The Woefully Incomplete Guide to 2018 Thrash Metal
We’re missing some things.
So I was gonna make a double review of two cool thrash albums some time back in spring. Never got around to it, and as the Tuesdays passed, more and more cool thrash albums kept cropping up. Eventually I caved, shamelessly stole the Mini Review format, and gathered all of them here. Some that were already covered and some that got left behind are listed below. I’m sure there’s plenty more that I missed; put ’em in the comments and lose a few words about them if you like. Now without further ado, let’s mosh our butts off.
What better way to start of a thrash revue than by cracking open a can of beer? Maybe you wanna grab your skateboard, too, for while these Greeks don’t go with the usual pizza thrash shtick (no songs about beer or mutants), there’s something youthful and careless about the record which puts it at least very close to crossover territory, complete with gang shouts and all. With d-beats out the wazoo, a great, rumbling bass guitar, and barking, throaty vocals, it’s a hell of a romp, one for which you’d do well to put on pads and a helmet.
Hazarding a guess as to which of their great German forebears Panzer Squad listened to the most, I’d go with Destruction. Their debut album added to that a Tankard-esque tongue-in-cheek attitude, which is greatly dialed back here in favour of the traces of brutal thrash à la Demolition Hammer in their sound. It all makes for a highly satisfying, if straightforward, thrash package that should get your head spinning for most of its duration; slower numbers fall a bit flat in my opinion, but not so much as to ruin anything. Now can someone tell me what the opening sample is about? I still don’t really get what it’s trying to say, and it annoys me.
Thrash from South America – you already know it’s good. These two guys descend the ladder of thrash history a few rungs further than their countrymen Ripper, going back to a time before black metal cut itself loose from the genre. The “blackened” aspects therefore reside more in the production and the vocal approach (which sounds like if Darkthrone had given a shit about the vocals on Panzerfaust) rather than blast beats or tremolo riffs. Speaking of riffs, this album has them. Aplenty. Some shred, some are catchy as hell, and some are both, and not a song goes by without a good one. The short runtime seems well calculated; nothing overstays its welcome, nothing feels underdeveloped. Perfect.
Another one that’ll have the Fun Police up in arms. Mentor is comprised of musicians from other Polish bands, including Furia and Thaw, which I suspect is the reason people ascribe “blackened” qualities to them; I sure don’t hear it. This is a dense mix of thrash, death’n’roll, slight hardcore elements and a dash of heavy metal. In other words, exactly my shit. Oscillating between groovy parts, sleazy rock grandeur, and straight, pedal-to-the-metal shredding, the band goes all out, audibly having fun doing whatever they feel like. The singer starts showing his versatility about halfway through, but nowhere more than on the closer, a grand, Black Sabbath-style doomy number with one of the coolest vocal performances I’ve heard all year. Check it out even if the rest of the album does nothing for you.
Another sort of blackened affair, and another one with tons of killer riffs. These guys, however, are not so much interested in old school thrash, but rather in bringing a spirit of heavy and speed metal to the genre. I could well imagine “Death Worship”, for example, being played by a band like Night Demon, whereas “Blood Vengeance” and “Beyond The Grave” are grade-A speed metal numbers. Tropes of black metal are again largely absent except for the vocals and the whole Satan aspect. The resulting atmosphere feels loose and unconstrained – in other words, actually fun. They remind me of modern acts like Hellripper in this, but I don’t see why fans of OGs like early Bathory should enjoy them any less. Points deducted for the dumbass interlude, but otherwise a contender for my thrash AOTY.
This post has so far been lacking in “classic” thrash, so Deathstorm from Austria are here to remedy that. In fact, this is perhaps as classical as it gets, seeing as they’re pretty much a dead ringer for early-ish Slayer. From the guitar tone to the riffs to the arrangement of the lyrics and even the tempo changes, I have a hard time pointing to anything that would seem out of place on Hell Awaits or Reign In Blood. However, while the band bring little new to the table, they’ve studied the masters well and leave little to be desired in terms of technical ability, making this a worthy continuation of a legacy. I want a Deathstorm mountain bike now.
After Invocation Spells, this was the second release this year that made me think that either black thrash had suddenly made leaps and bounds in quality or I’d just been looking for love in all the wrong places. Songwriting chops and a keen sense for melody – two qualities that others in the genre can only dream of – make this a blast to listen to, and together with the subtle synths and somewhat expansive song lengths manage to create an atmosphere that actually feels interesting as opposed to the rote “evil evil rah rah rah” of other bands. It’s not often that I come across an album in this style that warrants repeat listens because it actually reveals more nuances over time, so to me, this almost seems to set a new bar for its niche.
More 2018 Thrash on the Toilet
Yet more 2018 Thrash (mostly thanks to YouTube)
Laceration | Imitation (Death Thrash)
Erasement | Beyond Recovery (Heavy Metal influences)
Exit Smashed | Between Death and Death (Crossover)