While the 1990’s ultimately sounded the death knell for the genre…. these obscurities prove that thrash still had plenty to say!
Allegiance – D.E.S.T.I.T.U.T.I.O.N (1994) [Australia]
What a concrete slab of hard-hitting thrash Allegiance‘s debut album was!
Overall, this was a relatively familiar release to those already accustomed to Machine Head‘s Burn My Eyes etc but that shouldn’t distract from what is a gruff, rough, street-ready run through some decidedly above average thrash.
With D.e.s.t.i.t.u.t.i.o.n. ringing the same bells as Sacred Reich‘s Ignorance and Atrophy‘s Violent By Nature – with a fair amount of solid groove and mid-tempo stomp supporting Allegiance‘s chug-happy musings – it was the likes of the fast and frenetic “Path of Lies” (with its death metal leanings), and the insanely catchy title track, which marked Allegiance out as potential contenders.
Just one more album followed – 1996’s sub-par Skinman – but D.e.s.t.i.t.u.t.i.o.n is where it’s at!
Aspid (Аспид) – Extravasation (Кровоизлияние) (1993) [Russia]
Right time, wrong place. That’s the situation Russian technical thrashers Aspid (Аспид) found themselves in when they released their technically audacious debut album, Extravasation (Кровоизлияние) in 1993.
Had this monster of an album been released by an American or a German band we suspect that Aspid’s name would be mentioned in the same breath as cult legends Intruder and Deathrow.
Instead, Extravasation is but a footnote in a scene that – with wider exposure – would surely have embraced these talented individuals with open arms. Blame the distribution (originally a limited vinyl release) for its relative failure but don’t the blame the performances and the song writing, because Aspid were equal to their lauded peers in every respect; often pushing their progressive/technical thrash into death metal territory while remaining resolutely committed to surprising the listener at every turn.
Uniquely dark, aggressive, mesmerising and menacing, Aspid’s one and only release deserves far more than to rot in obscurity…..it demands to be heard!
Entropy – Ashen Existence (1992) [Canada]
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!
Seventh Angel – Lament For The Weary (1992) [UK]
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 metal / thrash 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.
Vacant Grave – Life Or Death (1990) [USA]
Permanent residents of obscure-town, Missouri’s Vacant Grave may not have registered in the wider scene but their one and only album, 1990’s Life Or Death, is more than just an interesting footnote in thrash metal history.
Admittedly, Life Or Death‘s woeful production values hamper its progress but there’s more than enough Sadus-esque death/thrash to Vacant Grave‘s muffled sounds to warrant further inspection.
Semi-technical and yet as ramped up on ferocity as the likes of Rigor Mortis and early Sacrifice, it’s when Vacant Grave go full on gonzo that their ability to shit in the face of predictability shines through – particularly on the maddening and erratic “Widespread Affliction”, which hits an unorthodox home run at the first time of asking.
Vulture – Fatal Games (1990) [Netherlands]
Fatal Games was a melodic thrash masterclass from a band who failed to receive their dues. While bravely attempting to mimic the mighty Forbidden may have been a step too far, it’s to Vulture’s eternal credit that these veterans (they had been on the scene since as early as 1984) soldiered on and eventually released their Fatal Games debut in 1990. And a damn fine album it was too, with Vulture unleashing technically savvy anthems at a rate of knots and with vocals that attempted to out-do the likes of Russ Anderson (Forbidden) and Steve Grimmet (In Search of Sanity-era Onslaught) throughout.
Ironically nowhere near as fatal a game as those depicted in the likes of Battle Royale and Squid Games, Vulture‘s Fatal Games still riffed up an almighty storm of tempo-changes, staccato-riffing and soaring vocals and should have seen them lauded as much more than a mere cult-curio.
With a hundred ideas per song flung at you with little to no warning, Fatal Games can be a daunting prospect….but it’s one well worth taking on!
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