80’s thrash may have more than its fair share of classic albums (do we really need more talk of Metallica‘s Master Of Puppets, Slayer‘s Reign In Blood, Sepultura‘s Beneath The Remains, Testament‘s The Legacy, Anthrax‘s Among The Living, Voivod‘s Dimension Hatröss, Kreator’s Extreme Aggression, Megadeth‘s Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?, Overkill’s The Years Of Decay …. the list goes on!) so we like to shine a light on the often unsung heroes and classic albums of 80s thrash that often go forgotten!
Presented in order of release as opposed to any kind of ranking….
A.R.G. – Entrance (1989) [Finland]
A.R.G. (aka Ancient Rotten Graveguards) were responsible for some of the most ferocious thrash within the Finnish metal scene and their debut, Entrance, immediately marked them out as death/thrashers par excellence.
After a brief, elegant intro lulls you into a false sense of security, Entrance announces its arrival with all manner of innovative touches, enabling A.R.G. to stay nice n’ nasty throughout Entrance‘s entire duration. This is suitably intense stuff, ultra aggressive and framed by some unorthodox riffing which helps to raise A.R.G. well above the ‘also ran’ pile of indistinguishable thrashers that were doing the rounds back in ’89.
As it turns out, A.R.G. did make quite the entrance….it’s just a pity more of us weren’t paying attention!
Assassin – The Upcoming Terror (1987) [Germany]
Along with the likes of Exumer, Holy Moses and Vendetta, Düsseldorf’s Assassin were vastly underrated in the late 80’s with the lion’s share of German thrash talk revolving around Kreator, Sodom, Destruction and Tankard.
Admittedly, these crazed speed freaks weren’t quite in the same league as The Big Teutonic Four but they could riff up a frenzied riff storm when they wanted to and their debut, The Upcoming Terror, would prove to be their finest ever release!
A true cult classic, Assassin got straight to the fuckin’ point on their debut with the likes of “Bullet” and “Nemesis” proving particularly aggressive and while we’re not in technical thrash territory, it’s Assassin’s hardcore punk approach that actually adds another level of dirt to this incendiary album.
Carrion – Evil Is There! (1986) [Switzerland]
The perfect encapsulation of underground thrash in 1986, Swiss thrashers Carrion – you might know them better as Poltergeist(!) – released just one album before changing their name to the titular spectral house-wrecker.
Noticably less technical than the output of Poltergeist, Evil Is There! is a bare-bones release with any ‘fresh-fat’ picked clean to leave a pure, straightforward and relentless thrash experience.
Brutally simplistic and simply brutal, Carrion could still showcase a little melody from time to time – check out the intro to “The Avenger” – but it’s the lightning-quick riffing found on the the likes of “Demon’s Child” that retains its edge.
Grinder – Dead End (1989) [Germany]
Beginning with “Agent Orange” (not a cover of Sodom’s classic but a classic of their own making), Grinder‘s stomping, militarised, rotor-riffs flow flawlessly into the kind of quality melodic thrash that should have adhered these German thrashers to millions.
Channeling the highly melodic noise of Flotsam and Jetsam and Anthrax, Grinder stillmanaged to create something a little different in the thrash world; no easy task by the time the late 80’s rolled around. Playing with structure and speed, Grinder’s skill lay in fluid bass lines and taking the turn least expected. The result? An album that remains unpredictable and surprisingly unique.
In particular, Dead End‘s title track is a thrash monster, a totally unique speed/thrash workout which traverses more moods and more terrain than most thrash albums manage in their entirety!
Hobbs Angel Of Death – Hobbs Angel Of Death (1988) [Australia]
Ostensibly a solo venture for ex-Tyrus guitarist Peter Hobbs, Hobbs’ Angel Of Death was an old-school thrash album unsurprisingly in thrall to the satanic noise belched forth by thrash giants Slayer (Hell Awaits era).
A cult act par excellence, Hobbs’ Angel Of Death may not have registered on the global scene but tracks such as caustic opener “House of Death” and the bludgeoning “Crucifixion” were equal to anything coming from the Bay Area and should have seen the band rise swiftly up the ranks, as opposed to merely falling by the wayside.
Ripping death/thrash delivered with 100% satanic conviction, when it comes to Australian thrash, Hobbs’ Angel Of Death should have been the album to break the big leagues. It’s that convincing.
Infected – Dark Century (1989) [Switzerland]
As late 80s death/thrash goes, Infected‘s only album, Dark Century, is not only one of the best…. it’s a goddamn revelation!
These guys were dishing out the kind of pain that bands such as Malevolent Creation were two years away from creating and, alongside the likes of Num Skull and Incubus (the original Incubus, not those nu-metal, didgeridoo-playing wombats), Infected were pushing thrash into ever-heavier realms before the 80s had even finished.
Resolutely thrash in the musicianship stakes, it was the throaty vocals of Amos Gersmann that pushed Dark Century into death/thrash territory, all underpinned by the drumming powerhouse that was Steve Karrer (Messiah).
As extreme as thrash could get in the late 80s, this little known cult classic still packs a punch and when the likes of “Media Control” and “State Oppression” (there’s a theme here) come out swinging, you’ll be left ruing the day you let this little beauty pass you by!
Mandator – Initial Velocity (1988) [Netherlands]
With Initial Velocity, Mandator’s schizophrenic mix of thrash, speed metal and power metal attempted to sate the appetites of all scenes in one sitting, without ever quite hitting the sweet-spot.
With speed metal elements hanging around since their days as Mysto Dysto, encountering the frenzied riffing of “Power Of The Law” comes as no surprise. What is surprising is the likes of “Black Rose” which starts life as a speed metal work-out before a ‘delicate’ AOR passage sends the song into unexpected territory, as it solos its way to a power metal high.
Never quite settling on one style causes consternation but there’s enough quality song writing here to balance out the frustrations, with the feral likes of the Exodus-esque “Faces Of Death” and “Posers” (an apt title, given the Exodus comparison) hitting hard and fast. A whole album of this material may have stood Mandator in better stead but there’s also a lot to be said for the more considered, progressively-minded, likes of “Jack Boots & Leather Caps”.
An oddity, but no less interesting because of it!
The Mist – Phantasmagoria (1989) [Brazil]
With ex-Chakal members filling the ranks Chakal‘s Abominable Anno Domini is also well worth checking out), The Mist already had pedigree but, in truth, this uber-cult band were operating on another sphere entirely to Chakal, Dorsal Atlantica and Overdose etc; ultimately embracing a schizophrenic approach to their audacious brand of thrashing rage.
With the likes of “A Step In The Dark’ toying with time signatures and shifting moods at will, The Mist dialled down the outright aggression of the majority of their contemporaries and took a more considered approach. The results were impressive to say the least – despite a middling production job – and The Mist‘s compositional skills alongside the overall variety found on Phantasmagoria‘s 10 tracks means it comes highly, and we mean highly, recommended.
A hidden gem from the heyday of Brazilian thrash!
Num Skull – Ritually Abused (1988) [USA]
Ritually Abused may have been ritually ignored on release but there’s no denying its thrash pedigree and albums this savage rarely reared their snarling, slathering head in the late 80’s.
Redefining what it meant to be truly brutal, Num Skull‘s debut may have been neanderthal in essence but fans of Kreator’s early noise – and those fond of the ferocity of Reign in Blood era Slayer and Exodus circa Bonded By Blood – would undoubtedly offer themselves up to the kind of abuse Num Skull were dishing out.
Speed, aggression and unbelievably unhinged vocals characterised album highlights “The Henchman”, the Exodus-esque “No Morals” and the utterly merciless title track….true American hate performed by absolute maniacs!
Outrage – Black Clouds (1988) [Japan]
Black Clouds is the 1988 full-length debut from Japanese thrashers Outrage…..and what an album it is!
Indebted to the Bay Area (and Megadeth in particular) Outrage were adept at writing crunchy thrash numbers which were both satisfyingly heavy and catchy as fuck. Opener “Curtain Of History” is an absolute triumph (and also recalls the stomp of prime Xentrix, replete with Chris Astley rasp) as it bulldozes its way through the rough terrain.
The ‘obligatory’ thrash ballad is present and accounted for in the formidable shape of the “In My Darkest Hour” esque title track, but its the satisfying Bay Area crunch you’re here for, and Outrage provide it in spades. Sure, the majority of the songs on Black Clouds sound much the same but when they’re this good, who really gives a shit.
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