Historically thrash metal emerged in the early 80’s in the United States of America and a number of legendary US groups (like Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax) helped thrash to gain quickly a global foothold. With the years, a lot of bands from the most disparate regions of the World started playing and spreading this characteristic type of metal, in some cases reaching world fame.
Nowadays we are observing a particular circumstance: among the best thrash metal albums that have been published worldwide, we have an increasing number of records that are released by European bands. This phenomenon has become so regular that we can no longer subscribe it to a simple coincidence.
In this article I present ten different European metal bands. I’ve selected them among those formations that have released an album in the last couple of years, and of course I focuse my attention on those who received the higest attention and interest for the quality of their works. I believe that it may be an excellent starting point to get an idea of the quality of the thrash metal that is played today in the Old Continent.
Angelus Apatrida (Spain)
Born at the dawn of the new millennium, Spanish band Angelus Apatrida has progressively evolved its own style from the heavy & power metal of their first works to a kind of metal that’s decidedly more in line with the classic Bay Area thrash, enriched here and there by various and interesting inserts and influences coming from other styles of metal.
Their latest album, Cabaret de la Guillotine, is reminiscent in many parts of the early works of Testament, and this is certainly not a bad comparison for a band that today is fully devoted to thrash metal. Cabaret de la Guillotine is definitely one of the best albums they released so far, in particular for the impressive number of tight, furios and enjoyable riffs that are packed in every song.
The album maybe doesn’t shine for originality and it’s definitely derivative of many different thinghs we have heard in the last thirty years of metal, but nevertheless it was made to please and enjoy all the lovers of old-school thrash metal.
Odium, from Hasselroth in Germany, are not newcomers of the metal arena. Formed in 1993 they have released sol far 8 full-lenght albums. Their style has slowly evolved from a combination of thrash & power metal to a more conventional mid-paced teutonic thrash filled with heavy riffs and intriguing melodies.
Odium’s latest record is 2017’s As the World Turns Black. This LP is another case of those records that don’t offer any particular deviations from the canons and, as a matter of fact, these German musicians don’t try to impress for innovation and creativity. However, they demonstrated in their 25 years of career that they know very weel how to write and play genuine and healthy thrash metal, with no frills and tricks. Among the most interesting and also peculiar characteristics of this band there is a particularly accentuated melodic vein of the songs. This goes very well with the clean, non-guttural voice of Ralf Runkel, the singer who has been a member of the band for the past ten years.
It is definitely motivating to listen to a band like Odium and see how these musicians continue after so many years to play their music with passion and ardor, although they didn’t achieve the fame and success they might have deserved at least for the consistency and the enjoyability of the music they have released to date.
Primal Attack (Portugal)
Primal Attack is one of the most promising formations among the new bands that emerged in the European metal scene. Formed in 2012 in Lisbon, they released in 2012 their debut LP (Humans) and their sophomore album in 2017 (Heartless Oppressor). Frequent readers of this blog will remember that last year I wrote a lot of Primal Attack and their new LP was included in many of the musical charts of 2017, typically reaching the top positions. Heartless Oppressor is in fact a strong and energetic disc and it’s fully packed with catching riffs and catchy melodies.
The style of music of Primal Attack is basically a groovy version of thrash with also some elements from death metal, and these guys showed an impressive level of maturity in balancing these different metal influences. And although their music is evidently inspired from the works of legends like Pantera, Hatebreed and Machine Head, the album still contains so many original features to make them a very characteristic and recognizable formation within the European metal scene.
This is a band that’s now in our radars. And Heartless Oppressor is an album that I definitely recommend.
Pripjat, from Germany, entered the metal scene three years ago with a really interesting debut album, named Sons of Tschernobyl. In 2018 they released a follow-on LP, Chain Reaction, which confirms and further improves all the positive elements that were appreciated in their first record.
The music played by Pripjat is a kind of thrash which doens’t make any particular effort to differentiate itself from the standard references of the genre, but which is performed with great passion, adrenaline and precision. Chain Reaction unleashes an incredible charge of energy and adrenaline and the average level of the songs is definitely good, with a few really exciting tracks which make the album stand out from the rest of the contenders.
As anticipated, I observed a positive evolution in the style and quality of their music when compared to the debut record, and as a matter of fact three years of intense touring have helped the band to refine and increase both their songwriting and playing skills. Pripjat is a band to be followed with great attention, we can expect great things from them in the near future.
Solitary is an English thrash metal band which is formally active since 20 years. The band’s first album is dated 1998, and was followed by a second LP in 2008. The third and latest album, The Diseased Heart of Society, was released in 2017, so in the end we had only three major publications since their formation. In partial compensation for their indolence to release new records, the quality of their music has been always excellent and their third album last year was judged among the best metal records of the European scene.
Solitary’s style is deeply rooted in old-school thrash metal. The music from Solitary is inspired by masters of the genre like Testament and Slayer, but the four guys from Lancashire still managed to evolve from the legacy and create a quite unique sound. Their records feature a enjoyable collection of heavy and sometimes brutal thrash songs, all played impeccably by a very good ensemble of musicians. The result is definitely positive and the hope is that they won’t take another decade to assemble andother album of the same quality.
Among the best thrash thrash formations that we reviewed in 2017, it was relatively surprising to find a little know quintet from the Antibes, in France, named Swarm. The band, formed in 2013, released last year one of the most interesting debut albums in metal, Division & Disharmony, which became a frequent source of material for my compilations and metal mixtapes.
From a musical point of view, Swarm make no effort to hide the many sources of inspiration that contributed to the genesis of their LP 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 rhythms that have led to the success of historical groups such as Pantera and Machine Head. All of these components, however, have been mixed and blended with great skill to the point that the final product is absolutely not a patchwork of elements from disparate influences but, on the contrary, their sound is definitely consistent and really nice to listen to.
Swarm is on of the promising new bands that we shall follow with attention. Last year their debut work was an absolute surprise and now we’ll be here waiting to see if their style will become even more unique and intriguing with their future publications.
Tantara, from Norway, was formed almost ten years ago in the context of a talent show. Since then they had to face some problems with record labels and also multiple changes in the line-up, but they eventually managed to release two full-lenght albums: 2012’s Based on Evil and this year’s Sum of Forces.
The music played by Tantara is a kind of thrash metal that’s deeply inspired by the legacy style of Bay Area metal (Testament, Metallica, …) and, in this respect, their new album doesn’t offer any particular element of innovation except maybe for the inclusion in their songs of many melodic sections and also for the presence of an interesting 10 minutes long instrumental song which closes the record. The fact that Tantara plays a style of metal that’s so close and reminiscent of the masters of thrash, however, doesn’t mean that their music is not valid or enjoyable, and all those metalheads who appreciate the raw and old-school style of thrash will for sure appreciate the six tracks of Sum of Forces.
In the end, with their crushing riffs, headbanging rhythms and nice guitar solos, the four horsemen from Norway managed to pump new life into a genre of music that could be seen by many as dated, if not out of time.
Tonic Breed (Norway)
Tonic Breed is an interesting thrash quartet from Norway which was formed twelve years ago and that has released so far a couple of appreciated studio LP. Since the date of publication of their last full-lenght record (2014’s Outsold) the line-up of Tonic Breed went through a number of changes and today only half of the members of the initial formation are still part of the band. Probably for the purpose of testing the skills and cohesion of the new team, Tonic Breed have recorded this year the EP Install Memory, the first of their career, which contains a handful of new tracks plus a curios and eccentric cover of Mummy Dust by Ghost and a couple of live tracks.
The style of metal played by Tonic Breed is substantially the typical American style of thrash enriched with a few inserts from groove and heavy metal (you can consider the early works by Metallica as a good reference for their sound). The performance of the new members of the band (lead guitarist Jørgen Abrahamsen and drummer Ole Danielsen) is fine, although it emerges from the EP that the band’s true driving force comes from Patrik Svendsen and Rudi Golimo, the architects of the catchy and engaging riffs that we find on the album.
Svendsen and Golimom carry on their simple but effective approach to metal, with a style that’s deeply rooted in the golden age of American thrash but which still results enough genuine and effective to be appreciated by both new and old fans of this genre of music.
Toxic Shock (Belgium)
Toxic Shock, from Antwerp in Belgium, cite as their main references the masters of thrash like Metallica and Slayer but also the New York city Hardcore scene. Their style, in fact, is that of a classic mid-paced thrash metal that often ventures into the lands of crossover and punk. An if their kind of music may appear too much hybrid and experimental for the more intransigent thrash lovers, all the others will surely appreciated the freshness and creativity of the band.
Toxic Shock are active since 2010 and have released so far two extremely good albums. Their debut was 2013’s Daily Demons, followed in 2017 by TwentyLastCentury. Their new work demonstrates that it’s really possibly to range between various genres of metal and multiple influences but at the same time to maintain a great quality of the overall production. There is however a clear element of cohesion across the LP, and it’s the thrash backbone that guides and supports all the tracks of the record. As a matter of fact, despite the various influences and references that we find in the individual songs, TwentyLastCentury remains essentially a fun and creative thrash metal album.
Toxic Shock is one of those bands that don’t publish albums on repeat but, because of the attention and patience they put on their creative process, they managed so fare to make every single track of their work relatively unique and highly enjoyable. For this reason we will stay here, waiting patiently for their next work, with no hurry.
German metal trio Warfield may be considered as newcomers in the metal arena: although the band was formed almost six years ago, they arrived only in 2018 to the important milestone of the debut LP. Wrecking Command, the firts full-lenght release from the band, follows an initial EP that was published 4 years ago and which anticipated to the fans their direct and essential sytle of music.
Warfield don’t shine for innovation: the band offers another interpretation of “teutonic” thrash metal, a genre which has seen in the last thirty years really many important references from which they could take inspiration. Anyway, we’re not dealing here with a mere exercise in style because these guys are absolutely prepared on the fundamentals of the genre and they have very clear ideas about what they want to achieve with their music.
Warfield don’t mainfest any willingness to surprise their listeners with special effects or to impress music critics and fans with any particular stylistic innovation. If you are among the lovers of good old teutonic metal you will get what you want: an excellent collection of thrash songs with incessant rhythms and superb riffing. If you are looking for the band that will revolutionize the future of thrash, then you have to look somewhere else.