this good again.
Entropy – Ashen Existence (1992)
A progressive and technical thrash colossus, Entropy’s debut album, Ashen Existence, may not be as well-known as it should be but that just means that when you do discover it, you’re in for one hell of a welcome surprise!
This was ambitious thrash, buoyed by technicality and hell-bent on challenging the notion of what thrash could be. With Ger Schreinert’s vocals swiftly alternating between death growls and raspy screams and wails, Entropy’s genius lay in their ability to hop between sub-genres at will, with changes in tempo and time signatures throwing endless curveballs throughout each and every, lengthy, track.
While, at times, Ashen Existence may sound like Entropy crammed 3 albums of material into the one song (never mind the one album!) – and the sheer number of ideas thrown around with wild abandon can often be overwhelming – if you dig a little deeper it’s abundantly clear that Ashen Existence was the Canadian answer to Dark Angel’s Time Does Not Heal…..and praise doesn’t really get any loftier than that!
Obliveon – From This Day Forward (1990)
A thrashier version of Death circa Spiritual Healing / Human, Obliveon’s debut album was an immediate game-changer upon release and has become an all-time technical thrash classic from the golden era of forward-thinking thrash.
Obliveon were part of the natural Canadian evolution that first began when Voivod crawled from the primordial swamp before, over time, casting aside the shackles of conformity and entering cyberspace. While they weren’t alone on embracing the more technical side of thrash, Obliveon‘s take on Voivod‘s early-doors experimentation was undoubtedly heavier than most; informed as much by death metal as it was traditional thrash.
As far as debut albums go, From this Day Forward was leagues ahead of the competition and you’d be hard pressed to find a more technical old school thrash album which delivers on so many levels. Speed, technicality, atmosphere, diversity, aggression….Obliveon‘s From This Day Forward has the lot!
Razor – Shotgun Justice (1990)
Canadian thrash’s answer to Slayer’s all-conquering Reign In Blood, Razor’s Shotgun Justice (and yes, some people are gonna be pissed we haven’t included their favourite 90s Razor album but tough shit, it’s our list) is as potent as ever and is a balls-to-the-fucking-wall shotgun blast of ultra-aggressive, high speed thrash!
Fuck your technical / progressive thrash bollocks, Razor specialised in working man’s thrash that hit hard and hit fast and not only were they plenty pissed, they were operating at the top of their game. It’s no stretch to suggest that the likes of the relentlessly abrasive “Meaning Of Pain and “Parricide” should be considered career highlights.
Beloved original frontman Stace “Sheepdog” McLaren may have departed but the throat-shredding shouts of the incoming Bob Reid were more than capable of delivering the goods…. and Razor were arguably never again as hostile as they were here.
Sacrifice – Soldiers Of Misfortune (1990)
While 1993’s Apocalypse Inside was a damn fine album, if we’re talking 90’s Sacrifice….we’re taking about Soldiers Of Misfortune and nothing else!
With a cleaner sound than that found on 1986’s Torment In Fire and 1987’s Forward to Termination, Sacrifice were less an animalistic roar of raw noise and were now a more considered, technically savvy thrash act. This makes it sound like they’d wussed out – which of course they most certainly had not! – and perhaps ‘matured’ would be the more apt description.
To reiterate, by the time Soldiers Of Misfortune rolled round Sacrifice were simply better songwriters, as the ass-kicking likes of “As The World Burns”, “In Defiance” and “Pawn Of Prophecy” ultimately proved.
The Sacrifice connoisseur’s album of choice, Soldiers Of Misfortune stands tall as a bona fide highlight of Canadian thrash metal….no matter what the decade!
Sneaky Extra Entry
Infernäl Mäjesty – Unholier Than Thou (1998)
We just couldn’t leave this out!
Canadian thrash is a wonderful thing and Infernäl Mäjesty are a wonderful band. Here was how to deliver a top-class thrash album in the late 90’s, with supreme conviction and no concern for prevailing trends.
11 long years after None Shall Defy shook up the underground, Infernäl Mäjesty returned majestically, armed to the teeth with a set of blasphemous thrashers that shook the fillings from your teeth.
Adapting well to the need for more complex and adventurous arrangements, Infernäl Mäjesty‘s technicality also came to the fore – particularly on “Gone The Way Of All Flesh” – as they procured inspiration from progressive thrash and death metal to create a release that still sounds devastating today.
In ’98, there was only one mantra a thrash fan (and thrash band) could live by…..and that was to fight for your thrash lives! Fight to the death!
Quick caveat: No Voivod. Why, you may ask. Because, by the time the 90’s rolled round, Voivod were far more a progressive metal band on Angel Rat, The Outer Limits etc than a thrash band. So we didn’t include them. Mistake? Maybe. But it’s done now. Get over it.
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