Tribute To 1986 - The Unbeatable Year Of Thrash Metal?
All interviews conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: February 6, 2016
Whether you call it Speed Metal or Thrash Metal there's no question it is one of the most popular and well-loved subgenres of Heavy Metal. We can always argue if it was Motörhead's "Ace of Spades" or Saxon's "Heavy Metal Thunder" or Accept's "Fast as a Shark" or Judas Priest's "Freewheel Burning" that invited the term Speed and/or Thrash Metal but at some point bands started to compete with each other as to which one could play faster and harder.
Things developed rapidly from those classic songs as far as the aggression and brutality in Heavy Metal music was concerned. A number of innovative, fresh and downright heavy albums was released during the early eighties that revolutionized Heavy Metal. Fistful of Metal by Anthrax, Kill 'Em All by Metallica, Show No Mercy by Slayer, Bonded by Blood by Exodus, Morbid Tales and To Mega Therion by Celtic Frost, Welcome to Hell and Black Metal by Venom, Hellish Crossfire by Iron Angel and so on were just some of the records that paved the way for even more aggressive, mean and brutal-sounding releases.
For many of us, 1986 was the year Thrash Metal reached its pinnacle and was when the most classic and spectacular Thrash Metal albums were produced. The Metal Crypt conducted a survey about that particular year and asked many musicians for their thoughts on 1986 as far as Thrash Metal is concerned. See what they had to say. ;o)
Luxi: What made 1986 such an ideal year for Thrash Metal, from your point of view? What kind of things made it possible to have so many great and unforgettable Thrash Metal albums created that year? What's your personal standpoint of all this?
Rob Urbinati (SACRIFICE): I think it was a combination of the music being still in its infancy and still somewhat naive but at the same time it had become a bit more refined and polished.
Danny Lilker (NUCLEAR ASSAULT): It took a couple of years for this new genre to reverberate around the globe so even though Kill 'Em All had been out for two years, it took time for people to ingest these new influences and shape their own version of it. In my case, even though I was a founding member of Anthrax, I had to "start over" again after being asked to leave in early '84, so it took that long to find all the right dudes, write that music and get signed by a label.
Michael (ANGEL OF SODOM): Things really started generating a lot of steam in 1986; especially after 1985 proved to be such a fruitful year for Thrash. I think the second wave of Thrash was making its mark around this time due to the impact of the big four; Slayer, Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax. I think the albums of second wave acts like Exodus, Overkill, Death Angel, Testament, etc. all brought a lot to the table as 1986 rolled around.
Shaun Farrugia (IN MALICE'S WAKE): Thanks Luxi, great topic! Well, I was three so I can only comment from a retrospective point of view but looking back, '86 gave us what would become some of the greatest Thrash releases of all times. Without experiencing the feel of the times personally I would imagine that this was an era when Thrash Metal had solidified as a sound but was still quite fresh almost like the perfect mix of the raw energy of its birth with the experimentation of new ideas. I imagine there was a huge element of healthy competition and if your peers are releasing incredible albums you really have to produce something special to stand out. The Megadeth/Metallica rivalry alone is a testament to this and they both produced arguably their best albums in '86.
King Fowley (DECEASED): To me everyone was getting faster and pouring on the speed. Aggression was just in then. No other reason, really. It was not a timing thing; it was just the time it happened.
Coke McFinlay (VIRUS): For me I think it was a monumental year for Thrash Metal as there were two albums that changed the face of Thrash for all time (in my opinion); Megadeth's Peace Sells... and Testament's The Legacy. Never before had we heard such technically versatile and melodic Thrash albums. OK, yes Metallica's Kill 'Em All was a milestone in 1983 that changed me from a Punk to a devoted thrasher but it wasn't until 1986 when I found the true potential of this genre. The standard of musicianship far exceeded my expectations!!
Pete "Qualcast Mutilator" Lee (LAWNMOWER DETH): 1986 was certainly a freak year. Everything had been brewing for a while and I think it was the natural conclusion. I can only speak personally but I think we were all looking for something heavier. Faster. Always faster. We'd come up on the Priests, Rainbows and so on and always loved the NWOBHM, particularly the more powerful stuff like Tank. We always loved, and still do, Motörhead. Venom's Black Metal was literally a defining album for us and pushed us forward. We'd already had Kill 'Em All, Bonded By Blood, Black Metal, Hell Awaits and so on by 1986. All killer stuff. 1986 just seemed to go over the top in terms of quantity and quality. The scene was already well-formed and we were heavily into tape trading and fanzine collecting. We were being fed by those in the know at Way Ahead Records who always kept stuff under the counter for us when we walked in. 1986 simply confirmed everything we knew and was the purple patch for the US Thrash bands. With the exception of grunge, I haven't seen a movement with so much momentum. It was quick and you had to be there because within a couple of years it was all over, but it was organic. It was kids, tapes, the post and photocopiers. The internet wasn't needed. This was sheer aggressive music that made your parents wilt being driven by kids. It's what Rock and Roll was always supposed to be; for you, not them. Not disenfranchised drop outs, much the opposite, this stuff took organization, just kids wanting heavier music making it happen. The promoters weren't Live Nation or MAMA. It was local fans organizing local dates for bands. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Dave Gregor (MORTA SKULD): I feel that it was a paramount year for music in general. You had all these Thrash and Metal bands putting out their debut or second albums and it seemed as if they all became masterpieces. What made it possible was the sheer will to create music which I think is missing in today's music. Metal Church's album The Dark was a game changer for me not to mention the infamous Master of Puppets which everybody was influenced by. Then you had heavier stuff like Kreator that took the underground bands to the next level.
Paul Arnold (AT WAR): 1986 was the year bands like Slayer, At War, Metallica, Nuclear Assault and many others were finally coming into their own. All of us had been around for several years by then and we were getting more into the scene and the music was reflecting the fact that the bands were becoming much better songwriters and performers. We were touring more and our fan bases were growing as well. It was just a great time to be playing this form of Metal. I think that Thrash (we called it Speed Metal back then) was resonating with so many because we all felt we had finally found the music that was totally ours. Everyone who loved it knew exactly why we did and we all felt a kindred spirit in that. The amount of great albums released that year was just a reflection of all these things happening.
Howard "H" Smith (ACID REIGN): It was just a place in time. 1986 was a year just like any other. Thrash Metal was new and in its infancy and no one knew back then that these albums were going to stand the test of time and live on in Metal history. Why was it such a good year? Because you had the greatest exponents of the art at their peak (we didn't know that back then). What made it possible? The bands! There is no ONE THING that you can point to and say "because of that", that's crazy! There was a great deal of output from a lot of bands that year because Thrash was on a high; Kreator put out Pleasure to Kill, Destruction Eternal Devastation. It wasn't just about Metallica, Megadeth or Slayer.
Every scene has a peak year; grunge did and so did Nu-Metal. It's just timing. Nothing more, nothing less, there's no great mystery.
Arnd Klink (DARKNESS): I think that in 1986 the New Wave of British Heavy Metal had reached its peak. It was the right time to improve Heavy Metal, something new had to be created. Let me speak for the German Ruhr area, where I grew up and did my share for Thrash Metal. Together with the Bay Area in the US, it was the most creative cell for Thrash. Kreator, Sodom, Violent Force and of course my Thrash command Darkness raged here with many more bands. Some of us became famous, some stayed in the underground. The reason for our anger was versatile. We lived in an area where the decline of heavy industry and coal mines happened in the mid 80's. People had no work or perspective in dirty and noisy towns. We saw our parents working very hard for a living. That was not our idea of life. The Ruhr area was the best ground on which to sow the seeds of anger and Thrash was the best music to express what we felt.
Michael Lohrenz (NECRONOMICON): In my opinion it was the right time for an advancement of what bands like Led Zeppelin, The Who, Black Sabbath, etc. started 15-20 years before. All the bands that followed would be extreme as they could be and they did it! And they found a responsive audience for their brutal riffs, high-speed drums and extreme lyrics.
Alexander Landenburg (MEKONG DELTA): I think it took the 5-6 years, from the beginning of the 80s up until '86, for two very critical things to happen. First, the musicians needed to find their voice and their vocabulary to actually play that stuff. It was a new, aggressive way of playing, combining the roughness and attitude of Punk with the precision and sound of Heavy Metal, or at that time maybe rather the NWOBHM.
Second, the game had to be stepped up in terms of production to actually capture this power and this aggression. Just imagine Reign in Blood with a mid-70's type of production. It wouldn't have worked.
Kyriakos "Charlie" Tsiolis (AFTERMATH): It really was the best year for Thrash. To answer this question, you need to go back some years to put it all in perspective. What I mean is all the great Metal bands of the 1970s peaked by the early 1980s. 1980 was a fucking great year for Metal and it seemed like every record was a classic that year. You know the Sabbaths, Maidens and Priests of the world began to blow it by 1984. They were done by 1983 actually (except for Number of the Beast) for kids like me that loved them when they were heavy and less commercial. So by the early 1980s, the guys that got into metal because of Sabbath for example, we were looking for something heavier and more underground. Our favorite bands were no longer cool, they were older and making music that just didn't compare to their early stuff. That happens to all bands over time.
You can also blame MTV for hastening the death of those bands. The hair bands, I refuse to call them "Hair Metal", success made the great Metal bands change to try and compete for success. The time had come and gone when old dudes put on make-up. So the guys in Metallica and their peers took over. None of the Thrash bands had great singers compared to the old Metal bands. This made the music underground, raw and exciting. As a kid into aggressive music the Slayers and Metallicas in 1983 were the shit. Priest couldn't compare with their synchronized stage moves and hairspray singing about "Parental Guidance."
Like in most cases, it takes a few years for a band to perfect their sound, so by 1986 Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, etc. had really reached their high points. It was all timing; the early Thrash bands got heavier by 1986 and had come into their own. The early Thrash stuff had some elements of the older Metal bands but those elements were gone by 1986 and Thrash was totally its own thing by then, which made it so great.
I remember hearing Kill 'Em All and Show No Mercy and thinking, "too bad all the songs weren't fast and heavy." Some of the tracks on those records had the traditional Metal elements of a Sabbath or Priest record but they weren't as good as those older bands for that style. I wanted it all to be Thrash. The thing is when the early bands recorded their demos and debut records, Thrash didn't exist as a genre. I remember reading interviews where they just called themselves "metal." Looking at in now makes sense; they were writing the story as they went. By 1986, the book was done. The masterpieces were ready; all the old metal elements like I said were gone. It was pure THRASH and it was brilliant.
Andreas "Gerre" Geremia (TANKARD): Thrash Metal was born with albums like Bonded by Blood by Exodus and Show No Mercy by Slayer. The Thrash wave was landing in many other countries back in the day, especially Europe. In the beginning there were a lot of new bands and great albums. The year 1986, however, was really special for me because it is the year we released our first album Zombie Attack.
Reinhard Kruse (S.D.I.): The music was getting harder and harder every year. In 1986 we had reached the top of the mountain. All the goals were achieved. We had the fastest, the hardest, the darkest, the unholiest, the thrashiest albums. From this point the only direction was "down."
Al Johnson (EXCITER): I really can't say mainly because I've never listened to Thrash Metal, it's not my thing. I don't think that isolating a genre of music to a specific year is going to be accurate in terms of what was the best however, if you're going to focus on '86, there was a hell of a lot going on at that time. You have to understand that Thrash was born earlier on in the 80s and just like any other genre of music that comes along you're going to have a crapload of bands that go "hey I can do that", and jump on the train. So by '86 the train's going like fucking hell, full of speed and bands like Metallica and Megadeth are in their prime with thousands of wannabes on their coattails. At the same time the bands that started it all in the first place were releasing albums out of left field like Iron Maiden with Somewhere in Time and Judas Priest with Turbo which were totally different than Thrash. We came out with Unveiling the Wicked in '86 which was really a cross between Thrash and earlier 80's Metal. We were trying to go backward instead of forward as far as Thrash was concerned. I never knew at that time what was going on around us musically; it was only us and our fans. And as usual, we were trying to take it to the next level.
Mike Browning (NOCTURNUS AD/AFTER DEATH): Of course 1986 was a big year for me personally because I was in Morbid Angel and we got signed and recorded the album Abominations of Desolation. Living in Tampa at that time was really awesome because there were several great bands that were all just starting or were still pretty new, so it was very busy with a lot of shows and demos and albums coming out. The whole scene was really growing at the time.
Frank Thoms (ACCU§ER): I think 1986 was the right time for that type of release. "Thrash Metal" had enough time to develop. Thrash Metal has changed my life up to this very day.
Martin Missy (PROTECTOR): The '80s was a great decade for Metal in general, and the mid-eighties were fantastic years, especially for Thrash.
Regarding Thrash it all had been building up since Metallica released Kill 'Em All in 1983, I think, and around 1985-1987 it reached its climax with all the records you mentioned earlier and many other Thrash jewels.
I have another personal favorite Thrash Metal year besides 1986 but more about that in my answer under number question 3...
Jeff Tandy (BIRTH A.D.): I'll speak from the American perspective and say that the Thrash movement on our shores was fueled by renewed prosperity combined with the conservative socio-political current that came with it. Metal was not looking to make the same direct statement against the establishment like our Punk counterparts. On the contrary, instead of complaining, Thrash of the day sneered at the idea of worries like nuclear annihilation and said, "bring it on". It's interesting that the bands who were busy serving as "proto-Death" Metal with lyrics about the dark and scary rather than daily reality are the ones that are still most revered. Slayer and Kreator were writing some seriously twisted and aggressive lyrics while Metallica was decrying cocaine abuse and nearly drinking themselves to death in the meantime.
I do believe Thrash, while not the music of rich kids (necessarily), was indeed a product of a strong economy, where gasoline was cheap and things like guitars and amplifiers were readily attainable for even working-class kids. There was also a much stronger apparatus in terms of moneyed labels that actually wanted to give these bands real money to make albums and tour the planet. That's never going to happen again, not for bands of this type.
Mike Campagnolo (RAZOR): I think Thrash by 1986 had gained enough momentum and a big enough fan base to go from being just a crossover twist on contemporary Heavy Metal and actually becoming its own entity. I think the world realized that Thrash was here to stay and was on the upswing as far as talent, creative song writing and full on speed and has never looked back.
Dan Watson (HEXX): Having worked our way up through the San Francisco Bay Area club scene in the late 1970's and 1980's we had seen the styles of Hard Rock and what was to become known as "Metal" evolve and change with the times. There were so many great musicians and bands coming out of the Bay Area at that time. The competition was fierce. For Metal musicians in the Bay Area I think the need and desire to play faster and more aggressive Metal was probably a byproduct of that competition. By 1986 it seemed like Thrash/Speed/Death Metal had exploded all over the globe. It was a time of great musical innovation and creativity. It was a true Metal renaissance.
Erik Sprooten (INQUISITOR): Slayer and Metallica had already made names for themselves so 1986 must have been an ideal year for them to release albums that were recorded with a proper budget and production. By doing so, they influenced a lot of Thrash bands. Needless to say, their 1986 albums became instant Thrash Metal classics. On the other hand, other 1986 Thrash Metal releases lacked a high-budget production but still became Thrash Metal classics. It was definitely a different time back then and Thrash Metal was certainly a perfect answer to Glam Rock, which was very popular at the time. Thrash Metal in 1986 was still a relatively new style of Metal so I guess that Thrash Metal bands still could create their own style or version of Thrash Metal and therefore released albums of which many have become real Thrash Metal classics.
Charly Steinhauer (PARADOX): 1986 was just the logical consequence what happened from 1983 to 1985.
We have to thank Jon Zazula (Megaforce Records) Brian Slagel (Metal Blade Records) and a few other important companies like Roadrunner Records that were responsible for Thrash Metal becoming so popular.
Bands like Metallica, Slayer (West Coast) and Anthrax (East Coast) laid the foundation stones as important and crucial bands for Thrash Metal.
For me 1986 was also a very important year as a musician cause in February I had started playing under the moniker of Paradox and in June 1986 we signed a worldwide record contract with Roadrunner Records. You just can't imagine how proud of that I was back then.
Ed Klinger (CALIGULA): To me, it just peaked that year and it's never been as good since. When you look at the records that came out you think, "how could it be?" For so many of those groups that was their finest hour, so it makes sense that it was also the genre's best. Why? Who knows? Thrash was obviously gaining steam for a few years; it still felt like there was a lot to be done musically. I'm sure some of the groups that are still around may feel differently, but for me that was the peak and all the great bands seemed to be peaking together, bringing the best out of each other.
Mem von Stein (EXUMER): I think that the amount of great Metal and Thrash Metal releases prior to 1986 made it possible for bands to really hone their own sounds and deliver a whole bunch of excellent releases. The pinnacle of Thrash Metal if you will.
Rick Scythe (USURPER/SCYTHE): It was just weird. The whole "Thrash" or "extreme Metal" thing started years before but was still very underground. I think the success of Metallica in 1986 made a lot of labels feel safer releasing more extreme sounding records. It seemed like major labels and big independent labels were realizing that there were some fantastic bands playing louder, faster, heavier and more violent and that there was actually a market for this music. I was 15 in 1986 so I got to see a lot of concerts at this time like Slayer, King Diamond, Celtic Frost and Metallica. I remember buying Sodom's Obsessed by Cruelty, Kreator's Pleasure to Kill, Slayer's Reign in Blood, King Diamond's Fatal Portrait, etc. Those were a few standouts from that specific year.
Patrick Ranieri (HELLWITCH): Nothing. It wasn't ideal but it was very good, though! The IDEAL years of '84 and '85 made '86 possible. My interpretation is that the TRULY groundbreaking releases were in '84 and '85. I'm talking about the debuts from Possessed, Destruction, Anthrax, Sacrifice, Sodom, Kreator, and Slayer's first 3!!! Death already had their BEST material released BEFORE '86! THOSE were the groundbreaking, earth shaking, ear-shattering ORIGINAL releases! '86 was good, but things were already "in progress" in most cases.
Josh Christian (TOXIK): The music had reached a point where labels could no longer ignore the popularity of the genre. It was a peak moment for the artists themselves. I can remember how exciting it was to witness and be a part of. We actually were doing something new.
Rick Cortez (SADISTIC INTENT): Back then this type of music was still very new and so were the bands that were around pushing the envelope. Some great releases already had come out in 1985 and naturally, like in other forms of music, the musicians were inspired by each other and the results of that are now classics of the genre.
Michael Gilbert (FLOTSAM AND JETSAM): So much happened with music in the 80s. It was truly a period in music history that has had a great impact just as the 50s, 60s, and 70s did. It might very well be the last of the great time periods for producing such timeless music and meaningful songs that will last forever. I don't hear much newer music that will withstand the test of time such as Zeppelin, AC/DC, Sabbath, or Metallica. Although there is some music from the 90s, it seems to be only a small handful of Rock bands in recent years and the list is getting smaller and smaller. I'm honored to have grown up during one of the most important and influential times of music history. Thrash Metal was most definitely a part of this. It started as just a small malignant cell that has developed into an enormous part of music history.
Gene Hoglan (DARK ANGEL/TESTAMENT): Well, 1986, I have to say that 1983 through 199- were all great years for Thrash Metal. Bands like Metallica and Slayer put albums out in 1983 and 1984 was great because many great Thrash Metal albums that were eventually released in 1985 were recorded. Albums like Exodus' Bonded by Blood and Slayer's Hell Awaits and Dark Angel's We Have Arrived were eventually released in '85. 1986 came along and you had three of the big four releasing albums that would have been Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer with Master of Puppets, Peace Sells... and Reign in Blood obviously.
And we had the younger crop of bands like Dark Angel releasing Darkness Descends and Kreator had Pleasure to Kill. I'm pretty sure in later that year they had the Flag of Hate EP and "Awakening of the Gods" or something like that (the latter is actually the title of one of the songs on the Flag of Hate EP - Luxi).
'86 was a great year. One thing that I thought was really awesome about any year in the early days of Thrash was that there were no rules. Oh yes, in '86 Nuclear Assault also released their debut, what was that? Game Over, what a great album! Crazy guitar production but still chock full of great songs.
There just weren't any rules. You didn't have to have your vocalist sing a certain way. You didn't have to have the greatest production. We were all real forgiving of production back in those days. As long as it was loud and heavy and sounded decent you could be a band like Nuclear Assault and not have the heaviest guitar sounds. We could tell what riffs were playing and everybody was rocking along, the drum sounded good and John Connelly's vocals were great so you could be a Nuclear Assault and get away with a production that you might be cringing at later in your career. But '86 was a great time for all of that, just the fact there were still no rules to anything.
Later on, Death Metal kind of took precedence over Thrash Metal. Obviously, there are rules involved in Death Metal. Without Thrash Metal, which is the greatest Metal ever invented in my opinion, there would be no Death Metal. We knew what we were doing. We didn't have any rules; we just got up there and killed it.
It was very free. Thrash Metal was created in contrast to the whole "LA Cock Rock Millionaire Metal," all the Mötley Crüe hairspray horseshit. To me that's where Thrash Metal came from, just looking around at all that garbage from the LA scene and saying, "man, this sucks ass. Let's write some heavy aggressive awesome stuff that just buries all this stuff." You can be a man on stage and not a girl. Go up on stage in your blue jeans and T-shirts, that's all we ever wore. You show up to on stage with what you wore to soundcheck. 1986 was no different than that.
So there you go that's where Thrash Metal came from for me. '86 was a great year and '87 was a great year as well. God, I remember when Darkness... came out and thinking maybe the Thrash door might be closed for new bands. But then in '87 you had albums like Death Angel's The Ultra-Violence and the amazing Artillery record Terror Squad. What a godly, all-time great Thrash Metal album that was. That's one of my all time favorites.
'87 saw the release of Testament's first record, The Legacy. I'm thinking, "Okay, all the popular bands are now as popular as they're going to get, there's not going to be anybody else coming along." Then you had Death Angel come along. Their first album was a big hit. Testament's album was a huge hit. So I was wrong and '87 was also a year where you could debut your band and get a great career going for yourself.
'88 saw the amazing Why Play Around? album from Wargasm; that's an all-time classic. '89 was another strong, strong year for Thrash releases. I have to admit Slayer's South of Heaven in '88 was not a strong Slayer record at all. Even the Thrash songs on there seemed like they were kind of afterthoughts and the only good song on the whole record, for me anyway, was "Silent Scream". Everything else was like, "Okay, we've given up." '88 also had some great records and in '89 you had some really killer records like Dark Angel's Leave Scars and Kreator's Extreme Aggression, which was my personal favorite Kreator record.
I can't remember much that came out '90 and I'm sure something cool came out in '91. I know you're not asking for a list of what came out when but I'm just giving just a little perspective on '86.
In '91 you had the incredible I Hate Therefore I Am album from Cyclone Temple, that's another classic, and Dark Angel got to release their Time Does Not Heal record. Every year was a strong year for Thrash but '86 just happened to be a concentration of, "Wow, this is new, this is still new." Going back to '83 just two bands got albums out; Metallica and Slayer.
From the beginning of '84 you had your Fistful of Metal from Anthrax, which was a killer record. You had a bunch of bands putting out great records between then and '86 like Voivod and Celtic Frost was starting to do their thing after Hellhammer had come and gone. I don't think Exodus had released Pleasures of the Flesh at that point, maybe it came out in '86, maybe '87 (yep, '87 - Luxi), that was another killer record, a really good album. Everybody was bummed that Paul Baloff was gone but, hey, they carried on and the music was still really killer. Songs like "Seeds of Hate" and "Parasite" and "Chemi-Kill" and stuff like that were all really badass tunes. But '86 was a great year obviously and we all dug it.
Juan Garcia (MASTERS OF METAL): It all started with bands like Iron Maiden, Motörhead, Judas Priest, Saxon in the early days. What started as the "NWOBHM" by 1985-86 was "Speed" and Thrash Metal as a genre was well developed. Bands took those influences and launched a very cool and unique style of their own meshing classic Rock, Metal and Punk influences. I know we did with Agent Steel.
Adam Tranquilli (BLOOD FEAST): It was the culmination of a lot of different elements. After the initial wave bands were now a couple of albums deep and crystallizing their styles, but they all still wanted to prove themselves. The second wave bands were biting at their heels, wanting to "out heavy" those before them and the sound of thrash was beginning to be captured properly by recording engineers.
Chris Bailey (INFERNÄL MÄJESTY): I think what made it possible was the path set by bands like Slayer, Venom and Metallica. Their influence combined with bands learning their craft from those who where now experienced musicians guided by the forefathers of Metal like Black Sabbath and Judas Priest. By 1986 the music was maturing. It was the beginning of the next stage in the evolution of Thrash Metal. Add to that a growing number of Gen Xs listening to the heaviest music known to mankind as it emerged from the underground. It's when the world began to take notice.
Luxi: Do you believe musicians back in 1986 had some sort of a inner drive to show everyone else that his (or her) band had the heaviest or fastest riffs, the most brutal lyrics, the coolest album cover artwork, etc.?
Rob Urbinati (SACRIFICE): There was definitely a lot of that going on but this was maybe the year when bands figured out that this was about as fast and brutal as it can get and began focusing more on putting great songwriting together with that aggression.
Danny Lilker (NUCLEAR ASSAULT): Well, there was certainly a healthy competition between bands in that we inspired each other to push things further in an effort to outdo each other. I know that when I heard Reign In Blood and Darkness Descends, for example, that I thought, "Hmm, we better keep things nice and intense if we want to compete with these guys." But it was a positive thing for the most part and we chose our battles carefully. Nuclear Assault wasn't trying to be as "dark" as those bands, but with one goofy, short song about a well-known Roman-Catholic icon, we won the speed sweepstakes and had some of the most brutal lyrics around!
Michael (ANGEL OF SODOM): Since pretty much everything out there is "open game" and the competitive spirit of one-upmanship is always prevalent in any field or genre, I think the young bands of the day, along with their respective record labels, wanted to make sure their act stood out amongst the others. The problem is that there is only so far you can go before you begin deflating the whole impact of your intended message and the purpose becomes counter-productive. I think that is more of a problem in today with all of the shock value that Death Metal bands and even some modern Thrash bands are trying to achieve. If you cannot generate a great response without having to cut off someone's head and butcher some victim, you simply cannot do the job nor get the job done on your inherent merits and talents alone.
Shaun Farrugia (IN MALICE'S WAKE): Yeah totally agree. As I led to in the previous question, Thrash Metal would have been clearly defined at this point and everyone was in it to outdo each other in every respect. The bands of this time really were pioneers in terms of speed/heaviness and obviously things have progressed much further now in terms of brutality, but at the time this would have been the pinnacle of heaviness. Many would argue that it still is. Most of these releases definitely stand proudly next to anything that is released in 2015 and have stood the test of time.
King Fowley (DECEASED): Somewhat. But again I just think people were really in a zone to play faster, more intense Heavy Metal which became Speed/Thrash Metal.
Coke McFinlay (VIRUS): I think Metallica was the catalyst for all the other Bay Area Thrash bands that were trying to be better than each other. By 1986 the Thrash movement was fully established in the US, Europe & the UK and if you didn't sound like any of the Big 4 you never really integrated into that little clique. So I think everyone was competing to be better, faster and more brutal than each other. Personally, I was listening more to the Crossover bands like Suicidal Tendencies and D.R.I.
Pete "Qualcast Mutilator" Lee (LAWNMOWER DETH): It comes down to individuals. Some people are natural pioneers, some are competitive, some just want to out do the band around the corner, blow the headliner off stage or whatever. Kerry King is probably all of the above for my money. Lawnmower were fans. We weren't out to prove we were the fastest, heaviest, stupidest, loudest or craziest. We simply wanted to be part of something. I think this is true for most people around this time. It was a feeling of belonging that you could literally taste. You went to gigs anywhere in the country and met people you'd seen at other shows. The Thrash scene was less about posing and proving and more about gang mentality in the truest sense of the word. Not violence, but camaraderie. The whole Earache/Death/Grind scene thing for me was more about the questions; who was the fastest (Napalm), the goriest/heaviest (Carcass) and so on. That whole Grind thing seemed to be about outdoing, which was very cool for me, but it wasn't the same in terms of pioneering in the way the Thrash scene did.
Dave Gregor (MORTA SKULD): I'm not sure they felt that way or if it was a conscious effort. I think it was natural for a lot of us to just write what came out and not over think it or over produce it, just let it be organic. Back then we didn't have the internet or any media where we could write together while in different places. Bands back then just got into a room and started to jam and then the product of that was to become these classic albums from that year.
Paul Arnold (AT WAR): Yes, I saw this start to show itself more around the end of 1986. The first of what I would call Death Metal bands began to show up with vocals that were more growling and attempts were made to sound more evil whereas before there was always some semblance of the songs having a groove and some basic melodies inside the heaviness and speed. Some bands felt this wasn't enough for them and they had to be heavier, faster, more evil and with more shock value.
It's my opinion that this was when the scene began to splinter as Metal bands and fans turned on other Metal bands and fans because what was cool a few months ago was now not as cool or seen as not heavy enough or fast enough or whatever enough. I personally saw many fans turn on some of their favorite bands when a faster band came out because they identified themselves as being cooler for liking the most extreme band out.
Howard "H" Smith (ACID REIGN): Well for the answer to that you need to speak to every band around at that time! That wasn't the case in Acid Reign. We did strive to try and be original (I'm sure a few people reading this will find that hard to believe). We used timbales on The Fear and tried all sorts of stuff to try and take the music to a place we felt was fresh and different. However we still wanted to keep it heavy and thrashy. I remember back then there was a rumor going around that "Chemical Warfare" was the fastest song in the world then we heard Kreator and thought WTF?! No I don't think the "the most brutal lyrics" thing is something associated with Thrash; that was more a Death Metal thing. As for cover art? It's all so subjective. I mean some people think the cover of Killing Is My Business... is cool!
Arnd Klink (DARKNESS): I think once the people had their first dose of Thrash they wanted to reach new musical horizons. Everything seemed to be possible. The questions were "what is the limit? How far can we get? Is there a boundary in brutality, speed or hardness?" It was like a competition and everyone wanted to be the hardest!
Michael Lohrenz (NECRONOMICON): It was like a battle of the bands; who was the hardest, who was the fastest, who had the most brutal lyrics, who had the hardest riffs and the fastest drummer. They want to keep it real and authentic. It was still all about pure Metal!
Alexander Landenburg (MEKONG DELTA): I totally believe that and I also believe this was responsible for almost every great recording we have up until now. It was very much like this until at least in the mid 90s. Nowadays, it's just too easy to be completely fake and use Pro Tools productions in such a way that it almost becomes pointless.
Kyriakos "Charlie" Tsiolis (AFTERMATH): I can speak from my own personal experience as a fan and as part of being a singer in Aftermath. As a fan, it could never be fast, aggressive and heavy enough. I remember hearing "Fast as a Shark" by Accept and couldn't believe the double bass. I believe that song was the foundation for the Thrash scene that followed. Lombardo took it to the next level, but that song made fans and bands take notice. Motörhead is another band that had a major influence on the scene.
Like I said earlier, I loved the early Metallica and Slayer records and wanted it all to be Thrash, the faster the better. I never really got into Anthrax because of the vocals. I remember reading a interview with Mustaine before Killing Is My Business... was released and he was bragging it would be the fastest shit ever so you know those bands viewed it as competition. When we wrote our demo Killing the Future, we wrote most of it in 1986 and we wanted it to be the fastest music ever. We wanted the speed of hardcore and the heaviness of Thrash so we looked at it as competition within our own scene in Chicago and around the world. When Don Kaye of Kerrang! called our demo "too damn fast" we took that with pride. The Death bands tried to out growl each other. All the subgenres had bands trying to be the darkest, heaviest, fastest or whatever your genre called for. That competition made the music better. There was respect among the bands back then. The original bands in the scene competed with each other, but also supported each other. This made the scene grow. The 'zines even got into the competition, they tried to make the best zine possible. It was us against the world.
Andreas "Gerre" Geremia (TANKARD): I think at that time a healthy competition was in the heads of musicians. But in my opinion all this "competition," who's fastest or most brutal sounding or whatever, didn't do anything bad for the scene at all. So many truly outstanding Thrash Metal albums were created in 1986!
Reinhard Kruse (S.D.I.): Like I said before, it was like a sport. Since 1986 we've had variations but no new records. The Olympic medals were given away.
Al Johnson (EXCITER): It's just like anything else; someone comes out with a really fast song so you have to go even faster. That's how Thrash was born. You take something current and bring it to the next level. It actually gets really ridiculous after a while because you get to a point where everything has been done to the extreme, to the point where it's stupid.
Mike Browning (NOCTURNUS AD/AFTER DEATH): I actually think that there is a lot more of that now, with people competing to be the fastest or heaviest or whatever. Back then it was still all being called 'Metal' and if you didn't like it all, you were a poser! Of course you always had one or two people that acted like rock stars or that they were better than you, but people will always have egos!
Frank Thoms (ACCU§ER): I think aggression, brutality and a very heavy sound were the impulse, ambition or stimulation. I think all Thrash Metal bands had this passion and every single band had this Thrash sound with their own style back then.
Martin Missy (PROTECTOR): I think that almost all Thrash-musicians back then wanted to be meaner, more aggressive and violent than any other band. And I would say that it was Venom that had a big impact on most of the bands that released the true Thrash Metal highlights in 1986. I'm sure that Venom's albums such as Welcome to Hell from 1981 and Black Metal from 1982 were/are in every record collection of all the band members of Slayer, Kreator, Sacrifice, Destruction and so on. Venom was not Thrash Metal but they were very inspiring for all musicians who wanted to play extreme Metal in the 1980s.
And after Venom EVERY band (in the early/mid-eighties) that played extreme Metal wanted to be harder, faster and more brutal than they were (and other bands as well).
Jeff Tandy (BIRTH A.D.): I'd certainly agree that a key element to pioneering is a desire to push the envelope further and further. There was a lot of healthy competition, trading of ideas and a burning desire to top whatever else was going on at the time. So many of those bands talk about how their goal was to be the fastest, or the heaviest, or the most evil. I think Metallica was focused on being the richest.
Mike Campagnolo (RAZOR): I think there is always a friendly (and sometimes not so friendly!!!!) rivalry among bands and musicians but in my opinion it creates a healthy environment in the sense that it drives people to be more creative in finding new ways to shock and awe an audience or put on a great performance by blowing people away. It has been like that as long as I can remember!
Dan Watson (HEXX): I can't speak for all the other musicians but I know Hexx was driven to play faster and with more aggression and brutality directly because of our friendship with the guys from Sadus. I guess you could say we had a friendly, unspoken competitive drive to try and "out riff" or outdo each other. Back in those days we all smoked a lot of weed and partied hard so we would try and see who could come up with the most brutal, sophisticated and hard to play songs, record them, and then try and pull them off live all the time while we were stoned out of our minds! We applied the same strategy to the cover art as well. We would get super stoned and sit around and dream up all these crazy ideas for album cover artwork. It was great fun! Our album Morbid Realty was a direct result of our friendly, unspoken competition with the guys from Sadus. In the end I have to concede that Sadus probably won that competition!
Erik Sprooten (INQUISITOR): I don't know how much those musicians felt an inner drive back then to prove something but I think they felt the same way I did during the 90s in the formative years of Inquisitor. I felt a bit like the way you describe in your question. But then again, I think this is something that happens all the time. There will always be hungry (Metal) musicians who want to be more technical, faster, more aggressive, etc. and thus try to improve or outdo what's been done before.
Charly Steinhauer (PARADOX): I agree that a lot of bands tried to be the fastest or heaviest back in those days but since the beginning of Thrash Metal's evolution it was not limited to just playing fast. Songs like "For Whom the Bell Tolls", "Seek & Destroy", "Fade to Black", "Leper Messiah" or "Toxic Waltz" showed why.
Anyway, when Death Metal introduced this blast-speed stuff, to gain some separation from the Thrash Metal genre, quite a few things happened in the evolution of Metal music overall. It made no sense for Thrash Metal bands to try and be the fastest or most brutal band on the earth. The focus of Thrash Metal acts was somewhere else musically, I believe.
Ed Klinger (CALIGULA): Without a doubt, that was a motivator! It was a very healthy and MOSTLY friendly competition. Everyone wanted to be the fastest, heaviest band out there. It seemed like every great record would raise the bar a little higher.
Mem von Stein (EXUMER): I think most of us believed we had to come up with top notch products in order to compete but that is nowhere near what it takes for a band to get recognized in today's music industry or musical landscape.
Rick Scythe (USURPER/SCYTHE): I think it actually started in the early 80s. But if you listen to old Venom or even Slayer's Show No Mercy, there were still elements of classic Heavy Metal and Hard Rock. It seemed that by the mid 80s many of these classic Thrash/Black/extreme bands were on their second or third album. Usually a band of any genre doesn't find their own unique sound until their second or third album. The first album is where the foundation is cemented but a bands' identity isn't fully realized until an album or two later. That is when a band usually perfects their unique style. So I think by 1986 this was a legitimate form of music, not some offshoot of NWOBHM or classic Heavy Metal. The founding bands were on their second or third albums and fans, labels and even band members now fully embraced this new form of music. It was no longer just a heavier, more extreme version of Judas Priest by this time.
Patrick Ranieri (HELLWITCH): I believe it to a certain degree, but I think this sentiment was TRULY bursting in '84-'85! I saw it first hand with bands like Morbid Angel, Death, and Nasty Savage. They sought to be the MOST extreme well before '86! I'm sure the California scene was the same way judging by the band photos, videos, etc. I collected then.
Josh Christian (TOXIK): Well, as the principle writer and engine for Toxik's creativity I can honestly say I never once thought of any of that. I think we as a band just wanted to make the best music we could. I'm not sure we calculated any portion of it.
World Circus was written during 1986 and it was more a social critique lyrically and an expression of where we were at on our instruments musically. I wish I could give you a "cool" answer but we were more interested in making the best album we could. Toxik was always a nerdy band.
Rick Cortez (SADISTIC INTENT): I cannot say I know what those musicians were thinking but in 1986 we were called Devastation and I know what we were thinking. Bay and I were trying to come out with some the fastest and heaviest Metal at that time! Perhaps those other bands thought they were the most aggressive of all or they just enjoyed the music and tried their hardest to be the most extreme at the time.
Michael Gilbert (FLOTSAM AND JETSAM): That exactly how it was in 1986. The first Metallica song I heard was "Hit the Lights" released in '83. The speed, energy and aggression of that song had me hooked. It set the bar for me as far as my songwriting was concerned. If I wrote a riff that did not have the energy of that fucking song, it got tossed aside. Tons of riffs got thrown in the riff graveyard after Kill 'Em All and even more were discarded when Master of Puppets was released in '86.
Gene Hoglan (DARK ANGEL/TESTAMENT): Boy, that is a good question. Maybe there was this internal competition between all these bands like, "Hey, let me look around and see who also has got something going." Destruction is one of my favorite bands and they were putting out amazing records. I know for a fact Slayer was looking around at all the other bands. They never admitted it but they did.
I would have conversations with Jeff Hanneman in 1984 about how bad ass Dark Angel was. This is before I was in Dark Angel. But Hanneman was definitely looking over his shoulder at Dark Angel. He was the one explaining to me how kickass Dark Angel was. The Dark Angel guys were my buddies. We hung out and I eventually went to go work for them before I started playing drums for them.
During this time Hanneman was like, "Jesus, Dark Angel is killing us, they're heavier than us, they're faster than us," and I remember telling him, "Dude, what are you worried about? You're Slayer." At that point they had only recorded the Haunting the Chapel EP. It hadn't been released but in the summer of 1984 you've got bands looking around. Oh, Jesus, of course, you cannot forget in 1986 the amazing Possessed. They put out Beyond the Gates which was a killer record, though it had an odd production.
I remember reading that Carl Canedy was going to be producing that album and I thought, "Wow, he did a really good job with Anthrax and all that stuff so I bet Possessed is going to sound really good on that album. They didn't but the tunes were still good, we really dug that record and that led to an amazing tour of the US with Possessed and Dark Angel starting in January 1987.
I know when it comes to Dark Angel, all we were concerned about was trying to write the best material we could and even though we turned out to be one of the fastest bands on the planet, speed was never our initial goal. We just wanted to be the heaviest and the most brutal band that we could be. I remember I was the lyricist at that time and looking around at other bands lyrics and thinking, "Hmm, there's not a lot out there that really excites me." Everybody was writing about nuclear war and pointing fingers at bad things in politics oh, and jump in the pit. Everybody Thrash around in the pit and all that sort of stuff; Bonded by Blood-style of lyrical imagery. I know that was great for those bands but I just wanted to write something a little more personal, I suppose. Whether it was more intelligent or not, that's not for me to decide. But I did want to write something a little more personal, more from the heart. It was not my intention by any means to say, "Oh these lyrics are going to stand the test of time and people are going to enjoy these lyrics for years and years to come." I was just trying to write the lyrics to the latest song.
Over the years, Dark Angel's lyrics have been an important facet of the band. I think I would imagine people were probably trying to write the heaviest, fastest, coolest stuff they could.
Juan Garcia (MASTERS OF METAL): A lot of bands in '86 tried to be the fastest, heaviest and just plain outrageous and I think that was a good thing for the time. We applied the most originality that we were capable of but of course we had our influences.
Adam Tranquilli (BLOOD FEAST): That was very important. We all wanted to have fun and have a good time but at the same time we wanted to outdo the Slayers and Kreators of the world. With Blood Feast speed was ALWAYS important.
Chris Bailey (INFERNÄL MÄJESTY): Hell yes! For me it's still that way, lol! I remember way back to those days reading about a band called Kreator with Pleasure to Kill just being released and their goal of being the fastest band on the planet. That was good enough for me to literally run to my local Radio Shack and request its arrival immediately. I know for us personally we had that very intention of being the heaviest band in the world. Our original drummer Rick Nemes even proclaimed once we would overthrow Slayer, lol! I think those roots still lurk in us all, even 30 years later. No other form of music pushes the boundaries like Metal.
Luxi: Do you consider 1986 to be the most productive year for Thrash Metal or do you believe the pinnacle was reached later in 1987 or 1988?
Rob Urbinati (SACRIFICE): I think it was earlier, actually. Show No Mercy, Kill 'Em All, Hell Awaits, Haunting the Chapel, Ride the Lightning, Morbid Tales and others had already come out.
Danny Lilker (NUCLEAR ASSAULT): If I relate this question to what my band was doing then, I'd say that whole 3-year period was quite productive. We were growing as a band and in popularity. In general? By '88 it had reached the point where too many bands were starting to sound too derivative of their favorite bands; the Slayer intro followed by the Exodus verse, etc. Remember, when Thrash first came out, everyone had their own style, but by '88 the snake was starting to eat its own tail.
Michael (ANGEL OF SODOM): It's hard to pinpoint exactly. I think it's a toss-up between 1985 and 1986 and by the time 1988 rolled around it was as if the sharpest blade of the initial onslaught of Thrash had begun to dull. Too many progressive or otherwise commercial elements had begun to seep into Thrash as could readily be heard on the toothless Practice What You Preach and Souls of Black albums by Testament toward the end of the '80s, to say nothing of the completely flat The Ritual. The same could be argued for Exodus' Impact Is Imminent and especially about the lifeless Force of Habit album that followed. The best, truest Thrash was already made by 1988.
Shaun Farrugia (IN MALICE'S WAKE): Each year has its highlights ('89 is a great example as Beneath the Remains, Agent Orange and No More Color are three of my all time favorites) but looking at the year as a whole, you'd have to conclude that there was no year in the history of Thrash that saw as many landmark releases. So many absolute classics that remain favorites to this day and shaped the genre significantly were released that year. I imagine it would have been a very exciting time to be a Thrash fan.
King Fowley (DECEASED): I think each of those years had moments. It was still pretty "new" in 1986 and I think that stands out as just the biggest moment of it all.
Coke McFinlay (VIRUS): Like I said Thrash Metal was well established by 1986, so productivity on both continents was rich with variety and talent thanks to the diversity in styles, mainly due to the influence of Punk, Hardcore and Heavy Metal from the late 70's, early 80's. Thrash probably did peak about 87/88, probably due to over-produced albums and the commercial success of certain Thrash bands.
Pete "Qualcast Mutilator" Lee (LAWNMOWER DETH): When you look at the output from 1986 it has to be seen as THE pinnacle. Of course there are albums before and after which are brilliant but it was the year that produced the last true (and best) Metallica album, Reign in Blood, Game Over, Doomsday for the Receiver, Darkness Descends, Flag of Hate, Obsessed by Cruelty, Rrröööaaarrr, Beyond the Gates, etc. I mean, really, this thing was coming like a tsunami at this point and they were all over here touring. I was 18 years old and it was perfection for me.
Dave Gregor (MORTA SKULD): Those years were golden times, when a musician could be just that and make a living off his/her art. That year was important as it was the start of a new style of music that was extreme and yet new with no rules. I always say that those years you could live your dream and do what you wanted and in our current time it is sad state of music and we should be honored to have these classic albums that still make us go forward and write and play music.
Paul Arnold (AT WAR) I think that '86 through '88 were indeed the times that are most revered by today's Thrash fans, but as far as most productive, I'm not sure. Many want to remember that as being the "Golden Age" of Thrash but there was some pretty cool stuff that came out in '87 and '88.
Howard "H" Smith (ACID REIGN): It's not something I think about at all. I don't divide music up into years. The scene was at its most productive over those years and gave us some all-time classics but for me the best was yet to come as Vio-Lence didn't release anything until 1988.
Arnd Klink (DARKNESS): I think 1986 was something like an ignition for Thrash Metal. Many good bands and albums followed, too many to mention here! And I think it isn't over even today. Just listen to the underground. Eighties Thrash is alive again!
Michael Lohrenz (NECRONOMICON): For me it was a fascinating developmental phase for Metal music. For me, it started in 1986 and still isn't finished.
Alexander Landenburg (MEKONG DELTA): I guess both are true. It might have been the most productive year but many of my favorites were actually the follow ups to the '86 albums. For example ...And Justice for All or Rust in Peace.
Kyriakos "Charlie" Tsiolis (AFTERMATH): I would have to say 1985/86 was the high point of Thrash. I think that the original Thrash bands wrote their best records by 1986. They peaked. Some released great records after that but not as great as the 1986 material. A lot of the bands started to sell out and become what their heroes became at the beginning of the decade.
By 1987, the second generation of Thrash bands started to come out. I won't name them but I think too many of the next generation didn't get it. Like any scene the originators are the most original and creative. The ones at the beginning have influences that come from other styles and the originators of the new scene incorporate the influences and create something new. The bands that follow usually just mimic the original bands of the new scene. I think the early Thrash bands had guys in the bands that were smart and so were the fans; and I don't think that is necessarily true with many of the second generation. What I am saying is this, the early Thrash bands rebelled from the music of the time. We weren't into the bands that got us into the Metal scene anymore, they became boring. The second generation of Thrash bands especially the older dudes that decided to play Thrash once it became popular, I think weren't real and the music isn't genuine. Those guys continued to play traditional Metal until they realized it wasn't popular anymore so they either joined hair bands or formed what they thought were Thrash bands. Unlike the guys that were in the Thrash scene in the beginning before Metallica became the biggest band in the world, a lot of the bands that came out post 1986 played Thrash to make it not because they loved it. When Master of Puppets sold as many records as it did, everyone wanted to be in a Thrash band. For the kids that actually grew up loving and listening to Thrash and got into Metal because of Thrash, those kids got it back then. They weren't pretenders like say Pantera. I know a lot of people love them and I hear people call them Thrash. You can love Pantera, but they aren't Thrash, they are the example of the older dudes that realized that traditional Metal was dead, they couldn't be a Hair or Glam band (Pantera actually tried being a Glam band first), so they wrote heavier songs. They didn't rebel against the old scene, they were forced to leave it behind. The Thrash scene changed after 1986 even the fans changed. The pit was no longer a reaction to the music, it was more for show. I blame the Panteras of the world for that too.
Andreas "Gerre" Geremia (TANKARD): I don't think that the year 1986 was the most productive year for Thrash. The whole period from the early eighties to the beginning of the nineties was the most important time for the evolution of Thrash Metal because during that period Thrash was started and later on became established amongst Heavy Metal fans. Things that happened back then are the reasons Thrash Metal as a Metal music genre is still alive and will probably be alive for the next 100 years!
Reinhard Kruse (S.D.I.): I think in 1987-88 the music became a bit more important instead just riff-sport. The crowd was already shocked. Now it had to be entertained. Better music = better albums (my personal meaning).
Al Johnson (EXCITER): The most productive years were earlier, where it all began in the early 80s. Those were the most creative years where we were doing something different and we didn't even know it. We didn't even realize we were creating the next genre of Heavy Metal.
Mike Browning (NOCTURNUS AD/AFTER DEATH): I don't think the pinnacle actually hit until after 1992, because in the US Thrash Metal just was getting popular around '85-'86 and for a few years all the bands just kept getting better at what they did until over saturation occurred by 1993.
Frank Thoms (ACCU§ER): In 1986 Thrash Metal showed the whole world how Metal music can sound aggressive and brutal. Later on we witnessed other kinds of influences in the (Metal) music in general. It showed the flexibility of Thrash Metal music and it still was dangerous at the same time. Some bands got too far away from the Thrash Metal parameters and one could not say anymore this or that band was a Thrash Metal band but perhaps a pioneer of a new kind of music, one still rooted in Thrash.
Martin Missy (PROTECTOR): 1986 was a fantastic year for Thrash Metal, no doubt about that, but for me 1985 was a bigger Thrash year. 1985 is the year I really started to listen to more and more extreme Metal, so it has an emotional connection for me. The other reason is of course that there were so many great Thrash albums that were released in 1985; Destruction's Infernal Overkill, Kreator's Endless Pain, Megadeth's Killing Is My Business..., Slayer's Hell Awaits, Anthrax's Spreading the Disease, Celtic Frost's To Mega Therion, Morsüre's Acceleration Process and my personal, all-time favorite album Bonded by Blood by Exodus. For me personally it was 1985 and 1986. 1987 and 1988 were also good years for Thrash, but not as good as the years before.
Jeff Tandy (BIRTH A.D.): The crucial blueprints for the sound were established in 1985-1986, no doubt about it. I think by '87-'88 there were a lot of technical and performance upgrades that codified the sound for the long haul. Then again, most of the great releases of '86 had their follow-ups in '87-'88 and, with few exceptions, those releases weren't as essential.
Mike Campagnolo (RAZOR): That's hard to pin down in my opinion because there have been many pinnacle points in Thrash Metal from 1984 to today if you really do a timeline. 1986 was definitely a time when a lot of bands started to reap the rewards for all their hard work in terms of popularity, recognition and $$$$ but it was also a time when many sub-genres started to dilute the true Thrash bands and a huge market was spreading out in all kinds of different directions. It was hard to keep up with all the bands coming out at the time.
Dan Watson (HEXX): It would be hard for me to pinpoint the most productive year for Thrash Metal. My best guess, however, would be the years from 1986 to 1988.
Erik Sprooten (INQUISITOR): 1986 was certainly a very productive year but I think for me personally Thrash Metal reached its pinnacle in 1989 when Kreator released Extreme Aggression and Sepultura released Beneath the Remains. And let's not forget Leave Scars by Dark Angel either. The popularity of Thrash Metal was at its peak at that time I think. More Thrash Metal bands got the opportunity to record with a proper budget by then.
Charly Steinhauer (PARADOX): In my opinion 1986 was surely one of the most productive years but not the most important year for Thrash Metal. The most important year for Thrash Metal was 1983.
Metallica's Kill 'Em All changed a lot. Everybody who first listened to this record knew right away that something special was coming. That's why Metallica deserves to be the biggest of all the Thrash Metal bands. Then came Slayer with Show No Mercy, Anthrax with Fistful of Metal and two years later, in 1985, Exodus with Bonded by Blood. In 1986 we got albums like Master of Puppets by Metallica, Reign in Blood by Slayer and in 1987 the Thrash Metal movement was continued on debut albums from Testament (The Legacy) and in 1988 Forbidden (Forbidden Evil). All great and important Thrash Metal records for sure.
After five golden years of Thrash, the pinnacle of Thrash Metal was reached in 1988 in my sincere opinion.
Ed Klinger (CALIGULA): I think for me it has to be 1986, though I also really liked the more "Crossover" Metal sounds (especially those coming out of NYC) of 1987-88. That really started to take off and I think it was in part because the Metal bands felt a little like they were starting to need new influences...
Mem von Stein (EXUMER): I would say it was one of the most productive years but I think Thrash Metal's reign was from late 1983 to 1988, in my opinion that is.
Rick Scythe (USURPER/SCYTHE): In all honesty, it is hard to pinpoint music to just a specific year for me. With Usurper we always said we were influenced by early to mid 80s underground Metal. So for me personally, 1983-1987 was the sweet spot for Thrash/extreme/underground Metal or whatever you want to call it. Because of this, your feature specifically on the year 1986 still makes sense to me. I think the '83, '84 bands were still struggling to identify their new sound with the legions of fans and by 1985-1987 things were established and perfected. Fans, magazines and labels were now 100% on board and by 1988-89 it was starting to become predictable and over-saturated. People were ready for the next new thing to kick them in the ass.
Patrick Ranieri (HELLWITCH): Hahahahah... That's funny! '87??? '88???? NO, I think '87 and '88 were actually when the GREAT originators were starting to go downhill a bit!
Slayer, Metallica, Death, Possessed, Sacrifice, etc. were all "slipping" a bit by then. BUT, I guess you could say the lighter Thrash like Death Angel, Testament, Forbidden, Vio-lence, etc., WERE indeed blowing up later in the 80s. So, I guess it depends on how you look "THRASH".
Josh Christian (TOXIK): I'd say that 1983 to 1993 was the decade of Thrash. I don't think any one year was more exceptional than any other.
Rick Cortez (SADISTIC INTENT): Actually, my pick would have to be 1985!
Michael Gilbert (FLOTSAM AND JETSAM): Thrash Metal was an embryo in 1986. 1988 was the "terrible twos" wrecking things and not giving a fuck about getting in trouble or knowing what the word "no" meant and by the time 90's started, we calmed down a bit and learned what a time out was. I think it finally peaked then.
Gene Hoglan (DARK ANGEL/TESTAMENT): Well, I may have answered that question in the first answer but like I said, '86 was a great year and '87 had some great releases as well. Up until 1991 you had great albums coming out. Just to recap, one of my absolute, all-time favorite Thrash records, Artillery's Terror Squad, came out in 1987. That album is just chock full of riff after riff after riff and amazing vocals. I love Flemming Rönsdorf's vocal style. He had a really throaty, manly and awesome delivery and he could do screams and they had vocal lines that were rather melodic. It wasn't somebody just barfing into a mike. I love barfing into a mike, too. I think that's bad ass as long as your cadences are cool.
Early Slayer had some of the best vocal lines ever. There were no melodies involved but they were kickass. I tried to do the same with Dark Angel when we had Don Doty as a vocalist. He had a very limited range. We created him in the studio during Darkness Descends, me and Jim Durkin. We created that voice in the studio. If you noticed on We Have Arrived, they were not like they were on Darkness Descends. So we take the credit for that and you're very welcome.
There wasn't much we could do. It was like, "Okay, you're going to screech and sound like German-style Thrash, like Mille from Kreator or Schmier from Destruction. Don, you have that kind of vocal style and that's all that you have, so that's what I have to work with." When we got Ron Rinehart I was still in the mode of writing for Don Doty so the Leave Scars record had some barking vocals. There was not much melody involved just a little bit here and there on songs like "Leave Scars" and "Never to Rise Again." And of course, I went way overboard on Time Does Not Heal. I take all the blame for that. If you like the vocals on Time Does Not Heal Ron deserves the credit. If you don't like the vocals on Time Does Not Heal, I deserve all the blame. So there you go.
Every year had great stuff and I could go on and on and on about all the great Thrash records from the US and abroad.
Juan Garcia (MASTERS OF METAL): For me, 1983-84 was the pinnacle. I was playing with Abattoir at the time and we were writing our debut album Vicious Attack. Then in 1985 I went on to record and release Skeptics Apocalypse with Agent Steel which to me is a timeless classic Speed Metal release with lots of Thrash influences. 1987 was good too; EvilDead put out their debut Annihilation of Civilization. All those years were monumental for me and for Thrash Metal overall with releases by Exodus, Nuclear Assault, Testament, Kreator, Destruction, Sodom and Dark Angel. I can see how people would think the later years in the 80's were the pinnacle with bands like Megadeth, and Metallica getting so popular during that time.
Adam Tranquilli (BLOOD FEAST): To me the golden era of Thrash started in late 1984 with War and Pain and then Hell Awaits and Bonded by Blood. 1986 was killer, no question about it, but it continued through the rest of the decade. So many important and creative records were released after '86. In 1987 alone there was Killing Technology, Terrible Certainty and The Legacy. All three are killer Thrash releases, yet very different from each another. And let's not forget that Scum by Napalm Death also came out in '87. Talk about ground breaking!!"
Chris Bailey (INFERNÄL MÄJESTY): I believe 1986 was a pinnacle year. However, every year had its good, bad and ugly but in 1986 so many bands hit Thrash Metal perfection and the popularity of the music got larger. By 1988 some bands started to experiment more with their songwriting in an effort to separate themselves from the herd. This led to more mixed styles that weren't always appreciated but the diversity only increased its popularity and though there have been some ups and downs I would say Thrash and all its offspring has continued to grow in leaps and bounds. I believe there has never been a better time than now to be involved with one's passion.
Luxi: What is your favorite Thrash Metal album from 1986 and why? And please, no ties...
Rob Urbinati (SACRIFICE): I'm going with Master. They really put themselves a fair distance ahead of everyone else with this album. An incredible, timeless record.
Danny Lilker (NUCLEAR ASSAULT): I'll just have to go with Reign in Blood for two reasons. One, it's a savage fucking album in every aspect. And two (going back to the theme of question two), it inspired us to kick things up a few notches so we wouldn't sound lame in comparison. For the most part this wasn't anything we discussed aloud; it was more like seeing the "record" light go on in the studio and thinking (in a non-petty, not jealous way), "We'll show those motherfuckers how to play fast!!"
Michael (ANGEL OF SODOM): I would have to say Metallica's Master of Puppets was the most notable Thrash album of '86, edging out Slayer's Reign in Blood, simply due to stronger songwriting overall. Metallica never sounded better than on Ride the Lightning (my personal Metallica favorite) and Master of Puppets. I think that if Slayer had more in the way of diversity amongst the tempos of their songs or even more breakdowns on Reign in Blood, they would have taken the lead in this toss-up.
Shaun Farrugia (IN MALICE'S WAKE): OK, I'm going to go the boring answer and just say Reign in Blood, haha!! There are so many to choose from, but honestly, RIB makes its way back into my car stereo way more often than any of the other albums released in that year. There is still nothing that captures the rampant, savage, evil and wild spirit of Thrash Metal like that release does. Love Pleasure to Kill, Puppets, Peace Sells..., Morbid Visions, Game Over and of course Mayhemic Destruction. Of course I saw the Dave Lombardo clinic a few weeks ago so maybe that is influencing me but on second thought it's just a timeless, devastating Thrash record with some of the best riffs ever written.
King Fowley (DECEASED): I'm going with Voivod's Rrröööaaarrr. It's not actually full on Thrash but something very over the top and barbaric and as ugly as it gets. It's primitive and savage and catchy too as much as it's full of aggression, anger and power! The record fits the album cover art! What an amazing record!!!
Coke McFinlay (VIRUS): Has to be Peace Sells... The transition from Killing Is My Business... is phenomenal!!
Pete "Qualcast Mutilator" Lee (LAWNMOWER DETH): Probably the easiest question I've ever been asked; Reign in Blood. It's the best Thrash album ever!!! No arguments!! It's never been touched! I don't listen to much Thrash these days but I listen to Reign in Blood every week. Nothing ever got close to this album. The sheer speed and aggression in comparison to Megadeth/Metallica or whatever you had been transitioning through was WTF compared to this! The tour was incredible!! Sword didn't stand a chance as the opener. It was devastation! I remember being in the pit, they were playing the album clean through and it was carnage. I remember being mashed by a guy looking like Jason from Friday 13th, there was a guy in there with a machete, it was insane! It was terrifying!! And it was awesome!!! The German stuff didn't really do it for me, I always found it too clinical, Megadeth never floated my boat, I loved Master of Puppets and Game Over was way closer to the vision we had for Lawnmower as it was way more Crossover in its feel, but no one was touching Reign in Blood. Everything about the album is cool. Only 29 minutes, all killer riffs, Lombardo's drumming is insane, Araya's vocals drip pure menace, the artwork is killer, the inner sleeve photos are stunning.
Dave Gregor (MORTA SKULD): My answer to number four is Metal Church's The Dark. What a great follow-up to their debut and just lots of great songs. I loved this band from day one and David Wayne's vocals are amazing. The songs really spoke to me as I was in the service at the time and a lot of his songs were about that topic.
Paul Arnold (AT WAR): For me it had to be Destruction's Eternal Devastation. I wore that album out. I loved the way the sounded and the ferocity they put forth. The energy and the speed is what I really dug.
Howard "H" Smith (ACID REIGN): Reign in Puppets. No ties right?
Arnd Klink (DARKNESS): Slayer's Reign in Blood without doubt. It is pure aggression; raw and concentrated Thrash Metal. Everything you can express in Thrash Metal is recorded in this album.
Michael Lohrenz (NECRONOMICON): Ha! That's an easy question to answer: Slayer's Reign in Blood, most definitely!
Alexander Landenburg (MEKONG DELTA): While my favorite band of the whole genre is certainly Megadeth, I think Reign in Blood especially for Lombardo's drumming which was a game changer. It's the 1986 Thrash album that certainly had the biggest impact on me personally as a drummer.
Kyriakos "Charlie" Tsiolis (AFTERMATH): Slayer's Reign in Blood. This is my shortest answer as for the why? The answer is simply it's the epitome of Thrash Metal, end of story. If anyone thinks it's not, they're wrong, sorry!
Andreas "Gerre" Geremia (TANKARD): Deathrow's debut album Riders of Doom! The song compositions on it are quite straightforward and some killer hooks are present within their songs on that record. I really fell in love with that album when I first heard it and for some strange reason also the album title got stuck in my mind indelibly hence we had a song called "Riders of the Doom" on our last album R.I.B. (Rest in Beer). It sort of shows our worship of Deathrow and their debut album in particular. Boys, please come back!
Reinhard Kruse (S.D.I.): S.D.I.'s Satan's Defloration Incorporated. I am sorry, but I don't really know other albums of that year really well. ;-)
Al Johnson (EXCITER): If I had to choose true Thrash, I'd choose the original creators, the Godfathers of Thrash and that's Motörhead's Orgasmatron.
Mike Browning (NOCTURNUS AD/AFTER DEATH): Without a doubt it was Slayer's Reign in Blood. Although my favorite Slayer album is still Hell Awaits, Reign in Blood really took the whole Metal scene to another level. Nowadays there is a lot more brutal and intense stuff out there, but at the time in 1986 Slayer was at the top!
Frank Thoms (ACCU§ER): Ouuuuuhhhhhhh, this is a difficult question. Slayer's Master of Puppets. ;-D
Martin Missy (PROTECTOR): For me it must be Slayer's Reign in Blood. I was (and still am) totally blown away by the intensity, speed (I mean 10 songs in 29 minutes, come on!) and aggression of this recording. And the album cover was so surreal, chaotic and brutal! I was really fortunate that I was able to see them live on the "Reign in Blood" tour on the 28th of April 1987 in Osnabrück (and to talk to Tom Araya afterwards). This is something I will never forget.
Jeff Tandy (BIRTH A.D.): It's Reign in Blood, no contest. That album was a game-changer and it has held up incredibly well over time. I have seen packed metal shows where pits break out because "Angel of Death" is playing over the PA between bands. That is undeniable power.
Mike Campagnolo (RAZOR): Slayer's Reign in Blood. To me it was the next step in a more polished sound to Thrash Metal as far as studio production and song writing and besides it was a killer fucking album. The end.
Dan Watson (HEXX): In 1986 I would have to that Slayer's Reign in Blood was probably on my turn table the most that year. The sheer raw aggression, emotion and power really shine through on that record for me.
Erik Sprooten (INQUISITOR): Reign in Blood and Pleasure to Kill belong without any doubt on my favorite Thrash Metal albums list but Darkness Descends by the mighty Dark Angel is definitely my favorite of all time. It's hard to describe why I like that album so much but I guess I like the sum of all things on this very aggressive sounding album. Every instrument is audible on Darkness Descends; the songs are great, the guitars are killer, Gene Hoglan was already a great drummer back then and on top of it are the great vocals of Don Doty. From the first song to the last song, it's a relentless album with almost no slowing down, except for "Black Prophecies." "The Burning of Sodom" and "Perish in Flames" are my favorite numbers off that record.
Charly Steinhauer (PARADOX): For me it is Flotsam & Jetsam's Doomsday for the Deceiver.
Albums like Metallica's Master of Puppets or Slayer's Reign in Blood make it hard to pick one of the many great Thrash Metal records that were released during that particular year but I choose Flotsam's debut as my favorite album from 1986. Tracks like "Hammerhead", "Iron Tears", "Metal Shock" (which has an awesome middle part), or the 9-minute epic title track simply said blew me away. Eric A.K.'s high screams still get my fist in the air and were a big influence on me personally. In fact, I still clearly remember the day I bought this masterpiece for myself. I had no expectations because the album cover art looked pretty cheap to me but shortly after I put the needle on this album I was speechless.
Ed Klinger (CALIGULA): Reign in Blood is the only choice. Best Thrash Metal album ever, period.
Mem von Stein (EXUMER): Probably Megadeth's Peace Sells album.
Rick Scythe (USURPER/SCYTHE): King Diamond Fatal Portrait. I bought this record the day it came out. I was a huge Mercyful Fate fan back in the day. I was a little confused why this wasn't simply the next Mercyful Fate album seeing that most of the musicians were Mercyful Fate members, but after listening to it one time, I didn't care what the reasoning was behind this band being named King Diamond. The songs, artwork, photos, lyrics and production just hooked me. I think it is more timeless than many other albums from the mid 80s and I still listen to it to this day. It doesn't sound dated.
Patrick Ranieri (HELLWITCH): Tough to say. Sacrifice's Torment in Fire came out in '85, but I see online some sources say '86. I would say if you include it in the '85 releases (it did come out in 1986 - Luxi), then my next fave would be Slayer R.I.B. And, honestly, that was the beginning of Slayer starting to "slip" a bit. No epic songs, not as original as their first three. Why? Because it was fast and godly and catchy as fly paper! No ties?? Damn, I thought this was the 1986 wedding Thrash edition! Fine, no tie.
Josh Christian (TOXIK): Peace Sells... would have to be my choice. I wore that album and cassette out within a couple of years. Great songs, awesome guitar playing and super cool artwork! A perfect album and still Mustaine's best effort.
Rick Cortez (SADISTIC INTENT): It's certainly not easy to only pick but if I can only mention one, then that will be Reign in Blood by Slayer and if it was 1985, Hell Awaits. Although there are other great albums that also came out in 1986, overall, I think it was the most aggressive yet catchy record that flows from beginning to end.
Michael Gilbert (FLOTSAM AND JETSAM): That's a tough one. Peace Sells... or Master of Puppets. Both had a huge influence on me. Master of Puppets had the heavy guitar sound that could crush concrete and Peace Sells... had the ripping guitar riffs of Poland and Mustaine. Both had reached a musical maturity that I think a lot of bands lacked during that time. Since there are no ties, I'm going to go with Peace Sells... because of the influence "MegaDave" had on me.
Gene Hoglan (DARK ANGEL/TESTAMENT): I would have to say Darkness Descends just because that is the perfect kind of Thrash for me. Reign in Blood is obviously a classic and there's no taking anything away from it for us more aggressive thrashers. Master of Puppets had three or four good songs on it and then just a bunch of stuff like "Orion" and "Leper Messiah" and "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" and all that stuff. I just wasn't that thrilled with Metallica. I love "Damage Inc.", "Battery" was okay and "The Thing That Should Not Be" was a good heavy track. Reign in Blood is chock full of classics. You cannot beat the lyrics from "Angel of Death." Those are the best Thrash lyrics ever written, I would imagine. For me, Darkness... because, hey, it's my first record. I'm allowed to say what my favorite record of the year was. I love that. I love that there are no ties here but I loved Game Over from Nuclear Assault; that was a great one.
What did Destruction put out? Eternal Devastation that year? Wargasm had their Satan Stole My Lunch Money demo. That was out and was really killer and I know 1985 had Artillery's Fear of Tomorrow which had a lot of really strong tracks on that but that's not '86. So my personal favorite of '86 would have to be Darkness... That's my opinion. It was a super fun album to be a part of. I'd never seen the process happen before. I've been in lots of recording projects or just recording sessions when other people were recording. I was there for Slayer's first record, in the studio for Show No Mercy. I was there for Haunting the Chapel, I was there for We Have Arrived from Dark Angel just hanging out with those guys and I'd seen lots of albums being recorded. I never had the chance to helm a project so Darkness Descends is more than just an album for me, it marks the start of my career in Metal. That's why that one has a very beautiful spot in my heart. And that's my favorite of 1986. So anyway, there you go.
All right my man. That probably sums it all up here and I appreciate your time and again thank you very much for your patience. I really appreciate it. Thank you very much my friend and thank you very much to The Metal Crypt. I'm sitting in front of Jim Durkin's house right now in my car, just drove two and a half hours from San Diego here to Lakewood California and I'm doing this interview in my car because I'm an hour and a half early for rehearsal today.
Keep thrashing and we really appreciate your support. Thank you very much my friend, we will see you soon. Take care.
Juan Garcia (MASTERS OF METAL): That is a tough question as a lot of great albums were released that year but I would say Slayer's Reign in Blood is my favorite and Exodus' Bonded by Blood is my second favorite, but that came out in 1985.
Adam Tranquilli (BLOOD FEAST): Reign in Blood by Slayer, no question about it. As my old band mate Mike Basden said, "Black Sabbath wrote the book and Slayer rewrote it with Reign in Blood." Enough said.
Chris Bailey (INFERNÄL MÄJESTY): My personal favorite for 1986 was Reign in Blood. I think Reign in Blood set the bar so high that it was inevitable that bands would want to try and see where that influence would take them. To me it is still the greatest album of all time. Its raw, brutally satanic atmosphere combined with incredible lyrics that allow you to visualize images of horror with each sentence being bellowed out by Araya and his sinister vocals. This is the album chiseled in stone set atop the highest peak. To me it is the album that defined a generation and topped off 1986 as the most important year in the history of Thrash Metal.
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