While the 1990’s ultimately sounded the death knell for the genre…. these obscurities prove that thrash still had plenty to say!
Asphyxia – Exit:Reality (1991) [Belgium]
Proof that Belgium isn’t all about waffles, chocolates and beer, Asphyxia were full of promise but released just the one full length album. In this case, it was the scintillating Exit: Reality; a Bay Area-esque cruncher that could stand toe-to-toe with any second-tier Californian act!
Delivering the kind of huge choruses, moshable bounce and deadly gang vokills that made the likes of Atrophy so irresistible, Asphyxia’s gruff delivery was matched only by their speed and unforgiving assault…. and with no time for showboating or thrash balladry, Exit: Reality‘s 10 tracks simply ripped with 100% authenticity.
Above average thrash from an unfairly ignored band!
Depressive Age – First Depression (1992) [Germany]
Kicking off a career in thrash in 1992 was probably ill-advised….not that anyone told Germany’s Depressive Age!
Progressive, technical and melodic, First Depression was a debut of considerable stature and one that perfectly balanced Depressive Age’s idiosyncratic nature with an innate accessibility. Very much a Teutonic thrash band at heart (the influence of the likes of Destruction’s Release From Agony and Deathrow’s Deception Ignored are writ large throughout), much of First Depression’s appeal actually lay within its melancholic nature. With a depressive (oh, the irony), doom-like atmosphere backed by Jan Lubitziki’s often haunting vocal delivery, this was technical thrash refined – mellowed even – despite the expected display of crushing riffs remaining ever-present.
Quite the anomaly despite being part of a scene that was rapidly changing, Depressive Age’s First Depression was a last gasp for technical/progressive thrash in the 90s….so breathe it in!
Faustus – …and Still We Suffer (1996) [USA]
…and Still We Suffer may have arrived a little late in the day but there’s no denying that this semi-obscure effort from Seattle’s Faustus was a brave, complex and, ultimately, highly rewarding slab of progressive thrash metal. This was thrash made for the true fans, those committed souls who had continued to fly the thrash flag in the face of death metal, grunge and groove metal and …and Still We Suffer was their well-deserved reward!
With more than a hint of Nevermore informing their sound, Faustus were undoubtedly looking to push thrash into ever more expansive realms; unleashing a tirade of ingenious riffs, multi-faceted vocals and ever-shifting time signatures in the process. While “Erosion” had an Atheist vibe – which removed the majority of the death metal elements but retained that recognisable free-form nature – it was “The Hell We Make” which provided the most succinct summation of Faustus‘ skill.
While at times Faustus‘ approach may have appeared scattershot (which can be attested to their abundance of ideas), it was actually their undying commitment to challenging trends, their obvious technical ability, their go-for-broke mentality and high octane performances which marked them out as a band with plenty to offer.
Invocator – Excursion Demise (1991) [Denmark]
If you were under the impression that Artillery were the only Danish thrash band really worth caring about then we urge you to turn your attention to Invocator and, particularly, their debut album, Excursion Demise.
As far as technical thrash goes, Invocator were not only operating at a much higher level than the majority of their countrymen, they were also rivalling the best the world had to offer.
Sharing a kinship with Atheist lent Invocator a death metal vibe but the likes of the exquisite “(…to a Twisted Recess of Mind)” and “Schismatic Injective Therapy” were actually technical / progressive thrash through and through; leaving it to songs such as “The Persistence From Memorial Chasm” to provide a more visceral thrash kick.
Megace – Human Errors (1991) [Germany]
Emerging from the same technical thrash metal gene pool as the likes of Mekong Delta, Watchtower and Sadus, the female-fronted Megace had their own distinct charms and remain a unique proposition in a severely crowded marketplace.
With a talent for cunning complexity, Megace were operating at a level that would fry most minds but their biggest asset could also be considered their most divisive ingredient – the vocals of Melanie Bock.
With the ability to alternate between Sabine Classen-esque shrieks and growls and a more power metal styled delivery, those thrashers who struggle with female vocals in the genre will hit a brick wall fast. Of course, that’s complete nonsense as Bock’s emotive delivery competed with her male compatriots on every level and offered Megace that ‘special something’ to differentiate themselves from the pack!
A real unique moment in German thrash that deserves to be revered and adored.
Taramis – Stretch Of The Imagination (1991) [Australia]
Australian progressive / power / technical thrashers Taramis may be one of the least known acts on this particular list but their distinct brand of histrionic metal deserves to be remembered!
Featuring exceptional bass playing and a penchant for frantic, frenzied arrangements, Stretch Of The Imagination was a vast improvement on 1987’s Queen Of Thieves with Taramis fully embracing their progressive mettle. “Behind These Eyes” truly hit the technical / progressive thrash sweet spot but the whole damn thing reeked of ambition and a complete lack of care for convention.
The overly-dramatic, occasional squeaky vocals will probably ruffle the feathers of non-believers…. but fans of Realm, Agent Steel, ToxiK and their ilk will love ’em!
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