So just like that we find that a new month is upon us which of course means that we’ll be nominating a brand new monthly feature release for each clan. This essentially means that we’re asking you to rate, review & discuss our chosen features for no other reason than because we enjoy the process & banter. We’re really looking forward to hearing your thoughts on our chosen releases so don’t be shy.
This month’s feature release for The Pit has been nominated by Ben. It's the 1997 sophomore album from Los Angeles groove metal outfit Grip Inc. entitled "Nemesis"
Got my dad to build me some add-ons to my hi-fi unit and so now I can play my vinyls without having to reach over a unit at the front that used to hold the cd player. To celebrate I am hitting up this classic.
As a fan of the more intense European thrash metal sound, last year's third album from Swiss five-piece Total Annihilation (entitled "...On Chains Of Doom") ticks a lot of boxes. It's beautifully produced with a seriously brutal guitar tone that's more in line with death metal than it is thrash. It's also very tightly executed with the band working well within their technical limitations to give us a relentless brand of thrash that's not afraid to slow things down for some crunchy doom style sections on occasion. Front man Daniel Altwegg has a grindy & fairly monotonous European style of vocal delivery that keeps Total Annihilation firmly situated in the underground & the total run time is just about right for a modern thrash record. So it's needless to say that I quite enjoyed "...On Chains Of Doom".
What's stopping me from reaching for the higher ratings is a few things. Firstly, the composition is lacking in ambition & the construction of the riffs is relatively basic which brings some of these tracks an element of heard-it-all-before. The song-writing is also a little lacking in the way of memorability with none of these tracks standing out as particular highlights despite only one track falling short of an acceptable standard (see "Experience The Terror"). And finally, the guitar solos are very ordinary & don't really serve much of a purpose as they don't enhance the music in any way. It's pretty obvious that this is meerly a technical limitation & if I were in the band I would have advised against including them at all.
But, all criticisms aside, "...On Chains Of Doom" is a very heavy & generally enjoyable thrash record that makes up for its flaws with pure aggression & a good understanding of what makes underground thrash special. In fact, I'd take it over the 2020 Warbringer & Hexecutor albums we featured recently.
For fans of Legion Of The Damned, late 80's Kreator & "Agent Orange"-era Sodom.
After sitting down with the list this morning I have finally got round to parking that latest Killer Be Killed album in my queue as it is shaping up to be interesting based on the exposure it has had in recent months on the MA lists in The Pit. I have found Max's output to be hit and miss since his days in Sepultura but I did enjoy the last Soulfly album and Reluctant Hero appears to have the same ethos at it's core although also feels much more expansive also. Biggest surprise was that Mr Bungle track which has got me switched onto them now after years of thinking them just some spoof act/project. Really powerful stuff.
That Cryptosis track builds into a real epic tune, reminds me of if Vektor and Revocation slept together and had a baby. I need more Wraith in my life definitely - very Toxic Holocaust/Midnight at the same time. Neat find.
Firm nods to classics this month with Celtic Frost, Destruction, Onslaught and Metallica tracks taking me back nicely. That Anthrax track too gave me a 90's blast back and it was good to see Sacred Reich in there also. I chose that Dark Angel track with some trepidation as I don't really get on with that record at all but I find that track stands out from the rest of the output on the record.
I had stumbled across Dr. Living Dead during my research for suggestions for May's list and had already skipped them due to the vocals just not fitting my template at all well. I just can't get on with new Sodom still and I can't specifically put my finger on why at this stage but I just am not feeling it. I am however warming to Hexecutor although I find their instrumental passages still too lengthy for my rabid appetite when it comes to thrash. Didn't get along with the vocals on Crucified Mortals and the popularity of Nervosa continues to evade me.
A good month overall and enjoying the opportunity to take some downtime over the long weekend to listen through a couple of playlists in one or two sittings.
I am a huge fan of d-beat, particularly local heroes Discharge (I live in the north of the decaying corpse of the North Midlands city of Stoke-on-Trent, the town that spewed forth the punk legend genre progenitors). Sacrilege took the aggression and diy ethic of Discharge's best work and married it to the aggression and heaviness of thrash to produce a vital and immediate album of the kind that really makes me feel alive. You can keep all your technical proficiency and sterile songwriting, underground albums like this that feel like they come from the gut and with which I can make some kind of connection are, for me, what I seek most in metal music. Tam's vocals are great - I love aggressive female vocals and she is, unfortunately, one of the very few female thrash vocalists, which is another big plus for this album. This is a savage, primal, middle-finger-to-the-man type of album that we hear so few of nowadays. I agree with Daniel's assertion that, for the purposes of Metal Academy, the album should be classed as crossover thrash despite not being what is traditionally considered such, because the punk elements are so integral to it that it needs to be differentiated from straight-up thrash metal. And, as I've stated before elsewhere, I can't believe for one minute that Kurt Cobain had never heard Shadow of Mordor before writing Nevermind's Negative Creep.
Managed to get through this over yesterday evening and this morning before work and have picked up a couple of albums to explore more from the list (Death Angel & Overkill). Killer Be Killed are unknown to me until this list so will check out more of their stuff definitely. Still not getting the new Sodom album at all and even in piecemeal I find it lacking. First ever taste of Mr Bungle and it was as bat shit as I thought it would be but enjoyable all the same.
That Pantera track took me back to my youth as did Holy Wars.... Another great list this month.
I'm glad I spent a bit more time with this one, because even though I still don't think Hexecutor is a true sleeper hit, there's definitely some cool stuff in here. I was wanting to write it off after the first two listens since nothing really gripped me and I didn't quite get what it was trying to do, but after letting it settle for a few weeks I got a lot more out of it than I thought.
Hexecutor are really carving their own path in this record, with the jarring transitions between Thrash and more traditional Heavy Metal proving to be rather unique, at least to me. The vocals are always Thrash/Black Metal centric, leading to some...interesting portions where the Thrash riffs haven't kicked in yet. I found myself really enjoying the riffing and thrashy ideas on tracks like the opening "Buried Alive with her White Silk Dress" and the more Heavy/Speed metal oriented "Eternal Impenitence". It strikes such an interesting balance between two styles that both do and don't work together.
The record is still extremely clumsy though, with most of the transitions being almost nonexistent and thrown together with no effort. Beyond Any Human Conception of Knowledge feels like an album with a ton of concepts it wants to explore but has no real tact on how to display those concepts in a way that makes sense. I've found I love individual parts of this album, but the complaints of those above me still hold true with how thrown together it all feels. Part of me really enjoys unfocused albums just because you never quite know where the band is going to go next, but Hexecutor doesn't exactly blow my mind with how haphazard they are with riffs coming and going after the same old drum fill for 8 tracks straight.
Seems like I got more out of this than most, probably thanks to the non-thrash parts having some great riffs and moments, but I agree in that I'm not sure where all the hype for this one came from.
I've always found Prong's "Force Fed" to be a bit flat but this track represents the band at their worst. It just sounds like a mess, particularly those vocals which don't seem to know what they want to do.
New York trio Prong's sophomore release saw them returning with a more metal-heavy brand of crossover thrash to their 1987 debut "Primitive Origins" which sat a little further over to the hardcore end of the spectrum. "Force Fed" kicks off in an obviously crossover direction before taking a few detours through more traditional thrash metal territory (see early Voivod & "Reign In Blood"-era Slayer), straight-up New York hardcore & even some slower material that borders on sludge metal. In fact, there are a couple of tracks included that sound remarkably like UK industrial metallers Godflesh only without the electronic component. It's so pronounced that I'd actually be very surprised if this record wasn't an influence on a young Justin Broadrick with the generally inadequate vocal performance of front man Tommy Victor regularly coming across like a drunken version of Justin. And while we're on that topic, Victor's vocal performance often borders on incompetence to tell you the truth & this is one of my main issues with this release. The other is the production which is very flat & inconsistent & unfortunately these two flaws combine to limit the appeal that "Force Fed" has to offer. There's a plethora of quality riffs scattered across the tracklisting but I don't feel that they manage to overcome Prong's failings & this results in "Force Fed" sounding a touch flatter than the debut which did just enough to keep me interested. Thankfully Southern Records' English CD release of the album includes two strong bonus tracks which give it the extra oomph required to make it an enjoyable listen so I'd recommend you look out for that one if you feel the urge to be "force fed" some early Prong. Why those two tracks weren't included on the album in the first place is anyone's guess, particularly the very strong sludgy eight minute cover version of Chrome's "Third From The Sun" which is very solid indeed.
For fans of 1985-87 period Corrosion Of Conformity, Suicidal Tendencies & the first couple of Voivod records.
The last couple of days have seen my long-time feelings on "Horrorscope" being well & truly justified. It's an extremely tight, professional & well-executed piece of thrash metal that showcases a band that was right on top of their game. The production is absolutely spot on & the song structures are beautifully constructed. Bobby Ellsworth's grindier vocal delivery is easily his best yet & creates a bad-assed atmosphere that's most noticeable on the slower tracks which have a very well-received dosage of darkness about them. As with most Overkill albums of the period though, their are a couple of tracks that fall more into the traditional heavy metal camp & I definitely find these to be the least appealing, particularly the Sabbathy instrumental track "Frankenstein" which sounds pretty flat in the context of the material around it. I would have omitted that one. But tracks like "Coma", the title track & "Nice Day... For A Funeral" sit amongst the absolute cream of Overkill's career & it's hard to be critical of such a classy effort. I don't believe that Overkill have ever released a genuinely classic record but "Horrorscope" is their best work for mine.
For fans of Exodus, Anthrax & late 80's Metallica.
Hexen – “Gas Chamber” (from “State Of Insurgency”, 2008)
9/10. Ooh, listen to that, a brutal thrash song to start the playlist! Well even though I'm not usually into thrash this brutal, this is still an excellent killer song with blazing blast beats and searing soloing. A nice extreme start!
Lamb Of God – “Ruin” (from “As The Palaces Burn”, 2003)
10/10. This song starts with heavy guitar and bass, then Randy Blythe lets rips one of the best screams ever in metal, lasting 15 seconds! That might be his third-longest scream behind the ones in the next album's "Laid to Rest" and Burn the Priest's "Departure Hymn". Some people think of his raspy growls as scratchy, but it sounds really cool to me. Soon the guitars sound more brutal sounding like in Meshuggah in Drop-D, followed by a more brutal slow ending part. One of the best songs in As the Palaces Burn!
Voivod – “Live For Violence” (from “War & Pain”, 1984)
8/10. For this one, it crawls into one ear, violently bursts out the other, and vice versa, back and forth. The main riff of the song is powerful, along with some parts displaying the band's future experimentation. A great heavy song!
Revocation – “No Funeral” (from “Chaos Of Forms”, 2011)
10/10. From start to finish, this song speeds through your a** and out your mouth with epic vocals in the chorus along the way. If I was in the US at the time that I'm writing my comments on this song, I would be snowboarding to this killer piece. Both the instrumentation and vocals seem to be inspired by Voivod, with the instrumentation also having some influences by both Poison and The Cure, and the vocals having the aggression of Randy Blythe. One of the best songs in their first 3 or 4 albums!
Slayer – “Chemical Warfare” (from “Haunting The Chapel” E.P., 1984)
9/10. Listen, I'm not that devoted to the classic heavier thrash stuff like Slayer (at least not right now). If you were to quiz me on some lesser-known things about Slayer, I would be useless as Gene Hoglan on roadie duty (no offense, Hoglan). This is still a killer song though!
Sadus – “The Wake” (from “Swallowed In Black”, 1990)
10/10. The kind of thrash I like is the technical thrash that sounds influenced from other thrash/death metal bands but with a technical twist. This sounds like when Obituary and Sepultura at that time unite and add some technicality that's better than death. A great underrated tune! Seriously, you read that!? This is the technical thrash I like that's underrated compared to the more popular classic heavier thrash!!
Merciless – “Pure Hate” (from “The Awakening”, 1990)
7/10. Ending this playlist is probably the heaviest thrash song I've ever heard, heavier than that Hexen track! I kinda like it, but it's too much on the aggressive deathrash side of Massacra and Agressor. Death metal mixed with thrash is just not the right style for me unless it's technical.
The new track from Arizona progressive thrash metal legends Vektor.
Wow... Vektor has changed a lot since we last heard of them! First off, they set the tuning to the standard E, as opposed to the slightly higher F tuning in all their previous releases, and that's a bummer because I was kinda hoping for them to pick up some C-tuned 7-string guitars for a heavier yet ethereal sound. Second, the vocals! David DiSanto has been known for his high shrieking, yet the vocals here are mainly more melodic and clean, with a small bit of the shrieks only in the background. I think he lost most of his screaming ability after using it all up on his ex-wife (sorry, I know, poor taste). Anyway, with the E tuning and mostly cleaner vocals, this song sounds closer to the 80s albums of Voivod and Coroner (both bands I enjoy) than the unique style Vektor has been known for. If it's just for this song, would the other song "Dead By Dawn", from their spilt EP with Cryptosis, have this new sound as well or their unique style from before? And if they both have this new sound, is it just one-off for that split EP, or will it affect their upcoming album and become permanent?? Only time will tell.... But for now, I'll say that "Activate" is, in my opinion, the band's third-worst song (behind "Collapse" and "Mountains Above the Sun"), though it's not bad enough to be a sh*tter and it still remains solid.
Review is up and I stood by my original 4 star rating. Strong debut that shows the huge potential of Chuck, Alex and Eric in particular. Held back by a lazy mix that makes it hard to hear all the performances.
Since it's been almost 6 months and no further activity has been made in this thread, I'm gonna end it here and declare the winner of part 1, which is... Celtic Frost's To Mega Therion, two to one!! So for part 2, let's take Celtic Frost further into the tournament and pair it up with a different album from a subgenre I'm more familiar with. That's right, we're gonna do unlisted thrash metal subgenres for this round! However, I'm not gonna start part 2 just yet because (spoilers) the other release I have in mind is a Voivod album and I'm waiting for the results of a new different DIS vs DAT thread involving Voivod and another band. For more info and to vote in that thread, it's in this link: https://metal.academy/forum/23/thread/591
I have to admit that I quite enjoyed "Weapons Of Tomorrow". It sees the band trying quite hard to keep enough variety in play so as not to sound completely generic & this results in a good mix of brutality & melody. There's a whole tonne of influences going on here. From the classic thrash end of the spectrum there's definitely a fair amount of Exodus worship going on & the slower, darker passages seem to draw influence from "Seasons In The Abyss"-era Slayer at times but there's also a consistent melodeath feel going on that reminds me of At The Gates or even Kreator's last couple of albums which often gave a passing glance to the Swedes in a similar way. Warbringer also have a shot at fully-fledged black metal & your classic old-school Swedish death metal sound at various points across the tracklisting so it's clear that they have a rounded taste in extreme metal. Just check out the clear ode to Bathory at the four & a half minute mark in "Heart of Darkness" for example.
As Vinny mentioned, John Kevill's nasty vocal delivery is definitely similar to Demolition Hammer's Steve Reynolds (& At The Gates' Tomas Lindberg to an extent) which can't be a bad thing & he gives it absolutely everything he's got at all times. The lead guitar work is sensational & is a real highlight of the album in my opinion. The production is excellent & compliments the natural energy of the song-writing. I can't say I agree with saxy's statement about the bass guitar being hard to pick up. I can hear it pretty comfortably throughout so maybe it's to do with our listening devices of choice. There are a couple of tracks that don't do much for me though (see chuggy thrasher "The Black Hand Reaches Out" & the epic power metal influenced "Glorious End") & these lapses generally line up with the moments that drummer Carlos Cruz goes for bouncier & more accessible beats over mid-paced chuggy riffs. I'd much prefer to be flayed by light-speed tremolo riffage & a machine gun of double kick personally (see album highlight "Unraveling" for example) but this is not really a flaw but a matter of personal taste.
Overall I find "Weapons Of Tomorrow" to be an enjoyable if inessential thrash metal release that eclipses most of the other new school thrash exponents out there pretty comfortably through pure class. It's beautifully executed & hints at some real potential but doesn't quite deliver as consistently as our 80's faves.
You haven't heard a lot of tech-thrash, SilentScream? Well I have some recommendations for you to start with (thrash mixed with progressive also included in my list):
5. Revocation - Existence is Futile (2009)
4. Vektor - Black Future (2009)
3. Nevermore - This Godless Endeavor (2005)
2. Sadus - A Vision of Misery (1992)
1. Annihilator - Alice in Hell (1989)
Those albums can help you start on your tech-thrash journey with some of the greatest bands of the subgenre. The list can also be my current top 5 list with the only difference being Coroner's Mental Vortex tied with that Annihilator album for #1. Enjoy this tech-pack!
Y'know, I think now that we can make our own public lists, these "lists" kind of threads are no longer totally necessary when we can just make our own lists to share and inspire other members to make similar lists. So I say we focus on doing our top 5 or 10 (or any number) releases of a year, clan, or genre in the public lists from now on. I'm gonna head out of this thread and take my top 5 tech-thrash releases with me. See ya on the "list" side! https://metal.academy/lists/single/82
Can someone please fill me in on what is supposedly so special about the debut album from this family-owned Bay Area thrash outfit? I first encountered it three decades ago now & are still no closer to understanding the reason for the high regard it seems to be held in by almost every thrasher out there (with the possible exception of Ben who has always agreed with me). Don't get me wrong. It's a more than handy thrash record & was quite the achievement for such a young group of dudes but it doesn't really come close to competing with the big boys of the genre in my opinion. The triple play of "Kill As One", the title track & "Mistress Of Pain" is really great but it's book-ended by some material that doesn't exactly stand out from the crowd with a couple of tracks not really cutting the mustard for me personally (see the awful vocal performance on "Voracious Souls" or the light-weight & generic riffage of "Final Death"). I don't think Death Angel have ever released anything I'd regard as being close to a classic but their best work was yet to come in my opinion. A lot of that has to do with the dodgy vocal performance here as front man Mark Osegueda hadn't learned to sing in key just yet. A decent if overrated release for fans of Testament, Metallica & Exodus.
Weirdly, despite being a massive fan of both thrash and punk, I've never really listened to that much crossover thrash. I guess if I want thrash I listen to thrash and if I want punk then I listen to punk. I do like Agnostic Front's punk material though, so maybe I'll give their album a listen. The problem I've had with crossover is that it always sounds less aggressive than my punk yardstick band, the mighty Discharge, so what's the point? By the way, Suicidal Tendencies hardcore debut destroys their thrashier albums in my opinion. Still I'm gonna spin some of your top 8 and see where we go!
9/10. Well that's interesting, adding a climatic epic right in the middle of the first half of the playlist. Either way, it's an amazing progressive thrash epic, starting with an acoustic intro, before switching to irresistible heaviness, and it has the best sweeping passage of the album right before the climactic ending.
10/10. Oh yeah, a song I initially thought was a stinker for myself, but I now recognize as the enormous starter progressive/thrash metalheads really love. It frantically yet decently punches through the discordant verses and riffs, powerful enough to blow my mind harder than a head-shot through the temple. I also enjoy the mellow bridge that contrasts against the typical heaviness and metallic guitar strength. What I thought was too out of place is now in place again!
Annihilator – “Armed To The Teeth” (from “Ballistic, Sadistic”, 2020)
10/10. Holy h*ll, this is incredible!! This is basically ballistic tech-ish thrash similar to early Coroner alongside main founder Jeff Waters channeling his inner James Hetfield (both the vocals and guitars)! Absolutely KILLER!!!!
Lamb Of God – “Laid To Rest” (from “Ashes Of the Wake”, 2004)
11/10 (not exaggerated). My absolute favorite song from a band in The Pit, though Lamb of God is more of a groove/thrash metal band unlike the 3 progressive/thrash metal bands I've commented on. It's an awesome standout with a meaner vibe than the other songs I've mentioned. The spoken narration during the intro is a nice unique addition. The riff in the bridge as Blythe yells "SEE WHO GIVES A F***!!" is fantastic. And of course, we can't forget about the infamous long "FAILURE!!!" scream. Excellent song!
Those songs are really great, thanks Ben and Daniel! However, I won't immediately start listening to the rest of Annihilator's discography. I'm still new to thrash metal going back to the late 80s (other than early Neurosis which is more on the hardcore side), and about a week or two from now, I plan on getting a couple other band discographies, including Coroner, which would be a good starting point for me before I get to the further Annihilator side of the tech-thrash bridge that I plan on crossing a couple weeks after. I'm taking my slow time... I'm heading toward thrash metal's golden age without my taste going too deep into the old!