In my metal experience, 1990 was the best year for my then-favourite music genre: Thrash. Sure, 1989 had some “classic” releases but for me 1990 was streets ahead. “Wait, wait, wait!” you cry! “1989 was THE year!”. Yeah. Nah. Kinda. But not.
All these great albums came out in 1989 : Dark Angel’s Leave Scars (on my top 10 albums of all time), Deathrow’s Deception Ignored (Top 5), Exodus’ Fabulous Disaster (even now one of the best guitar tones on a metal recording), Kreator’s Extreme Aggression (an extremely insane band), Nuclear Assault’s Handle With Care (best “Required Nasty bit” in a metal music video), Voivod’s Nothingface (the best thing to come out of Canada since William Shatner) and of course Overkill’s The Years of Decay (my Guitar Authorised Edition of the tab was actually in my guitar case for years when I was learning – damn you Carl Culpepper for making me carry an extra 0.35 Kgs everywhere!!!). Fuck me that was a good year.
But 1990 – for me – was what I was looking for. Everyone turned the song-writing dial up a couple of notches. Don’t get me wrong I love a good moshpit with air-riffing, elbows flailing and heads trying to hammer nails into invisible planks of wood on a Black and Decker workbench. That was very much the music of ’89. But I wanted a little more. I was learning music theory and getting my chops down as best I could. I love good composition and story-telling.
Also, I have the attention span of a kitten with ADHD full of cocaine that’s been given a ball of yarn which is also, somehow, a disco glitter-ball.
5 minutes into 1990 and we were blessed with Slayer’s Seasons in the Abyss, Suicidal Tendencies’ Lights…Camera…, Death Angel‘s Act III, Reason by Anacrusis, Pantera’s Cowboys from Hell, Entombed’s Left Hand Path, Prong’s Beg to Differ, Obituary’s Cause of Death and the mighty Exhorder’s Slaughter in the Vatican. Heavyweight punchers the lot.
And Twisted into Form.
When Forbidden dropped this masterpiece, I’m fairly certain I was nursing a semi after about 10 seconds. Then again I was 16 or 17 so I was probably doing that a lot. Especially when I saw Julianne Regan… mmmm…. All About Eve-y…..
That acoustic intro moving around those minors made me rethink melody. The first few distorted chords strike like an evil hammer forging a pit of suffering and despair. Then the ascending lines take us into the first song proper : Infinite. Moist? I needed a few towels. And we are only 90 seconds in. Fucking hell… And then Russ Anderson decides to lay down the best power metal-esque vocals I’ve ever heard, before or since. I wasn’t much of a Priest fan (that was old man’s music to me back then) but buck gets ten if you can find something Halford warbled that Russ couldn’t accomplish better back then. On top of Paul Bostaph and Matt Camacho laying down the pulse I didn’t think you could get crisper, more succulent riffage.
Then we get Craig Locicerco’s solo with those weaving bends that I’ve tried to emulate in my own playing ever since hearing them first on Infinite. It’s a master class in how to compose a solo that musically and thematically oozes emotion. My favourite solo ever is the one from Face of Hate by Intruder but this is a close second in every way. Both those players were just leagues ahead of anyone else at the time in my mind.
And let’s not forget the change in Forbidden from Forbidden Evil was largely down to Tim Calvert – RIP. Tragically taken from us a few years ago. Music is the lesser for being without him.
So by the end of the first proper track I’m all in. Completely. This is what I’d always wanted.
“OK we get it. You love it. Where are you going with this?”
Well, I don’t love it. I mean I do love it. But not that way. It’s me. Not Forbidden.
People always hark on about what is the ‘Greatest’ thrash album or the “classic [insert genre here] album” and that’s all amazing but we will never agree. Because we’re different. But I would say Twisted into Form is the best Thrash album to anyone who asks me.
But I’d never say it was the ‘Greatest’. But it’s definitely the best.
Over the years, people who think White Wedding is a metal song or Busted were basically deathcore have asked me “what is thrash all about then?”. And I point them in the direction of Twisted into Form. Every time. Because it’s the best. The best at explaining what thrash – to me – was all about. If you wanted to understand thrash – and what it could do and make you feel – it was a perfect introduction. You could have played something more popular but I don’t think thrash was ever about popularity. Twisted into Form has brutality, precision, technical composition and stunning performances. The band wore leather, jeans and Hi-Tecs (with the tongue out, as is good and proper). For me it embodies the genre and what we were all feeling at the time.
I was a DJ in 1990 playing at a metal club. We all used to share LP’s (But never *cough* copied them to tape. No. Not ever) especially when people would bring shit in for me to play. I could never get the dance floor filled with the entire thrash crowd in the room. But the closest I ever came was “Step by Step”. It had that “we can all agree on this one” feel. Yeah other bands were more popular – by far – but this one brought everyone together. Even me. I had to set it going in the booth then go for a mosh then run back when that last chorus started so I could change to the next record.
Everything about the album is something magic in the thrash catalogue. Even the mix is flawless by modern standards. The playing is Overkill-tight and Exodus-crunchy. The drums are Dark Angel-fast and Nuclear Assault-punchy without being overwhelming and – gasp – you can hear the bass. In all honesty you can’t fault it.
But it’s not my favourite thrash album by a long way.
There are angrier albums, heavier albums and by far more technical albums. I don’t even like R.I.P very much – it’s a poor side 2 opener. That should have been Tossed Away. And to be honest side 2 doesn’t sparkle as much as side 1. Except for One Foot In Hell which to me is categorically one of the finest metal songs ever written.
Twisted into Form is the best thrash album not because it’s perfect but because it’s the best at defining what thrash could be. Everyone who I played it to who didn’t like metal would go “oooo” a lot and want more. That didn’t happen with almost every other band.
It’s also beautiful. Not perfect. Something is beautiful because it’s flawed, not because it’s perfect.
Now this all depends on who you are talking to, what country you are in and what the crowd is so don’t take this as gospel – it’s just me recounting an opinion.
And it has aged well. When you’re young what makes your endorphins and hormones rage (other than obviously Julianne Regan as we have previously discussed) is not what turns you on in later life (except….). As an adult with thirty more years under my belt this album’s music, playing, tone and lyrics still resonate not only love but aspiration. I still want to be as good as Tim and Craig. I still want to write songs that hold a candle to the writing on this album (genre-restrained as it was).
So it’s the best. And it isn’t. Because it can’t be. It’s too beautiful. So it’s flawed.
So what’s your quintessential Thrash album? What embodies the genre for you? What’s page one of your new pamphlet : ‘Thrash and how to recognise it in the wild’?
Let’s face it, there are quite a few contenders! This is just mine. Chris J loves his lists so I might drop one of my own and I can almost guarantee that we won’t agree on at least half, maybe all. And that’s because we are all passionate about – nay…. WORSHIP – metal. But we won’t see eye to eye. And that’s why there cannot be a “Greatest”. Or a “Best”. But fuck me if it isn’t fun arguing over it 🙂
Just for your information, I played Twisted Into Form a couple of times before and whilst writing this and I can report the reaction in the trousers is still very much the same. Just thought you needed to know that.