5. Death Angel – The Ultra-Violence (1987) [USA]
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!
4. Testament – The Legacy (1987) [USA]
Testament‘s debut, The Legacy, announced their arrival in an already crowded scene with an immediate attention-grabbing potency.
It was already clear that Testament had the necessary skill to challenge the big boys of thrash with an eerie, ominous atmosphere thankfully making amends for a thin, tinny production. Most noticeably, the band had musicians in their ranks who could really play and a vocalist who could scream, wail, growl and (whisper it) actually sing!
The guitar pairing of Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick was also inspired, Petersen’s solid, chugging rhythm work perfectly complimenting Skolnick’s jazz influenced shredding skills.
Official challengers to The Big 4 had arrived!
3. Sabbat – History Of A Time To Come (1989) [UK]
There are too few superlatives to convey the true majesty of Britain’s finest ever thrash album and one of the most convincing thrash debuts in existence. Sabbat were one of the most unique bands in thrash history, regardless of origin, and although short-lived, their overall contribution to the scene remains unparalleled.
Propelled by the ingenious riffs of producer extraordinaire Andy Sneap (Arch Enemy, Nevermore, Testament) and Martin Walkyier’s uniquely unfettered and untameable vocals, Sabbat‘s philosophically pagan take on religion was groundbreakingly raw and real; an honest summation of the world and it’s failings.
The opening tracks, “A Cautionary Tale”, “Hosanna In Excelsis” & Behind The Crooked Cross” are exemplary, an unholy triumvarite of trailblazing thrash that perfectly encapsulated Sabbat‘s religion-baiting sound. However, it was the intelligence on display that truly ranked them as one of the genre’s greats. Here was poetry set to furious thrash, the likes of which has never been seen again.
History Of A Time To Come is mandatory listening for every thrasher on the planet and has barely aged; its place in the thrash history books permanently set in stone!
2. Vio-Lence – Eternal Nightmare (1988) [USA]
Quite simply one of the most fearless, ferocious and downright feral thrash albums ever recorded, Vio-Lence‘s debut, Eternal Nightmare, is the thrash connoisseur’s album of choice and ranks as high in both the aggression and sheer insanity stakes as Slayer’s Reign In Blood, Exodus’ Bonded By Blood and Dark Angel’s Darkness Descends!
Originally home to Machine Head men Robb Flynn and Phil Demmel (but you knew that already), just 7 tracks of thrash perfection was all it took to announce that a new breed of thrash maniacs were in town – that ‘town’ being, of course, San Francisco’s Bay Area – and with the likes of “Kill On Command”, “Bodies On Bodies” and “Calling In The Coroner” in their arsenal, Vio-Lence were on a collision course with underground notoriety and unending acclaim.
Sean Killian’s vocals remain an acquired taste but those ‘in the know’ understand that without him, Vio-Lence were nowhere near as unique nor as thrilling a prospect.
As great thrash debuts go, Eternal Nightmare still takes some beating.
1. Exodus – Bonded By Blood (1985) [USA]
Exodus should have had it all; the fame, the fortune and their fair share of thrash metal’s spoils.
As it turned out, one of thrash’s most legendary albums – and our choice for the greatest thrash metal debut of the 1980’s – comes from a band who hovered on the periphery of The Big 4 without ever making that leap into the big league. A bullshit situation! It’s fairly common knowledge that Bonded By Blood was actually recorded in 1984, but was held back for a ridiculous 9 months due to record label wrangling and that lost time proved to be more than just significant.
Instead of spearheading the scene they helped to create, Exodus found themselves endlessly playing catch up and they simply ran out of puff; forever chasing the pack and never actually gaining ground. But, Exodus were at the forefront of thrash, capable of out-riffing their Bay Area peers and, pound for pound, they were the heaviest, most dangerous, most unpredictable and most ferociously adept outfit on the block.
“Bonded By Blood”, “A Lesson In Violence”, “And Then There Were None”, “Piranha”, and “Strike Of The Beast” are all thrash gold, tarnished by bad timing but true treasures in thrash’s trove. While many bands would try to tap into the virulent violence that positively oozes from each track, none could match the intensity conjured by Paul Baloff, Gary Holt, Tom Hunting, Rick Hunolt and Rob McKillop.
Thrash metal debuts don’t come better than this!
Honourable mentions: Annihilator – Alice In Hell / Anthrax – Fistful Of Metal / Forbidden – Forbidden Evil / Intruder – Live To Die / Iron Angel – Hellish Crossfire / Kreator – Endless Pain / Metallica – Kill ‘Em All / Sacred Reich – Ignorance / Slayer – Show No Mercy / S.O.D – Speak English Or Die / Xentrix – Shattered Existence
That’s right, there’s no Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax in the main list because, quite simply, their respective debut albums are NOT better than anything included and haven’t aged well.