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The Top Thrash Metal Albums Nobody Listens to
Nearly a decade ago I discovered thrash metal. It was a wonderful moment in time for me because I can’t really think of a more perfect genre of music that I’ve come across in my life.
For the near 2 decades I had been on this earth up until then I listened to music from a variety of different genres – mostly punk rock. I was a fan of The Offspring, Bad Religion, NoFX and Millencolin among others, and hated Blink 182 and Green Day. In fact, while punk from the late 80’s and especially early 1990’s was good, it was punk’s move to pop punk later on, particularly in the late 90's and 2000s that made me abandon it.
So I needed a new genre to call home, and found it in thrash metal when I started listening to Megadeth. For me, thrash metal captures the speed and aggression of punk, and the heavier sound more associated with heavy metal, and the marriage is glorious.
Unlike a lot of people who dislike Dave Mustaine, I worshiped him, and I listened to Megadeth’s material for nearly a good 3 years or so before I tried any other band. I had a lot of catching up to do, even on Megadeth’s discography alone.
From there I moved on to Metallica (naturally), and then Slayer. While Metallica was a brief love affair, Slayer was the only band I listened to for some time as well, for a good year or two.
The big four (or unholy triumvirate if you don’t count Anthrax, and personally I don’t because I’m not particularly found of them – and this sentiment is quite common apparently) of thrash metal was all I knew for a good few years, until I was desperate to broaden my horizons and started to consume thrash metal voraciously.
I decided after some time to make my own list (which likely few will agree with) on what some of the best thrash metal acts there are, choosing to focus really on their best albums ever produced. One thing is for sure: you won’t find these on any best of list on the internet (I’ve looked at several), and it’s absolutely criminal how underrated these bands and their brilliant albums really are.
"I needed a new genre to call home, and found it in thrash metal when I started listening to Megadeth. For me, thrash metal captures the speed and aggression of punk, and the heavier sound more associated with heavy metal, and the marriage is glorious."
Anihilated – The Ultimate Desecration (1989)
This thrash outfit hails from the UK. Most people don’t even know there ever was a thrash metal scene in the UK. Well, I didn’t anyway, but it’s true, and Anihilated is considered to be among the first and best.
They started off in 1981 as a punk rock band calling themselves “The Anihilated”, and produced some demos and an EP before eventually moving into crossover thrash territory. While the sound of Created in Hate is quite different from their previous efforts, it was only really a sign of things to come.
The following year, 1989, they released The Ultimate Desecration. Someone once described it (especially the guitars and vocals) as sounding like Slayer, particularly South of Heaven, except much, much better. And it is. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say that this album is better than most of the stuff Slayer ever produced, save Show No Mercy.
It is truly one of the fastest, most technical thrash albums I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to, and Anihilated never shied away from using a more melodic sound either – something which either a lot of thrash metal bands tend to avoid, or many fans of the genre decry (or both) for some reason. Not I, however. It really is fantastic. The vocals by Si Cobb are particularly well done, with that signature rolled “r” sound. That makes this band instantly recognisable to the few who have ever listened to them.
After The Ultimate Desecration, Anihilated didn’t release anything new for 20 years, until they reformed, and since then they’ve put out 2 albums, Scorched Earth Policy and iDeviant. The former still has a bit of that classic Anihilated sound, and even though it’s nowhere near as good, it’s still worth a listen, and it’s great to see a properly good thrash metal band make a comeback.
"Someone once described The Ultimate Desecration as sounding like Slayer, particularly South of Heaven, except much, much better. And it is. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say that this album is better than most of the stuff Slayer ever produced."
Coven 6669 – Blessed is the Black (1988)
This band was originally known as Coven (not to be confused with the psychedelic rock band that ended up forcing them to change their name), and they came from Seattle, Washington -- perhaps one of the lesser explored thrash scenes in the USA, but nevertheless, it exists.
While they made more than one album, Blessed is the Black is their best, without a shadow of a doubt. From the intro to the title track at the beginning, you get a sense that you’re about to embark on quite a special musical journey. The drumming on "Blessed is the Black" is so tight that I can’t help but mention it, and in addition to this, despite some really quite bad production, the guitars while not sounding particularly good, the riffs that are played on them are rather catchy. The chorus to songs like "6669" and the high pitched screams right down to the demonic sounding growls are also a welcome addition.
Coven 6669 was never supposed to be a “serious” type thrash metal band like many of the other bands around at that time. Their songs were more humourous, and this is evident when looking at the song titles, and especially when listening to the vocals.
More recently they have re-recorded Blessed is the Black and even have a new album out.
"The drumming on Blessed is the Black is so tight that I can’t help but mention it, and in addition to this. The chorus to songs like 6669 and the high pitched screams right down to the demonic sounding growls are also a welcome addition."
Artillery - By Inheritance (1990)
Seemingly like some others, I’m not a huge fan of this band’s music. I’ve listened to Fear of Tomorrow and Terror Squad and neither is really that good. It’s just all mediocre stuff at best in my opinion.
Just out of interest’s sake, Terror Squad has some of the worst cover art for any album ever made, and there are likely many contenders for the title of worst ever.
But By Inheritance is different. As a whole it’s a much better album, with better production and just a better overall sound. And the vocals by Fleming Ronsdorf, while not everyone’s taste, are great in my opinion, certainly better than on any albums they put out before. Stand out tracks like "Khomaniac" and “Beneath the Clay” really do show how far the band came in several years since their first release.
Apparently By Inheritance is one of the better known thrash metal albums in Europe, where Artillery comes from (Denmark, to be exact), but to people across the channel it's relatively unknown.
The vocals by Fleming Ronsdorf, while not to everyone’s taste, are great in my opinion, certainly better than on any albums they put out before. Stand out tracks like “Beneath the Clay” really do show how far the band came in several years since their first release.
Forbidden – Twisted Into Form (1990)
Along with fellow semi-greats Testament and Exodus (sometimes referred to as the medium two), Forbidden was one of the more successful thrash metal bands to hail from the bay area. They were going to call themselves “Forbidden Evil”, but thought this sounded too much like a Black Metal band, and opted to drop the “evil” part.
Their first album, Forbidden Evil, is considered to be a good album, and more of a proper thrash metal album than its successor, Twisted Into Form, which has a more progressive sound to it. Despite that, I think its the better album of the two, as it has many catchy guitar riffs and choruses – speaking of which, I would be remiss to mention the vocals by Russ Anderson. I wouldn’t say he has an incredible vocal range (especially not nowadays), but in his prime he was capable of hitting some very high notes, and his vocals were extremely clean too. In fact it could be argued that his voice was more suited to heavy metal or some other subgenre, but somehow it works, at least on this album, which I consider to be among the last best thrash metal albums in the early 1990’s before thrash died out for some considerable time (some may argue for good).
"I wouldn’t say Russ has an incredible vocal range, but in his prime he was capable of hitting some very high notes, and his vocals were extremely clean too. In fact it could have been argued that his voice was more suited to heavy metal or some other subgenre, but somehow it works."
Possessor – City Built With Skulls (2012)
Just to show that this article isn’t all geared towards thrash metal from the 1980’s and the early 1990’s, here’s a band that is very new by comparison.
A lot of thrash metal bands these days can be put into two camps: one is new school thrash metal, and the other is thrash metal resurgence, or as some people like to call it, the new wave of old school thrash. Possessor falls into the latter category, that has been on the rise for the better part of the last decade.
But what sets this one apart from a lot of the others is its raw energy and originality, and just utterly brutal play style, accompanied by some of the shrillest vocals I’ve heard from any thrash metal band to date. Most other thrash bands that exist these days are merely thrash worship bands that sing about how great thrash is and so on, but these guys for the most part are not like that. I’m also sure that most heavy metal and thrash metal icons would not be seen dead with a lot of the prepubescent kids that seem to dominate the scene nowadays, but there are a few photos out there of Rob Halford himself of Judas Priest fame getting his picture taken with the band. That speaks volumes to me about how good they really are.
And while this album is good, but some of the stuff they put out on their EP, Make Them Eat Metal, that came out the following year is probably even better and should be checked out too.
"What sets this one apart from a lot of the others is its raw energy and originality, and just utterly brutal play style, accompanied by some of the shrillest vocals I’ve heard from any thrash metal band to date."
Exodus - Pleasures of the Flesh (1987)
Whenever somebody mentions Exodus, they immediately think of one album, and that is Bonded by Blood – and for good reason. It certainly is one of the best thrash metal albums ever made, there’s no denying that.
But Exodus has released more than a dozen albums since then. It’s just a shame that there wasn’t as much recognisability with them seeing as they’ve had so many line-up changes over the years, even the vocalists – and in my opinion when you start changing the vocalists, you’re impacting a big part of that familiarity with fans. After Bonded by Blood was released, they got rid of screamer supreme Paul Baloff (RIP), and brought in Steve “Zetro” Souza. And even though he is better at singing than Paul ever was, with all due respect, he wasn’t always to everyone’s taste. Nowadays Rob Dukes is even less popular with fans.
Granted Megadeth has had a lot of line-up changes, but Dave always stayed, naturally. Love him or hate him, without him, I doubt they would have been as big.
Exodus was never as popular as any of the big four (some call Exodus one of the medium two – the other being Testament). One of the reasons could be because of the line-up changes, the other because they came in comparatively late with their albums. By the time 1985 rolled around, Metallica had already brought out 2 albums and was well on their way to getting out a third, which eclipsed most other offerings at that time.
Pleasures of the Flesh is the only real album by Exodus other than Bonded By Blood that I really listen to. It’s nowhere near as technical as Bonded by Blood – that album pretty much raised the bar for thrash metal in the mid 80’s, and in my mind was one of the first technical thrash albums, before they passed the torch on to guys like Megadeth with Peace Sells…Buy Who’s Buying and especially with Rust in Peace.
But Pleasures of the Flesh does have a good sound. This I’m convinced of. It’s got some catchy riffs, and solos, but it is just too repetitive to even come close to toppling their previous effort as their all time best. That’s why Pleasures of the Flesh got such a knock by critics and fans alike – not because it’s bad – just because it isn’t as good as Bonded By Blood. It does have its share of fans though, and it must be popular enough for copyright infringement claims on YouTube rendering it virtually impossible to find the album on the website anymore.
"Pleasures of the Flesh is the only real album by Exodus other than Bonded By Blood that I really listen to. It’s nowhere near as technical as Bonded by Blood, But it does have a good sound. It’s got some catchy riffs, and solos, but it is just too repetitive to even come close to toppling their previous effort as their all time best."
Megadeth - So Far, So Good… So What? (1988)
It may seem quite strange listing a big four album in here, but what I found hardest was deciding on whether or not to list this or Killing is My Business…and Business is Good. But in the end I went with this one, and I’ll explain why.
What killed this album for a lot of people was, firstly because like Exodus above with Pleasures of the Flesh, it was a step down from the iconic Peace Sells… But Who's’ Buying. So Far, So Good… So What? was the difficult third album for Megadeth, and it isn't appreciated by critics. The second reason why this is, is because the production on this album isn’t very good either.
While this is not the strongest album Megadeth ever made, certainly not on the same level as the albums either side of it, it’s not terrible. In fact it’s far from being their worst album. It contains their best driving song in "502". They have done others and they are awful by comparison. "It has In My Darkest Hour", an ode to former band mate from Metallica, Cliff Burton, which is considered to be one of their best songs ever made, and always appears on their set lists, and on their greatest hits albums or anthologies.
It’s an underrated album that probably not many people mention. It also doesn’t have the same thrashy vibe to it as their more well known and acclaimed efforts, but once you listen to it, it’s really not bad at all.
"While this is not the strongest album Megadeth ever made, certainly not on the same level as the albums either side of it, it’s not terrible. In fact it’s far from being their worst album.
It’s an underrated album that probably not many people mention. It also doesn’t have the same thrashy vibe to it as their more well known and acclaimed efforts, but once you listen to it, it’s really not bad at all."
D.A.M. – Inside Out (1991)
Towards the early 90’s, thrash metal was starting to die out, and there were a few good albums that were all part of the last hurrah for the subgenre before a more mainstream and easy listening sound became the order of the day.
Most people know of the greats like Rust in Peace and Seasons in the Abyss, and maybe even a few – mainly European folk – know of By Inheritance. But nobody ever really heard of these guys as far as I know. They were part of the Brit thrash scene, and their first album was pretty drab and received poor reviews from critics, but this album is different. It really does sound quite good, not only due to good guitar work, but I think the vocalist, Jason McLoughlin, must get a nod of appreciation too for his efforts.
Brit thrash on the whole was never as publicised as the likes of American and German thrash, but D.A.M.’s Inside Out is one of the better albums to come out of that scene.
Beowulf – Beowulf (1986)
While this is primarily a list for thrash metal bands, Beowulf is more crossover thrash. Other bands on this list like Anihilated might also fit into this category, or at least they did at one point. Crossover thrash borrows from several genres and subgenres like punk rock, hardcore, speed metal and thrash metal.
Crossover thrash was always a difficult subgenre for me to get into. On one hand I grew up listening to punk rock, and thrash metal has its roots or at least part of its roots in punk rock music. And yet I couldn’t ever bring myself to like Suicidal Tendencies or any of the more well known crossover thrash bands.
Beowulf is different, or at least this album is (a lot of their later stuff is merely okay by comparison). Beowulf is described as sounding like Motorhead meets Suicidal Tendencies. And while I don’t particularly like Suicidal Tendencies, I always loved Motorhead, and you can clearly see the influence said band has on Beowulf, from the umlaut included in the name, to the way Dale Henderson sings, and even the overall lyrical themes presented in the songs.
Beowulf is a great example of a classic, underrated but excellent crossover thrash album. The songs are just so catchy and upbeat compared to most thrash out there, that you can’t help but just play them loud and feel good while listening to them.
Witchhammer – 1487 (1990)
This band didn’t really get the recognition it deserved, at least not worldwide like bands out of Germany did. There were two reasons for this: firstly, they came from Norway – not a place typically associated with thrash metal and secondly, they got into the scene quite late, releasing this particular album in 1990, when thrash was on the way out. The band seemed quite aware of this, seeing as their second album, The Lost Tapes, which was recorded and finished in 1991, was only released in 2000, perhaps when interest in the genre was stronger – although it probably only really saw the beginning of a resurgence years later. This perhaps shows some considerable business acumen on the part of the people involved. Either that or they didn't have enough money to release it earlier.
They also didn’t have a record deal of any sort, instead self-financing the album. This obviously meant they didn’t have much marketing, but it also meant that they had more creative control – something which weakened a lot of other thrash metal bands in the 1990’s.
Put all of these together and you would expect a band to produce a lacklustre album, but this just isn’t. It’s incredible.
For a self-financed effort it has amazing production, and it has a great sound overall. The vocals are pretty killer, as long as Per Ståle Pettersen keeps singing, and doesn’t try to talk. He does this in the first part of album during the intro, and it sucks because you pick up on a Norwegian accent. This becomes far less noticeable later on. The guitars sound awesome and there are some strong riffs in here. Listen to songs like “Kill All In Sight” to see (or hear) what I mean.
The album received at least some attention seeing as it was re-released years later, and it is definitely their best effort to date.
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