By the time 1985 rolled around, thrash metal was already off to a more than healthy start but it could be argued that it was also the year when thrash truly broke through, delivering a series of genre-defining debut albums in the process.
Presented in no particular order as they’re all mandatory….
Artillery – Fear Of Tomorrow [Denmark]
Denmark’s Artillery have often found themselves criminally ignored and although 1990’s By Inheritance is their masterpiece, it’s Fear Of Tomorrow that deserves to be revered for its contribution to thrash metal’s ascendancy.
Insanely-fast tremolo picking and machine-gun drums provide the battery while Artillery’s penchant for settling into mid-paced groove counterbalances the speed; no more so than on album highlights “The Almighty” and “King, Thy Name Is Slayer”.
If this gem is collecting dust in your collection it’s time to unearth it’s intricate treasures…. because thrash this good deserves to be heard!
Destruction – Infernal Overkill [Germany]
These Germanic, bullet-belt strewn boys made one hell of an entrance when their full-length debut, Infernal Overkill, detonated in 1985.
Blackened thrash was the order of the day and Infernal Overkill came out charred, scorched and searing; the heat generated from this trio of tormentors manifesting itself as feverish thrashers such as “The Ritual”, “Thrash Attack” and “Antichrist”.
Sounding far more evil and malevolently sinister than their American counterparts, Destruction would go on to define the Teutonic thrash scene…..but it all began here!
Destructor – Maximum Destruction (1985) [USA]
With band members christening themselves Matt Flammable, Pat Rabid, Dave Overkill and Dave Holocaust, you’re not looking for subtlety when you blast Destructor’s 1985 debut Maximum Destruction….. you’re looking for unadulterated THRASH with a side order of POWER!
And guess what? That’s exactly what you get!
Maximum Destruction’s riotously rudimentary nature may sound antiquated to modern ears but these guys were at the forefront of extremity in 1985, matching Slayer in the ferocity stakes and unleashing all manner of merry thrashin’ hell in the name youthful abandonment. An often overlooked release, Maximum Destruction was every inch the equal of Slayer’s Show No Mercy and Anthrax’s Fistful Of Metaland Destructor fully deserved to reach a wider audience with their reprehensibly raw racket.
Exodus – Bonded By Blood [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 metals most legendary albums 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, quite frankly.
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.
However, Bonded By Blood‘s title-track, “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 lock-up.
Hirax – Raging Violence [USA]
An anorexic production job does little to dent the ferocious nature of Hirax‘s powerful debut released during thrash metal’s infancy. A blistering crossover thrash / speed metal exercise in full-throttle riffing, Hirax may have been a little rough around the edges but their often undervalued contribution to the scene is actually undeniable.
With one of the most distinctive voices in thrash – as an ambassador for the genre as well as a vocalist – frontman Katon W. De Pena remains a thrash icon. His melodic John Cyriis (Agent Steel) meets Eric A.K. (Flotsam And Jetsam) wail was the perfect foil for his bandmate’s hardcore punk infused bouts of maddening metal.
14 tracks in just over 30 minutes signals just how fast these guys actually played and precious few could match them for speed in ’85! Trading finesse for brute force, the likes of “Bombs Of Death” – an all-time thrash classic – still managed to drip-feed a little melody into the mix, enabling Hirax’s barely in control barbarity to warrant repeat listening.
Iron Angel – Hellish Crossfire [Germany]
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 back in ‘85; diabolically evil, face-meltingly fast and leading metal into ever more dangerous realms!
Opener, “The Metalian”, kickstarts the tempo and Iron Angel never once dropped 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.
Kreator – Endless Pain [Germany]
One listen to Kreator‘s Endless Pain and you’ll know that pain was more than just a prerequisite, it was damned near essential!
Motörhead meets Venom in an endless parade of pile-driving riffs with little deviation from the standard verse-chorus-bridge school of song writing for dummies. Not that this is a negative; this was the early days of thrash and all-out-assault was the norm, experimentation would come later.
Like a feral animal taking bloody chunks out of its prey, tracks such as “Total Death” and “Flag Of Hate” are raw, animalistic and utterly unforgiving.
Endless Pain practically defines thrash in all it’s gory glory; essential doesn’t quite cut it.
Megadeth – Killing Is My Business… and Business Is Good! [USA]
Miraculously, a rejected genius with a spiralling drug addiction – and a mouth that refused to stay shut – led to auspicious beginnings! Dave Mustaine’s Megadeth were a recipe for disaster but the result gave us one of the most technically gifted thrash bands on the planet.
Killing Is My Business… is undoubtedly Megadeth at their most unrefined and unrestrained with “Rattlehead” and “Mechanic” particularly endearing the band to slathering thrash fans the world over.
While it may be lacking the precision pummelling of later releases, any short comings were balanced by boundless energy and a determination like no other; Metallica’s loss was the world’s gain.
Onslaught – Power From Hell [UK]
Power From Hell was the debut from the UK’s greatest thrash metal export and at this point in their career they had barely escaped the confines of hardcore punk and Venom’s black thrash racket.
Guitarist Nige Rockett handled the lion’s share of the song writing and his cacophony of abrasive and antagonistic sounds signalled the early stages of death metal, no more so than on the fiery “Death Metal” and “Witch Hunt” .
Coincidentally, on the other side of the Atlantic, Possessed (more on them later) were forging ahead with a similar approach, both bands naming a song on their debut “Death Metal” and both bands forewarning the world of the extremity to come.
Onslaught‘s impact on thrash and death metal should not be underestimated.
Overkill – Feel The Fire [USA]
Overkill‘s full length debut was an instantly satisfying fix for those thrash fans looking for an East-Coast band to rival the Bay Area’s dominance.
Feel The Fire is an absolute classic from a band who have spent the best part of 40 years defiantly thrashing their guts out for the metal masses. It’s fair to say that consistency and Overkill literally go hand in hand.
“Rotten To The Core”, “Hammerhead” and “Kill At Command” thrill with wild abandonment and earth-shaking riffs buffered by Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth’s shrill vocals.
If Overkill had only released this record they still would be revered as thrash pioneers, as it turns out we have a further 19(!) records to relish as well!
Possessed – Seven Churches [USA]
On their debut album, Possessed took a cut and paste approach to their music by incorporating the viciousness of Venom, the speed of Motörhead and the thrashing, atonal guitars of early Exodus and Slayer…..and the result was an innovative and primitive thrash metal sound which came to define death metal.
“The Exorcist”, “Burning In Hell” and “Seven Churches” were held together by Jeff Becerra’s unholy roar; simultaneously aping Lemmy from Motörhead yet producing a guttural tone that would go on to be the bread and butter of death metal.
Possessed take the honour of inventing death metal on their debut album, this is constantly up for debate but we’re standing by it; no Seven Churches, no death metal.
Razor – Executioner’s Song [Canada]
In thrall to the pioneering sounds of Motörhead and early Iron Maiden, Canada’s Razor were hardly unique (even on their debut) but what they lacked in originality they made up for by being resolutely fast and loud!
Executioner’s Song was balls-to-the-wall NWOBHM-tinged thrash of the highest order and its raw energy and unbridled passion remains a joy to behold. While 4 of Executioner’s Songs’ songs (sic) had already been released on 1984’s killer Armed and Dangerous EP, that did nothing to lessen the album’s overall impact with “Take This Torch” going down in history as one of thrash metal’s greatest tracks.
Gloriously unrepentant and revelling in its own heads-down simplicity, Executioner’s Song’s ability to bang that head remains undiminished – 100% breakneck THRASH!
Sacrilege – Behind The Realms Of Madness [UK]
A furious cacophony of pure thrashing noise, Sacrilege‘s seminal debut was a crust punk, D-beat, thrash combo designed to floor apathetic listeners who thought they knew the meaning of ‘heavy’. Ably blurring the lines between more traditional hardcore punk and the darker side of thrash metal, Sacrilege’s blitzkrieg riffing and Lynda ‘Tam’ Simpson’s feral shouts marked them out as true progenitors of crust.
With an antagonistic vigour unrivalled by any other band in the scene, Sacrilege were heavy in every sense of the word with their perfectly rendered noise counterbalanced by political
Behind The Realms Of Madness was/is the kind of album that transcends borders and acts as a defining moment in the 80’s cross-pollination of both punk and metal……its influence cannot be underestimated!
S.O.D – Speak English Or Die [USA]
S.O.D were completely devoid of tact, politically incorrect, full of humour (very black humour) and capable of thrashing your nuts clean off!
One of the first bands to throw hardcore punk and thrash into a blender, S.O.D were just some young punks letting off steam (Anthax’s Scott Ian and Charlie Benante reuniting with ex-bassist Dan Lilker and recruiting vocalist Billy Milano) but turned out to be one of the 80’s most influential bands.
S.O.D invented crossover thrash and systematically crushed your head in with heavy-hitters such as “Sargent D and the S.O.D.”, “Milano Mosh” and “Identity”. In hindsight, much of Speak English Or Die’s lyrical content is dubious at best but that doesn’t detract from the fact it remains a crossover thrash masterpiece!
Watchtower – Energetic Disassembly [USA]
Technical progressive thrash written by a band so far ahead of their time they probably already knew how Avatar 3 is going to end, Watchtower‘s Energetic Disassembly borders on impossible to describe….but we’ll give it a go anyway.
Overflowing with complexity, neck-shredding tempos and banshee solos, Energetic Disassembly is a consistently impressive listen but one let down by a tinny, sub-standard production.
Production woes aside, Watchtower set the bar so high on this release that they probably spilt their drinks and any fan of progressive metal unfamiliar with Energetic Disassembly‘s riches are encouraged to seek it out.