Heathen – Breaking The Silence (1987)
With the progressive / technical nature of future albums yet to fully materialise, Heathen’s debut album instead focused on razor-sharp melodic power/thrash (as sharp as a “Goblin’s Blade” at the very least).
Blessed with supreme riff writers in the shape of Lee Altus (Exodus / ex-Angel Witch / ex-Die Krupps) and Doug Piercy (Blind Illusion / Anvil Chorus / ex-Ulysses Siren), and with the powerful lungs of David White (ex-Blind Illusion / ex-Defiance) at the helm, Heathen were the equal of their Bay Area brethren without ever really receiving their dues. Why remains a mystery as they had a cracking cover in their arsenal (“Set Me Free”), a singer to rival the likes of Anthrax’s Joey Belladonna and Testament’s Chuck Billy and songs – quality songs! – in abundance.
Any perceived lack of aggression was in Heathen’s favour, with the band perfectly mixing melody, muscle and an often mid-tempo stomp to deliver a succession of uber-catchy tracks.
Forbidden – Forbidden Evil (1988)
Forbidden‘s ridiculously accomplished debut hit like a freight train upon release and announced the arrival of some serious top-tier contenders!
With Russ Anderson’s formidable pipes, Paul Bostaph’s considerable skill behind the kit and Glen Alvelais and Craig Locicero peeling off the kind of riffs that had us cacking our khakis, Forbidden were instant crowd-pleasers.
Kicking off with a none more mighty 1-2-3 of “Chalice of Blood,” “Off the Edge,” and “Through Eyes of Glass” had these guys leaping to the top of the pile and with such technical expertise a their disposal, their frantic, dynamic, full-tilt thrash assault was nigh on irresistible to resist!
Overkill – Under The Influence (1988)
Taking the honour of never releasing a bad album (and they’ve released 19 of the buggers!), Overkill‘s 1988 effort, Under The Influence, remains a firm fan favourite and is home to some of these East Coast maniacs finest compositions.
The uncompromisable “Shred” and “Hello from the Gutter” (Overkill’s breakthrough which received heavy rotation on MTV’s Headbangers Ball) may be the most recognisable tracks but the whole album is filled with the same level of menace and high speed hostility.
High on energy and fuelled by aggression, it’s arguable that Overkill never sounded this raw and unpolished again, with these New Jersey boys’ punk roots still informing the core of their sound and ultimately transforming Under The Influence into Overkill’s most feral beast!
Testament – The New Order (1988)
We maintain that The New Order is Testament‘s greatest album (Practice What You Preach runs it a very close second), a full-bodied statement of intent from a band who knew they had an opportunity to not only compete with The Big 4 but surpass even their accomplishments!
History tells us that Testament would never quite break through to the same level as Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer but their recorded output defies that fact, and The New Order remains one of the most potent and consistently thrilling thrash albums in existence.
When an album reads like a greatest hits set you know you’re on to a winner and with the title track, “Trial by Fire,” “Disciples of the Watch and the iconic “Into the Pit” making up the core of this legendary album, The New Order‘s credentials speak for themselves. Reeking of quality, Testament’s The New Order is mandatory listening for anyone with even a passing interest in thrash and epitomises why thrash dominated the 80’s like no other genre!
Wargasm – Why Play Around? (1988)
Fusing the sonic onslaught of all-out thrash with the melodic nous of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal and the classic sounds of old-school heavy metal, Wargasm’s Why Play Around? is ignored by the majority but beloved by connoisseurs.
“Bullets & Blades” took the speed and aggression of Motorhead and Tank and thrashed the shit out of it, while “Revenge” harnessed a mid-paced crunch to drive home some truly catchy riffing and it’s “knee deep in blood” refrain.
So much potential, so much talent. Why Play Around? may have failed to stand out in a crowded scene of quality releases in 1988 (Metallica’s …And Justice For All, Anthrax’s State Of Euphoria, Exodus’ Fabulous Disaster, Flotsam’s No Place For Disgrace, Testament’s The New Order…) but that’s no reason for ignoring it now!