I was recently on holiday in Holland and for whatever reason, had decided that I was going to ‘pause’ my musical listening schedule/habbits, and go back. I made the decision that I could not listen to anything I had bought recently, or in fact anything that wasn’t Thrash Metal.
The rules were simple; only studio albums and EPs, nothing newer than 1993, nothing that isn’t Thrash. I could listen to Bonded By Blood through to Set The World On Fire, but not Powerslave or Vulgar Display Of Power… if that makes any sense.
It got off to a great start; I remember a long time when my favourite band in the world was Anthrax. I got a good listen to all the early Anthrax. Boy, what a band. What a solid run of early albums! They really did write a lot of my all-time favourite songs; ‘Lone Justice,’ ‘One Man Stands,’ ‘Belly Of The Beast,’ ‘I Am The Law,’ ‘Death Rider’ …the list goes on. I remember in the earliest days of being a fan I didn’t like Neil Turban’s voice, but now I can see the Paul Stanley/Eric Adams quality to it and I enjoy it. I also didn’t enjoy the direction of Fistful Of Metal because it didn’t sound like Anthrax yet… they production doesn’t have that Charlie/Frankie clunk, Scott’s riffs don’t have that fat-wrist chug that make the band so special, the solos aren’t weird and unique like Spitz usually is afterwards, and it had Dan Lilker on it but didn’t sound like Nuclear Assault who I was nauseatingly in love with, so it felt weird that it didn’t sound like Game Over in my undeveloped teenage brain. Nowadays, I really like it… I think its great fun, its interesting as a transition point between Mid-80s Thrash and early-80s NWOBHM, and I’m less snobby about the singer and production job. Oh, and it has ‘Metal Thrashing Mad’ on it, so it could never be rated poorly… its ‘Metal Thrashing Mad’ for goodness sake!
Listening to all that great ‘80s Thrash like Kreator, Forbidden, Sacred Reich, Testament etc just puts me right in my element. I remember obsessing about this stuff for years and it feels good to just splurge on it constantly without feeling like I have to get more more more new stuff. I’ve noticed a lot of the albums I didn’t used to like are a lot better than I thought. When I first got Pleasure To Kill, Obsessed By Cruelty, Beneath The Remains and several of the heavier, nastier, non-Bay Area albums, I was usually a little less keen on them. I like things melodic and virtuosic like an Overkill, Exodus or Megadeth, and sometimes those harsher records with more of a proto-Death vibe didn’t click with me the same as the progressive ones like And Justice For All or Victims Of Deception or the what I’d call ‘normal Thrash’ (y’know… The New Order, Fabulous Disaster, Ride The Lightning, Feel The Fire).
This time around, I actually enjoyed a lot the harsher stuff. It wasn’t as monotonous, one dimensional and primitive as I remembered it. There was much more variety on Morbid Visions and In The Sign Of Evil than I ever gave them credit for back in my Thrashiest days. I still don’t like a production job that puts huge reverb on barked vocals, I still don’t like songs that are just a d-beat for five minutes with little variety, but I think I underestimated a lot of bands with a harder edge. There’s a lot going on than I previously believed.
Towards the end of the week, I broke my rule of there being only studio albums, and allowed an Anthrax compilation (Killer Bs) and a live album (Sacred Reich – Still Ignorant) to slip in there. There’s some great stuff on Killer Bs… Anthrax doing the S.O.D songs sounds better than S.O.D. The live tracks are killer, some of the covers are pretty decent, and I never noticed how heavy ‘Bring The Noise’ was. I remember hearing it daily in the Nu Metal era, in the background of Tony Hawks’ videogame and on MTV2 and I always must’ve concentrated on the rap and not noticed how heavy the guitar was. The structure of the album is a bit of a mess, but I’m the kind of person who will restructure it in iTunes to suit my needs (I just did this a week ago with C.O.C’s iconic Blind album to make that flow even better, I have no worries restructuring a rarities compilation).
I have a real clear memory of the day I bought that CD. It was in Gene Stewart’s music shop in Dungannon, and it was on a 3-albums-for-£20 deal (which was good at the time) and I got it together with Rust In Peace and Peace Sells But Whos Buying at the height of the Nu Metal era, and I remember my friends commenting on my friends mentioning ‘Look at Jimmy buying all the 80s Metal’ and then it turned out 2 out of the 3 cds were from the 90s anyway.
Sacred Reich’s live album is monstrous. Very entertaining. A good mix, tracks from every album and EP, a solid performance, heavier vocals, good mix. A real winner!
This really made me want to pick up some of the Thrash live albums I don’t own, like Exodus Good Friendly Violent Fun and Anthrax The Island Years. I’m Skeptical about The Island Years because the tracks fade out apparently, but it could still be cool maybe. I never bought good friendly violent fun because I hate the album artwork so much, but that’s a terrible reason. Oh, and I never got Live Shit Binge Purge… which I always always wanted so that might be nice to add. Shame Megadeth don’t have a live album from this era… I think there’s one on one of the boxsets (Warchest?) but I don’t like buying big boxsets if there’s a greatest hits element to it. Nowadays in the digital downloads era I could get just the bits I want, I guess. Its an option.
Some of the best Thrash albums came out in the 90s rather than the 80s. Anthrax Persistence Of Time, Death Angel Act 3, Megadeth Rust In Peace, Annhilator Never Neverland, Kreator Coma Of Souls etc… even some decent ones like Nuclear Assault Out Of Order, Exodus Impact Is Imminent, Exhorder Slaughter In The Vatican etc which aren’t among the memorable best-ever albums of a band’s career but are damn fine additions to any Thrash collection.
Keeping in mind that Thrash in the 90s can still be great philosophy, I rectified a long term glaring gap in my collection, and finally got myself a copy of Overkill’s Horrorscope album which I avoided at the time because I couldn’t find a copy at a good price and avoided since because I didn’t like the title track as much as other famous Overkill singles. Luckily from the first minute of opener ‘Coma’ I knew this was a good purchase, blistering, fabulously produced double kicks and great chugging guitars lit up my happy-place like I used to get from acquiring a new Thrash album back in the day. Maybe its time to try Sodom’s Tapping The Vein to try the same magic for a second time.
At the end of the week, I broke the original remit even further, by listening to Metallica’s Black Album and Megadeth’s Countdown To Extinction, as well as Exodus’ Force Of Habbit (and to a lesser extent Testament’s The Ritual). These albums are not strictly 100% Thrash if you’re being snobby… but ‘Psychotron’ and ‘The Struggle Within’ are close enough for me; no need to get snobby. Plus a good album is a good album… and those are two damn good albums Metallica and Megadeth released there! I think its interesting that I’ve always listened to The Black Album less than any other Metallica album (and Nirvana’s Nevermind too) due to some weird mental block, and am always surprised when its great. I should rectify this.
I didn’t go so far as to stick in Anthrax’s Sound Of White Noise because that one does feel a bit too removed from Thrash to really justify in a week-of-Thrash situation. I’ll sure as heck be listening to it now that the week is over though!
I still find this subgenre to be one of my favourites in all music and arguably the purest, best form of Heavy Metal in existence. It was nice to just take a week to wallow in it, uninterrupted by anything else. I never got to know the magic of it first hand, …And Justice For All was released a few days before I was born, but good music is good music… and for me it doesn’t come much better than this.