In the 1990’s, thrash metal’s well was running particularly dry when it came to new bands making a mark on the scene. However, while thrash did die an uncomfortable death in the 1990’s, there were still bands releasing debut albums of considerable worth…. as this list should hopefully prove!
10. Faustus – …and Still We Suffer (1996) [USA]
…and Still We Suffer may have arrived a little late in the day but there’s no denying that this semi-obscure effort from Seattle’s Faustus was a brave, complex and, ultimately, highly rewarding slab of progressive thrash metal. This was thrash made for the true fans, those committed souls who had continued to fly the thrash flag in the face of death metal, grunge and groove metal and …and Still We Suffer was their well-deserved reward!
With more than a hint of Nevermore informing their sound, Faustus were undoubtedly looking to push thrash into ever more expansive realms; unleashing a tirade of ingenious riffs, multi-faceted vocals and ever-shifting time signatures in the process. While “Erosion” had an Atheist vibe – which removed the majority of the death metal elements but retained that recognisable free-form nature – it was “The Hell We Make” which provided the most succinct summation of Faustus‘ skill.
While at times Faustus‘ approach may have appeared scattershot (which can be attested to their abundance of ideas), it was actually their undying commitment to challenging trends, their obvious technical ability, their go-for-broke mentality and high octane performances which marked them out as a band with plenty to offer.
9. Pyracanda – Two Sides Of A Coin (1990) [Germany]
Pyracanda‘s debut full length remains somewhat of an oddity but it’s an album that deserves accolades, not just for its melodic sensibilities – which ably recalled the majesty of Mike Howe-era Metal Church and fellow countrymen and label mates Grinder – but for its technical aptitude and supreme songwriting skill.
Unfavourably discarded in favour of the big guns of teutonic thrash, Pyracanda’s Two Sides Of A Coin actually holds up just as well as the early 90’s output of Kreator, Sodom et all. In fact, with their occasional speed metal tendencies, huge vocals and galloping riffs, Two Sides Of A Coin arguably delivers a timeless sound; easily fitting in with the current trend for trad metal/speed metal, making Pyracanda more relevant than ever.
These melodic thrashers were absolute class, pure and simple!
8. Entropy – Ashen Existence (1992) [Canada]
A progressive and technical thrash colossus, Entropy’s debut album, Ashen Existence, may not be as well-known as it should be but that just means that when you do discover it, you’re in for one hell of a welcome surprise!
This was ambitious thrash, buoyed by technicality and hell-bent on challenging the notion of what thrash could be. With Ger Schreinert’s vocals swiftly alternating between death growls and raspy screams and wails, Entropy’s genius lay in their ability to hop between sub-genres at will, with changes in tempo and time signatures throwing endless curveballs throughout each and every, lengthy, track.
While, at times, Ashen Existence may sound like Entropy crammed 3 albums of material into the one song (never mind the one album!) – and the sheer number of ideas thrown around with wild abandon can often be overwhelming – if you dig a little deeper it’s abundantly clear that Ashen Existence was the Canadian answer to Dark Angel’s Time Does Not Heal…..and praise doesn’t really get any loftier than that!
7. Aftermath – Eyes Of Tomorrow (1994) [USA]
Aftermath may have first turned heads with the full-throttle, thrash assault, of their speed-of-light demo Killing The Future but it’s their only full length album to date that showcased this undervalued bands full potential and proved to be a total reinvention of their sound.
Eyes Of Tomorrow was technical/progressive thrash incarnate and its off kilter rhythms and mind-boggling complexity jostled with infectious melody, ingenious hooks and heads-down thrashing. Creatively eccentric and filled with fluid leads, accomplished solos and dark ambience, the incredible technicality and progressive nature of Eyes Of Tomorrow remains clear for all to hear.
After the likes of Heathen, Anacrusis and Coroner had given up the ghost, it was down to Aftermath to carry technical/progressive thrash into the mid 90’s!
Aftermath‘s new album, No Time To Waste, will land in 2023.
6. Witchery – Restless & Dead (1998) [Sweden]
Arriving very late in the day, Sweden’s Witchery helped breathe new (blackened) life into a thrash scene that was virtually non-existent in 1998.
Go looking for Exodus and early Metallica corpse-paintin’ it up and throwing even more ‘venom’ into the mix and you’ll find Witchery‘s fuckin’ fantastic debut, Restless & Dead. Suitably evil and unapologetically feral, Witchery simply stripped thrash back to its purest essence, charred the life out of it and released it, twitching and screaming, onto an audience starved of such tasty, burnt-end morsels! Witchery were as much restless and wild as they were restless and dead and with opener, “The Reaper”, ably setting the undead scene, one of the greatest thrash albums of the late 90’s was unearthed from the grave.
In thrash terms, 1998 was a barren wasteland so we hail Satan for Restless & Dead; a thrash gift sent directly from the fiery bowels of hell itself.
5. Depressive Age – First Depression (1992) [Germany]
Kicking off a career in thrash in 1992 was probably ill-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 Depressive Age’s idiosyncratic nature with an innate accessibility. 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 Jan Lubitziki’s often haunting vocal delivery, this was technical thrash refined – mellowed even – despite the expected display of crushing riffs remaining ever-present.
Quite the anomaly 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!
4. Demolition Hammer – Tortured Existence (1990) [USA]
Few bands would ever compete with the sheer, unbridled ferocity of Demolition Hammer‘s ultra-aggressive debut, Tortured Existence.
Walking a very thin line between thrash and death metal meant that Demolition Hammer were instantly one of the heaviest bands around, and when you’re packing heat as powerful as album opener (and all-time thrash classic) “.44 Caliber Brain Surgery”, thrash fans are gonna sit up and listen!
To be this barbarically brutal yet stay on the right side of accessible is a feat in itself….but then Demolition Hammer were no ordinary band. They were born to THRASH and thrash harder and faster than 99% of their peers. In fact, the likes of “Crippling Velocity” and “Neanderthal” will pummel you senseless, even 32 years after the fact.
3. Invocator – Excursion Demise (1991) [Denmark]
If you were under the naive impression that Artillery were the only Danish thrash band really worth caring about then we urge you to turn your attention to Invocator and, particularly, their debut album Excursion Demise!
As far as technical thrash goes, Invocator were not only operating at a much higher level than the majority of their countrymen, they were also rivalling the best the world had to offer.
Sharing a kinship with Atheist lent Invocator a death metal vibe but the likes of the exquisite “(…to a Twisted Recess of Mind)” and “Schismatic Injective Therapy” were actually technical / progressive thrash through and through; leaving it to songs such as “The Persistence From Memorial Chasm” to provide a more visceral thrash kick.
2. Morbid Saint – Spectrum Of Death (1990) [USA]
Morbid Saint‘s debut, Spectrum Of Death, was unapologetically brutal, viciously violent and a remorseless attack on the senses that resulted in arguably the most bloodthirsty thrash album ever recorded!
Clattering drums, rapid riffing and vocals belched from the gullet of a Satan-obsessed psychopath, Morbid Saint were the perfect combination of Dark Angel‘s all-encompassing power, Whiplash‘s speed and grit and the blackened riffing of those teutonic masters, Sodom and Destruction.
Few bands could compete with the intensity found on Spectrum Of Death and if your heart bleeds black for Venom, early Kreator and Darkness Descends era Dark Angel then tracks such as “Assassin” and “Beyond the Gates of Hell” are ample proof that Morbid Saint deserve to sit proudly alongside these legendary purveyors of pure filth!
1. Exhorder – Slaughter In The Vatican (1990) [USA]
Slaughter In The Vatican’s furious thrash and groove-metal establishing credentials rank it as an absolute thrash classic and one of the fiercest thrash albums ever released.
Stripped down to the raw basics, Slaughter In The Vatican‘s 8 tracks never once came up for air, with a low-end rumble, buzzsaw riffing and Kyle Thomas’ ravaged vocals culminating in a primal thrash experience that came perilously close to utter perfection. One of the most unique thrash albums in existence, Slaughter should be revered as a landmark in metal. At the very least it should be spoken about with the same reverential tones reserved for Pantera’s Vulgar Display Of Power (an ironic yet unfortunately necessary comparison and not, we repeat not, a thrash album!)
Alternating between fast and slow tempos (the true ‘groove’ element of their sound), Exhorder‘s Slaughter In The Vatican still has the power to make thrash fans shit their pants!
The greatest thrash metal debut of the 1990’s? We dare you to offer an alternative! We double-dog dare ya!!
Pop it in whatever placing you see fit!
Meshuggah – Contradictions Collapse (1991) [Sweden]
Best known for being the band behind the djent movement, Meshuggah actually started life as a technically audacious thrash act and their debut, Contradictions Collapse, stands tall despite being an obvious anomaly in their back catalogue!
This thrashy, jazzy, progressive, groovy masterclass had more in common with the likes of Defiance (circa Beyond Recognition), underrated Finnish thrashers Stone and Metallica (circa ..And Justice for All) than it did with anything else…..but the seeds for Meshuggah’s pioneering future were already being sown.
“Erroneous Manipulation” still bounces with an elasticity that positively screams “we’re going places” in your face while “Greed” would prove to be the motherload; a 7 minute excursion into chugging, anvil-heavy dissonance and wild rhythmic experimentation.
Meshuggah’s ultra tight playing and polyrhythmic grooves could already be found in abundance, they just happened to be strapped to a more rigid, thrash-dictated, framework at this stage in their career.
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