The Bay Area Thrash Thread
Exodus - "Pleasures Of The Flesh" (1987)
Exodus sophomore record is often overlooked due to the quality of the releases either side of it but when taken on its own merits it's a damn fine piece of Bay Area thrash that includes a few of the band's best tracks. Exodus were clearly a class act at this point in time & the professionalism of the composition & performances is obvious from start to finish. Plus, these guys had riffs for days & are up there with most gifted thrashers of all time in this department. In saying that though, there's a fair bit of self-plagiarism going on at times as I find myself quite regularly noticing structural similarities to tracks from "Bonded By Blood". Plus, the couple of more restrained & melodic tracks on the B side don't appeal to me too much as that was never Exodus' strength. New front man Steve Souza's first up effort is up & down in that he brings a truck load of energy & enthusiasm to the table but I find a few of the choruses to be a touch flat & this prevents some otherwise fantastic tracks from reaching their full potential. Still, there's enough high quality thrash on offer to satisfy all but the most critical of thrash fans, particularly on the A side which is very strong indeed.
Heathen - "Breaking The Silence" (1987)
The 1987 debut album from this Bay Area outfit offered mixed results in my opinion. On the one hand you have an incisive production job with an aggressive rhythm guitar sound & some blazing, ultra-shreddy solos. On the other you have some inconsistent vocals, some unimaginative riff structures, a few sub-par choruses & the odd cheesy power metal moment scattered across the tracklisting. I'd actually suggest that only half of "Breaking The Silence" is actually thrash metal to be honest with the other half residing much more comfortably under the speed metal banner. In fact, the title track is pretty much full-blown power metal so the album comes off as a combination of US thrash bands like Exodus & Overkill & more melodic & accessible metal acts like Iron Maiden & early Helloween. Overall, the positives overcome the negatives with the quality delivery & execution carrying Heathen's weaknesses for the most part.
Death Angel - "The Ultra-Violence" (1987)
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.