Tribute to the Obscure and Underrated Speed & Thrash Metal Underground 1980-1990
All interviews conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: October 11, 2021
Between 1980 and 1990, many great speed and thrash metal albums were released including many beyond the most well-known and popular ones. Unfortunately, many never received the attention they deserved. We asked several musicians and industry people to spotlight some of these albums and the results were interesting and even surprising, to say the least.
My sincere thanks to everyone who participated in this feature.
Name ONE speed/thrash metal album from the period 1980-1990 that deserved more attention and success and please tell us why?
King Fowley (DECEASED): Whiplash's Power and Pain, easily the best thrash record ever made. Every song is catchy as fuck with vicious drums and bass and some insane guitar playing. Screaming at high velocity vocals and over-the-top everything. The debut Whiplash record was around but never got mentioned with the big leaguers when it easily destroyed them in my eyes. 110% out of 100% record!
Frank Stöver (VOICES FROM THE DARKSIDE): Whiplash's Power and Pain, simply because it is one hell of an aggressive album with some of the best pissed off vocals ever, killer riffs and just great overall songwriting.
Matías Leonicio (NUCLEAR): Actually, it is not an album, it is an EP. I am talking about the self-titled debut of LA-based thrash metal maniacs Recipients of Death. These dudes took the aggressiveness of thrash to the next level. If Dark Angel sounds angry and violent, Recipients of Death sounds more angry, more violent and more uncompromising in their efforts to play fast and furious thrash. I never understood why this band, alongside Gammacide, never caught more attention from media and fans. It is a hidden treasure of the late '80s metal scene, definitely.
Aethon (EURYNOMOS/MEGATHÉRION): Lots of thrash metal albums from the '80s that weren't very popular back then later on got the recognition they deserved. One all-time fave of mine, which still is not super known today, is The Unsane's Inverted Crosses mini album. Probably not the most unique release on the planet, it is pretty much influenced by old Slayer and Kreator. But still, that release is a wicked piece of thrash. I like the raw and authentic vibe of this primordial thrash metal attack. There are not many releases which sound like this one here. Instant headbanger! Maybe it is my personal nostalgia, but I still really like that release, including the insane cover artwork by Drew Elliot.
Danny Lilker (NUCLEAR ASSAULT): Well, there are a few but we'll go with Whiplash's Power and Pain. It might have gotten overlooked with all the crossover stuff going on in the NYC area at the time (sorry). I feel this way because it's a great thrash metal album, also because I had a personal connection with the guys since they played with Nuclear Assault all the time back then.
Ricard (PROSCRITO): Ave Luxi, I'm really glad to be featured once again. First of all, let me just say like I wrote you via email, in my world, speed and power metal lines and delimitations are blurred somehow, along with the more traditional or classic heavy metal and maybe thrash metal (with some first wave extreme metal it's also a given, and don't get me started with the "satanic imagery = black metal" mostly nonsensical debate). There might be some (sub)genre overlapping here and there in my words. Well, y'all know how much of a big mouth I am, so please take it easy and don't look up the Wiki and Metallum pages, right?
I'll cheat a bit here and name TWO albums, since my usual mental diarrhea always takes me to places almost undreamed of and beyond Kadath while discussing and writing about these topics I love the most. I'm in dire need to mention Iron Angel's Hellish Crossfire because of its piercing guitar tone, metallic paroxysm and overt diabolical feel. Then, after thinking twice, I guess it's not that underrated at all, so my money is on Backwater's Revelation. I found out about it and scored it for few bucks just when the time was right, e.g., when the Venom well ran dry and I'd already learned the whole first era by heart in my early teens (up to Possessed and including/especially including the rare maxi/Assault/compilation tracks). I was left with NME (best bass tone and overall unhinged dark atmosphere of all time?), Tank, Bulldozer and Backwater as my newfound f(r)iends. Warfare came later, now that I think of it. But let's not divert too much, Backwater's debut had it all, an album opener fueled on speed and crystal meth sounding like a brick inside a functioning washing machine in the best "Sons of Satan'' tradition, pounding distorted bass for the mid-tempo crushers like "Bad Choice" and a spiteful, whiskey throat. And the whole denim, leather and bullet belt feel (not necessarily just band image), which some scene tourists might deem unimportant while browsing their very open-minded hip hop and ska MP3 downloads, but it's not for them that I write these lines.
Borys Catelani (RIPPING STORM RECORDS): Do you remember Edgar Allan Poe's The Purloined Letter? Well, I was considering many ultra-underground thrash bands like for instance Lese Majesty, Acid Storm or Xyster, and then it struck me that there once was a band that gained a lot of publicity back in the day, but no one seems to remember today anymore. Powermad somehow were signed to the major label Reprise after an EP on Combat (the Combat Boot Camp series). After a second EP, they released an album called Absolute Power. Reprise was evidently trying to capitalize on the growing popularity of the thrash movement, probably at its apex in 1989. It was not an isolated case in the wake of the bigger bands, for instance, Death Angel were signed to Geffen (remember that boy band-like photo on Act III?). I don't know how Reprise ended up choosing Powermad, but the band was apparently given enough freedom and financial backing to release an album that, in my opinion, is absolutely great. There are a few reworked old demo songs that benefit from the super-quality recordings, but the general level of the songwriting is top-notch. It's American thrash with enough melody to make the songs catchy as hell. The singer has a voice perfectly balanced between aggressiveness and melody. It's an album that has no reason to envy to Testament or Anthrax. Not surprisingly that band folded up after this album (Death Angel anyone?), probably the usual story about a band floating between poor sales and losing touch with the underground, and then abandoned by the label. But in the meanwhile, they managed to be featured on David Lynch's "Wild at heart", playing "Slaughterhouse" while Nicolas Cage was furiously dancing. The "Slaughterhouse" opening riff was also sampled by Atari Teenage Riot on one of their best songs ever, "Speed". All of this makes Powermad a cult band to me.
Pedro Anthares (JUMALATION): Hmm, there are lots of great "obscure" albums out there. One that just came to mind is Korzus' Sonho Maniaco LP (1987) from Brazil. Yeah sure, the album's muddy production undoubtedly scares away most of the listeners, but all that ferociousness in the songs is just amazing. Total pounding from every direction. The drums sound like some pneumatic machine mangling the whole thing into a deformed piece of goo. They have some decent riffs on that record that you can lean on, too. The vocalist sounds like a machine gun with words as sharp bullets piercing your brain and there seem to be lots of them, too. God give mercy! For sure not a perfect album, but I think that no album should be in the truest sense of the word. This goes up there with other Brazilian classics like Vulcano's Bloody Vengeance, Dorsal Atlantica's Antes Do Fim, MX's Simonical, etc. I think the album is hard to get, but check it out on Spotify, YouTube or whatever other places you may find it from, too.
Their career has been long, and they are still kicking. Kind of the Bay Area-style thrash like Exodus or Testament nowadays. Could this perhaps answer question no. 2 as well?
Gerre (TANKARD): Artillery's Fear of Tomorrow from 1985. I love the raw sound of the guitars in addition to the vicious vocal performance, "The Almighty" is still one of my fave songs, fantastic!
Max Otero (MERCYLESS): Exorcist's Nightmare Theatre (1985). A hell of an album for me, which has not had the recognition it deserves. I recently learned that behind these pseudonyms were hiding the guys from Virgin Steele. Strange, but I understand better why we haven't talked about it too much and why there hasn't been a follow-up album. Yet when it was released in 1985, this album really stuck in my mind. Everything was there on this record; a very raw and direct sound, sustained tempos, superb solos and a very unhealthy and powerful voice! A real discovery and an album that remains cult for me because it represents the passage from speed metal to thrash metal. There are a lot of bands today who practice this style without really knowing that this band has influenced a whole generation of bands!
Tomas Andersson (DENATA): I will slip over by one year (1991) but without a doubt I have to say Razor's Shotgun Justice. At that time with the super intense and clever song writing I really think they deserved way more attention. Maybe they were more successful in other countries but in Sweden I don't think I meet anyone that knew about them back then.
Andre Hartoonian (HeXeN): For that, I would have to go with Sadus' sophomore release. I feel like whoever hasn't really tried FULLY listening to/studying their second album, Swallowed in Black, is missing out on SOOO MUCH when it comes to proto-death/thrash. This 3-piece, from the birthplace of American West Coast thrash, from Antioch which is about an hour drive from San Francisco, did more for the death and thrash subgenres than any of the "Big 4/Big 8" bands! Even though their bassist ended up playing for every other band in existence! Sadus' debut (titled Illusions on LP and Chemical Exposure everywhere else) was a blueprint for early death/thrash but, as I said it was their follow-up release that I think is criminally overlooked and should really be dusted off (and REISSUED if it already isn't! I haven't gotten a chance to check) and taken for another spin. It sucks because, as rare as it is, these guys never went through endless lineup changes like every other band. It's alwayssss reunited with the SAMEEE three guys, including DiGiorgio, but the drummer and singer/guitarist have often been inactive. I don't know exactly what the situation is, whether it was the other guys that didn't ever want to go full throttle and be owned by the music industry so they turned stuff down and DiGiorgio WAS down for the full deal so that's why sooner or later he left and started taking all the offers that Sadus wouldn't? Have to look more into it, but regardless, I think Swallowed in Black is a fucking overlooked classic.
Timo Ahlström (DEMONZTRATOR): It's very difficult to choose just one album from that era filled with classics. I think even some of the more well-known bands/albums from that era are still underrated but I'm going to go with Know Your Enemy by Laaz Rockit because I rarely hear people mention these guys. I could've gone with Annihilation Principle, but I guess that album gets just a little more credit. Anyway, this album has just a great performance. Killer vocals, heavy riffs and good songs. The album cover is awesome too! Know Your Enemy and Annihilation Principle are both great albums as is Nothing$ $acred (but that one was released after 1990) and I even enjoyed their more heavy metal efforts No Stranger to Danger and City's Gonna Burn.
George "IronBeast" (VIOLENT DEFINITION): There are tons and tons of unpolished, dusty and undiscovered gems from this particular era. Although I have been deep into this music since the mid/late 90ies, I still keep on discovering new (forsaken) albums and artists worthy of attention.
I struggled to limit my selection to one single band, so my choice is Holocross and their S/T album, released by New Renaissance Records back in 1988 (never officially released on CD format!) In case you have somehow missed it, you should definitely check out this one. From the very beginning until the end, Holocross burst with pounding paces, razor-sharp riffs (that at the time very few bands were able to follow), all blended with the scent of blood, gunpowder and warfare, with the echoes of despair and the battle cries in the distance. The closest it gets to the US version of Sodom (along with At War), in many aspects, yet distinctive in their own Holocross way. A total must LP to possess!
What either disbanded or active speed and/or thrash metal band that released at least one album but never got proper recognition for their splendid work?
King Fowley (DECEASED): Blessed Death's Destined for Extinction. What an insane record! They came and went like the seasons, and though they had one before and after, it is this one for me that just seems hardly ever mentioned to this day. They disbanded close to 30 years ago now but will never be forgotten by me.
Frank Stöver (VOICES FROM THE DARKSIDE): Epidemic from San Francisco, California. Never really understood why they never made it any bigger, especially over here in Europe.
Matías Leonicio (NUCLEAR): As a complement to the prior answer, I think there is another great band called Gammacide from Texas. Their only album, called Victims of Science, is absolutely fantastic. Fast, aggressive, heavy. Vicious thrash metal the way it should be. When thrash metal went out to catch more massive audiences, bands such as Gammacide or Recipients of Death arose to demonstrate how thrash metal should be played in an era when the great acts of thrash started to turn the steering wheel to something more open and commercial.
Aethon (EURYNOMOS/MEGATHÉRION): Difficult question. Maybe Infernäl Mäjesty, but I guess they didn't get the full recognition they deserved because of bad timing, and I guess also because of internal reasons within the band and the decisions they made. None Shall Defy was a monster release, but the band did not come up with a follow-up album. And then the death metal wave came, and thrash was not really popular anymore. The band is still around and still writes good music. Their last album, No God, has lots of great riffs. Back in the '80s I thought that Razor were a thrash band that didn't get the recognition they deserved. Their first four full albums were pretty much ignored and even got shit reviews, especially Evil Invaders and Malicious Intent. I thought this was a scandal.
Danny Lilker (NUCLEAR ASSAULT): I will say the band Excel here, although these guys and Whiplash would have been interchangeable in these first two questions honestly. Sure, they were technically more of a hardcore/crossover band, but the Split Image LP in particular just shreds. More personal connections here, of course, with fond memories of playing warm sunny Southern California with these dudes back in the day.
Ricard (PROSCRITO): Well, the same inner voice that sometimes urges me to do nasty things asked me to talk about Muro, which will be taken for granted by my fellow Spaniards but not necessarily outside my once-glorious country. If you don't get the chills with a band singing in your own, not hegemonic (in metal, that is) tongue in the '80s, with a debut LP featuring a rough live concert named Acero y Sangre ("Steel and Blood") and looking like early Slayer and Sadistic Intent, you don't understand anything. Then came Telón de Acero, an even superior beast with the Spanish answer to At War's "Rapechase" (namely "Solo en la Oscuridad"), and Pacto de Sangre and then some more in the '90s, allegedly the darkest hour for heavy metal - so we can safely state that they never wimped out and remained fairly consistent. On the other hand, as soon as I received this kind offer to take part on the article, three words came into my mind: HOLY FUCKING TERROR. I had Terror and Submission in mind for the first question, but it makes much more sense here, since both albums are mandatory and neither overshadows the other. I'm a complete sucker for the feeling of chaos, barbaric savagery mixed with high doses of melody and melancholy they unleashed, like hell breaking loose and ready to crumble at any given moment, with out of tempo and over-the-top vocal lines all over the place. Keith was such a force to be reckoned with. Songs like "The Immoral Wasteland", "Judas Reward" or "Distant Calling" are forever engraved in my DNA.
Of course, if I'm allowed to talk about bands/releases bordering on power metal, I feel the urge to talk about Wild Dogs' Reign of Terror, Cerebus' Too Late to Pray, Dr Mastermind's LP and even Stormtrooper's Armies of the Night demo, Evil Blood from Croatia and the few songs that War Cry (Chicago, where else?) managed to record with Speckmann, which are as relevant as any classic full-length you might have in mind.
Borys Catelani (RIPPING STORM RECORDS): There are a lot of bands of this kind, but I'd go for Poland's Wolf Spider, formerly Wilczy Pająk, who released four great albums between 1987 and 1991, two of them on Under One Flag. Their technical thrash reached a superb level, but they probably suffered from the decline in popularity of thrash from 1991 on and they definitely deserved more. They were under Tomas Dziubinski/Metal Mind banner, so some Polish underground metal diehard fan might not agree with me, but they were one of the finest bands coming from that scene.
Pedro Anthares (JUMALATION): There are actually quite a few. The first to come to mind, for example, is Necrodeath's Into the Macabre, Taurus' Signo De Taurus, Anthares' No Limete Da Forca, Morbid Saint's Spectrum of Death (cheers Luxi for the tip two decades ago!)
Gerre (TANKARD): Hawaii! Check out their debut album One Nation Underground back in 1983! That album is more an embossed stone, aware of its OTT-ness for the time, yet stands almost incognizant of its own radical, velocity-dripped DNA that's blowing off this thing and onto what would be speed/thrash metal's superstructure. Check out the song "We Are Living in Sin," incredible!
Max Otero (MERCYLESS): I think Dark Angel is the quintessential speed/thrash band that has never been given due recognition. Especially compared to the exaggerated success of bands like Exodus, Anthrax, etc. When I listen to Darkness Descends, which for me is one of the best achievements of this era, I wonder how this band did not become as important as, say Slayer, Venom and so on. They were successful but deserved more attention, in my opinion. This band influenced me enormously and is still doing so, even today. They transformed the speed thing they had in the beginning into very violent and technical thrash without compromise. Not to mention the high-octane drummer of the band, the mighty Gene Hoglan!
Tomas Andersson (DENATA): A.R.G., Artillery, Infernäl Mäjesty, Evildead, Headhunter, Protector. Those are a few of the bands I think deserved more credit than they got back in those days. Today some are "classics" but back then they went under the radar, in my opinion.
Andre Hartoonian (HeXeN): Coroner. Coroner was a band that came out of the Celtic Frost/Swiss thrash metal scene, which was very small and unique with not very many bands at all. And even out of such a niche background, Coroner still turned out to be the most unique thrash band the WORLD over, not just in Europe or in the international thrash scene. Axe man and main songwriter, Tommy T. Baron, was a classically trained musician and guitar virtuoso, and it shows as the first couple of Coroner albums are a unique/almost never-done-before mix of thrash metal and neoclassical. Much like with Dissection's debut, there are a handful of tracks on the Coroner debut that are just simple acoustic guitar tracks of classical pieces arranged for guitar. As the band went on, album after album, with the thrash metal world consistently quickly changing all around them Coroner's albums, much like Death's, evolved from LP to LP. From being one of the only bands to mix neoclassical AND thrash AND blues. By the later albums, the band started sounding more and more "alternative," for lack of a better term. Their last album to date, 1993's Grin, could have easily come out ANYTIME in the '90s and it would have fit perfectly. That's how ahead of their time these guys always were. They saw groove metal coming before it became a metal staple, and then saw alternative metal before it came into fashion. So, all this to say, I would select Coroner's 1991 album Mental Vortex. Being released only a year after Pantera's Cowboy's from Hell, the aforementioned "blues" was added to Coroner's already eclectic mix of genres (from influences literally spanning centuries). With a thrash metal version of The Beatles' "I Want You" to close the album. People tend to know early Coroner, while they were still in the graveyard holding up skulls with album names like R.I.P. and Punishment for Decadence which they are probably most known for in "'80s thrash" circles. But while all that was a perfect iteration of '80s thrash to close the decade, in my opinion it was 1991's Mental Vortex that was the most ahead of its time.
Timo Ahlström (DEMONZTRATOR): Well yeah, I think Lȧȧz Rockit was just overall really good. I'm not sure if they are doing anything anymore but I know they released a comeback album Left for Dead in 2008. I haven't heard about them doing anything lately.
George "IronBeast" (VIOLENT DEFINITION): The list is never-ending, and I could not possibly mention only one, so I forced myself to limit the bands to five. Thank me (or hate me) later! 1) Holocross (US) 2. Mandator (NL) 3. Mega Mosh (GER) 4. Hexenhaus (SWE) 5. Thanatos Inc. (GR)
Which appealed to you more with regards to releases between 1980 and 1990, European or American speed and thrash metal?
King Fowley (DECEASED): Both had their good, bad, and ugly and I can't pick. I will say I never found Bay Area thrash very good. It always seemed more contrived to me and not very aggressive and while bands from all over the world took a lot of that stuff as a jumping-off point, they easily out thrashed them quickly.
Frank Stöver (VOICES FROM THE DARKSIDE): Mostly American, because those bands sounded so much tighter and more mature in their early days, probably because they had already played their asses off from coast to coast pretty early on. Most of the European bands basically just followed their footsteps and then developed from there.
Matías Leonicio (NUCLEAR): I think American thrash. They were closer to death metal in some way. Maybe less "traditional" in their approaches about how to play thrash metal.
Aethon (EURYNOMOS/MEGATHÉRION): Impossible to answer for me, because I liked bands from both continents. While there was Venom, Bathory, Hellhammer, Kreator, Sodom, Messiah, etc. from Europe, you had Slayer, Whiplash, Possessed, Death/Mantas, etc. from the USA. And, of course, the wild releases from South America, like Sarcófago, Sextrash, etc. - and Canadian steel like Slaughter, Voïvod, etc.
US thrash quickly became more technical. I am personally not a big fan of the "Bay Area" style. Perhaps I like more European thrash releases than American ones when it comes to quantities, like maybe 60%-40%. But I still think the first three Slayer releases (Show No Mercy, Haunting the Chapel and Hell Awaits) are some of the best thrash records ever made. So, in other words, this question is a real difficult one to answer.
Danny Lilker (NUCLEAR ASSAULT): I'll say European, as it was more exotic for us Yanks. The guitar tones were different, as was the artwork, and pretty much all other aspects of a release. Of course, there were lots of good US bands, but they just didn't seem as interesting, not to mention I've never been Mr. America first anyway [*lol*].
Ricard (PROSCRITO): Australia, because early Armoured Angel also fits the bill and is some of my favorite music of all time. Jokes aside, I must go with the American way this time. I've overplayed Running Wild's Gates to Purgatory (for the piracy era, which I also worship now, I must confess I'm a late bloomer), Stormwitch and Warrant as any guy, I get my kicks just at the sight of the old Noise Records label over black wax. But come on, just on the strength of Nasty Savage I'm sold. Exorcist and Original Sin, Hellion, Hallows Eve, Liege Lord, Agent Steel, need I say more? And well, what do we do with Savatage tracks like "Metalhead," "Rage," "The Whip" or "White Witch"? Are they speed metal enough or not? Those are tough nuts to crack, eh? Like with classic heavy/power metal like Fates Warning, Omen, Helstar, Manilla Road or Jag Panzer, how would you dare to compare them to those NWOBHM one hit wonders that didn't make the cut? No harm in enjoying Black Axe and the likes for archaeologists and collectors like myself. I love Aragorn to death, but have they ever recorded an Into the Mirror Black? No, plain and simple. That was not the topic and sorry for digressing and opening a new can of worms, but that is my middle name, you should be used to it by now, heh...
On a final note, what's a speed metal piece without Canada? We all love Piledriver and Anvil, sure, but let me just finish my piece stating that watching Exciter perform a couple of years ago in a small venue was one of the highlights of the year. I was told that their late shows were not so good, so I went at my own risk and, fuck me sideways, they did deliver. Beehler is still a sheer barbaric force behind the drum kit and those wails (of the banshee!) sounded INSULTINGLY brutal. In fact, when he got out of tempo it was because of pushing up the ante and playing faster and more pounding than on record, almost standing up, and that's hardly an issue for a heavy metal live gig, at least in my world where violence and Neanderthalism reign over skillful precision. They even played "World War III"! Exciter still remains the epitome of all things metal and the ghost of those flanger-driven guitars (like Van Halen on 'roids) on Heavy Metal Maniac is still ruining your dreams of peace to the march of Pleasure to Kill and Seven Churches rototoms and Lem's Rickenbacker.
Borys Catelani (RIPPING STORM RECORDS): I entered the thrash realm via Metallica, but right away discovered Kreator and Sodom. I've always felt like American thrash was very different from European, especially German thrash. Of course, there were a lot of euro bands that sounded very American (not the contrary actually), especially in the UK, maybe it was the sound, maybe the songwriting, maybe the technical skills, not really sure. I remember a very old review blaming Kreator for being Slayer clones. To me they couldn't be further from each other. That said, there are too many bands from both sides of the ocean that I love too much to really choose and even back in the day it was like that. And let's not forget the Brazilian scene!
Pedro Anthares (JUMALATION): USA for sure! They've got an endless pool of good shit. Slayer is the self-explanatory answer and sure, Germany is also amazing in the very same field.
Gerre (TANKARD): Of course, I loved both! If I had to choose, I would prefer the American thrash because all started over there!
Max Otero (MERCYLESS): I think the Americans had a much more prolific speed/thrash scene back in the day than the Europeans. The beginnings of bands like Slayer, Metallica, Exodus, etc, influenced many European bands a lot, giving them a good stepping stone to create some cool-sounding thrash by themselves, I think.
European bands like Kreator, Deathrow, Sodom, Destruction, Onslaught, Bulldozer, etc. have been largely influenced by their American brothers, even though the Venom-Motörhead style was influential among the European bands. Then again, Europe has always had a heavy metal heritage more present unlike the Americans.
Tomas Andersson (DENATA): The European style had the highest impact on me. Overall, it was faster, rawer and brutal. Not that I'm a big punk fan but it felt like the thrash came more from the heavy metal in the US while it came more as a crossover from punk in Europe. I guess that energy made more of an impact on me. But, of course, a band like Possessed show me the opposite. First, I thought they were Germans because it did really have that evil and brutal energy. But in the end, good thrash is awesome no matter where the band hails from! Thrash 'til death!
Andre Hartoonian (HeXeN): As much as I think the European extreme metal scene (black, death, Swedish melodeath, etc.) was better in the '90s, I'd have to give the '80s to the Americans. The Teutonic scenes were definitely something to behold and have their own classics, but I don't know if I'd say the '80s Teutonic thrash albums would blow out the American thrash albums even though later on when metal died in the U.S.A. but became almost commercial in Europe, the situation reversed. But as far as the '80s are concerned, basically all of the Americans' most classic albums were all written during that time.
Let's try to compare, year by year...
1985 - In Europe, sure, you had the kickoff of the greater Teutonic scene with debut albums from Celtic Frost, Kreator, and Destruction while in America, you had debut albums from Megadeth, Overkill, Exodus, Dark Angel, making it a pretty neck and neck year which I'd give to the USA.
1986 - THE year of iconic and genre SOLIDIFYING albums coming from America. From Reign in Blood to Master of Puppets to Power and Pain to Darkness Descends to Peace Sells..., it seems that Europe was basically having another "1985" in 1986 (Tankard, Sodom, and Exumer were still catching up releasing debut albums). America had a year that it was never able to repeat.
1987 - This is when things started going back to being 50/50 again as a slew of bands came into the picture from (up until that point) unusual countries like Australia and Canada and Switzerland and the thrash scene started to show the first signs that the genre was headed for a bloated oversaturation that it may never recover from. Bands such as Testament, Coroner, Death Angel, not to mention the start of many more bands that might have been referred to as "extreme" thrash in these early days, but later turned out to be creating the death and black metal subgenres (bands like Death, Bathory, Possessed just the year before, etc.)
1988 - What could probably be argued was the height of thrash metal while it was still underground and hadn't become mainstream and MTV yet. So much so, that Slayer's South of Heaven was even accused initially of being a "sell out" album! SOUTH OF HEAVEN!!! The height of potent, competent, ear-splitting bands coming out of everywhere, thrash metal was the name of the game when it came to electric guitar-oriented music. Even people who weren't exactly into thrash metal, people in rock bands and hard rock/heavy metal type bands and such, started dressing like thrash metal bands with denim and/or leather jackets at the least. I guess what could be considered auxiliary/third-wave thrash bands like Vio-lence, Forbidden, Sadus' aforementioned BRUTAL sophomore release Swallowed in Black, and a plethora of other (ultimately) "kind-of-unknowns" like Assassin and Morbid Saint and Numskull...
1989 – This was an interesting year for thrash and because the rest of the world would respond to what was coming out of the Americas and many bands were on even-year, two-year touring/album schedules, 1989 was probably another year that had more significant releases outside of America than inside. It could be argued that this was the most evolved and mature thrash metal ever got, before things changed in the '90s and many band's traded technicality for simpler and groovier heavy music. In some ways, 1989 could be argued to be the choppiest, most-amount-of-notes-per-album that original underground thrash metal ever got. Case in point, let's start off with Watchtower and their sophomore classic Control and Resistance. Coroner's No More Color, we got Nothingface from Voïvod, Kreator's Extreme Aggression, Sodom's Agent Orange, Sepultura's iconic Beneath the Remains, though we do have significant U.S. releases from Metal Church, Nuclear Assault, Powermad, and Exodus... so although we have sort of another neck-and-neck year, overall, it would have to be given to America.
Timo Ahlström (DEMONZTRATOR): The bands and albums that I was thinking about for this thing were mostly American and Canadian, so for me it's clearly the American over the European. I just MOSTLY enjoy the American bands so much more. For some reason the American approach usually just works better for my ears. Can't come up with a better explanation.
George "IronBeast" (VIOLENT DEFINITION): This is very hard to answer. Such a "derby" would definitely in a tie. Both scenes have great bands to display, with none standing above the other, so my personal taste (and musical current style/influence with Violent Definition) is an equal blend of both.
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