My last Starter Kit (on Contemporary Thrash) brought in more recent bands and albums that cranked their amps past 11 and shredded faces with their speed. However, any genre is (to quote Shrek), like an onion; there are layers and layers of difference all balled up in one, and thrash metal is no different. While most people are at least aware of the genre’s staples (Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, Megadeth, etc.), they might not know of the lesser known bands that speed even past the big names.
In researching for this article, I stumbled across two different subgenres: thrashcore and crossover thrash; the latter supposed to be super sped-up hardcore punk, while the former is considered thrash metal with a heavy hardcore influence.
I can see why this distinction was made, but after some more research (thank you, o blessed RateYourMusic!), there really didn’t seem to be much of a difference, as a significant amount of releases were considered to be both thrashcore and crossover.
So, I finally decided: fuck it; This is a Starter Kit on Crossover Thrash/Thrashcore.
S.O.D.—Speak English or Die (1985)
Stormtroopers of Death (or S.O.D.) are basically the granddaddy of this subgenre, and this is their first album. Started by Anthrax members Scott Ian and Charlie Benante, S.O.D. played a new, faster, hugely-aggressive style of thrash that makes Usain Bolt look as slow as a box turtle. Coupled with purposefully politically-incorrect lyrics (with such song titles as “Fuck the Middle East” and “Pre-Menstrual Princess Blues,” not to mention the album title) and a dark sense of humor to boot, S.O.D. came to dominate and didn’t give a fuck what people thought as a result.
I am personally not very fond of Speak English Or Die; as much as I have come to enjoy some of the tracks on it, I always felt that the humor on the album sort of overshadowed the music itself, which, I guess, is sort of the point. But when you have tracks like “What’s that Noise” (the entire one minute of which is the band constantly starting a song and stopping because of a titular noise in the studio) or “Ballad of Jimi Hendrix” (consisting only of the opening of Hendrix’s “Purple Haze,” and followed by the word “dead”) dominating most of a barely-half-hour album, the schtick can wear thin. Nonetheless, though, Speak English or Die is probably the most important thrashcore/crossover release, and is one of the best places to start if you’re interested in the genre.
Municipal Waste—Hazardous Mutation (2005)
Although 2016 marks fifteen years since Municipal Waste’s inception, the band have proven their mettle as one hell of a thrash band. Hazardous Mutation, their second full-length album, gives us some face-shredding thrash with a huge influence of hardcore punk. Tony Foresta’s vocals sound like they were lifted off an old Dischord EP, and the insisting gang vocals bring the whole album home as an ear-assaulting homage to hardcore punk.
Unlike a lot of hardcore punk bands, though, the MW boys know how to actually play their instruments. Hazardous Mutation is full of incredible guitar work and drums that manage to stay on time despite drummer Dave Witte probably being pushed to his limits during the recording of. (How vocalist Tony Foresta is able to yell for so long in what sounds like one breath is beyond me.) And, of course, the dark humor is available in loads here, with the Minor Threat-skewing title “Guilty of Being Tight” and the album cover, featuring hazmat-suited humans being chased by a monster truck full of mutants. Can’t forget that humor, I guess.
D.R.I.—Dealing With It! (1985)
Definitely the most hardcore punk release out of all the entries in this Starter Kit (and probably the best example of a “thrashcore” album), D.R.I’s seminal Dealing With It tears listeners new earholes with its muddy production and intense aggression made into music. Good luck understanding a lot of Kurt Brecht’s shouted lyrics, or really dissecting Spike Cassidy’s guitar work, as the album speeds by you faster than you’d think. (For a half an hour album, it feel like maybe twenty minutes.) However, unlike the previous two albums described here, Dealing With It will sometimes slow down for some classic hardcore punk brutality. Your fist will be sore from pumping the air after listening to this. (Note: Heavy Blog is not legally liable for any destruction of property caused by slamdancing or moshing to this music.)
Of course, there are always more thrashcore/crossover bands that deserve some major props. If you found the former albums described titillating, you’ll definitely enjoy these releases:
Cryptic Slaughter—Convicted; Stream of Consciousness
Suicidal Tendencies—Lights Camera Revolution
Operation Eat Shit—Operation Eat Shit
D.R.I.—Crossover; Thrash Zone
Iron Reagan—The Tyranny of Will