Iron Angel – Hellish Crossfire (1985)
You’ve got to give these guys credit. Iron Angel were ripping heads clean off way back in 1985 and their distinct brand of Germanic speed/thrash may sound a tad meat n’ potatoes to modern ears but Hellish Crossfire was the shit over 30 years ago; diabolically evil, face-meltingly fast and leading metal into ever more dangerous realms!
Opener, “The Metalian”, kickstarts the tempo and Iron Angel never once drop the pace from then on in, unleashing merry hell in the name of real metal and peeling off riffs like the end of the world was truly nigh. Totally in thrall to Satan, these sinners concocted an absolute blast of mid 80’s thrash that remains ridiculously addictive and holds its position as a speed/thrash classic from the genre’s formative years.
Mekong Delta – Dances Of Death (And Other Walking Shadows) (1990)
Let’s be fair, we could have included any one of Mekong Delta’s 80’s and 90’s albums (take your pick from Mekong Delta / The Music Of Erich Zann / The Principal Of Doubt / Kaleidoscope / Visons Fugitives) as each and every one can be considered a milestone of progressive thrash metal.
We’ve gone for Dances Of Death….Mekong Delta’s highly technical, yet undeniably aggressive, fourth album that often bordered on undecipherable madness, with labyrinthine song structures and abstract riff-patterns jostling for attention amidst a sturdy thrash framework.
With “Dances Of Death” broken down into 8 movements over 19 thrilling minutes, Mekong Delta’s prog intentions couldn’t have been made clearer and while it may not be an easy album to dive into, if you’re going to get the most out of this rewarding beast, then you’d better face the fucker head-on!
Paradox – Heresy (1989)
A fully paid up concept album, Heresy re-told the tale of the Albigensian Crusade of the 13th century and in the process redefined the limits of thrash, ironically marching forth on their own crusade to combine elegance with destruction.
Approaching thrash with far less malice than the likes of Sodom, Kreator etc, Paradox instead embraced a power metal aesthetic, aligning themselves more with the likes of Metal Church, Anthrax (minus any silliness) and Onslaught circa In Search Of Sanity than with their Germanic brethren. It paid off too, helping Paradox to stand out from the pack and offering an accessibility that their teutonic peers simply didn’t offer at this point in time.
Featuring soaring twin harmonies, mind-frazzling solos and a rhythm section that could rival the tightest thrash acts around, Paradox were anything but their namesake, delivering instead a concise and melodic attack on the senses that was unrelenting in its clinical efficiency.
Pyracanda – Two Sides Of A Coin (1990)
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!
Sieges Even – Lifecycle (1988)
Where to begin when discussing one of the finest moments in progressive thrash history?
Sieges Even may have gone on to become a more considered, melodic progressive metal act but their debut was a beast of technical/progressive thrash, powered by the almost falsetto delivery of Franz Herde.
Comparisons with Watchtower remain rife but to dismiss Lifecycle as a mere clone of Control And Resistance would be missing the point. This was an era of exploration and of pushing boundaries, which is exactly what Sieges Even were doing from the outset.
Sure, both bands were influenced by the prog giants of the 70’s – alongside the thrash boom led by Metallica – but Sieges Even took everything that much further, splicing the DNA of prog and thrash to create a new, extreme, version of both. The results were extraordinary, dazzling the mind with a series of labyrinthine structures that were brooding, malevolent and practically beyond judgment.
Vendetta – Brain Damage (1988)
They don’t come more unique than Vendetta‘s Brain Damage, an album that retained the required thrash crunch of the era while significantly maturing and offering unparalleled diversity to the discerning thrash fan.
This was the sound of a band that should have left the underground, seriously skilled and home to such consistently impressive songwriting that a breakthrough seemed inevitable. Alas, it just wasn’t to be. But, that’s no reason to overlook its merits now as Brain Damage‘s fiendishly catchy melodies and exquisite guitar work are as impressive now as they were back in 1988!
On a par with the awe-inspiring work found on Coroner and Deathrow’s 80s technical output, Vendetta’s prowess and crystal clear clarity showcased a band whose merits were writ large.
After all, Brain Damage truly is an unsung masterpiece from the golden era of thrash!