Considering the UK invented heavy metal, it’s always frustrating to reflect on how seemingly unsuccessful we were at thrash metal!
Predominantly an American phenomenon (although the Teutonic trio of Destruction, Kreator and Sodom were equally as accomplished), British thrash caused a few waves over the years but this was nothing compared to the Tsunami caused by Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax, Testament, Death Angel, Overkill, Exodus etc.
In retrospect, British thrash bands actually had much to offer, album sales and general exposure may have been significantly lower than desired but the talent and musicianship was clear to see. Largely forgotten over the years, it’s time to re-address the balance and take a look at the British thrash albums that really mattered.
Slammer – The Work Of Idle Hands (1989)
Slammer‘s debut, The Work Of Idle Hands, has aged considerably well, with it’s professional production and solid foundations belying it’s semi-forgotten status. With a street-smart atmosphere pervading throughout, and Paul Tunnicliffe’s convincing raspy vocals giving each track an urbanised edge, the likes of “Tenement Zone” and the expansive “Hellbound” stand-out from the pack….but the entire album is worthy of your time.
Slammer‘s sound may not be original, but they were damn good at what they did and if consistently impressive and aggressive guitar work is your bag, you’d do well to hunt down a copy. But beware, this really is a lost classic and hard to track down at a reasonable price!
Highly reminiscent of Testament at their most accessible, Slammer had a sound that was tailor-made for the American market and should have lead to significant album sales and worldwide recognition. As it turned out, Slammer were just another British thrash band who should have made a big splash on both sides of the pond but failed to make more than a ripple; only with hindsight can we see they had much more to offer.
Liked that? Try this: Insanity Addicts (1990) was Slammer‘s second EP and a decent stab at taking their sound into ever more marketable areas.
Re-Animator – Condemened To Eternity (1990)
Arriving a little later in the day, Re-Animator still had enough potential to cause a stir and 1990’s Condemned To Eternity is their greatest achievement.
Another band in thrall to Testament‘s semi-melodic approach (particularly in Kev Ingleson’s Chuck Billy-aping vocals), Re-Animator still possessed the required skill to amount a convincing thrash attack; proof positive that us Brits could thrash like fuck when we wanted to!
“Low Life” and the instrumental title track are the real highlights, both demonstrating the bands knack for experimental and yet vertebrae-shattering riffs. While “Low Life” may rip off Metallica‘s “Creeping Death” in its opening bars, that can be forgiven as the song goes on to establish itself as a frenzied neck-breaker in its own right, and the title-track challenges Death Angel‘s “The Ultraviolence” in the epic instrumental stakes.
In the end, Condemned To Eternity may be one for thrash diehards….but it’s no less convincing because of it!
Liked that? Try this: The previous year saw the arrival of Deny Reality, an EP that merely hinted at what was to come!
Hydra Vein – Rather Death Than False Of Faith (1988)
Shit cover art aside, Hydra Vein were a ferocious and precocious late 80’s thrash band whose Rather Death Than False Of Faith debut deserves to be heralded as a minor classic.
Wallowing in the same dirty cess pool as early Onslaught and Venom, Rather Death Than False Of Faith stands toe to toe with the cream of late 80’s thrash metal. These guys could out slay Slayer when they put their filth-encrusted minds to it and the pure thrash carnage of “Crucifier” and “Rabid” (in fairness, this one’s a little too Slayer-esque for comfort at times) provides a welcome jolt to the system and may take newcomers by surprise!
Regardless of tempo – and Hydra Vein were as adept at blinding speed as they were mid-paced stomp – the key to Hydra Vein’s success (we use that term loosely) hinges on quality over quantity. Featuring just the 8 tracks, it’s notable that all 8 tracks have their moment, whether that’s a shout from the rooftops chorus, face-ripping solo or neck-wrecking riff , each and every song slams hard and features at least one highly memorable moment.
Hydra Vein may have been left in the thrash wilderness but fans of Onslaught’s The Force, Sacrilege’s Behind the Realms Of Madness, Venom’s Black Metal and Slayer’s Hell Awaits need this album…. and that’s despite the cover art which looks like it was painted by a partially sighted 4 year old!
Liked that? Try this: Hydra Vein’s sophomore effort, After The Dream, almost matched the intensity of Rather Death Than False Of Faith.
Anihilated – The Ultimate Desecration (1989)
Anihilated‘s second album is a British thrash milestone, incorporating Exodus‘ brash brutality and Slayer‘s knack for intimidating menace and groove to form an album worthy of serious attention.
The grisly grooves of instrumental “Desolation” set the scene as Anihilated‘s malevolent, sickle-sharp riffing crunches straight into high gear on “Into The Flames Of Armageddon”. The album never lets up from here on in; quality track follows quality track with raspy, sandpaper vocals, wall-of-sound drums and Hell Awaits era Slayer riffs combining furiously to thrash your face clean off.
The Slayer comparisons can be a little too familiar at times but if you’re gonna be inspired, be inspired by one of the best and if being the British Slayer is a bad thing, then we’ll be damned!
Of all the bands to arise during thrash’s recent re-birth, Anihilated truly showcased the breadth of talent the UK have to offer, culminating in Anti Social Engineering, one of the finest UK thrash albums ever recorded….and we ain’t fuckin’ kidding….this album absolutely slayed the competition in 2015!
Liked that? Try this: Anihilated’s debut album, Created In Hate; one of the most furiously feral thrash albums to ever emerge from the shores of the UK.
Deathwish – Demon Preacher (1988)
How the actual fuck were Deathwish not bigger?
With opener “Death Procession” leading us on a morbid march through bell-tolling, doom-inflected pathways, the classic sounds of 70’s UK heavy metal soon meets the crunch of Bay Area thrash on the Slayer-esque title track and Deathwish’s inspirations are immediately apparent.
A marriage made in heaven (or should that be hell), this juxtaposition of the UK’s world-conquering 70’s output and the equally successful US thrash sound pioneered by Metallica, Slayer et all is best exemplified on Deathwish’s gritty thrashed-up reworking of Sabbath’s all time classic, “Symptom Of The Universe”. Cover version’s by their very nature are generally disappointing but this updated version of Iommi’s classic riff-fest for a thrash audience remains recognisable but utterly feral.
However, the 70’s worshipping song structures weren’t all Deathwish had in their locker, “Wall Of Lies” and the unfathomably epic “Prey To The Lord” were a sonic boom of rabid riffing fulfilling the hype this underrated band had once generated. A nod to the future and a nod to the past in essence, Deathwish were happy to complete the circle by closing with the acoustic Zeppelin-esque instrumental “Past Life”, restoring balance and a sense of closure in the process.
As a coherent whole, Demon Preacher should be considered a minor masterpiece, the sounds of the pioneering 70’s combining flawlessly with the fresh and vital thrash attack from across the Atlantic. Rediscover it!
Liked that? Try this: You only have one other option, the rough and ready – but equally as impressive – At The Edge Of Damnation (1987).