We all know the thrash greats, like the Big Four, but even beyond that, most metal fans could probably tell you a couple of really important thrash metal bands/albums, including (probably) Testament, Exodus, Kreator and others. Thrash is a staple genre in heavy metal, and is hugely responsible for the formation of death and black metal in the 80s and 90s.
However, there are a lot of thrash bands beyond the stars of the 80s, whose albums we know by heart. There are more bands than Overkill and Annihilator putting out material today.
Contemporary Thrash really isn’t a genre (much like Modern Mathcore isn’t), but it’s an era in metal that we should give some more attention. This Starter Kit honors those thrash bands that are fairly new to the music scene. They are the bands who are simultaneously paying homage to the greats of yesteryear and paving new ground for thrash fans everywhere.
Havok — Time Is Up (2011, Candlelight Records)
To put it succinctly: Havok fucking shreds. They’re about as fast as Slayer, but unlike Slayer, Havoc’s hardcore punk influence is much more prevalent. Time Is Up utilizes a lot of gang vocals, and singer David Sanchez has incredible vocals that seem like a cross between a scream and a yell. The opening track “Prepare For Attack” is like this giant thrash slingshot that sends you headfirst into the music with no remorse.
What sets Havok apart from the other bands, though, is their ability to just pummel whatever they’re playing. Their approach to songwriting on this album is five-star thrash; it makes you want to go faster and faster, yet it doesn’t get obsessed with itself or get caught in platitudinous playing. While a lot of speed and thrash bands can get almost masturbatory with their guitar playing—almost always leaving the drums and vocals in the dust—Havok manages to balance things very well. Vocals can range from long yells to the simple short bursts of a normal thrash verse, and drummer Pete Webber often switches up from the standard blast-beat formula, but not enough to make it feel out-of-place.
Lazarus A.D. — The Onslaught
Lazarus A.D. has been pretty quiet as of late, but considering the recent passing of their drummer Ryan Shutler, they are more than justified in their reasons. The band has put out only two albums since their inception in 2005—this album, and its follow-up, Black Rivers Flow (which I don’t really remember very well, to be honest). However, both were very well received, though I do wish they received more commercial credit, as the band definitely puts in some serious time touring and making their music great.
What I love about The Onslaught is, like Havok, the hardcore punk influence on the band, combined with some really great songwriting. Singer/bassist Jeff Paulick’s voice would perfectly front a thrashcore/crossover thrash band, with the blunt animosity he manages to pack into every single syllable of his verses, and the use of gang vocals is done extremely well. And while Havok will usually stick to a few key riffs in their songs, Lazarus packs such an incredible amount of licks and riffs into 4-minute-long tracks in this album that it feels twice as long as it actually is.
Toxic Holocaust — Conjure and Command
In this list, Conjure and Command is, in a way, the odd man out, and that’s not a bad thing at all. Havok and Lazarus A.D. stick to cleaner production for the most part, while Toxic Holocaust does not. There’s a great black metal-esque fuzziness to Conjure and Command that only serves to make it more brutal; its as if Dimebag Darrell and Kurt Ballou had produced this album together.
Although this album is a lot shorter—with only one track in the entire album passing the 4-minute mark—Joel Grind is able to put in a lot awesome songwriting. While Lazarus and Havok stick to speed, Toxic Holocaust uses the raw power that the guitar is able to produce to create some awesome thrash metal. “Agony of the Damned,” for example, uses slower, almost doom-inspired riffs (though the track does speed up a lot during its runtime).
There are a lot of great thrash metal albums by new bands that we weren’t able to cover, so if this list interests you, be sure to check out these awesome releases:
Revocation—Chaos of Forms
Black Fast—Terms of Surrender