Sacred Reich – The American Way (1990)
Sacred Reich were thinking big on their follow-up to 1987’s aggressive Ignorance and with bonafide ‘hits’ “Who’s To Blame” and “The American Way” in their arsenal, the big leagues surely beckoned.
At the expense of the thrashin’ intensity found on their debut, Sacred Reich had chosen to channel their rage into more commercially-viable songs and were reaching a far wider audience as a result. But, despite semi-cleaning up their act, Sacred Reich‘s formidable crunch and collection of proper tunes (“31 Flavors” aside) failed to fully push them into the upper echelons of thrash metal’s hierarchy.
Mostly mid-tempo and pulsating with socio / political awareness, The American Way was purpose built for success. Why it didn’t sell millions remains a mystery.
Sanctuary – Into The Mirror Black (1990)
Seattle’s finest thrashers launched themselves onto the scene with their Dave Mustaine produced debut, Refuge Denied (1988), and while having the immutable Warrell Dane (Nevermore) as your frontman was always going to be Sanctuary‘s ultimate selling point, that’s not to say that the band were reliant solely on the great man’s siren-like wail for exposure. Instead, they settled on releasing a sophomore album that took everything that was great about their debut, increased the technicality, and fair released one of the finest power/thrash albums ever penned.
Into The Mirror Black took the best bits of Bay Area thrash, 80s traditional metal – and the kind of power metal us Europeans had been developing for a few years – and fashioned one hell of a technically-infused progressive masterpiece out of it!
“Future Tense” and “Taste Revenge” packed a hell of a power/thrash wallop while the more dark and epic approach taken with “Eden Lies Obscured” showcased a band maturing at an alarming rate.
Vio-Lence – Oppressing The Masses (1990)
Following up such an incendiary debut as Eternal Nightmare was always going to be a tough task. How do you follow perfection? You don’t. So, Vio-Lence simply set about penning another collection of suitably erratic, unabashedly heavy, and technically-savvy thrash metal tunes!
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Oppressing The Masses isn’t as openly revered as its illustrious predecessor but its reputation has, rightfully, grown over the years. While not quite as fast and feral as Eternal Nightmare, you could hardly label Oppressing The Masses ‘refined’ and with messrs Flynn and Demmel peeling the paint off the walls with their cavalcade of vicious riffs, Vio-Lence were still one of the heaviest thrash bands on the block.
We’ll be damned if “I Profit” isn’t one of the best tracks Vio-Lence ever recorded and “Officer Nice” has gone down as an all-time thrash classic.
Vio-Lence couldn’t improve on Eternal Nightmare….but they sure as hell gifted us a sophomore album for the ages!
Devastation – Idolatry (1991)
Only with hindsight has Devastation‘s third opus been revered as a 90’s thrash milestone but be under no illusion, Idolatry was one of the greatest thrash albums of the 90’s and should have been hailed as an instant classic upon release.
Carefully straddling the fine line between death metal and thrash, Devastation were abrasively aggressive, technically adept, lightning-fast and heavy as all hell and fans of Dark Angel, Sepultura, Demolition Hammer and early-Death need this album…..if they don’t own it already!
A suffocatingly dense album, this shadowy beast favoured lurking in the corners of thrash’s darkest spaces as opposed to gleaming like much of the early 90’s clean, technically-obsessed thrash albums and it’s all the more distinctive for it. Murky and malevolent, Idolatry benefitted from its dank atmosphere and remains a violent, visceral experience.
Demolition Hammer – Epidemic Of Violence (1992)
The second album from violent New York City thrash metallers Demolition Hammer, Epidemic of Violence is a cult classic of the highest order and remains one of the most ferocious thrash albums in existence!
Having the nerve to release one of the meanest thrash albums of all time during a period when thrash was all but forgotten by the metal masses took guts, but these guys were blatantly unconcerned with the arrival of death metal and groove metal. Instead, they took the elements they admired from both sub-genres and shackled them, kicking and screaming, bloody and bowed, to their own thrash metal framework.
Arguably as sonically devastating as any death metal album of the era, this undisputed epitome of pure thrash brutality was propelled by the pummelling drumming of Vinny Daze who excelled himself here (those kicks are lightning fucking fast) and the aptly titled “Skull Fracturing Nightmare” sums this album up perfectly.
Riffs that were both technical and built around brute force may have been the showcase but Daze’s skill behind the kit and the larynx-lacerating vocals of bassist Steve Reynolds were equally as important.
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