Forget The Big 4 and their million selling behemoths, these 25 cult American thrash albums were equally as accomplished, equally as ferocious and equally as groundbreaking and fully deserved to sell as many copies as Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax….except they didn’t.
Overkill – Feel The Fire (1985)
Overkill‘s full length debut was an instantly satisfying fix for those thrash fans looking for an East-Coast band to rival the Bay Area’s dominance. Not forgetting that Overkill were there from the very start (they formed in 1980 for god’s sake) and fully deserved to share the spoils reaped by The Big 4!
Feel The Fire is an absolute classic from a band who have spent the best part of 40 years defiantly thrashing their guts out for the metal masses and it’s fair to say that consistency and Overkill literally go hand in hand.
“Rotten To The Core”, “Hammerhead” and “Kill At Command” thrill with wild abandonment and earth-shaking riffs buffered by Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth’s shrill vocals.
If Overkill had only released this record they still would be revered as thrash pioneers….as it turns out we have a further 19(!) records to relish as well!
Nuclear Assault – Game Over (1986)
Nuclear Assault‘s debut album saw Danny Lilker and his merry men release an unrefined and cataclysmic thrash metal assault on the world!
Still tapped in to the raw emotion and pure power over technical skill mentality of thrash metal’s early releases – that’s not to say these boys couldn’t play but it’s the attitude that shines through – Game Over bordered on a crossover release; revelling in gang vocals, thunderous bass and John Connoly’s unhinged and apocalyptic screeching diatribes.
From the blacker than black humour of “Hang The Pope” to the end of the world announcing “Nuclear War”, “After The Holocaust” and “Radiation Sickness”, Nuclear Assault hit like the proverbial atomic bomb in ’86 and instantly cemented their place amongst the greats of thrash metal.
Whiplash – Power and Pain (1986)
Whiplash really should have been huge.
Featuring hoarse vocals, widdly fucking riffs and (the incessant intro chug of “Red Bomb” aside) a pace that rarely dipped, Power and Pain was the real fuckin’ deal.
Forever threatening to careen clear of the rails, Whiplash‘s brand of thrash was the most feral and frantic of its kind. Thre was no fuckin’ around to be found with these guys biting down hard and gnashing and thrashing their way through 9 tracks of amped up Motörhead meets Venom worship. Exhilarating and insanely visceral, the results speak themselves.
Whiplash were the masters….WITH THE IRON FIST!!!
Death Angel – The Ultra-Violence (1987)
Almost offensively talented, these teenage wunderkinds were a second-wave phenomenon who were 100% focused on thrashin’ your tits clean off!
Death Angel‘s debut release was a Bay Area revelation, shaking up a status quo that had only just been established. The Big 4 were forced to watch their backs as the likes of “Evil Priest”, the aptly titled “Thrashers” and the stunning 10 minute self-titled instrumental marked out The Ultra-Violence as an instant classic and it remains a beloved album from one of the most consistent bands in all of thrash metal.
Few albums in thrash made an immediate impact as forceful as this!
Flotsam and Jetsam – No Place For Disgrace (1988)
Following up debut album and instant classic Doomsday For The Deceiver was never going to be an easy task for the then Jason Newsted-less Flotsam and Jetsam. So what did they do? They knocked it out of the fucking park, that’s what they did!
Embracing a sound that was ever more melodic but still laced with grit and crunch, Flotsam and Jetsam didn’t try to one-up their corrosive debut, instead they simply finessed their sound and emerged as a more confident band; one with a shit ton of quality songs in their arsenal. Seeking to push thrash away from mindless violence into ever more expansive realms, Flotsam’s welcome addition of more melodic riffs – alongside Eric A.K. Knutson’s falsetto screams and altogether more varied range – resulted in an album that was epic in scope while still hitting that thrash sweet spot.
While a few harder cuts – such as “Hard On You” and “I Live, You Die” – had the ability to nail you to the wall, it was Flotsam’s more considered and balanced moments that left a lasting impression – check out the magisterial beauty of the title track (from the 3 minute mark) if you need convincing that No Place For Disgrace was melodic thrash at its absolute finest!