Like all those who have started listening metal music in the early 90s, I have developed an exaggerated passion for thrash metal. These were the years of the Big Four, and nothing seemed cooler, more energetic and incredible than this fantastic type of music. Fast forward of 30 years, and we still have a good number of bands, both new and “mature” ones, dedicating their skills to thrashy riffs. Over the years the genre has gradually transformed, mainly incorporating more modern elements such as those developed in groove metal and metalcore. It is no coincidence, therefore, that today we should use the terms “classic thrash” or “old school thrash” to indicate those groups which remained faithful to the original characteristics of thrash, without too many evolutions. But because I am one of those who still have some problems to untangle the moltitude of tags and appellations that circulate today in the metal arena (they are far too many), in this blog I continue to categorize as thrash also the altered versions of the main genre, i.e. those that are often indicated with thrash / groove or crossover.
The year 2017 has been of average level for thrash metal. Among the hundreds bands we have listened to, about thirty of them were noted for releasing nice albums and songs (you will find them all in the mixtape which I’ve prepared for the occasion), but only a few have produced something really interesting and destined to stay for long in our music players. Most of the major publications took place in the first half of the year, while in recent months there have been very few releases worthy of note. Anyway, there have been some albums that deserve a particular mention for their contribution to this genre: we had the incredible album released by Power Trip, a band destined to leave a deep mark in the history of this genre of music, and some other important confirmations such as those of Havok, Body Count and Cavalera Conspiracy. A handful of interesting debuts completes the picture.
You’ll find here the list of the best 10 thrash metal albums of 2017, ranked from the bottom to the top. But in order to represent a wider picture of the state of thrash metal I’ve also prepared a mixtape for celebrating all the bands that made a valuable contribution to this genre of music. You have 2 hours of uninterrupted ride into thrash metal: 29 bands, 29 songs, one single flow of energy. And if you want to stay updated on the last news in thrash, at the end of the post you’ll find also the link to the Spotify playlist that I maintain and bring up-to-date with any new song which emerges from the mass. Have a nice listen and any comment is welcome!
DIVISION & DISHARMONY by Swarm
It’s nice to start this chart with a debut album. From Antibes, France, this new quintet of metallers released on last March an interesting album where modern thrash is mixed with groovy and hardcore elements. And since its publication on last March, Division & Disharmony, the new and first album by Swarm, has been often taken into consideration everytime a new metal compilations was going to be published on this blog, reflecting the extreme enjoyability of the songs contained in the LP.
From a musical point of view, the album makes no effort to hide the many sources of inspiration that contributed to the genesis of this work, from the arpeggios a-la Master of Puppets that open some of the songs, to the the alternation of clean and growing voices that has now become a distinctive feature of Metalcore, not to mention the changes of rhythmthat have led to the success of historical groups such as the Pantera and Machine Head. All these components, however, have been mixed and blended with great skill to the point that the final product is absolutely not just a patchwork of elements from the history of metal. On the contrary, the combination of old and new elements has generated an extremely varied work and – most important – really nice to listen. Presumably with the subsequent works of this promising group we will see the birth of a more unique and particular style of music, but for the moment we enjoy this excellent debut work which, at the end of the year, has reached the top ten by making out many more famous competitors.
I AM LEGION by Witchery
We shall be honest here. Given the expectations that we had on the new work from the Swedish Witchery – largely justified by the beautiful LP that the band published about a year ago – the fact that we find their new record placed only at the ninth position of the chart highlights by itself a certain level of disappointment. And to some extent it was predictable. This is a band that used to make us wait many years between two consecutive albums – with excellent results – and which this time decided to return to the studio after a very short time from the publication of their latest work. There was something strange. And in fact, alongside some fantastic songs that still put the album among the best things released this year, we find, however, a number of tracks that result much less inspired and fresh than the rest, and we weren’t used to it with this band.
I Am Legion, the new album from Witchery, may be summarized in a few words as a raw version of the precedent work, Infernal Majesty’s Service. The Swedish band has crafted with the years their unique version of blackened thrash, and with the exception of a more immediate style and of an arrangement that is certainly more brutal and crude than in the past, the overall approach does not differ too much from the style of metal they have been playing so far.
THE DISEASED HEART OF SOCIETY by Solitary
Solitary is an English thrash metal band which is formally active since 20 years. The band’s previous album, however, was published about ten years ago. It is no coincidence, therefore, that among all the albums heard in 2017, The Diseased Heart Of Society, Solitary’s new release, is maybe one of those more closely related to the sound and the style of the past. But if you love this kind of music – as I do – you will for sure appreciate this record since it features a very good collection of heavy and brutal thrash songs, gifted by the efforts of a band of skilled musicians but also by an excellent production.
The music from Solitary is inspired by the masters of thrash – Testament and Slayer above all – but the four guys from Lancashire managed however to create a personal musical style which somehow evolves from their models. The result is definitely positive and it’s necessary to hope they won’t take another decade to assemble andother album of the same quality.
CONFORMICIDE by Havok
American thrash-metal masters Havok released in 2017 their fourth studio disc, Conformicide, which interrupts the four year break since their beautiful 2013’s Unnatural Selection, which has been so far the longest gap between two band’s albums. As almost usual with Havok there was a change in the lineup before recording the new LP, in this case bassist Mike Leon left the band and was replaced by Nick Schendzielos, coming from Cephalic Carnage. Despite the change, however, not only the new line-up led by David Sanchez managed to put together another solid collection of enjoyable and aggressive old-school thrash songs, but they managed also to record what could be easily considered the band’s best work so far.
By listening to their discography it’s evident in fact how both their sound and songwriting skills improved a lot with the time. The overall level of the Conformicide is defintely superb and there are a couple of songs which stand out for their brilliance. It’s not by chance that they’ve been a stable presence in many metal playlists released this year on the blog.
One of the distinctive features of this group has always been the technical expertise of all musicians involved. In this sense a special mention is necessary for the newcomer in the Group (Mr. Schendzielos) who plays a style of bass in the album which is at same time furious but also incredibly precise (“surgeon-like” as many said). You may have a look to the video for Intention To Deceive to figure out what I’m talking about.
In summary, Havok’s last album is not only a further confirmation of greatness for this group of old school thrashers, but it also becomes the new peak in their valuable metal career.
PSYCHOSIS by Cavalera Conspiracy
Since the first time the two Cavalera brothers reunited in 2007, the level of excitement for every new release has been always very high. And indeed, despite some false passages like 2014’s mediocre Pandemonium, their albums have always been interesting and in some cases with unexpected surprises. The style of this band is certainly not for sophisticated palates or cultists of creativity, it is just pure and simple groove and thrash but played by two of the most influential characters of the metal scene of the 90’s.
With their brand new LP Psychosis, Cavalera Conspiracy arrive to the fourth full lenght release of their discography, and this, by itself, is a result of all respect if we think that this group started as an extemporaneous project after the brothers Igor and Max Cavalera (two of the founder members of Sepultura) had the opportunity to find themselves together again in a concert in Tampa, after the infamous diatribes that brought their spectacular band to dissolve in 1996 (everyone knows that Sepultura is still active with another line-up, but all agree that it’s not the same thing of the original band…).
From a musical point of view, one of the most important characteristics of the new album is how it appears consistent when considered as a single object. The sequence of the 9 songs of the disc is absolutely fluid and all tracks bring a devastating charge of rhythms and riffs. The first segment of the album, in particular, is impressive. The first three songs have the effect of smacking you hears with frenzied and furious rhythms, on top of which the simple but effective gusts of bass and guitar discharge a load of destructive energy. As anticipated: you won’t find anything absolutely original and innovative in this release, but when music is played at these levels you can sometimes indulge with just healthy and pure metal without too many pretenses.
INFINITE PUNISHMENT by Get The Shot
We enter the top half of the chart driven by the blind fury carried out by a quintet of hardcore thrashers from Quebec, in Canada. Get The Shot is one of those groups destined to divide metal listeners in half: on one hand we have those who argue if their music is more thrash rather than punk or hardcore and therefore more or less worthy of being appreciated (if you ever posted some link on Reddit’s subgroups you know what I mean), on the other side we have those – like me – to whom these labels do not interest too much and that find themselves enjoying the brutality and passion that transpire from the songs of this album.
Infinite Punishment, the new LP from the band, arrives three years after their last effort and it certainly represents a sharp turn towards harsher and “thrashy” sounds. Thanks to a skilful combination of contributions and inspirations from the classics of metal with elements of absolute modernity, the band released one of the most fresh and immediate works of the year. This is one of those records that leaves you breathless, a furious ride into the angry world painted by these guys. Infinite Punishment can be heard on repepat many many times: it will hardly bore you, surely it will make you feel a charge of energy like you have not felt for some time
BLOODLUST by Body Count
Bloodlust is the new album “dropped” by the American metal band Body Count, which was founded almost 30 years ago by legendary rapper and actor Ice-T with guitarist Ernie C. A lot of time has passed since their hated and controversial song Cop Killer, which was eventually removed from their first album and caused at that time the terminatio of their contract with Warner Bros. And in fact today their approach is certainly less offensive than their origins. It still remains, however, the urgency to convey a heartfelt message against the misery of some elements of modern society. In this sense, the music in all Body Count’s albums has been always the medium through which transmit their polemical and angry vision of life, and in this respect – with this specific kinds of band – it wouldn’t make so much sense to judge the disc by analyzing only the musical part of the work – which is however extremely satisfying.
From a musical point of view we’re in front of a simple but effective thrashcore & groove metal, sometimes blended with melodic moments. In all their albums these guys have never hidden the tribute their music owes to the giants of the past like Black Sabbath and Slayer (of which we find in this album a wonderful cover of Raining Blood), indeed, the familiarity that their music presents with the canons of metal is in this case a special feature which has the clear advantage of concentrating the listener’s attention on the message that wants to be transmitted by the songs, rather than the music by itself.
Interviewer: Ice! Explain Body Count
Ice-T: Body Count is a band I put together just to let one of my best friends Ernie C play his guitar. He’s always been playing guitar, we all went to Crenshaw High School together in South Central Los Angeles. And I had the idea of let’s make a metal band, let’s make rock band, because I had been to Europe and I noticed that the kids would mosh off of hip-hop. So we put the band together and I used the three bands that were my favourites at the time to set the tone. We used the impending doom of a group like Black Sabbath, who pretty much invented metal; the punk sensibility of somebody like Suicidal, who basically put that gangbanger style from Venice, California into the game; and the speed and the precision of Slayer, one of my favourite groups and always will be.
(from the intro to Raining Blood cover)
RAISED ON DECAY by Shrapnel
Shrapnel is a relatively new metal quintet formed in Norwich, England. They are active since 2009 and in 2014 published the first LP, The Virus Conspires. After a few years of refining and improving their musical style, these guys released in 2017 their second album, named Raised on Decay, which gained immediately a great attention as possibly one of the best thrash releases of the year and which at the end entered the top 3 of his genre.
What’s definitely remarkable on this record is the personality and character of these English metallers. Their music, despite moving into a musical genre where nowadays almost everything that could be invented has been already played, manages to appear still cool and intriguing. There is nothing very new in these songs and the influences of the thrash masters permeate many of the songs of the album. Nonetheless, the basic ingredients of the genre have all been perfectly dosed into their recipe, which is then enriched with a good dose of pride and impetuosness.
Musically speaking, we’re in front of a style of metal that is clearly dominated by the powerful and incessant rhythmic sections, on top of which we can enjoy chirurgical guitar riffs and also a number of very good guitar solos. Many songs are characterized by a beautiful alternation of conventional mid-tempo thrashy passages with sections at much higher rhythm, producing a contrast that typically makes the songs brighter and more dynamic.
HEARTLESS OPPRESSOR by Primal Attack
Primal Attack is a new promising thrash & groove metal band arriving from Portugal. These guys released in 2017 a beautiful album called Heartless Oppressor, which is the second work since their formation. Although it’s evidently inspired from the works of Pantera, Hatebreed and Machine Head, the album contains a high number of original features to become a unique piece in the current metal scene.
Heartless Oppressor is a strong and energetic disc and it’s fully packed with catching riffs and melodies. These guys from Portugal must have some special gift if they managed in less than five years to achieve such a level of maturity in balancing different metal influences, which span from groove to death metal. This is an album that I definitely recommend and I’m expecting big things in the future of the band. A few of the songs from the album have become a regular presence of the metal playlist that were published in this blog, and this LP remained firmly in the upper section of any metal chart despite the high number of contenders they faced throught the year.
NIGHTMARE LOGIC by Power Trip
Nightmare Logic, which is the last and second full-lenght album by Texans trashers Power Trip, has systematically climbed the rankings of the metal charts of the blog and eventually it reached the top of its category. At the end of 2017, this record deserves without any doubt the title of best thrash album of the year.
Power Trip is a relatively new metal band from Texas which plays an energetic and violent blend of thrash and hardcore. They aren’t around since many years but they guys have already accumulated considerable experience playing live together with some big names like Anthrax, Lamb of God and Napalm Death. Nigthmare Logic is their second full-lenght album and it quickly became a benchmark of moderm metal. The style of music here is fast, energetic, and innovative with a lot of inserts from other metal sub-genres such as hardcore and industrial.
Nightmare Logic looks to me as one of that fortunate cases where the classical and typical elements which made this kind of metal so much successful in the past 30 years have been masterfully reshaped with modern elements, creating a new and unique sound that most likely will become itself a reference for future generations. Impressive, not to be missed.
As anticipated, I conclude this long post with the link to the Spotify playlist which collects the best in thrash metal. This is updated with new tracks as soon as new good songs are releases, so my recommendation is to follow and visit it periodically to check for new material.