If you know us here at “E.D. – Music, Movies, Etc.,” you know we enjoy reviewing and discussing the music of many genres, but you also know our favorite genre/subgenre to talk about is thrash metal. The Big Four and more, David Malone and I love it, as does contributor Andrew Keating.
In addition, Mr. Malone and I have both mentioned, in previous content, that we feel we’re in the midst of a new stage of the thrash revival. Of course, there was the period some refer to as the “New Wave of Thrash Metal” in the early to mid 2000s, but that movement had, more or less, petered out by the early 2010s, due in part to the generally low quality of the music it produced, even from its frontrunners. But then – seemingly centered around new releases from some of the biggest ‘80s thrash bands, like Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax, Metallica, Death Angel, and Testament – thrash got a bit of a restart beginning around the middle of 2015, with 2016 and 2017 seeing many high quality, metal thrashing mad LPs from old and new thrashers alike.
Unfortunately, thrash bands did not grab metal media attention in 2018 as much as they did in ‘16 and ‘17, yet maintain hope and be not deceived, several quality albums hit the scene in 2018, and I hope you thrash fans, and heavy metal in general fans, will take note.
Here are a few 2018 thrash LP releases I think you all should check out.
To reiterate, I will only discuss here albums I both heard and desire to discuss. This list and these short reviews are not meant to form a comprehensive overview of each and every thrash LP or EP released this year, but rather this is a list of 2018 thrash album recommendations or just mentions, despite what I might say about each release.
“Part 1” covered January 2018 to June 2018. “Part 2” covers July 2018 to December 2018.
To get started, let’s do some catch-up!
Gatecreeper/Iron Reagan Split EP (Released March 2)
Gatecreeper are producing solid, old-school, death metal these days, but this being an article about thrash, I’m not currently interested in that. I am interested in Iron Reagan’s thrash/crossover thrash half of this split EP. I had wondered if Iron Reagan would present a new direction here. Nope. Same old same old. Look, I know a lot of you probably enjoy the American thrashers Iron Reagan, but I’ve never had any feeling toward them other than that they are Municipal Waste minus a lot of the crazy fun that makes Municipal Waste a thrashing good time.
Traitor’s Knee-Deep in the Dead (Released April 27)
Speaking of crazy fun thrash, Traitor, a thrash act out of Germany, delivered that fix to me in 2018. These guys don’t do anything but old-school thrash riffs in barely more than a pizza thrash vein, but they do it well. With song titles like “Predator (Skinned Alive),” “Ebola,” and “Xenomorph,” which all play out exactly as you think, you know what you’re getting into, and, as I said, Traitor delivers. I wouldn’t say Traitor is doing anything particularly memorable, but they do hit their mark. If you enjoy Lich King, or the above-mentioned Municipal Waste, check out Traitor’s Knee-Deep in the Dead. They obviously love to watch horror and sci-fi movies, play video games, and research grotesque stuff then make good, fun, aggressive thrash about it all.
Now to the main portion of the article.
Black Fast’s Spectre of Ruin (Released July 13)
I’m not the biggest blackened thrash fan. I often find it a subgenre too much in excess, and not in a good way for me, combining two worlds that have been influenced by each other but don’t usually work well together, and bands, in my opinion, don’t often find artistically successful ways, or artistically interesting ways, to make these two worlds work together either. However, Black Fast’s Spectre of Ruin brings together much of the best of both worlds then injects those elements into their music along with a technicality that aids them well. One of the members being a university-trained jazz musician, the whole band has a firm grasp on the balance between technicality and musicality. Plus, I love the Edgar Allan Poe sort of dark fantasy and horror in the band’s lyricism here.
Skeletonwitch’s Devouring Radiant Light (Released July 20)
Speaking of blackened thrash, I enjoy Skeletonwitch, one of the 21st century’s most interesting thrash-related bands, because they always find a way to combine black metal with galloping rhythms and memorable melodies. If I was worried that would be lost on their new LP, it isn’t, and is only paired with more intense, complex, experimental, blackened thrash numbers. If I was worried the band’s recent adversities would hinder their musical creativity, they don’t. Kurt Ballou, Devouring Radiant Light’s producer, has become one of my favorite metal producers of recent years, especially for the work he did with High on Fire on Luminiferous and Mutoid Man on War Moans. Though he isn’t always an exact match for the bands he produces, I was excited to see what he would help guide Skeletonwitch toward, and the results are even better than I expected. Their sound here achieves an excellent balance.
Metal Allegiance’s Volume II: Power Drunk Majesty (Released September 7)
Power Drunk Majesty doesn’t always work well as a whole album, but it does work as a hall-of-fame record with real effort behind it, assembled by Mark Menghi with David Ellefson of Megadeth on bass, Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater fame behind the drums, and Alex Skolnick of Testament playing lead guitar, primarily written by the four. The album features stellar, guest vocal performances from Trevor Strnad of The Black Dahlia Murder, John Bush of Armored Saint (previously of Anthrax), Blitz Ellsworth of Overkill, Mark Tornillo of Accept, Johan Hegg of Amon Amarth, Max Cavalera of Soulfly and Cavalera Conspiracy (previously of Sepultura), Floor Jansen of Nightwish, Mark Osegueda of Death Angel, and Troy Sanders of Mastodon. It also features guest guitar work from Andreas Kisser of Sepultura, Nita Strauss from Alice Cooper’s band, and the legendary Joe Satriani. Power Drunk Majesty is a one-stop shop for your thrash needs.
Suicidal Tendencies’ STill Cyco Punk After All These Years (Released September 7)
If you are looking for fun, energetic, original, crossover thrash, with a healthy dose of skilled instrumentation and loads of gang vocals, Suicidal Tendencies, as a band, will not let you down, even after all these years, and they don’t let you down here on their newest release either. The band still going strong, still maintaining their authentic, Los Angeles feel, STill Cyco Punk After All These Years, which is mostly made up of reworked material from Cyco Miko’s 1996 debut album, is pretty dang solid, I must say. This album leans more heavily toward the punk side of things than many of the popular Suicidal Tendencies records, but it still maintains many of Suicidal’s thrash qualities, and Dave Lombardo absolutely smashes his kit to pieces.
Voivod’s The Wake (Released September 21)
Voivod is one of the first, and best, techy thrash bands. The Canadians’ discography is far too often overlooked, despite their presence and influence. However, though I hate to say this, I’ve always liked them but never loved them, and, unfortunately, the same is the case with The Wake. It is an ambitious LP – conceptually, compositionally, and instrumentally – and certainly well worth your time. Voivod are not as full of fun and vigor as they once were, but much of their fire has been replaced by maturity and knowledge. Their writing remains as solid as ever, too. Even though The Wake doesn’t connect with me on a personal level, I appreciate, respect, and recommend it. Besides, if you’re a thrash fan but don’t know much about Voivod, you owe it to yourself to research these guys and go through their discography, and The Wake isn’t a bad place to start.
Iron Reagan’s “Dark Days Ahead” EP (Released October 12)
See what I said above about Iron Reagan. The same sentiment applies here. They’re fine, and this EP is fine, but it’s not particularly compelling to me. Take that for what you will. The guys in Iron Reagan know how to play thrash, and they know how to write it too, but it just always, always comes across to me as . . . OK.
Gama Bomb’s Speed Between the Lines (Released October 12)
On Speed Between the Lines, Irish thrashers Gama Bomb once again sound as if they have taken every ’80s early thrash and NWOBHM trick, including the kitchen sink, and thrown it into one record. In that regard, Speed Between the Lines reminds me of Deliverance’s Weapons of Our Warfare from 1990, another everything plus the kitchen sink thrash amalgamation that always stands out in my mind. Be that as it may, in the end, the band, as usual, brings enough skill, energy, and humor to the table to win me over. Besides, any band that would call a song “Kurt Russell,” and have said song just be all about the titular man, is most definitely worthy of some attention!
Tourniquet’s Gazing at Medusa (Released October 16)
Tourniquet’s Gazing At Medusa features odd production choices, inconsistent lyrics that go from sobering to cheesy cornball at a moment’s notice, and tortured, high-soaring, lead vocals that don’t mesh well with the lower lead vocals and shouted backing vocals. Even still, the LP is awe-inspiring as a showcase for terrific, thrash instrumentation, especially the jazz-influenced guitar work from Chris Poland, Megadeth’s second-best lead guitarist but also its most influential. There are many barriers here to having a seamless, thrash, listening experience, with various issues stemming from the elements I mentioned above, but the good stuff makes this album worth spinning a couple times for the thrash fan, and, impressively for a band that’s been around for thirty years, they sound as heavy and as instrumentally skilled as ever.
Soulfly’s Ritual (Released October 19)
This is an album as rooted in groove metal and death metal as it is in thrash, but I feel there is enough thrash here to warrant its inclusion in this list. Ritual by Soulfly is a fantastic return to actually excellent form for Max Cavalera and, for my money, the most interesting thing the Cavaleras have been involved in since Sepultura’s Roots. It’s also kind of impressive that Cavalera is capable of releasing something like this at this point in his career. Will I return to this instead of the Sepultura glory days records? Probably not, to be honest, but if you are looking for something new in that vein, check out Ritual.
Artillery’s The Face of Fear (Released November 16)
Artillery is a legendary, Danish, thrash band. They have made some great albums, including some in the last few years. Face of Fear is not one of these. Unfortunately, it is mediocre and forgettable, decent but not containing anything that sticks to the brain. It also kind of goes with a more traditional heavy metal sound instead of Artillery’s usual thrash metal, and though I love traditional heavy metal, it’s not what Artillery is good at. It’s a bland fit for them, but this is an album you can listen to and enjoy for the moment.
All in all, 2018 was a pretty good year for thrash, as it was for metal in general. No, many of the big names did not release albums in 2018, but, just as with heavy metal in general, the underground stuff prospered, and many little known bands made their voices heard.
It also bears mentioning that many non-thrash bands embraced very thrashy elements, either on specific songs or on whole albums. This can be seen on Anvil’s speed metal album Pounding the Pavement, AWOLNATION’s pop song “Stop That Train,” Dee Snider’s hard rock and heavy metal album For the Love of Metal, High on Fire’s sludge metal album Electric Messiah, Judas Priest’s heavy metal album Firepower, Marty Friedman’s instrumental heavy metal live album One Bad M.F. Live!!, Nita Strauss’s instrumental heavy metal album Controlled Chaos, and Stryper’s glam metal album track “Take It to the Cross.”
2019, however, may bring us another big year for thrash, both for the underground and the more recognizable bands, something along the lines of 2016 and 2017. At this point, we have already received Legions of the Damned’s Slaves of the Shadow Realm and Flotsam & Jetsam’s The End of Chaos. We will also be getting Imaplers’ final EP, “From Ashes to Iron,” on February 12, and The Wings of War from Overkill on February 22. Additionally, as rumor has it, we may very well be seeing new releases from Anthrax, Believer, Death Angel, Exodus, Gojira, Maniac Abductor, Megadeth, Power Trip, Testament, and Toxic Holocaust, at least either this year or next.
Are you ready?
Have you heard any of the albums above? If so, what did you think? Also, if you know of other records I should have included on this list, or if you know about some other, exciting, upcoming thrash releases, tell us in the comments below!