As a longtime fan of thrash metal, I think I have the capacity, and also a bit of authority, to express an overall opinion about the modern evolution of this genre of music, which as we know emerged and reached its peak between the 80’s and the 90’s. Analyzing the thrash scene from this general point of view I can say that if not for a small group of emerging bands the general picture is not particularly exciting. If on one hand it is surprising to observe how there are still many new bands that decide to orientate their efforts to this special kind of music, on the other hand it’s impossible to hide the fact that in many cases the multitude of albums which are published are quite weak both in terms of emotions and freshness of the sound.
Anyhow, at the end of the year it’s not difficult to save a number of records that distinguished themselves from the mass. In this sense, going through the list of bands that are provided in this article may still be that exciting and funny ride as only thrash metal is capable to offer to its wide family of fans.
As a final comment, the bands that are featured in this selection further confirms the phenomenon that was introduced earlier this year in the pages of the blog: 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!
Before starting with the chart, let me just say that there is now a special palylist on Spotify which collects all the best songs from the albums that are featured in this article. Enjoy!
#10) Wrath, “Rage”
There are music bands that have gathered less celebrity and fame than they deserved. Wrath, from Chicago, are among these ones. Born in the golden age of thrash, they soon moved away from the standard canons of the genre and started playing what was later defined as technical thrash metal, a sub-genre of conventional thrash that places greater emphasis on complex songwriting and instrumental parts. However, Wrath didn’t manage to reach the relevance of other bands that were playing the same style of metal, like Watchtower, Mekong Delta and Coroner, and in the end they were relegated to a seconday role in the history of thrash. The fact that they released only 5 albums throughout their long career hasn’t contributed to increase the fan base, in particular outside the U.S., but everyone who had the opportunity to discover Wrath’s ,music typically appreciate the passion, the creativity and the quality of their works.
In 2018 the American formation has released a new album, called Rage, which basically produces the same emotions that you could enjoy if it was possible to prepare a cocktail of music blending together some of the most beautiful songs in the history of metal, from Megadeth to Faith No More. And if this may appear a little anachronistic, the dedication and the attention to the details that have been put by Wrath in the recording of the album managed somehow to give coherence and significance to all of the songs of the LP.
Evidently this is not the album that will guarantee to Wrath the success that they never achieved in the past, but Rage is still a very good and fully enjoyable thrash metal record that the fans of the genre will appreciate without any difficulty.
#9) Gama Bomb, “Speed Between the Lines”
In music there are things that you like or you hate, without half measures. In the specific case of thrash music, one thing which has always had particular importance for me is the “seriousness” of the vocal part, which I like compact, “mature” and sufficiently angry. Consequently I’m not a huge fan of the vocalizations derived from the heavy metal tradition: when these are applied to thrash metal it seems to me that the songs lose most of their value. Gama Bomb, from Northern Ireland, is a thrash band that has always injected a big dose of humor in their songs and which features a crazy and eclectic singer like Phylly Byrne who’s absolutely in line with the image of the band, and who often linges in those high pitch shouts that I was introducing before.
Nevertheless, despite there is something which precludes me of being fully captured by the style of thrash played by Gama Bomb, on the other side it’s absolutely impossible to remain cold or skeptical in front of a music that’s characterized by such an impressive amount of energy, fury, and which is also gifted by so many killer riffs that other bands could build up an entire discography with the ideas that have been fitted together in Gama Bomb’s new record.
Speed Between the Lines, their new LP, will drive crazy all the lovers of hyperspeedy thrash: twelve songs, less than 35 minutes of total duration and a sonic tightness that’s quite unique in today scene. For all the others, the LP can represent a curious and enjoyable excursion in an area of metal that’s not only extravagant and crazy, but which shows also a consistency and a sound density that are worthy of great attention.
#8) Tantara, “Sum of Forces”
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: their 2012’s debut LP named Based on Evil, and their 2018’s new LP named 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 this approach is totally confirmed by their newest release. The music played by these guys is basically a tribute to the classic thrash that emerged between the 80s and 90s and, in this respect, Sum of Forces doesn’t offer any particular element of innovation except for the inclusion in their songs of multiple melodic sections and the presence of an interesting 10 minutes long instrumental song.
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. With their crushing riffs, the headbanging rhythms and the intriguing guitar solos, the four horsemen from Norway have in fact managed to pump new life into a genre of music that could be seen by many as dated, if not out of time. Sum of Forces represents a very good and solid LP of old-school thrash metal, made and designed for the diehard fans of the genre, but which has all what’s necessary to be be appreciated by all the lovers of energetic and powerful music.
#7) Anesthesia, “Humans”
Anesthesia is a unsigned and independent thrash metal band from Albuquerqe, in New Mexico (about which it’s also quite difficult to find any good picture on the web). Formed in 1998, they have released to date four studio LPs. Their most recent release, Humans, arrives three years after their previous record and this is also the shortest time-gap in their discography between two consecutive albums. Not a highly prolific formation, thus, but at least we can appreciate the fact that the band seems to spend a relatively high effort for composing and recording songs that result varied and generally different one from the other.
The style of thrash that is played by Anesthesia lingers on moderately slow rhythms. In their songs, the melodic component results absolutely predominant over the more aggressive and furious aspects of conventional thrash. In general terms their sound is reminiscent of the early 90s and in many sections of the album you feel like Chuck Billy from Testament is singing over Metallica‘s Black Album songs. The overall result, however, is absolutely interesting because all the various sources of inspiration have been mixed with a certain amount of originality.
In the end, despite being a relatively minor figure in contemporary thrash scene, Anesthesia have perfectioned their characteristic style of metal which made them achieve their deserved presence in this list. And if you’re one of those who prefer melodic and mid-paced thrash songs, compared to the typical furious and brutal ones that you have in this genre of music, Humans will provide you with a good selection of new tracks to enjoy.
#6) Angelus Apatrida, “Cabaret De La Guillotine”
Born at the dawn of the new millennium, Spanish band Angelus Apatrida have progressively evolved their style from the heavy & power metal of their first works towards a kind of music that’s decidedly closer to classic Bay Area thrash, enriched here and there by various and interesting influences coming from other styles of metal. In all phases of their career, however, they have always mainfested the will to celebrate the the masters of the past rather than chasing the different trends of the moment.
Angelus Apatrida’s 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 seems totally focused on restoring the luster of classic thrash. But what’s even more important is that Cabaret de la Guillotine results one of the best albums of their discography, in particular for the impressive number of tight, furios and enjoyable riffs that are packed in every song of the LP, together with the introduction of many nice melodic sections. And despite the album is definitely derivative of a lot of different things we have already heard in the last thirty years of metal, this record won’t disappoint all the big family of the lovers of old-school thrash.
#5) Artillery, “The Face of Fear”
Artillery, from Denmark, is another of those formations whose tormented history may have precluded the achievement of a success comparable with the effort they’ve made to develop their style of music. In their third reincarnation since their initial formation in 1982, Artillery still continue to play the same brilliant mix of thrash and speed metal that they have been offering to their fans across their long career. And although today this style of music is certainly less “trendy” than how it was thirty-five years ago, their songs still manifest the positive and energetic spirit that we have always appreciated in their songs.
The Face of Fear, which is Artillery’s new LP, is the fifth full lenght release after their latest reformation in 2008, and the ninth of their whole discography. Five albums in less than ten years is definitely a good sign of vitality for a band of metal veterans as they are, especially because the overall quality of their work is still quite good. From a musical point of view, The Face of Fear is characterized by an enjoyable and well balanced mix of fierce and fast thrash riffs and hyper-technical heavy metal moments. The recipe is then enriched by many references, in some cases real tributes, to melodies or riffs that are nowadays part of the collective memory of heavy metal.
With their new LP, Artillery keep providing all fans of thrash and heavy metal with another collection of genuine and solid song. Surely the brilliance of their early years has now a little attenuated, but the experience of listening to one of their records remains always a very rewarding experience.
#4) Tornado, “Committment to Excellence”
There are records that we appreciate because they make us discover something new and unespected, while there are others that we love because they allow us to jump back in time, and feel young. These are the albums which remind us of something beautiful that we used to listen many years ago, something that has been part of our life. Tornado‘s Commitment to Excellence belongs definitely to this second category of records. This is the kind of music that cannot reach the peaks of quality and value of the most experimental and innovative albums. Nevertheless, we find ourself listening them again and again, if only for the nice feeling we have when we’re back in that special comfort zone where music follows patterns that are already known to us, with no surprises.
Commitment to Excellence is the third record from Tornado, a relatively unconventional formation with roots that are scattered between northern Europe and the United States. The LP offers to the large family of thrash fans a thrilling collection of classic old-school songs enriched by a few and sparse inserts of groove and crossover. Basically it’s like having System of a Down playing tunes from the early works of Anthrax and Slayer. Nothing particularly original, but it’s damn fun and enjoyable. Anyway, for sure it’s not the originality the focus and the goal of Tornado’s music.
In summary, Commitment to Excellence is a record full of references to the most exciting moments of thrash metal, and between a bunch of catchy songs and a few missteps, the album shines for immediacy and overall enjoyability, two characteristics that made it achieve a prestigious place in this “end of the year” ranking.
#3) Tonic Breed, “Install Memory”
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.
Install Memory substantially confirms the orientation of Tonic Breed towards 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 absolutely 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 Golimo 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. In the end, Install Memory pushes up the expectations for a new full-length record from the band and this, I would say, is probably the best result that Tonic Breed could achieve with their new EP.
#2) Warfield, “Wrecking Command”
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 basically 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. Wrecking Command proceeds straight, implacable, at medium-high speed and without any real moment of slow down, from the first to the last second of the record. This is an intentional and resolute metal attack, with no compromises. When you enter the whirling spiral of their sound, even the separation between the different songs tends to fade and the album becomes, in the end, like a single, uniform, monolitic and uninterrupted sequence of thrash riffs. Is this a negative aspect? Not at all! When the level of riffing is as good as we have here it becomes exciting and “restorative” to be carried away from such a solid and energetic stream of distorted guitars.
Warfield don’t mainfest any willingness to surprise their listeners with special effects or to impress music critics and fans with particular stylistic innovations. If you are looking for the band that will revolutionize the future of metal, then you have to look somewhere else. But if what you need is an healty dose of superb and precise teutonic attack, Wrecking Command will be your perfect companion.
BEST THRASH ALBUM OF 2018
Pripjat, “Chain Reaction”
Sometimes it’s surprising to see how some bands are able, in a relatively short time, to acquire a maturity of style and an awareness of their capacities that many other formations reach only after many years of activity, if they gain it at all.
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 apparently follows the standard references of the genre, but which in reality defines a peculiar approach where energy and adrenaline are supported by phenomenal songwriting skills. As a result, in Chain Reaction we can really appreciate how the hardness of the thrash and a general sense of distrust towards society are conveyed in songs of a brilliance and an effectiveness that appear, today, out of the ordinary. And it’s no coincidence, thus, that since the first time I listened to the album I get the feeling that I was in front of a really important record. Chain Reaction unleashes an uncontrolled charge of energy and adrenaline, but at the same time the average level of the songs is absolutely good, with a few particularly exciting tracks which, in the end, make the album to stand out from the rest of the contenders.
When comparing their new LP with the band’s debut album we may recognize a clear and positive evolution in both the style and the overall quality of their music. As a matter of fact three years of intense touring have helped the band to refine and increase not only the capacity to write effective and fresh thrash songs, but also to improve the way they play their music.
From a purely stylistic point of view, the music composed by the Pripjat is somehow reminiscent of Havok, in particular as regards the overall sound, the hypnotic and sharp bass lines, tthe speed and the articulation of the riffs, and of course the peculiar singing style. Beyond the easy comparisons with the other masters of thrash metal, however, this is a band that has all the potentials to become itself a model for other bands.
Pripjat is a band to be followed with great attention and we can really expect great things from them in the near future.
As already anticipated in the opening lines of the page, you may enjoy the best songs from these bands in a special playlist that I’ve created on Spotify: BEST THRASH OF 2018. Listen to it and spread the word!
Additionaly, my recommendation is to follow the playlist THRASH METAL FEAST, which is frequently updated with new songs from brand new albums.