While thrash in the 80’s was generally an American phenomenon the Germans were hot on their tails, releasing a steady stream of ferociously violent yet technically astounding albums that changed the shape of thrash as we knew it (presented in alphabetical order as opposed to ranking)…..
Deathrow – Deception Ignored (1989)
After the relatively no-thrills thrash found on Deathrow’s Riders Of Doom aka Satan’s Gift (1986) and Raging Steel (1987), there was virtually no indication that Deathrow would break boundaries with their 3rd full length release!
Complex and rhythmically confounding – but never at the cost of a satisfying sense of structure – the likes of “Narcotic” were insane blasts of technical thrash wizardry and should have marked Deathrow out as pioneers of prog metal / tech thrash very early in the game.
Instead, obscurity beckoned with Deception Ignored initially receiving a lukewarm response and ironically ignored by a legion of confused fans. Fortunately, this outstanding album has gone on to be revered as a work of almost labyrinthian art, misunderstood by many but now beloved by those in the know.
A technical thrash masterpiece from a band way ahead of the curve….this is one album that truly has to be heard to be believed!
Destruction – Release From Agony (1987)
Destruction may have started life as a rough ‘n’ ready blackened thrash band but by the time their third full length album, Release From Agony, arrived in 1987, they’d transformed themselves into a technical thrash act par excellence.
The mad butcher didn’t just strike back with this album, it hacked and sliced its way through the competition and while (originally) the quality of Release From Agony‘s production left a lot to be desired, the likes of “Sign Of Fear” and “Survive To Die” indicated that Destruction were now operating on a higher level than the majority of their peers.
A thrilling combination of insanely technical riffs and abstract song structures marks out Release From Agony as a true masterpiece of Teutonic thrash……and Destruction would, arguably, never be so wilfully obscure again!
Also recommended: Infernal Overkill (1985) and Eternal Devastation (1986) rival Release From Agony in virtually every department and fans of the band can consider them interchangeable on this list…they’re that good!
Kreator – Pleasure To Kill (1986)
This precociously vicious shitstorm instantly struck a chord with thrashers worldwide and with Pleasure To Kill, Kreator found themselves leading the way in the Teutonic scene.
Unhinged to the point of incarceration, Pleasure To Kill‘s track-list borders on a greatest hits selection with the wall of noise maelstrom of “Ripping Corpse”, the unforgettable “Pleasure To Kill”, the death metal influencing “Riot Of Violence” and the epic and surprisingly complex “The Pestilence” all meriting classic status.
An inspiration to countless bands, death metal and grindcore legends Napalm Death covered “Riot Of Violence” and even they couldn’t match the intensity and ferocity of its original incarnation!
Kreator altered the German thrash landscape with Pleasure To Kill and mayhem of this calibre would never sound so good again!
Also recommended: In the 80’s, Kreator were a dominant force (world-wide, not just in Germany) and we’d be remiss not to acknowledge the quality of 1985’s debut, Endless Pain, 1987’s Terrible Certainty and 1989’s Extreme Aggression.
Sodom – Agent Orange (1989)
Bidding a fond farewell to the knuckle-dragging sound of their Obsessed By Cruelty debut and harnessing the considerable progress made on Persecution Mania, Sodom tickled the fancy of the mainstream with their 3rd album, Agent Orange; and the world stood up and took notice.
Think of a superlative and it applies to this album; originality, quality, intensity, variety and technicality all ring true. Still capable of thrashing up a storm it was on the mid-paced chug of “Remember The Fallen” and “Magic Dragon” where Sodom’s monumental progress took form. Revelling in a confidence that allowed Agent Orange’s compositions to breathe, their less is more approach reaped endless rewards with thrillingly expansive dynamics well and truly achieved.
As deadly effective as the title would suggest, Agent Orange stood out in what was (obviously) a banner year for thrash. After all, to hold your own against the might of Sepultura’s Beneath The Remains (1989) and Kreator’s Extreme Aggression (1989) amongst many others takes some doing….but Sodom proved more than worthy of the challenge on their greatest ever album!
Also recommended: 1987’s aforementioned Persecution Mania is an all-time German thrash classic and, if we are to be honest, warrants far more than just a cursory mention.
Vendetta – Brain Damage (1988)
This one may cause controversy but we maintain that Vendetta‘s sophomore album is easily one of the finest German thrash albums in existence!
They don’t come more unique than Vendetta‘s Brain Damage, an album that retained the required thrash crunch of the era while significantly maturing and offering unparalleled diversity to the discerning thrash fan.
This was the sound of a band that should have left the underground, seriously skilled and home to such consistently impressive songwriting that a breakthrough seemed inevitable. Alas, it just wasn’t to be. But, that’s no reason to overlook its merits now as Brain Damage‘s fiendishly catchy melodies and exquisite guitar work are as impressive now as they were back in 1988!
Vendetta’s technical prowess and crystal clear clarity showcased a band whose merits were writ large. After all, Brain Damage truly is an unsung masterpiece from the golden era of thrash!
Also recommended: While not as expansive or (r)evolutionary as Brain Damage, Vendetta’s debut, Go And Live…Stay And Die (1987), was an ideal introduction to this bands unique brand of thrash.
For more classic German thrash albums, check out our 35 Greatest Old School German Thrash Albums feature….