Larry rounds up all the decent (and some not-so-decent) thrash releases for the headbang-happy year of 2017.
Saying that [insert year here] was a great year for [insert sub-genre here] is getting more and more futile. The metal market is beautifully over-saturated, giving listeners the variety of choice they deserve. But, of course, this means finding the absolute pinnacle of your chosen style becomes quite a task as you wade through the inevitable swamp of crap. Here at TMO we’ll be bringing you our summations of the year 2017 in all the different areas of metal; rightfully praising the awesome, righteously disparaging the missteps, and graciously making light of those you may have let slip under the radar. Aaron recently published our Death Metal Year In Review, so this time it’s my turn to cover what I remember of the thrash metal albums from January to December 2017…
After a relatively silent start to the thrash metal calendar, all hell broke loose in the latter half of the month as we were treated to a triple-whammy of awesome. New awesome, veteran awesome, and underground awesome. The first category, of course, refers to the second full-length from Canada’s Terrifier. After passing by relatively unheard of, the Kelownan’s sophomore effort Weapons Of Thrash Destruction absolutely tore the scene wide open with its ferocious intensity, resembling something akin to Sacred Reich on seriously aggressive steroids.
The following week it was the turn of the old guard, namely Germany’s Kreator, to carry the torch for all veteran thrash acts. However, Gods Of Violence did not so much ‘carry the torch’, as it did set the whole old-school thrash scene on fire. A truly theatrical experience, it once again set Kreator apart from the rest of the Teutonic thrashers by featuring huge walls of sound and an epic scope (album #3 on my year-end list as a matter of fact).
Just before January drew to a close, Sweden’s Decadence poked their heads out from the underground to release the ironically-titled Undergrounder. After 5 full-length albums of melodic thrash sounding something like Arch Enemy meets Sanctity, the Stockholm duo never really got the acknowledgement they deserved. Undergrounder didn’t break any new ground but its solid grooves, and especially Kitty Daric’s growls, served as a great reminder of the consistency of certain overlooked acts.
A bit more of an outburst of releases from different areas of thrash occurred in February. On the 10th, more of the old guard returned – well, I say ‘returned’. We all know the indomitable Overkill never left us – to bring us The Grinding Wheel. After almost 40 years of shredding, it’s business as usual for the wrecking crew who power through ten more high-octane anthems from the gutter. Truly one of the most consistent and overlooked bands in metal.
On the same day, arising – seemingly from nowhere – to create quite a stir in their native Portugal, groove-based thrashers Primal Attack released their second LP Heartless Oppressor. Their thickly-textured approach to the genre may resemble Chimaira or Daath at points, but they have definitely carved a path all of their own. Definitely check this modern monster out if it passed you by.
Reformed old-school metallers Vendetta also put their hat in the ring later in the month. Despite the quality of their ’80s output, the Germans have been seriously struggling to find their feet since releasing albums again in 2007. Newest effort The 5th (yeah…) definitely exhibits a step in the right direction, but there are still production issues and songwriting inconsistencies abound. Approach with optimistic caution.
All of this was nullified as soon as Texans Power Trip released what has been many fans’ album of the year, of any genre. Nightmare Logic. Listen to it. It needs no explanation.
March is where things absolutely exploded in the thrash community. Kicking things off was one of the most controversial albums of the year purely in terms of its sound and, primarily, lyrics. Colorado’s Havok confidently launched Conformicide but were probably unaware of the hate-fuelled backlash it would receive. Yes, the lyrics are horrendous, but the interplay between the guitars and insanely virtuosic bass are like no other album in recent memory. A real mixed bag, but definitely worth a listen.
Across the pond, Germany’s Tormentor released their sophomore effort Morbid Realization. A band that definitely deserve more recognition; channelling that early ’80s Teutonic thrash sound into a solid release which, despite production issues, echoes Terrible Certainty-era Kreator to a tee.
Across another, even bigger pond, Australians Desecrator absolutely rocketed out the starting gates with their furious, but equally progressive and melodic, debut To The Gallows. They blend the best parts of Anthrax, Heathen and Forbidden to make one of the definitive and most memorable modern thrash albums which grows more rewarding with each listen.
Capping off March in a truly victorius fashion was the fifth album from Warbringer. If you found their previous effort too experimental, then Woe To The Vanquished brings the roaring fire of their early material, but polished with a sense of honour and maturity. Easily one of the best albums of 2017, not just for thrash, but metal overall. Kudos especially to vocalist John Kevill for sounding as malicious as possible.
Only the smallest of dry spells for thrash occurred in April, leaving a select few to stand out. Having signed to the legendary Metal Blade, Australian semi-newcomers Harlott melted everyone’s faces with a memorable assault in the shape of Extinction. Imagine the best of old Slayer mixed with the best of new Testament.
Canadian oddities Infernäl Mäjesty released their first record in 13 years…but anyone familiar with them will accept this as the norm! 2017’s No God is an unholy collection of evil, sprawling menace which is easy to take in small doses but loses momentum as a whole.
On the same day, Massachusetts moshers Lich King gifted us with the excellent, frenzied and mature (well, as mature as Lich King can get!) The Omniclasm. Heavy on the humour, but also heavy on the ‘heavy’ – it ended up on many year-end lists for very good reason: it’s simply the best sound the band have achieved on disc.
The entirety of the first half of the month, for me, was usurped by the majesty that was Cloaks Of Oblivion – the third album from Eruption. Hailing from Slovenia, their penchant for technical flair and intelligent lyricism produced a one-of-a-kind record which quickly became my number one thrash album of the year.
To prove that this was the month of European thrash, Distillator provided the awesome follow-up to their debut in the form of Summoning The Malicious. A real hark back to the early ’90s peak of politically minded thrash metal. Any fans of the first Toxik albums should make this first priority.
The majority of bands in this article have been of the modern ilk. Well, June brought forth the brand new record from the kings of the modern thrash revival: Municipal Waste. Gritty, grimy and loaded with more than its fair share of memorable riffs, Slime & Punishment is the most enjoyable and relevant the ‘Waste have sounded since The Art Of Partying.
Before that, however, Witheria reared their heads out of the Finnish darkness to inject the scene with their inimitable brand of death-tinged thrash. Infinite Recollection pushed boundaries in terms of both extremity and progression – very much like Vektor did in 2016. Though heaven only knows why Witheria didn’t garner as much attention…
But even before THAT, it was the turn of the old guard, once again from Germany, to show the young ‘uns how it’s done. Tankard’s seventeenth (!) album One Foot In The Grave still maintains their drunken humorous approach, but surprised the punters with more serious subject matter here and there. With a new EP out this year, that foot ain’t in the grave yet!
July was all but dead regarding significant thrash releases. However, you can’t hold back the destructive force of Billy Milano’s M.O.D. The new record from the crossover legends, Busted, Broke & American comes in their 32nd year – and sounds more pissed off than ever. When you include lyrics such as ‘fuck you in the ass with a baseball bat’ and song-titles like “You’re A Fucking Dick” on your album, you know you’re a part of M.O.D.
The comeback surprise of the year came in the shape of a new EP from New York legends Toxik. While it’s unclear what Breaking Class might lead to regarding future releases, the EP is a slightly confused trio of songs which may have disappointed fans hoping for more of the intense technical thrash of Think This or World Circus.
The Texans of Warbeast respond to their four-year absence by releasing a chunky, solid slice of lively thrash…and then splitting up shortly afterwards! Such a positive followed by such a negative! Dry those tears with the more-than-adequate Enter The Arena.
I’m grateful to some friends of mine for introducing me to the Italian madmen of National Suicide. Their September release Massacre Elite displayed a fervour for fun, featuring razor-sharp riffs and vocals akin to Bobby Blitz on speed. Another one of my top five thrash albums of 2017 (What d’you mean by metal?!).
Since signing to Metal Blade Records, Hannover extreme thrashers Cripper have pushed the limits of deadliness, resulting in the hard-hitting Follow Me: Kill! Britta’s vocals reach unholy heights of horror, and their tone has thickened up to become a hammering wall of sound.
Staying in Europe at the end of the month, Belgium’s Evil Invaders seriously tightened up their frenetic sound to create a deftly melodic and controlled effort on their sophomore album Feed Me Violence. An unsuspecting act to keep an eye on.
Far from exhausting our supply of decent thrash metal, the latter section of 2017 provided us with Exit Humanity, the groove-laden gem from Belgian powerhouse Channel Zero. Bringing metal down to its riff-centric, aggressive roots is where these Europeans excel – and boy is this album a riff machine!
Meanwhile in Sweden, and appropriately the day before Halloween, blackened thrashers Dracena, led by the vicious Mia Larsson, unleash hell on the raw and chaotic Cursed To The Night. If you ever felt Sodom shouldn’t have moved past their Obsessed By Cruelty era, this hellish duo are for you.
Ruling my own personal November list was the 16th full-length from Jeff Waters of Annihilator. This time around he finally let Rich Hinks (bassist, and mainman of prog project Aeon Zen) co-write songs – resulting in a thrashier, creepier and more enjoyable step up from 2015’s Suicide Society. Give For The Demented a spin to remind yourself why the Canadian is such a guitar legend.
Shortly afterwards, veteran deathsters No Return, having avoided the spotlight for far too long, released their tenth album The Curse Within to very little reaction. Well, the injustice tolerated by the Frenchmen over the past 25 years will go on no longer! Check their whole, surprisingly consistent, back catalogue and bang your head like it’s 1986!
That just about sums up all the thrash metal releases that made it to my ears in the glorious year of 2017. I have already started gathering up lists of LPs and EPs of this sub-genre for 2018 – so I’ll report back in 52 weeks with another thrash roundup for y’all! Happy moshing, and here’s to a very metal 2018! \m/ \m/