Mekong Delta – Kaleidoscope [Germany]
For a band renowned for nigh on undecipherable madness – with labyrinthine song structures and abstract riff-patterns often jostling for attention amidst a sturdy thrash framework – the 5th album from these crazy Germans was arguably their most refined and most accessible. While normally never more content than when thowing a million riff patterns at a song and simply letting chaos reign, the beauty in Kaleidoscope lay in its tempered approach.
Mekong Delta fanatics were kept happy with “Sphere Eclipse”, a track which hit the proggressive thrash ramp at Sabbat meets Voivod levels of speed, while the true prog lovers were catered for via their cover of Genesis’ “Dance On A Volcano”(which proved disconcertingly irresistable). The rest of the album was then a collage of wistful melancholy (“Dreaming”) and more abstract Voivod-esque weirdness (“Shadow Walker”).
Kaleidoscope could easily be considered the finest distillation of Mekong Delta’s talent to date, such was its ability to fully relay the bands myriad of influences.
Depressive Age – First Depression [Germany]
Kicking off a career in thrash in 1992 was probably il-advised….not that anyone told Germany’s Depressive Age!
Progressive, technical and melodic, First Depression was a debut of considerable stature and one that perfectly balanced the Depressive Age’s idiosyncratic nature with an inate accessibity. Very much a Teutonic thrash band at heart (the influence of the likes of Destruction’s Release From Agony and Deathrow’s Deception Ignored are writ large throughout), much of First Depression’s appeal actually lay within its melancholic nature. With a depressive (oh, the irony), doom-like atmosphere backed by ?’s often haunting vocal delivery, this was technical thrash refined – mellowed even – despite the expected display of crushing riffs remaining ever-present.
Quite the anamoly despite being part of a scene that was rapidly changing, Depressive Age’s First Depression was a last gasp for technical/progressive thrash in the 90s….so breathe it in!
Defiance – Beyond Recognition [USA]
Beyond Recognition – a technical thrash masterclass from the Bay Area’s Defiance – proved to be a fitting swansong to thrash’s heyday!
At this stage in their career, Defiance were now trying to out ‘heavy’ the likes of Testament (by way of fellow Bay Area brethren Heathen) and found themselves forging ahead in an ever more progressive thrash direction….and they were damn good at it too!
“Inside Looking Out” entertained a decidedly warped take on typical chugging riffs (and featured vocal contributions from aforementioned Heathen frontman David White) and the heady thrash-fest of “Promised Afterlife” rivalled Justice-era Metallica for complexity, while remaining staunchly ‘heavy’. The remainder of Beyond Recognition’s tracks offered diversity, complexity and enough ideas to make 90s era Metallica hang their heads in shame.
Beyond Recognition is Defiance’s greatest achievement and one of the most impressive moments in 90’s thrash, even though it remains ironically unrecognised by those clearly not ‘in the know’. Of course, the rest of us recognise the moment when Defiance excelled themselves and if thrash hadn’t died on its arse in the 90’s, this outstanding album surely would have seen Defiance swiftly rise up the ranks!
Despair – Beyond all Reason [Germany]
Technical German thrash doesn’t come much better than Beyond All Reason, the 3rd album from Despair and a milestone of the genre!
Superlatives come thick and fast when describing this unsung classic with Despair shredding with maximum intensity one minute, delivering keyboard-laden atmospherics the next and delivering nothing but virtuoso guitar work throughout.
In fact, it’s a crime that Beyond All Reason isn’t discussed with nearly as much enthusiasm as it should. This is a staggering piece of work; dazzlingly complex and rife with an advanced sense of barrelling chord progressions and off-kilter time changes.
There was something in the water in Germany during the late 80’s / early 90’s and Despair were the equal of Deathrow, Mekong Delta, Sieges Even, Vendetta and their ilk!
Demoliton Hammer – Epidemic of Violence [USA]
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.
Abject aggression in musical form!
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