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beyond thrash, beyond god

Ah. You're 16 going on 30 (or 30 going on 16?) and you've already had enough of this lame life. Everything sucks and you hate it. You're pissed, but at the same time too elite to listen to Slipknot or Lamb of God or so you tell other people anyway. You want the world to know how true you are and how many balls you have (at least 5? 5 seems like a good number). Thrash is the genre for you. You've heard Metallica and Slayer and Kreator and you're ready for more. But a lot of thrash bands are boring, they're content to act like a human centipede of recycling the same boring shit that the aforementioned already did better. If you stumbled through the genre on your own, you might end up listening to rubbish like Xentrix or even Havok! Well luckily for YOU, Casavir and I have joined forces to compile this list so you can avoid such pitfalls! Because nothing is more elite or more metal true than having your taste dictated to you by a bunch of internet hipsters who probably live in basements.
No More Color

1989, Switzerland, technical
Before we get into the obscurities let's start with a handful of truly essential bands. You have probably seen these paraded around before and there is very good reason for that. Coroner might be the best thrash band ever made and all their stuff rules hard.
Energetic Disassembly

1985, USA-TX, technical/progressive
Similarly, this right here is one of the most important metal albums ever made. If you like any kind of prog metal, techy metal or wank metal, chances are your favourite band in those genres was influences by this. At the very least I can tell you that Atheist, Cynic, Death and many more have been. It's utterly nuts that this came out in 1985, not to mention the fact that most of the material had already been written and recorded for a demo in 1984!
Killing Technology

1987, Canada, technical/progressive
The thrashiest of their more progressive fare while also retaining the more jagged, corroded vibe of the more ambitious tracks on the prior album like Build Your Weapons and To The Death!. The more deliberate and complex writing lends a genuinely sinister and eerie vibe to this whole album with some clear standouts being Forgotten in Space and This Is Not An Exercise. Undoubtedly some of their best material and one of the greatest transitional efforts in any metal discography as far as I'm concerned.
Rrröööaaarrr is certainly underrated for what it is - a natural predecessor that laid the groundwork for this one - but that only goes to show how good Killing Technology really is. Arguably Voivod at their thrashiest, for one of the greatest metal bands of all time.

1993, Russia, technical/progressive
One thing you will probably notice throughout this list is how often I use words such as "songwriting", "dynamic" and "hard". Am I just throwing buzzwords at you hoping they will be convincing? Perhaps. You have to excuse me, I am but a humble metal boomer with non-zero amount of brain damage from having jammed some of these over and over throughout the years. Out of respect though, I want to explain myself a bit. What my neanderthal vocabulary may fail to convey is that, unlike most bands in metal who are content to rehash a formula or imitate their idols, the ones featured here go above and beyond the bare minimum necessary. Whether through talent or just skill, they craft their songs in ways that develop beyond a basic structure, using a broad palette of riffs and beats, fills, bridges, tempo changes that all flow naturally into one another keeping you constantly engaged. In theory, varying things up isn't all that hard, it's landing in the sweet spot between jarring and predictable that constitutes the hallmark of interesting songwriting. Needless to say, the reason I'm bringing it up on this entry is because I believe Aspid pull this off with aplomb. Even on a list of high grade cuts, they are still a cut above most. Tempo changes especially - at their fastest they compete with Sadus, but they also spend a surprising amount of time playing it relatively slowly while eschewing the groove metal trend that plagued the 90s. It kind of feels somewhere halfway between prog metal and a Suffocation style breakdown or something, rather than the obvious dead birds most Pantera and Metallica-worshipping thrash cats were dragging in at this point. Track 4 has probably the longest most consistent example of this if you want a sample, but they tend to do a bit of it on most tracks. One last note: avoid the 2007 version like the plague, try to find either the original or the 2014 master which frankly might be even better than the original.

P.S. Rest in peace drummer Vasily Shapovalov, who passed away while we were making this list.
Think This

1989, USA-NY, technical/progressive
One of the flashiest tech thrash albums out there and almost like the more power metal-esque counterpart to Control and Resistance due to tracks like In God. The icy, pristine sheen of the production especially helps at accenting the atmosphere, especially when the guitars tend to fuse Holdsworthian lead playing along with more neoclassical flourishes. I consider this essential whether you're on the Fates Warning/Queensryche end or the Watchtower end of the prog/tech metal spectrum.
A Vision of Misery

1992, USA-CA, technical
Ah Sadus... the first band to let metal bass playing legend Steve DiGiorgio stun us with his chops before he played for Death. Their 1986 Death to Posers cassette was as promising as its mix was painful to the ear (I recommend the 2003 version!); their 1988 debut Illusions (also known as Chemical Exposure) delivered on all those promises with unhinged fury; their 1990 sophomore was a bit more restrained while upping the technical playing and fleshing out the songwriting and dynamics... It's hard to pick a favourite Sadus record out of their first three, but here at Crusty Old Wankers incorporated we have to go with A Vision of Misery to champion as their magnum opus. Probably not surprising right? This is certainly Sadus at their proggiest and most tech thrash, arguably bordering on tech death some could say. Admittedly that's not for everyone, but if you're checking these guys out because you thought Death's Individual Thought Patterns is some crazy mind-bending shit then this is where we recommend you start. Maybe it's unfair to frame things that way, after all DiGiorgio isn't the only interesting thing about this band, which in turn is all the more impressive if you think about it. Twisting mazes of riff salad with utterly juicy bass and drum fills all perfectly complemented the production. An evolution in every sense.
From This Day Forward

1990, Canada, technical/progressive
Long before Vektor was even a glint in the eye of zoomers who don't know kvlt-er metal, there was Oblivion. Uh, Obliveon rather. Hailing from the country known for fostering countless immense musical talents such as Rush, Gorguts and Nickelback, Obliveon were one of many vaguely sci-fi themed technical metal bands to rise in the wake of Watchtower and Voivod's genre redefining late 80s output. One of many, but also easily one of the best, with a style that straddled the line between thrash and Floridian death in the vein of Atheist, Cynic and to a much lesser extent Nocturnus. If you love weird, twisting, often dissonant riffs, sexy yet tasteful bass and something of an atmospheric approach to the whole thing (again, Atheist, Cynic, even Pestilence's Spheres why not) you will love this. Their next album Nemesis is also a worthy follow-up though it has more of an oppressive and mechanical feel to it, perhaps a tad similar to 90s Meshuggah at times; came out before Destroy Erase Improve too! Anyway, if the intro to Fiction of Veracity doesn't get your mouth watering I don't know what could.
Deception Ignored

1989, Germany, technical/progressive
One of the most impressive heel-turns from a band in this genre, hands-down. The chances of anyone expecting songs like Narcotic or Triocton from these guys given the kind of music they were writing before was pretty much nil and the quality of the songwriting here is still stellar to this very day. Among the most essential picks here. Really paranoid, layered and meticulously constructed material and worth giving a look.
By Inheritance

1990, Denmark, straightforward/technical
Likely the ultimate statement of melodic tech thrash.
Technical in the same way that Rust in Peace is and indeed more melodic, fueled by the arcane knowledge that the harmonic minor scale and double harmonic scale are actually cool as feck and should be used more in metal, with over the top operatic vocals almost up there with King Diamond. Hard not to like.
10Dark Angel
Darkness Descends

1986, USA-CA, straightforward/intense
Sure Reign in Blood is fast but have you heard Darkness Descends? If there's one thing metal nerds love it's endless navelgazing labels and classification. Some consider this album to be part of the "unholy trinity" of 1986 - a landmark year in the genre, perhaps even the most important year - along with Slayer's magnum opus and Kreator's Pleasure to Kill, yet it doesn't quite get as much recognition as those. It's not as influential as Reign in Blood's breakneck chromatic riffs, nor does it get the exoticity bonus of being from Germany like Kreator's sloppy but savage bonecrusher, indeed it could well be considered the most conventional of the three. But when it comes to blending sheer speed with the increasingly darker, menacing aesthetic of mid 80s extreme metal, Dark Angel were certainly on the cutting edge.
11Metal Church
Metal Church

1984, USA-CA, USPM
One of the best power/thrash albums ever and while it can seem a bit frontloaded with all of the epics being on the first half, this is a perfect exemplar of what makes the genre great. Kurt Vanderhoof is a riff god.
Released in 1984, this is the earliest entry on this list and certainly one of very few that could compete with the big name legends at the time.

1991, USA-TX, straightforward/intense
Put bluntly, this is what you get if you took Sepultura's Beneath the Remains and decided it needed to be even heavier and more aggressive. Put bluntly, this is as close to the auditory equivalent of blunt force trauma as this genre can get. Well, this or the next entry...
13Demolition Hammer
Epidemic of Violence

1992, USA-NY, straightforward/intense
As far as cult classics go, the internet has certainly done this one justice. So much so in fact that I wouldn't even fault you for thinking it's overrated. For those either less familiar with extreme metal, or on the contrary very intimately experienced, the songwriting doesn't seem like anything truly remarkable. In fact some argue it's less interesting than Tortured Existence's, and I can't blame them. But what makes this album stand out is the fact that it's by far greatest example of thrash metal being strongly elevated by its production. Their groovy approach to death/thrash is effective, but what amplifies this effectiveness hundredfold is the guitar tone, the drum sound, and just the way everything is mixed - it complements what they're trying to do perfectly. And that's precisely what makes Epidemic of Violence sound so fucking crushing that it puts most death metal of its time to shame. Seriously this is up there with Strapping Young Lad's City for me when it comes to metal albums that are good on their own, but taken to the next level by the production job.
Slaughter in the Vatican

1990, USA-LA, straightforward/intense/groovy
A real mythical beast of the metal underground this, one that crusty fun-hating elitists such as myself will always be sure to remind you was shamelessly ripped off and watered down by Pantera who went on to achieve great fame with Cowboys From Hell... who knows really what truth there is to it, if there is any at all. They don't sound THAT much alike, but it is notable that Exhorder were among the very first bands to take thrash into a "groovy" direction. And even more notable, this album already had a demo of it made in mid 1987. That's over three years earlier than its actual official release! And while the demo in question obviously did not have the brutal shine and sparkle of Florida's Morrisound Recordings studio, nor were the tracks quite as developed, the trademark Exhorder sound was very much still there and even more ahead of its time. When they play slowly they steamroll you against the pavement as opposed to plodding along harmlessly like B-grade Anthrax wannabes, and when they go fast they can hold their own against most death metal. Really while the demo I mentioned is cool and you should check it out, it's no surprise that they went to Florida for the definitive, official recording and mixing. The production job makes it even more of a standout in the genre.
15Morbid Saint
Spectrum of Death

1990, USA-FL, straightforward/intense
Following in the footsteps of Possessed, Dark Angel and Sadus like a cannibal with a cleaver and a craving, Morbid Saint have arguably perfected speedy anger at angry speeds. The production is raw but not too raw, with kick drums packing a surprising punch and chainsaw riffs to finish you off, but it's the demented shrieks they're trying to pass for vocals that take it to the next level. As perfectly as they channel the unhinged aesthetic though, Morbid Saint don't exactly have the punky fuck-you sloppiness of Brazil's Sarcofago or Holocausto, there's a murderous surgical precision to their madness (hence namedropping Sadus earlier). Another interesting thing about this one is it was already written in 1988, a demo version being released under the name "Lock Up Your Children". But above all else, this is the kind of metal that actually makes you want to go out and eat someone's throat. Or is that just me?
16Holy Terror
Mind Wars

1988, USA-CA, straightforward/intense
An improvement of the sound that was present on the already impressive Terror and Submission, with melodic writing, a blistering pace and manic vocals that would appeal to power/thrash and punk fans alike. Seriously, if you're a fan of bands like A Wilhelm Scream, this is pretty much as good if not better. Likely Kurt Kilfelt's finest hour and one of the greats when it comes to the more speed metal-derived brand of thrash metal.
Possessed by Fire

1986, Germany, straightforward
What do you get when you combine the intensity and furious vocals of "teutonic" bands like Kreator and Sodom with a songwriting style that much more closely resembles Slayer's Show No Mercy and Exodus' Bonded By Blood? You get Possessed by Fire, a record that should sound dated as hell, yet somehow has just the right kind of energy, magic juice and sweet guitar leads to be on par with if not better than Death Angel's The Ultra-Violence.
Contradictions Collapse

1991, Sweden, progressive/technical/groovy
Comparisons abound between Mehsuggah's early material and Metallica's output during the second half of the 80s. The influence is absolutely undeniable, far be it from me to contest that, but the way most discussions go really sells the Swedes short. This is far more complex and twisted sounding than ...And Justice For All (or really the overwhelming majority of metal that was around at the time). You still have the rhythmic nuttiness, the way bass drum and rhythm guitar combine into a super mech of robotic bludgeoning, Thordendal's weird fusion-y leads and the overall deliberately mechanical atmosphere. It's kind of baffling to me how some can love Destroy Erase Improve while finding this one weak. Or for that matter how some can love 90s Prong, Coroner's Grin or even Fear Factory just to give a few more examples, and yet not dig this. Give it an honest try, it's genuinely impressive especially for its time.
Release from Agony

1987, Germany, technical/straightforward?
Isn't it funny how out of the "big three" of German thrash, the most creative one is the least big? People never fail to bring them up, sure, but in a sense they don't get the proper credit. This album fucking shreks. It has their most interesting songwriting, it's dark, it's fairly technical, and it pisses all over what the other two bands - or most bands really - were doing at the time.

This is easily on par with the first two Coroner as far as technicality and songwriting is concerned and more eerie as well. Likely a benefit gained from both Wilkens and Sifringer's guitar interplay during this time. A demented classic that I'd be tempted to call underrated as I feel their more technical period in the late '80s goes underappreciated in contrast to their first three releases.
- Casavir
20Mekong Delta
The Principle of Doubt

Germany, 1989, progressive/technical
When it comes to thrash that progresses or exhibits spectacular technique, Mekong Delta are probably the second most important band of the classic European scene, whose popularity today does not accurately reflect the countless metal bands they have influenced on the old continent. Ever in the shadow of Swiss transcendental gods Coroner, Mekong Delta are often spoken of as Europe's answer to Voivod or Watchtower, with perhaps a greater neoclassical bent. And to some extent this does a reasonable job of describing their sound via referencing bands that ended up being even more influential, but it falls short of telling the whole story.

While a great many metal bands - and especially thrash ones - tend to be started by a bunch of youths with fire in their hearts lit up by bigger metal and/or rock bands, this is not how it was for Mekong Delta. According to mastermind Ralf Hubert himself, the idea arose when Jörg Michael (then drummer of Rage) came in with a Metallica demo tape to show off the track "Fight Fire With Fire" (which was very impressive for the time). Hubert, who was primarily a producer and audio engineer at the time, claimed that it could be done better and more complicated. And after bashing out some song ideas they eventually started Mekong Delta, with the deliberate intention of musically outdoing what other metal bands were up to at the time.

The band has mostly been a revolving door of talented German metal musicians that Hubert scouted many of whom were primarily playing in other bands, and in the early days their identities were even kept secret. The band is indubitaly Ralf's brainchild though, he is the main songwriter (and also bassist!). And by his own admission in many interviews, he was not particularly influenced by what other rock or metal bands were doing. His main inspiration and passion lay with classical music, despite not being formally trained at a conservatory, with Prokofiev, Shostakovich and Bartok often cited as inspiration. Of course Mekong Delta fans are aware that many of their albums feature at least one metal rendition of a classical piece, and this certainly also explains the neoclassical influence on songwriting and the orchestral interludes they sometimes use. Similarities with North American tech metallers like Voivod and Watchtower when it comes to the weirder parts and angular riffs more than likely stem from having a shared influence from classical music.

Attempting to choose a single album from this era of Mekong Delta from this list was an ordeal but upon further reflection, it had to be this one as it is the most complete vision of Mekong Delta's sound by this point. One could call this their Control and Resistance in many respects between all the more overtly proggy moments that unfold more deliberately like The Jester pressed against the more manic tracks like Once I Believed. The sense of unease that a lot of their work had up to this point is basically rounded out to perfection here, the classical influence of bassist and founder Ralph Hubert coupling with the eccentric energy and playing of his fellow guitarists to create something that manages to top their previous two albums. Wolfgang Borgmann's vocal performance on this is probably his most dynamic yet and he fits every track well, providing an authentically disturbed, distressed voice to the soundscape this album crafts, rivaling that of Voivod's. This album also brought guitarist Uwe Baltrusch (not to be confused with Uwe Osterlehner of Deathrow [or with Uwe Boll -park]) into the fold and the result when paired with Living Death's Rolf Stein made for a brilliant combination that I wished lasted longer. That said, I'm glad it withstood this album, arguably creating their best album as a result and one of the crown jewels of the absolutely stacked year that was 1989. As with the other albums I can do nothing but rain superlatives upon, this is essential. Get it in your earholes this instant.
Suffering Hour

1988, USA-MO, progressive?
I think it should be trivial to figure out which of us wrote this based on the spiciness of the take alone. Anacrusis' debut may well be their weirdest, most interesting, most ahead of its time record, and certainly most misunderstood. A common "criticism" I've seen is that this record is somehow the most standard or the most standardly thrash in their discography. If you twist your head sideways a few times, this is maybe technically true, but still very much misleading. Yes this is the most intense Anacrusis offering, and yes this is the least recognisable as prog metal or prog thrash, but I would argue it's all the more unique for it. Frankly I have no idea how it's possible to listen to this and walk away thinking it's "standard" in any way. Sort of reminds me of Death in a way, with how people underrate Leprosy relative to their final output.

What do people even like about this band anyway? Is it Kenn Nardi's versatile vocals alternating between demented shrieks and some of the most tasteful, least cheesy cleans in prog metal? They're here. Is it the gloomy and melancholic sound owing to some gothic influences? I will admit it's less developed compared to later albums, but it is already here. The carefully crafted songwriting? Hell, opener "Present Tense" already showcases a ton of dynamism between all its technical riffs and that excellent melodic chorus. "Imprisoned" and "Butchers Block" both have sections that could easily pass for doom metal, contrasting nicely with the thrash intensity. Fills, bridges, solos all abound on Suffering Hour without ever veering into wank territory.

And one more curious thing. I say "thrash" intensity, but a lot of parts here are much closer to death metal. It sounds weird, and you have to really pay attention, but it's true. A big part of it is the guitar tone and usage of B standard tuning (for this release and the others). This isn't just a guitar geek bit of trivia, they were most likely among the first bands to ever go that low in metal. I want you listen without any prejudice and tell me that the last 4 tracks don't remind you at all of Carcass or Entombed. 'cept these guys were very likely first, given that most of the material on this album had been written and distributed in demo cassette form in 1986 and 1987. You don't hear Death or Morbid Angel's 80s stuff go this low. And speaking of Death, the approach to riffing on "R.O.T." and "A World to Gain" certainly reminds somewhat of Chuck's material. "Fighting Evil" sounds like a prototype for Carcass' Heartwork, 5 years early! You can't make this shit up. Mental fucking album.
22Depressive Age
First Depression

1992, Germany, progressive/technical
One of the greatest fusions of manic melancholy and fierce musicianship in metal and an album that remains defiantly modern as a result. The same could be said for much of their discography but if anything must be featured first, it's this album which demonstrated their unique vision from the very beginning.
Beg to Differ

1990, groovy
This album was effectively robbed of any recognition it deserved as the true origin of groove metal with its purer focus on syncopation compared to Cowboys from Hell and Slaughter in the Vatican. While taking a more stripped-down approach, this album still maintains a rather high level of songwriting along with a colder atmosphere that has made this age rather well.
Prove You Wrong

1992, groovy/progressive
The more progressive take on their prior album, Beg to Differ, with a lot of industrial touches that suit their sound from 1990 onward like a glove. Not only is this an excellent release on its own but its influence on the likes of Coroner and later Depressive Age are fairly obvious, with tracks like Brainwave and No Way to Deny it being exemplars of that.
Malleus Maleficarum

1988, Netherlands, intense
Pestilence? The Pestilence? Seminal death metal act and the crown jewel of the Dutch extreme scene in general? Who graced us with four great albums before disbanding forever in 1994 and have definitely never tarnished their impeccable legacy in the 2010s? One and the same. When's the last time you've listened to this album? If you pay attention to way the tunes here are written, you will find they tend to have way more in common with the likes of Sepultura, Kreator, Protector, Sadus and so on... than with Morbid Angel or Death. Furious death/thrash that blurs boundaries, bludgeons behinds, breaks bollocks and bonks your bonce all proper like. Doesn't seem to get as much love as the next two albums, probably because it's not pure death metal, but then again neither does Spheres... Oh yeah, check Spheres too if you like Atheist and Cynic. Essential band really, overall. Shame they never made a fifth album...
26Cryptic Slaughter

1986, USA-CA, crossover/intense
Channeling the thrashcore insanity of early D.R.I. but somehow making it sound even heavier still. Fast, hard, pedal to the metal, straight and to the point crossover that shows you could still melt faces without heading into the stylistic direction of what we would later come to know as death metal. It should be no surprise that these guys ended up influencing grind bands like Napalm Death.
27Living Death
Killing In Action

1991, Germany, technical/straightforward
Mekong Delta's less avant twin that still managed to be quite weird, which is to be expected given that the same guitarists were in Mekong Delta's first lineup. Frankly, I considered their '87 release, Protected from Reality, at first but this album is quite overlooked for some reason despite being an expanded take on the former release's sound. A worthy final statement from this incredibly overlooked band.

1993, USA-PA, progressive/technical
I can say that discussions between the both of us have made deciding between this album and Sanity Obscure an ordeal and a half, however this ultimately had to win out. Sanity Obscure was already an incredibly ambitious release in terms of riffcraft but by the kind of riffing you see on Dimensions is disorienting and miasmic, with songs like What Is but Cannot Not Be being an example of that. What Believer accomplished here is just as notable as the likes of Focus, Elements, Screams and Whispers, you name it. Hell, they even took what seemed like extraneous symphonic elements on Sanity Obscure and basically fleshed them out into a full suite on the Trilogy of Knowledge, which has some of the best writing on the album. Impressive when one considers that only Mekong Delta was really toying with such ideas at this time, which is an immense comparison. This album has always felt like this lost piece of the experimental push that prog metal and tech thrash had gone through in '93 and hopefully, that'll change with time.
- Casavir
No Anaesthesia!

1989, Finland, straightforward
If you want a Euro take on the And Justice.../Cowboys from Hell sound, this is one of the exemplars of that. Really chunky, varied riffing that's packed with jam-packed with creative melody and some of the greatest lead-playing in the genre. It's kind of silly too but in a cutthroat, delightly demented fashion that makes it endlessly endearing. Along with the fantastic production, especially for a Finnish metal release from the late '80s, this is really worth checking out. Truly Roope Latvala and co.'s finest hour.
Just don't read the lyrics and you'll be good
30Flotsam and Jetsam
Doomsday for the Deceiver

1986, USA-AZ, USPM
A power/thrash debut that is sort of more ambitious than it might otherwise be given credit for at face value. While the album has a lot of energetic speed/thrash numbers like Hammerhead and ULSW, the dual epics of the title track and Metalshock, along with the brilliantly melodic and spastic writing on She Took An Axe are what steal the show. That material has sections one might later expect from the likes of Deadly Blessing or Realm when it comes to this particular style, especially given the more active bass and the intricate, scything lead guitar attack. Only Have Mercy would likely compare around this time. The charismatic and powerful vocal performance is also worthy of note here.
Act Of God

1988, USA-IL, straightforward
If you enjoy fun and metal, read my review. If you hate fun, I'll give you the serious take here: Znowhite started as something of a speed/USPM act in the early 80s before shifting to a more no-frills pure thrash sound for their one and only album - Act of God. It goes to show that being unique is not a prerequisite for being good, even though it certainly helps more often than not. If you're looking for something that kicks chode comfortably without being as weird as most of this list, look no further. Well, do look further as well, we didn't compile all of these for you to stop at just one! But really this record is no more and no less than an inspired, very convincingly executed take on the conventional thrash formula. Solid production, no weak bits, certainly some memorable moments and a shoutout must go to Nicole Lee's badass vocal delivery as well.
32Infernal Majesty
None Shall Defy

1987, Canada, straightforward/intense
For a band often credited with helping pioneer the Canadian death metal scene (a sort of analogue to Slayer, Kreator or Sepultura in that regard) Infernal Majesty do not impress through sheer speed or brutality. Instead what's remarkable about them (and perfectly crystalised on their cult classic debut) is their ambitious songwriting. They don't simply bludgeon you, but instead weave that level of aggression and dark atmosphere into more intricate compositions; songs evolve with an abundance of interesting riffs and tasteful tempo changes. In some ways it recalls classic Mercyful Fate, although make no mistake the aesthetic is still very clearly a deathy thrash.
A Tribute to Insanity

1988, Sweden, progressive/technical
An expertly-done fusion of the kind of ambitious riffing you'd see on late '80s Coroner and Destruction combined with the evil melodic work and hazy production you'd find on Satan's Court in the Act. One of the most overlooked metal albums of the 1980s by a sizeable margin and the fact that they aren't regarded as one of Sweden's premier historical bands is a shame.
The Upcoming Terror

1986, Germany, straightforward
As fun as Exumer's debut is, some may desire something similar but a little heavier. For those folks I give you Assassin, one of many unfairly forgotten German thrash bands. I say unfair because they're far less generic than plenty of US or UK based bands that have somehow endured (see: Onslaught, eugh), and that's all to say nothing of what most "revival" thrash has been doing over the last 15 years! But I digress...
35Thought Industry
Songs for Insects

1992, USA-MI, technical/progressive/eclectic/wtf
If there ever were such a thing as thrash's answer to Mr. Bungle, this would be it. (Anyone who brings up the easter bunny demo is banned from McDonald's btw). This is some schizoid prog/tech that will make you recall anything from Voivod to Rush to Helmet to Primus, and even Ministry (track 3) and Cardiacs (track 4). A few fun facts: band were definitely friends with Patton & co. although they claim to have only heard Bungle's debut after this album had already been written. They were also fans of Blind Illusion and Primus but claim not to have been too influenced by them. In fact drummer Dustin Donaldson says in an interview that by 1988 they weren't listening to much metal anymore and instead were finding influence in bands such as Swans, Melvins, Killing Joke, Soundgarden, XTC as well as "Psychedelic-era Beatles, rediscovered ’70s prog-art-Kraut-classic rock obscurities, and (non-dance) Industrial/Ambient"
36Holy Moses
Finished with the Dogs

1987, Germany, straightforward
Why this album rarely gets mentioned alongside Agent Orange and Extreme Aggression is beyond me, although if Destruction are similarly underrated it maybe shouldn't come as a surprise... Anyway this fucking rips. This band was cool when they invented black metal on their 1982 demo, but they remained cool long enough to give us some strong ass teutonic thrash. And I mean this shit has some serious bite to it, it's fast, it's heavy, it's shreddy and Sabina's vocals sound as if they're coming from whatever that were-bat thing on the cover is. Who needs Petrozza or Angelripper? New Machine of Liechtenstein is also well worth a check.
37Nasty Savage

1987, USA-FL, technical
I've seen the likes of Obituary pay lip service to these guys but frankly, even in light of that, they somehow manage to be one of the most terminally underrated metal bands of both the Floridan metal scene and just the genre itself. I really can't imagine a lot of early prog and tech death without what these guys had brought to the table, with truly odd, technical and murky riffing that's just as weird as the likes of Mekong Delta even without their headiness. They certainly make up for it with cutthroat attitude.
Penetration Point is most likely better but in a sense this may be more impressive relatively speaking (summer 1987 release) and it's underrated all the same. The Abstract Reality EP I also strongly strongly recommend.
38Slaughter (CAN)

1987, Canada, straightforward/intense
With a handful of demos in the mid 80s prior to the release of this LP, Slaughter were trailblazers of Canadian extreme metal, alongside Infernal Majesty and Sacrifice (pre-Forward to Termination). They were well acquainted with Chuck Schuldiner's legendary band Death, but their sound is fairly unique whether you choose to consider it thrash or death metal. Grind legends Repulsion, contemporary veterans of mid 80s boundary pushing, explain Slaughter's sound in a 2000s interview: "they were the geniuses that we were trying to keep up with them all the time, it was friendly but we loved what they were doing, the way that they incorporated the heaviness of Celtic Frost and Discharge with a speed that hadn’t been heard previously [...] it’s heavy as Celtic Frost but they’re faster than Slayer."
39Blind Illusion
The Sane Asylum

1988, USA-CA, progressive
Life is nothing if not ironic. Despite Blind Illusion having been the brainchild of vocalist and guitarist Marc Biedermann ever since its formation in 1979, The Sane Asylum's cult classic status is mostly owed to the people he collaborated with in its making: Les Claypool of future Primus fame on bass guitar, Larry LaLonde of former Possessed fame and future Primus fame providing guitar on some of the tracks and finally produced by none other than Metallica's Kirk Hammett. Though perhaps without such associations it would have been entirely forgotten by now, despite being a cool showing of progressive, occasionally melodic thrash. And while Claypool doesn't get quite as manic or funky with it as he later would with his own band, he still provides the kind of top notch virtuosic bass work that any technical metal band would kill to have on their albums, let alone in 1988!
Stop the Bleeding

1990, USA-CA, straightforward/progressive
You may have heard them cited alongside Believer and Mortification as examples of trve Christian metal that genuinely kicks ass. It's true, Tourniquet played proper old school thrash with some progressive and slightly technical tendencies, at least until they went from shepherds to sheep along with every other band that said "sod it, we'll be a 3rd rate Pantera ripoff" in the mid 90s. I digress. Their early stuff is thoroughly solid and surprisingly melodic, and the way they utilise tempo changes and alternate hard thrashing sections with slower and cleaner ones is up there with Flotsam and Jetsam. The vocals are not for everyone by any means, but the guy's range is kind of impressive regardless.
41Cryptic Shift
Visitations from Enceladus

2020, UK, technical/progressive
How does one usurp Vektor from their throne of modern sci-fi tech thrash? You start by tightening your material and trimming the fat of meaningless prog metal meanderings. Then you swap out the sterile production for something a bit more organic. You do something about those vocals. And finally, you mix in a fairly liberal amount of dissodeath influence from the Gorguts school, and maybe a little Cynic here and there as well. Whether the result is more tech thrash or tech death is ultimately secondary to the fact that it rules.
Go and Live... Stay and Die

1987, Germany, straightforward/technical
Here we have a little bit of everything from one of Germany's many, many overlooked 80s metal acts. One way to describe Vendetta would be like a more proficient German version of Death Angel circa The Ultra-Violence (same year by the way). But more specifically, what's most notable is how their songs evolve and develop almost constantly, alternating between relatively straightforward American thrashers in the vein of Exodus and Testament, to more melodic speed and power metal influenced bits that should please fans of Helstar, Paradox etc. and last but certainly not least they have plenty of short technical bursts that call to mind fellow countrymen Mekong Delta and Deathrow without ever overstaying their welcome. Some might say it's nothing impressive to prevent things from getting stale and one-note, merely the mark of good songwriting, while others to others it could sound like a lack of cohesion. It's really a testament to these guys skill and talent that they can blend all these styles together and make it all sound and feel very natural. Their follow-up Brain Damage is also quite good for the record.
43Calhoun Conquer
Lost In Oneself

1989, Switzerland, progressive/post-hardcore-influenced
If prog thrash with a nice healthy helping of post-hardcore sounds appealing to you, then Calhoun Conquer's lone album is exactly what you were looking for. If you're a fan of NoMeansNo and bands in that vein, I'll just tell you to give this a shot too since this is just as good as Wrong. Besides, Swiss metal needs more love.
Park Industries Co. does not condone the message that this album is "just as good as [NoMeansNo's] Wrong". That said this is definitely one of the most unique and interesting thrash records out there for the reasons outlined. If post-hardcore puts you off but you dig Voivod, have some faith and give it a try.
Remnants of War

1986, USA-TX, USPM
Primus inter pares. We have Metal Church, we have Flotsam, we have Holy Terror and all these obscurities and those are well and good obviously, otherwise they wouldn't be on this list. But Helstar... Call it what you will, USPM, power/thrash, speed metal, trad-influenced thrash, Helstar's three album run from 1986 to 1989 is the apex, there's just no question in my mind. It's unfortunate that the first one gets the least love. I get it, A Distant Thunder and Nosferatu are more ambitious, more progressive, more technical, they go toe to toe with Coroner's first couple records and with Mekong Delta's best, not debating that. But so much of what makes them great was already present on this here 1986 offering. And what was Coroner doing in 1986? What was Mekong Delta doing in 1986? Yeah, not much. Compare it to Doomsday for the Deceiver and it's even more obvious how ahead of their time these guys were. For a year as stacked as 1986 was, frequently considered one of the most important in metal and certainly the most important in thrash... I would have expected Remnants of War to get more recognition. I mean just listen to "Face the Wicked One" for fuck's sake, what a bloody tune. Strongly, strongly recommend this band. And if you somehow haven't heard their next two records absolutely get those too.
Endless War

1988,USA-WI, technical/straightforward
One of the most varied, energetic, clever and evocative technical power/thrash releases. The knack this band had for packing so much keen, sharp melody and charismatic aggression in their music is truly something to behold while managing to distinguish themselves immensely from their contemporaries in bands like Toxik and Flotsam and Jetsam. There are points where they approach Helstar in style but there's a funky looseness to Realm that you do not see in the former. All Heads Will Turn to the Hunt is a perfect example of that. Truly one of the essential underground acts and worth hearing.
46Target (BE)
Master Project Genesis

1989, Belgium, technical/progressive
An excellent marriage of Mekong Delta's angular riffing with the melodic sensibilities of bands such as Artillery. Likely Belgium's greatest metal album and a classic in its own right. Extra props to them for also making sort of a concept album that has a lot of sci-fi camp while also managing to be sort of unnerving lyrically.
Hard Times Hangin at the End of the World

2009, USA-NY, progressive
It's a shame this never got even 1% as much attention as Vektor's debut from the same year. A more focused and condensed offering to be sure, and one whose uniqueness is a bit more subtle. Children manage to seamlessly incorporate a 70s hard rock influence into the guitar playing while serving what is still unmistakably a strong slab of prog/tech thrash.

1985, USA-CA, intense
Genres suck. Or rather, the blurry boundaries between adjacent genres suck. Identifying where one ends and the other begins, as well as threads of influence can be a herculean task. With the benefit of hindsight, Possessed's 1984 Death Metal tape seems like a very obvious continuation of Venom's early 80s sound - rather quaint compared to the 1986 output of bands like Slayer, Kreator, Sadus, Sepultura, Dark Angel. And yet even the latter are generally still regarded as thrash rather than death metal. Nevermind all that bollocks. Insanity were a band from the SF bay area, much like Possessed. This cassette from Oct. 1985 showcases a furious death/thrash assault about on par with what Schuldiner and company were doing with Death around the same time, in terms of intensity as well as approach to songwriting. Indeed they didn't rely on sheer speed, the riffs are no less interesting than Chuck's material. Even their 1993 debut LP (which I do recommend) retains the same kind of semi-technical thrashy feel instead of simply aping Obituary or whoever else was popular by then. Kind of a criminally overlooked band in general honestly, even though Napalm Death covered one of their earliest and best known songs.
49Sacrilege (UK1)
Behind the Realms of Madness

1985, UK, crust-infused thrash???
Frankly I'll be buggered if I'm 100% sure what to call this, is it thrash with crust influence, is it crust, is it thrash with discharge influence, is it crossover, is it venom worship, the list of questions goes on... but truthfully it doesn't really matter because this rips and you should check it. Lynda's snarl should appeal to any fan of bands like Nausea or Holy Moses.

1991, USA-NC, proggy doom thrash? what?
A combination so unlikely it's second only to doom/grind perhaps. It's an absolutely bizzare blend of doom metal and technical thrash, with high register theatrical vocals not unlike Queensryche or something. Like a twisted bastard child of Trouble and Believer or Watchtower. The production complements this oddball mix perfectly, and the chunky guitar tone gives some of the slower grinding palm muted riffs an uncanny resemblance to Suffocation at times. I could even see someone draw comparison between this and Meshuggah's Contradictions Collapse, though this has a weirder flavour. It's absolutely mental, a must for any fan of tech, prog or just interesting metal. And it only gets more impressive when you realise some of this material they'd already written years prior and released on demo cassettes!
51Rigor Mortis
Rigor Mortis

1988, USA-TX, straightforward
Following in the footsteps of early Slayer and Possessed, these blokes aren't afraid to unleash flurries of trems and shreds one after the other in that mid 80s proto-death-metal fashion. Frankly, their compositions aren't as intricate as Infernal Majesty's and they're not as ferocious as Dark Angel, nor are they as technical as Sadus (though they're no slouches by any means) but there's just something about this record's energy that I find hard to resist. Check out the Freaks EP from the following year as well if you're into it.
Decay of Humanity

1990, Germany, technical/progressive
A really awesome combination of late '80s Deathrow and Helstar. God-tier guitarwork. Kind of the sister album to Twisted into Form but probably even shreddier and more progressive than the former, with tracks like A Distant Territory being absolute highlights of that. Generally one of those albums that may seem usual at first, but really are not upon closer inspection.
Recognize No Authority

1986, USA-CA, straightforward
And before you bitch at us that there's too much of a bias in favour of technical, proggy or plain weird stuff on this list (which I won't deny for a second that there is), hopefully you will check Detente out first. As far as I'm concerned, they're about on par with your classic Death Angel and Exodus material when it comes to no frills straight-up energetic thrash. Some riffs here and there could draw comparison to Exumer's shreddier style or perhaps even Rigor Mortis, which is a good thing in my books! Also very much notable is the ferocious vocal performance of the late Dawn Crosby (R.I.P. :[ 1963 - 1996) which easily rivals the genuine intensity of Holy Moses' Sabina Classen. And if this band isn't weird enough for you... check out what they did in the 90s under the name Fear of God!
54Spazztic Blurr
Before...and After

1988, USA-OR, crossover
Crossover thrash band Wehrmacht's side-project - it's zany, weird, funnier than S.O.D. and more interesting musically as well if I'm being honest, and it even takes the piss out of the burgeoning death metal scene. If you're into the less serious stuff this is a must.
Syzygial Miscreancy

1990, USA-FL, technical/intense
From Florida's mythical extreme metal frontier comes a band straddling the line between tech thrash and the nascent tech death sound Atheist and others were pioneering. Worth noting though, Hellwitch had been putting out quality demos since the mid 80s. One peek at Transgressive Sentience or Mordirivial Disemanation will illuminate that they were always the real deal, hardly coattail riders but boundary pushers in their own right. And really their whole discography is a lot more consistent than you might expect, but we had to pick one so here's a seal of approval for the Scott-Burns-produced, sub-Reign-in-Blood-length debut LP that some rightfully consider a cult classic.
56Immaculate (SWE)
Atheist Crusade

2009, Sweden, technical
Thrash that more uncommonly takes from the techier side of Destruction's '80s period and for the better, providing an experience that's much more in-depth than their debut.
57Droid (CAN)
Terrestrial Mutations

2017, Canada, progressive/technical
Have you ever felt like the comparisons between Vektor and Voivod were overstated? Ever wish they actually did take more after Voivod and Obliveon than they do? Ever wish their production wasn't a sterile brickwalled mess? Ever wish their vocals were less shrill? Look no further than Droid.
58Have Mercy (MD)
Armageddon Descends

1986, USA-MD, USPM
read my heckin review i actually tried for once damnit
Urm the Mad

1989, Germany, straightforward/intense
Unlike a lot of other death/thrash around this same time, I'd say that this manages to be one of the few to properly capture the dark oppressiveness of Malleus Maleficarum while inserting a lot of cool Celtic Frost-inspired sections. Some of the lead guitarwork is quite deliberate and well-structured melodically too, authentically creating a disturbing atmosphere, a standout of this being the song, Nothing Has Changed.The maniacal and starkly guttural vocals for this period also help immensely.
yea better than shedding of skin agreed
60Solstice (USA-FL)

1992, USA-FL, intense
Floridian Morrisound deathrash bludgeoning that any fans of Demolition Hammer or Exhorder should give a try. Later material is more straight up death metal without any thrash but still solid for what it is.
A Burnt Offering for the Bone Idol

1992, UK, folk thrash ???
Fresh out of his stint with mediocre thrash band Sabbat, vocalist Martin Walkyier met up with former NWOBHM veterans Steve Ramsey and Graeme English of Satan fame and started a new band, almost as if to prove that the English are capable of producing at least one thrash band that's worth a damn (other than the crusty Sacrilege that is!). And in doing so, they somehow invented folk metal? You can tell these guys have plenty of experience writing melodic metal, but the violins and liberal use of acoustic guitars take it to the next level. Now this record is certainly less consistently intense than most on this list, but there's still plenty of thrashing energy to be found here, at least on par with Flotsam and Jetsam.

I'd honestly say this is some of the best work Ramsey and English have done too and showed an admirable willingness to experiment further with their thrashier songwriting that they similarly worked while they were writing and releasing material as Pariah. I like Jonah's Ark and the debut quite a bit as well but this may very well be my favorite Skyclad release.
December Moon

1987, Sweden, intense
This one mostly gets its notoriety for featuring the unhinged vocal and lyrical talents of one Per Yngve Ohlin of later Mayhem infamy, as well as a couple of Nihilist / Entombed founders. As a matter of fact though, when it comes to evil mid 80s genre-bending thrash in the vein of Possessed, Germany's Poison, Italy's Necrodeath or any of the furious shit going on in Brazil at the time, December Moon stacks up rather nicely.
63Sacral Rage
Illusions In Infinite Void

2015, Greece, technical
A compelling and cohesive mix of Watchtower, Helstar and Toxik woven tightly together. Of a lot of the more recent metal coming from Greece in the last decade, this has to be my favorite.
64Holocaust (UK)
The Sound of Souls

1989, UK/Scotland, progressive/technical
These Scots have got to be the oldest band on this list, seeing that they formed in 1977! Early on they were part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, and it seems their 1981 debut The Nightcomers is considered something of a cult classic therein, although personally I must confess I was not impressed with it. After taking a break between 1984-1988 they returned with a serious shift into progressive metal territory. Granted this is not a prog metal list, it is a thrash list, which why I chose this release in particular. According to interviews, mastermind John Mortimer was very much into thrash and especially Voivod at the time of their reforming, and it certainly shows in the riffs on here, though the band never really lost their trad metal sense of melody. 1992's Hypnosis of Birds is also an easy recommendation if you want more, but Sound of Souls I found to be their most consistent and focused.
65Terror Squad (JP)
Chaosdragon Rising

2006, Japan, post-hardcore-influenced
Terror Squad's debut The Wild Stream of Eternal Sin from 1999 was a 29 minute frenzy oscillating skillfully between an up-tempo bay area sound a la Exodus or Vio-Lence and the blackened tremfests of Japanese acts like Sabbat and Abigail. That said, the very tail end of that record hinted at something even more interesting, which we see fully realised here. What makes this one special then? It draws far more from a number of punky influences; at times it sounds like it shares a common root with Voivod without actually sounding too much like them; at times you can definitely hear G.I.S.M. and other 80s Japanese hardcore in there; hell at times it rocks in a vein not too dissimilar to Motorhead, and finally it's pretty hard to listen to the "cleaner" or "softer" sections and not think of post-hardcore when you hear the guitar playing, tone, chords used and even vocal delivery somewhat. All that without really abandoning the intensity of their older material, impressive!

1989, Germany, straightforward
Though underrated on this site, 1987's Product of Imagination remains a strong debut that showed more than a few glimpses of the band's true potential (best exemplified on the track Mystery). And with this follow-up they stepped up and delivered on that promise - more refined songwriting, more ambitious compositions, more intricate riffs and fills, better integration of melody and technicality... And just fucking listen to the track Killtime, good lord. They may not quite reach the dizzying heights that Helstar did, but they're certainly on par with the best efforts of bands like Heathen, Forte and Vendetta. More proof of Germany's thrash scene being overlooked.
Weave The Apocalypse

1993, Denmark, technical/groovy/???
Weird band. Their early material will likely please most fans of fast deathrash in the vein of Morbid Saint and Sadus, but this... what even is this? It's something of a technical thrash/post-thrash/groove record, and that should tell you how interesting/weird it is for me to feature it over their debut. Some moments strongly remind of Helmet, some remind of Meshuggah or even just djent in general (which as you will note, was not really a thing yet?), some parts even feel similar to early 90s brutal death metal at least in terms of what the guitar is doing. Yeah the guitars are certainly the highlight on this record, and they do a lot of weird things on the next one as well (seriously listen to the first track on that it's bonkers and kind of Human Remains ish?) although the weirdness is mostly frontloaded there and overall it's not as consistent as this one. I could namedrop Prong or Kobong but... Just listen for yourself.
Ostatni Wojownik

1987, Poland, straightforward
Turbo are sort of an interesting band, in that despite their relative obscurity they got their start much earlier than most of this list and have so far enjoyed a career of a dozen or so albums. Their 1983 debut was very much Poland's answer to Iron Maiden, replete with excellent Harris-like basswork and perhaps a touch of goth rock influence in the cleaner sections. They followed it up with a forgettable hard rock affair in 1985 before returning to metal with 1986's Kawaleria Szatana which as of writing seems to be by far their most popular record. But what if I told you it's not their best? What if I told you that those who prefer their thrash a bit more intense, a bit more technical and a bit more dynamic would be better served elsewhere? I recommend this one instead, as well as Epidemie and Dead End.
69Slauter Xstroyes
Free the Beast

1987, USA-IL, USPM/progressive/technical
One of the most overlooked USPM albums of all time and the album that really vindicated Slauter Xstroyes' legacy as one of the most overlooked metal bands from the US. A continuation of the best of bands like Iron Maiden and Mercyful Fate with the technicality and histrionics being dialed up to 11, with several tracks inviting comparison to the likes of Atheist. The fact that some of this material goes back as far as 1983 simply inspires more awe.
70Fear of God
Within the Veil

1991, USA-CA, alternative/gothic-influenced
About as large of a heel-turn from the members of what was Detente as you can get. A more demented take on alternative and gothic metal (without abandoning thrash altogether) that stands toe to toe with any of the establishing albums of that genre in its infancy as well as a release that holds up to this day. This change largely pays off and resulted in one of the most distinctive albums of the 1990s with what has to be Dawn Crosby's defining vocal performance.
One tiny thing I can't help but add, if you're among those who thought Kreator's 90s output wasn't that bad or at least had some promise, definitely don't miss out on this one! For me this is up there with 90s Voivod and later material by Depressive Age and Thought Industry in terms of thrash bands pursuing an alternative direction, although this retains more thrash elements than the others did.
71Num Skull
Ritually Abused

1988, USA-IL, straightforward/intense
Though their 1986 demo "Num's The Word" still betrayed a noticeable trad metal influence and recalled early Slayer and Exodus at times, Num Skull's debut is a much more furious and savage affair. Guitarist Tom Brandner states in an interview that Sadus' DTP demo left quite the impression on him, and it certainly shows on this record. If you like your thrash ripping and savage like Morbid Saint and so on, this one's for you.
Third in Order of the Sun

1991, USA-NH, technical
Insane early '90s tech thrash that goes for a geekier but nonetheless more intense take on the Energetic Dissasembly sound with some Holy Terror/Hellwitch thrown in there for good measure. One of New Renaissance Records' buried gems that fans of this sort of metal should seek out.
73Ulysses Siren
Above the Ashes

2003 (1985-1987), USA-CA, straightforward
When it comes to great unknown bands that never got the opportunity to move beyond the demo stage, this is up there with Have Mercy as far as buried US thrash goes. Some of the sharpest writing from the Bay Area, hands down. If you're a fan of albums like The Legacy, do yourself a massive favor and check this compilation out.
Victims of Science

1989, USA-TX, straightforward/intense
A band that made quite the splash in their local scene before fading into obscurity, Gammacide played a style of thrash that was not merely intense, but had a uniquely heavy, chunky feel to it, in no small part thanks to the production. Fans of Demolition Hammer, the Texas-based Devastation, the Florida-based Solstice or even Exhorder are especially likely to be into this one.
Emerging from the Netherworlds

1990, Netherlands, straightforward/technical
Though they utilise something of a death metal aesthetic especially in the Van Drunen style vocals - and indeed the band would shift further towards death metal on later releases - the songwriting here is a pretty intense, often quite technical flavour of thrash. Kind of reminds me of Hellwitch at times, kind of reminds me of Massacra at times, a bit melodic at times, a bit slower at times. It's kind of its own thing really.
Fallen Angel

1990, Poland, technical/intense
Dragon's 1989 debut Horda Goga certainly had energy to it, but it ultimately followed a bit too closely in the footsteps of more prominent countrymen Turbo. Luckily with Fallen Angel they started doing more of their own thing, a thrash assault that's equal parts technical and ripping that you can't afford to miss if you enjoy bands like Sadus or Hellwitch. It's not all speed, piss and fury though, these guys' songwriting improved tremendously compared to the debut. Hell, look no further than track 3 "Tears of Satan" which is something of a slow epic that ends up feeling like a deft love letter to classic era Celtic Frost. They're certainly not one of those "look how fast and crazy we can wank" sort of bands. In fact to that point, I must also recommend their next album, 1991's Scream of Death, which tones down the intensity slightly (only slightly though) and adds more of a Voivod-y influence into the mix, and to nice effect.
Stranger Than Fiction

1992, USA-OK, technical/straightforward
Straddling the line between technical and melodic in ways that can easily draw comparison to Realm, Blind Illusion or even Helstar, these guys kicked ass... for about one album before they lost their special sauce and fell into mediocrity. But hey, at least this one album is cool! The Dementia By Design demo is also pretty neat, doesn't have different material but the mix is different and some people seem to prefer that one. Either way, recommended.
78Prophets of Doom
Access to Wisdom

1989, Denmark, straightforward/power
Some impressive power/thrash with dextrous, springy riffing all over the place. There's a lot of clear inspiration from Mercyful Fate, which isn't too surprising given that they are also from Denmark. That said, the application of that influence is quite impressive with the result being similar to the more savage offerings in power thrash earlier in the '80s like Turbo's Ostatni Wojownik. Either way, if you want more melodic, jumpier thrash metal that's on the crazier side, this is a good place to start.

1992, USA-OR, intense/technical
I'll give you the easiest pitch of all time: if Morbid Saint traded maybe 10% of their aggression for extra technicality, and took a cue from Sadus that bass can be awesome and shouldn't be relegated to a filler role, this is what you would get.
The Joke's on You

1989, USA-CA, crossover
Excel were among the first bands to play the crossover thrash sound, with strong demos as far back as 1985. Their 1987 debut album continued in the same vein and was released on Suicidal Records (indeed guitarist Adam Siegel would go on to collaborate with Mike Muir on Cyco Miko and Infectious Grooves in the 90s). It seems Split Image is their most well regarded release these days, and it's certainly a great crossover album that I do recommend. However it is the sophomore that I find a bit more interesting, as they continue to develop on the slightly off-kilter and more technical moments already present on their debut, playing more and more with weirder riffs and compositions.
81Deceptor (UK)
Chains of Delusion

2013, UK, technical/power
One of the best modern thrash metal bands coming from the UK is definitely an unexpected turn but both of this band's EPs are excellent, the latter of which being one of the most exciting metal releases of the last decade. A distinct mix of the likes of Helstar and Nasty Savage that manages to truly stand out with tons of tense melodic writing.
Immaculate Deception

1986, USA-NY, crossover
Crossover is a weird breed. Born out of the fusion of hardcore and thrash, it ostensibly features a light-hearted, humorous, often irrevernt attitude. It pokes fun at itself and at everything else when it comes to themes, lyrics, vocals and with Carnivore or Wehrmacht it might even feature a minute or so of a guy throwing up. Musically speaking though, much of the subgenre is quite predictable: you have the fast blasty bits from hardcore (sometimes bordering on thrashcore) and then you have the mid paced Anthrax-isms plodding along. And then there's Ludichrist, one of the first and most interesting crossover bands. Plenty of guiar riffs inspired by the noisier side of punk, the odd start/stop riff, sweet bass, fills that wouldn't sound out of place on an Iron Maiden record and even a jazzy interlude that works better than it has any right to. And what's not to love about dynamic songwriting with plenty of natural tempo changes and interesting moments?
83Bestial Invasion

2019, Ukraine, technical/progressive
Easily my favorite band out of Ukraine from the last decade, hands-down. Combines the oddball nature of Mekong Delta with the more overtly melodic neoclassical proclivities you might see in Toxik or early Coroner, but crafting a sound that is unmistakably their own. Contra Omnes is my favorite album of theirs but frankly, this one doesn't fall behind at all. It's downright torturous to have picked between the two but their latest release is definitely worthy of praise.
This band has some of the most densely technical material on here, to the point where some might feel it wanks too much, but damn are they impressive. Makes your Exodus-recycling Hazzerds and whatnot sound like they're from the stone age.
Beyond Any Human Conception Of Knowledge…

2020, France, progressive/melodic
Hexecutor's earlier material owed very much to Vektor, as is often the case with modern bands. With each release they refined and expanded their writing until finally we have them cement their own identity with a release that is as ambitious as it is engaging. Frankly I've had difficulty thinking how to describe it properly. Some Vektor influence lingers, but for the most part I'd say it's as if Destroyer 666's best material were to combine with early Destruction and with a lot of more melodic 80s trad metal. Seriously, some tracks are blackened, some tracks have that space-faring dissonant feel, but about half of the album is chock full of melody and retro riffing. The guitars absolutely steal the show no matter what style they're going for. And what's interesting too, the compositions somehow nail the vibe of feeling like epic journeys without being overly self-indulgent, in an abstract sense kind of like classic Iron Maiden or Mercyful Fate where it feels like it's always pushing onward but progresses naturally and organically. And for those who are generally not fans of the operatic tendencies of that kind of stuff, you're in luck because there's zero clean singing here. This might sincerely be my favourite thrash album of the 2010s, though I can see some arguing it's not even real thrash. Fuck if I care though.
Life of Dreams

1986, USA-NY, crossover
Born of the same NYHC scene as Ludichrist, we have another crossover band that popped up fairly early in the timeline with some cool ideas and yet has remained criminally overlooked compared to more pedestrian peers. Superior musicianship, the odd angular riff here and there, some neat solos, and ultimately songs that actually evolve and go somewhere, despite most of them being a minute and a half to two minutes long. One of the best in the subgenre, no doubt.
Dead Brain Cells

1987, Canada, crossover/technical
Continuing our selection of quirky crossovery oddballs that actually write cool songs with interesting riffs, we have Canada's DBC or Dead Brain Cells. Some of the weirder riffs here remind me of Tommy Victor's work on Prong's juicy Primitive Origins which came out the same year which is one of the highest compliments I can give frankly. But really if you like Ludichrist or any of the other crossover stuff we've covered so far you will like this. And if you want to hear these guys take on an even more technical and angular thrash sound (while still retaining their crossover DNA) you should check out their 1989 follow-up Universe as well, which is just as good if not even better, as much as it wears its obvious Voivod influence on its sleeves.
Eyes of Tomorrow

1994, USA-IL, progressive/technical
If you wanted more of the cold rhythmic prog thrash that Mental Vortex brought to the fold with tracks like Divine Step, this is a good continuation of that style. I've seen some refer to it as derivative but the biggest culprit of that would be the vocals which are quite reminiscent of Ron Royce's. Otherwise, it's more just indebted to its influence. Totally worth checking out.
88Ruthless Horde
Ruthless Horde

1989, USA-MI, straightforward/technical
If Infernal Majesty had the same power metal influence that Holy Terror or Metal Church did, Ruthless Horde would ultimately be the result. This demo also throws a few awesome curveballs with the doomier writing on tracks like The Forgotten Dead.
Darkness Comes is also really cool tbh. Shame they never did more than a couple short demos.
89The Accused
Martha Splatterhead's Maddest Stories Ever Told

1988, USA-WA, crossover
Accused got their start all the way back in '81 as a heavily Discharge-influenced punk group and started to incorporate a more overtly metal sound into their material on their 1984 demo Mechanized Death. In fact shockingly enough the title track on that cassette sounds not far off from a certain Angel of Death. But I digress. Pretty early to the crossover style indeed, and their 1986 debut album which I considered including instead sounds like a filthy and maniacal hardcore band doing their best impression of Exodus' Bonded By Blood with thick rumbling bass and some Venom influence as well - quite cool! But ultimately I think this one is their best release featuring their most ambitious songwriting, their sweetest riffs, probably the coolest bass performance of all their albums and yeah... it's a wee bit weird at times for the genre but you know I like weird.
Systematic Enslavement

2016, USA-NJ, progressive/technical
Probably one of the bands to most authentically be inspired by early '90s Artillery which is a wonderful thing. Easily one of my favorite modern thrash albums. The band is unlikely to reform given that the vocalist ended up joining Toxik's current lineup but Xenophile made a remarkable impression on me with Systematic Enslavement.
91Doom (JPN)
Killing Field

1988, Japan, progressive/technical
Outside of Japan, Doom are relatively obscure and when they're mentioned they can't seem to escape inevitable comparisons to Canada's Voivod. It's mostly understandable, there certainly are uncanny sonic similarities and even the trajectory of their music across albums is vaguely similar, from punkier beginnings to angular thrash to plain weird prog metal and eventually even some industrial influences later in the 90s... But to leave it at that would be doing Doom a disservice I feel, because upon closer listening they are much more than just Japanese Voivod.

The first thing that should jump out at anyone is the bass guitar. Sadus and Death had Steve DiGiorgio, Blind Illusion had Les Claypool, and there's obviously Tony Choy who was involved with Cynic, Atheist and Pestilence around the turn of the decade. Doom's Koh Morota (1963-1999 R.I.P.) who was with the band between 1984 and 1992 absolutely ranks among them. One of the first metal bassists to play fretless (see the 1986 EP Go Mad Yourself!) his performance is phenomenal - fretless grooves, melody, blistering technicality, tapping, he does it all. Pick pretty much any track at random and he'll be stealing the show and leaving you speechless in a way that modern tech death wankers only dream they could do. If I had to choose one (from this release) I'd go with "Ghosts of Princes". The late Morota is mentioned as having been rather jazz-oriented and it's not hard to hear why, and his influenecs are quite interesting: Jaco Pastorius (perhaps the most obvious one), Mick Karn, Bill Laswell - in particular the latter's band The Golden Palominos is mentioned.

Then there's everything else - weird dissonant angular thrash right? Yes, although there's also some influence from 70s rock (more on that later) in some of the guitar playing, although this is most evident on Complicated Mind and later albums. More notably, Doom have a certain tendency to allow climaxes and guitar solos to unravel into noise and then just linger and bask in that to an extent that not many metal bands do, least of all in this genre. There's an aesthetic coherence between that relative noisiness, the way that complex bass is thrust to the forefront, the bizarre disjointed lyrics and equally bizarre choppy vocal delivery, as well as with the stage antics they used to do back in the 80s with makeup, outfits, firebreathing, instrument smashing... That aesthetic is not sci-fi, it's pure unhinged madness, and everything seems to point to it. For SowingSeason and others who look at music through the lens of feelings and metaphor and other gay shit like that, if Voivod are cold, bleak, industrial, precise and martial in their feel, then Doom are more out there than outer space, they're the bizarre insanity that can be found in a Complicated (human) Mind...

Through some serious patience and digging it turns out that there is zero evidence Doom were ever even aware of Voivod back in the day (or vice-versa for that matter), despite it being by far the most prevalent comparison made by metalheads today on the internet. Frontman, guitarist and mastermind Takashi Fujita mentions as influences Motorhead and Venom out of the metal canon (same as Voivod), Discharge and G.I.S.M. in particular from the punk side, as well as plenty of 70s rock bands (Led Zeppelin, Grand Funk Railroad, New York Dolls). He mentions prog rock, post-punk and new wave but no bands in particular (one page does reference Killing Joke) and talks about how in the early 80s he had a different band playing "experimental rock" in the vein of The Stooges and Motor City Five. This all seems to explain the subtle differences in sound noted above that further sets them apart from Voivod. And though not mentioned explicitly, I challenge any of you to listen to the song "Poor Boy Condition" and tell me that isn't King Crimson. Really it's remarkable not just how interesting this band is, but how they were able to reach a sound that is superficially so similar and yet also different and cool in its own right.
92Lunacy (CH)
Face No More

1991, Switzerland, crossover/technical
I kind of spoiled the surprise a bit when I wrote their band bio but, to put it succintly, these guys sound like an unlikely mixture of late 80s Coroner and some the more interesting bands doing North American style crossover thrash. Yes, they're Swiss, no that's not the main reason for the comparison. The similarity is as conspicuous as it is undeniable, and ultimately why not take inspiration from such a brilliant band? Certainly some of the most inspired and authentic sounding tech thrash to take after them - there's not a dull moment here and of course the punkier bits a la Crumbsuckers or DBC's debut help a lot! Some brief moments here and there may remind of the other obscure Swiss thrashers we featured - Calhoun Conquer - though this applies more to the 2nd album which I do also recommend.
93Devastation (USA-IL)
Dispensable Bloodshed

1987, USA-IL, intense
Much as a lot of metalheads pride themselves on their knowledge and collections of obscure cassettes and hip bands that were ahead of the curve, some things still manage to slip through the cracks. Chicago's Devastation, not to be mistaken for the Texas-based one, was a short-lived act that could just as easily be classed as proto-death or even just death metal. They brought that kind of intensity to the table that Possessed, Sadus and Insanity did. And much like Sadus and Insanity (and Infernal Majesty for that matter), their approach to death/thrash goes beyond pure blasting aggression, there's a certain refinement to the songwriting and a penchant for interesting riffs and ideas here. The infectious way the main riff in opener "Cranial Hemorrhage" grooves transcends its obvious bay area thrash influence; the way the tempo changes on tracks like "Psychopathic" and "Beyond Fear" from standard thrash fare to absolutely blistering Sadus-like rampages, and in general that old cliche... the riffs man. The fucking riffs on this thing. Some of them are "standard", many are surprisingly creative, and more than a couple are quite memorable. See the two instrumental tracks if you need convincing. I'll also give the bassist a shoutout, he might be a bit hard to hear at times (ah.) but he has some nice moments now and then.

1989, Japan, progressive
A rather bizarre entry, just as with their peers in Doom. What differs is that there's a lot of speed metal-esque riffing by comparison while also veering into the likes of funk on tracks like Purple Heaven (with surprisingly well-executed results). The real points of attention here are the bookending tracks with Destroy and Ever Green which have a lot of creative vocals and a lot of well-written neoclassical melodies, with the way violin is incorporated on the former making it a showstopper. Just a fun, substantive and eclectic debut.
95Home Style Surgery
Trauma Gallery

2018, Finland, technical
Finnish thrashers man, watch them tech, now watch them shred! Maddening how many skilled modern bands are relegated to Vektor's shadow while so many metalheads moan about the genre being dead/dying... Timeless masters like Coroner these blokes are not, nor as dizzying successors to the throne as some would argue Bestial Invasion are, but their take on fast and focused tech thrash certainly deserves a mention in my books. Things get quite intense at times, the vocalist even pulls of a death growl here and there. Rock solid all around!
96Angkor Wat
When Obscenity Becomes the Norm... Awake!

1989, USA-TX, crossover/technical
Before their stint with cult classic 90s industrial metal band Skrew, the gutiarists here played in cult-er classic-er and straight up way better thrash band Angkor Wat. Not a name many are familiar with these days, certainly I wasn't, but they were apparently quite known and connected within their local South Texas hardcore and crossover scene in the 80s. If you haven't guessed by now, this is another oddity of "technical" crossover with superior musicianship, quirky riffs and dynamic songwriting that strays from most cliches and manages to engross. Somewhat similar to DBC's debut in the way it adds weird angular riffs to the formula, as well as Lunacy's debut for that matter. Strongly recommended!
97Wolf Spider
Kingdom of Paranoia

1989, Poland, progressive/technical
Wolf Spider are certainly a band that wear their influences on their sleeves. Their debut follows closely in the footsteps of their fellow countrymen Turbo's Kawaleria Szatana and Ostatni Wojownik; this sophomore right here is very strongly Watchtower-inspired; the next after this takes more than a few pages from Voivod's book of dissonant angular thrash. But hey, if it works, it works.
Human errors

1991, Germany, technical/progressive
An album that melds the wiry technicality of Deathrow with the melodic, shreddy sensibilities of Hexenhaus. Melanie Bock's vocal delivery also makes this an essential release that I would put up with some of the best teutonic thrash has to offer, offering an evocative mix of pensive melody and the kind of unhinged madness one would see from Terrahsphere's Frank Sarcia.
amazing vox amazing riffs amazing everything wow check it essential indeed and one of my personal favs on this list as well
99Armoured Angel
Wings of Death

1989, Australia, straightforward
Armoured Angel are an interesting band, starting out with a trad metal sound on their first demo, then changing to harder hitting thrash, then going harder still and becoming something akin to Australia's answer to Bolt Thrower, and finally adding back the trad influence for their final release (and only LP) and ending up not far from Arghoslent although considerably less racist. I think all their material is worth checking, but for the purposes of this list we're sticking with one of the thrashiest.
100Moral Decay
To Build an End

1990, Canada, technical, emo-influenced (!)
If you think being emo-influenced is a bad thing, you either don't know much about emo or have not read the year of this release: 1990. Whatever lame shit popped up in your mind was but a glint in the eye of a bunch of annoying brats at that point. Anyway this shit is really cool and an exceedingly rare genre crossover. Easily one of the most unqiue things on this list, and probably in all of thrash. In fact I will take this opportunity to also recommend the indie/phxc band Daddy's Hands which Dave Wenger was also a key part of after Moral Decay.

I'd also add that the very clear neoclassical edge to a lot of the guitarwork makes this an even bigger bolt from the blue stylistically as it does not, in any way, diminish the emo/pxc elements which are integral to it. In fact, To Build an End largely benefits from it in terms of elevating the atmosphere it conveys.
Stretch of the Imagination

1991, Australia, technical/progressive
I often wonder if this was ever really a surprising turn for Taramis to take considering some of the more wayward writing on tracks like Lord of the Blackfields on their debut, Queen of Thieves, but what makes Stretch a rather compelling release is just how much of a trad/power foundation it has while still being a true tech thrash release with an eclecticism that is all this band's own. There are times where this album forays into Complicated Mind-levels of bizarreness which is odd as maintaining a balancing act that is somewhere between Realm and Doom's is something that can't be said for too many of the bands placed here.
best australian thrash agreed
102Brothers Grimm (USA-OH)
Helm's Deep

1990, USA-OH, proggy/techy/power
These guys straddle the line between being prog/power and tech thrash quite a bit but they've earned their place here. When you only release one album that was practically lost to time, only to have mentions of it resurface in the likes of more renowned bands as an influence like Spiral Architect a decade later, you know this is some worthwhile stuff. Another good point of comparison to this would be Pathways to Wholeness by Catharsis in terms of how it's written but this is obviously much thrashier.
103Ripper (CL)
Raising the Corpse

2014, Chile, straightforward
I wanted to stay away from pure worship bands but there is a charm to these furious Chileans that I simply cannot help but enjoy. While most "revival thrash" acts prefer to emulate obvious classics like Exodus or Testament, these guys' sound I can only describe as a mix of Schizophrenia-era Sepultura and Terrible Certainty/Extreme Aggression-era Kreator. Maybe a little Sadus, not sure. Their production feels organic but clear, certainly not muddy, and their performance should have no right to sound as fresh as it does. And listen to that bloody bass, lad's got the chops to be in a tech death band for sure, but he's here adding flavour without feeling out of place or trying to steal the spotlight. Overall though, they pull off what they're going for perfectly.
104Mind Eraser (USA-NJ)
Mind Eraser

1992, USA-NJ, technical
This one comes with a story even more curious than the music. Vocalist on this tape Jeff Wood was a friend of young Ben Weinmann of later Dillinger Escape Plan fame,and claims that Mind Eraser were an influence on him. Wood is a bit of a strange character once you do some digging, but when you listen to this band's odd Watchtower-y Thought Industry-esque (or Primus? maybe a bit of Confessor at times even?) sound you get the feeling there might be some truth to the story. Wood would also serve as TDEP's live bass player during 1999-2001 before being fired.
Through My Eyes

1993, USA-OH, technical/???
Like Mind Eraser, Confessor or Mods-era Thought Industry, the seeds of mathcore really find themselves here. While it is considered a tech thrash album by many who know of it, it's just as correct to refer to Through My Eyes as a nascent variety of the former subgenre as well. If that piques your interest, seek this out.
106Psycho Symphony
Silent Fall

1997, Romania, progressive/technical
Never thought the day would come when I could sincerely and strongly recommend a band from this country but here we are. Psycho Symphony are bloody weird. They describe themselves as between the prog rock of the 70s and the tech thrash and prog metal of the 80s and 90s and cite bands like Mekong Delta, Voivod, Sieges Even and Psychotic Waltz. And that's all well and good, those are certainly obvious influences and you can hear the similarities; if you dig those bands you will certainly dig this. It's technical as hell and dynamic to the point where it feels like it's constantly shifting and twisting in bizarre ways, yet without ever feeling like pure wank. In fact it's surprisingly atmospheric and trippy at times. One more thing needs mentioning though: while all they cite is prog, there are plenty of moments where the guitars feel a lot closer to mathcore, math rock or something punk-derived - the way the guitarists approach dissonance and harmonics is sometimes bizarre far beyond mere Voivod worship. Kind of a surreal release all around really.
107Chemical Breath
Fatal Exposure

1992, Belgium, technical/intense
One of my favorite technical death/thrash albums out there. It has some stiff competition at this point but I've found myself coming back to Fatal Exposure more and more over the years since I've discovered it. Some of the riffing here is really classy and reminds me somewhat of Todessehnsucht even. This should appeal to fans of everyone from Sadus to Disincarnate so definitely check it out.

1991, USA-MD, progressive/technical
Off-the-wall no-fi tech/prog thrash that springboards off of the dystopian technophobia that Watchtower and Voivod had introduced to the genre, which manifests here in uniquely compelling fashion. Likely one of the most essential demos out there which many more should listen to, regardless of genre preference.
How fucking nuts is it that this obscure band takes inspiration from Univers Zero and Chrome?
Mouthful of Buildings

1990, USA-VA, progressive/technical
With Jamie Guggino of DreadNot behind the drumkit, we have yet another bizarre and obscure tech metal offering. This one remains a bit more anchored in angular thrash (and some influence from the noisier side of punk / post-hardcore) as opposed to filrting with prog rock to the extent that DreadNot did, and yet somehow it's just as out there and otherworldly. You really can't afford to miss it if you like the Japanese band Doom or other oddities such as Anacrusis, Thought Industry etc. especially given the cool bass on this thing.
110Antagonist (USA-WI)

1993, USA-WI, technical
The degree to which this album manages to be surprisingly hooky while also being self-indulgent in how it delivers nimble, complex but still muscular riffing never fails to amaze me as I revisit it time and time again. The fact that it also does this while delivering sections that are just as intense as anything off many of the death metal albums from the preceding few years on tracks like Cracking Skulls makes it a phenomenal example of '90s tech thrash. The only way I can really describe these guys is a more satanic and technical Exhorder with some cooler and tastier lead playing interspersed throughout which is exactly as badass as it sounds.
Face It

1995, Germany, progressive/weird
This is quite the oddity. It seems to be considered prog thrash, though at many points it easily reaches death metal intensity, and the vocals are more along those lines as well. It's weird, trippy, spacey, best points of comparison I can think of would be Voivod (especially the 90s stuff) and Supuration. There's a tiny bit of post-punk influence, and even a little industrial on one track. If you want weird obscure metal, this is gonna be your shit.
112End Zone
First Bequest

1995, Russia, progressive/technical
It would be trivial to tell you that this is some Russian thrash that rules just like Aspid, but here we strive to be a bit better than your average Metal-Archives style lazy and unsubstantiated comparison. What they do have in common is interesting and dynamic songwriting that keeps your interest regardless of whether it's a slower or more intense moment, although their overall sound is probably closer to something like Mekong Delta. What's unique here though, is the fact that they somehow manage to incorporate a tasteful bit of keyboards, neoclassical lead guitars and even prog rock style flute solos (I shit ye not) and actually make it work.
Fit to Be Tied

1992, USA-CA, crossover
If you can get past the hilarious desperation with which the singer tries to sound like 90s James Hetfield (and to his credit, he does at least succeed, gotta give him that) you will be rewarded with yet another obscure gem of bouncy and surprisingly interesting crossover-tinged thrash.
114Absolute Zero (USA-OH)

1988, USA-OH, technical
Manic, maddened and sublime. I'd put these guys in the same vein as Terrahsphere and Mind Eraser but despite never really making a proper LP like the former, these guys might be somewhat more well-realized while also predating both. I'd recommend this to fans of mathcore as readily as I would to fans of tech thrash.
115Spectral Incursion
Spectral Incursion

1989, USA-MA, progressive/technical
Progressive thrash that distinguishes itself in that it takes as much inspiration from the likes of Brocas Helm and Satan than any other bands. Not surprising given that they originally started as a USPM act called Graven Image before switching gears after becoming Spectral Incursion. This has a dark, loose and corrosive energy to it that one would expect on Killing Technology but ultimately derives it from a completely different source of inspiration.
Patronizing the Heterodox

1986, Belgium, crossover/straightforward
Sugar, spice and everything nice - the way this obscure Belgian band blended hardcore punk with speed metal and a touch of early black metal (mostly in the vocals) is really cool. At times it reminds of Suicidal Tendencies' debut, at times of Voivod's War And Pain, perhaps even Bathory's self-titled, but at no point do they feel like mere imitators. This is rather on the short side, but certainly well-crafted enough to stay exciting from beginning to end.
The First Shall Be Last

1985, USA-KY, post-hardcore-influenced/technical?
So what's with this obscure demo from Kentucky? Some would argue it's not thrash enough, I say fuck you I don't care. It's my list. It has thrashy moments (of the mid-paced, vaguely crossovery variety), as well as Sabbath-y moments, and a lot of weird angular guitar that leads to many classifying it as post-hardcore or even math rock... This cassette was produced by Glenn Danzig himself while Maurice were touring with Samhain. The vocalist (who must've been a big fan of Glenn's judging by his style here) and bassist would later form another obscure band called Kinghorse, while the drummer and guitarist would later form - get this - Slint. That's right, this is a 41 minute metal demo of a band in which David Pajo and Britt Walford played. Sure explains the weird mathy techy feel don't it...

1988, Switzerland, straightforward
Obscure Swiss band beats most Bay Area bands at their own game without leaning too heavily into tech/prog inclinations. A rare example of a band that worships Ride the Lightning while also understanding and applying in their own way the things that made that classic what it is. In other words, expect a lot of creativity in riffs and song structures compared to the archetypal thrash sound. Not only that but their inclusion of melody and tasteful solos draws reasonable comparison to Testament, Artillery, even Helstar since some tracks are pretty clearly NWOBHM/power-influenced. Some of this material was written as early as 1985 which would explain the prominent Maiden/Fate influences. As a bonus, they got Flemming Rasmussen (Metallica, Artillery) to produce it. The 2nd album is alright too but not as impressive.
Not Myself

2000, USA-MN, technical/progressive
A woefully buried progressive/thrash metal gem from Minnesota's Corum which fuses the likes of Thought Industry and surprisingly, early '90s Mekong Delta as well. As time has gone on, this has proved to be underrated even with albums like A Sceptic's Universe and The Perfect Element being released around the same time, proving to go toe-to-toe with the former in just about every way when it comes to building on a lot of '90s tech-metal, albeit in a quirkier and possibly more unhinged fashion. If Extravasation can deservedly become a lauded cult classic in metal online, this is certainly just as worthy of that praise.
120Inner Sanctum
Knowledge at Hand: The Anthology

2013 (1989-1995), UK, progressive
A great compilation from a band which ran the gamut between the likes of Toxik and Psychotic Waltz, containing some great tech thrash that sadly didn't get much acclaim in the UK at the time. Rather notable considering that their contemporaries at the time were bands like Xentrix who were far less outstanding. Members of this band also ended up in the similarly notable Synaptik which is worth checking out too.
Main Frame Collapse

1989, Italy, intense/straightforward
Schizo are a band who may have been deceptively more important than we would think today. Though they were part of the same Italian underground that gave us Bulldozer and Necrodeath they made a bit more of a splash across the Atlantic, with their '86 demo Total Schizophrenia influencing a certain Max Cavalera and becoming the namesake of a certain Sepultura album. The cassette was immature in more ways than one (see the track "Nazi and Proud") but the band's mix of half thrash and half high speed hardcore punk showed clear promise. Three years later, we have the debut album which makes good on that promise with more developed and varied songwriting. The core is solid mid-paced thrash but melody is incorporated at times (especially in the 2nd half of the album) and the hyperspeed flourishes are still there. And man, the way the drums are mixed sure fucking reminds me of De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas for some reason... They just sound so fucking crushing yet are rarely content to do pure blast beats. One more bit of trivia here, apparently they were in talks with Chuck Schuldiner to have him play on this album but the plans fell through due to obligations with his own band. Curious.
122Deranged (CAN)
Place of Torment

1989, Canada, intense
And here we have a band from Victoria, B.C. that's somewhat similar to the above: short-lived, death/thrash, two demos and done. Truthfully, Deranged weren't quite as ahead of the curve as the Americans from Devastation or Insanity, since they came a little bit after the vanguard of Canadian extreme metal had already left their mark. They're more something of a Morbid Saint from up North, not ground-breaking but excellent extreme thrashers nonetheless. Their first demo hits like a pickaxe to the back of the skull, but this one is more developed. It's arguably closer to Sadus considering how technical some of the parts are (also dat bass). Perhaps most notable though is the vocalist, Scott Murdoch. As far as I can tell he's never performed with any other band, which is a crying shame because this guy's shrieks are just dripping with anger and hate to a degree that could give most black metal bands, hell almost any metal band a run for their money.
123Sore Plexus

1999, Germany, progressive/technical
Progressive metal/tech thrash that has a spastic and simultaneously morose vibe, containing the outsider appeal you'd see in the more underground tech/prog metal around this same time with Corum and Psycho Symphony. Sore Plexus present a more angular and hallucinogenic take on the sorrowful, melodic form of tech thrash that Depressive Age brought into the fold in the start of the '90s, infusing riffing comparable to Spiral Architect's work but melding it perfectly. Hell, if one considers groups like Skeptic Sense from the early '90s and their sound, one could realize Haptephobic to be the fully-realized version of Skeptic Sense that they themselves never became. Along with some other instrumentation they throw in and the uncompromising yet vulnerable vocal performance delivered, this album is truly one of a kind.

1990, Sweden, progressive/alternative
Likely one of the earliest forays into alternative metal, especially in a thrash metal album, and one that has aged rather well in the grand scheme of things. Tracks like The Power Line, Torque Limit, Lucifertility and Five in Four make this an absolute classic. Particularly in the Swedish metal scene who were not really known for thrash metal at this point sans Hexenhaus.
For most of the 80s, these guys were known as The Krixhjälters, a punk band that leaned more and more into crossover thrash territory as time went on. They were still kinda weird and still worth checking out though.
125Seventh Angel
The Torment

1990, UK, progressive/doomy!
Though not quite as dedicated to mindbending riffs and drumming as Confessor, Seventh Angel are one of few bands playing an unholy chimera of doom/thrash. I say unholy, but their lyrics are pretty obviously Christian-themed, so the similarities reach even deeper! That said I couldn't find any evidence of these English lads being aware of Confessor, especially with both bands debuting in 1990 on opposite sides of the Atlantic. In all honesty though it's less that they're very similar and more that such an odd and unlikely niche is quite sparsely populated. What I think sets Seventh Angel apart from a lot of thrash bands though is the ease and naturalness with which they transition from mid-paced Master of Puppets meat and potatoes to death/thrashy blitzes, to chunky doom grooves... perhaps in an alternate universe more of 90s groove metal could have sounded like this but I digress. In some ways there may be a comparison to be made with the nascent death/doom stylings of Autopsy and Asphyx especially with the aggressive edge to the vocals and the intensity they sometimes reach, but overall it feels more like a product of Metallica and Sabbath rather than Celtic Frost and extreme metal. Really though what's most important is that they do what they do rather well, not merely playing a strange combination but doing so with the requisite chops to make it interesting and engaging. Some would say it's a little proggy, others would argue that it's merely strong and dynamic songwriting. Their sophomore is also good but a bit bloated and the newer album ain't bad either but they abandon the thrash influence on that one. Curious band! Bass is also nicely audible.
126Skeptic Sense
Presence of Mind

1994, Germany, technical/progressive
As I've stated with Sore Plexus, I largely consider Skeptic Sense's sound on Presence of Mind to be the logical predecessor to their work on Haptephobic. The way it mixes acoustic sections that drip with calm unease and intricate swirling riffage on tracks like Harmony of Souls is indicative of this, reminding one of the likes of songs such as P. Domain. Obviously, it's somewhat less eclectic in terms of instrumentation but the comparison nonetheless holds water in terms of the writing in its most hectic moments. I'd call this Presence of Mind more buried due to Skeptic Sense being even less prolific than their also obscure brethren but this is worth giving a chance regardless.
First Among Equals

1989, Canada, straightforward/technical
I've always found it curious how despite their obvious prominence in the scene and even metal in general Megadeth never seemed to spawn any imitators. Many cite them as influence and rightfully so, but no one quite sounds like Megadeth. Well, Dyoxen have got to be the closest I've ever heard. A one-album wonder from Canada's underground, this band does a great job of evoking the loose, vaguely jazzy and all-around atypical style of mid-80s Megadeth. These days I honestly feel Killing Is My Business is kind of underrated in the sense that many don't seem to understand how forward-thinking some of the material on it was for 1985. Dyoxen sound like a strong blend of that album and fellow countrymen like Annihilator and DBC. Swinging rhythms and grooves, unusual drumming, cool riffs, sweet bass, what more could you possibly ask for?
Gloomy Experiments

1990, Poland, intense/technical
Simply aping Voivod or Mekong Delta may raise a few eyebrows but it's ultimately not a seal of guaranteed quality. Indeed it seems some progressive metallers who have dug up this here obscurity find it clumsy and unrefined, but what stood out the most to me was the way it combines that kind of twisted songwriting with all the ferocity of Sadus or Hellwitch. It makes me wonder if the fellow Poles from Dragon were inspired by this for their second and third records.
129Dead Horse
Horsecore: An Unrelated Story That's Time Consumin

1989, USA-TX, crossover/intense
I don't know who asked for "Cryptic Slaughter but better", but I sure am glad we got it! I like to stay away from stereotypical phrases like "brutal" where possible but if there's a dozen bands on this list where it's necessary, this one's definitely among them. They have the speed of Cryptic Slaughter and Wehrmacht, they have the heaviness of something like fellow Texans from Devastation, they have scathing lyrics and they have a serious death metal edge to them rearing its head in the form of both trems and blasts. Most importantly though, they have the ability to stay fresh and engaging all throughout this skullfucking frenzy with only a few breaks here and there. Half an hour has never gone by so quickly. Their 2nd album and "Feed me" are also worth a try.

1993, Russia, progressive/technical
Some of the bands on this list may leave you (and us!) scratching your head as to how the hell they came up with their sound. Not Valkyria though, put all your chips on "they must have really loved Mekong Delta" and walk away rich. Not as memorable but thoroughly competent and technical nonetheless. What makes them stand out a bit more though is the liberal use of symphonic synths, not relegated merely to interludes. Sort of similar to what Believer did on Dimensions the same year. Granted some will certainly find their sound or even their very inclusion too cheesy, but you have to admit symphonic prog thrash isn't exactly a common thing.
131Lord Crucifier
The Focus of Life

1988, Italy/UK, technical/intense
Easily one of the best thrash metal albums to have been related to the UK scene (despite the band being Italian). I consider this one of the last gems of the '80s not just for thrash, but for metal in general, as it's sort of a technical and borderline grindy take on the sound that had arisen from Infernal Majesty. Much of this borders on being death metal by this time, however the vocalist is more along the lines of Frank Sarcia of Terrahsphere, which is perfect as the kind of histrionic insanity he brings to the fold is very welcome.
Violent Restitution

1988, Canada, straightforward/intense
Compared to other Canadian thrash acts, Razor may seem a bit vanilla. A far cry from the mind-bending antics of Voivod, Obliveon or DBC, and never quite ahead of the extremeness curve as Slaughter or Infernal Majesty. Indeed their early material is an energetic speed metal romp, edgier than Exciter no doubt, and perhaps a bit too absorbed in its self-referential metal aesthetic (mostly on Malicious Intent, to be fair). Not content with remaining a relic of the mid 80s though, Violent Restitution sees them reach their creative apex, swapping any remaining cheese for a healthy dose of Reign in Blood influence and delivering the most vicious, technical and effective material of their carer. Their 90s albums would mostly retread the same ground with varying degrees of inspiration.
133Jester Beast
Poetical Freakscream

1991, Italy, technical/progressive
A lot of the bands we've chosen to feature (and some that we chose not to) have pretty overt Voivod influenecs, not to mention Coroner or Watchtower. That said though, most of them are not quite as committed to the dissonance and quirky noisiness as... Jester Beast, roll credits. Their 1988 Destroy After Use demo was short, manic, aggressive and absolutely showed strong hints and promise of a band not content with being conventional, in some ways comparable to Prong's Primitive Origins in that regard. And though Poetical Freakscream is sadly not even half an hour long, it shows a very natural progression of their sound. They fully incorporate that kind of angular riffs, off-kilter rhythms and juicy bass playing in a way that's far beyond window dressing and do not sacrifice any of the energy or intensity of their demo. In other words if you're looking for something to scratch the same itch as 80s Doom or the wilder songs off Rrroooaaarrr/Killing Technology, this is one for you.
Signal de Revolta

1993, Italy, technical/progressive
What are the odds of an underground Italian thrash band being on friendly terms with Killing Joke guitarist Geordie Walker? What are the odds of them touring Europe with a band like Killing Joke? What are the odds of them getting to know Steve Albini and having him produce their debut album? What are the odds of them playing a noisy and dissonant brand of metal that's sure to remind of both Voivod and Japan's Doom? Nevermind the odds, here's Braindamage. From the same city of Turin as Jester Beast, and admittedly inspired by their fellow countrymen (as well as by Killing Joke for that matter), much of what I said there applies here as well. Though Braindamage's sound is a bit less about sheer intensity, more manic, more unhinged, really I hate to repeat myself but I cannot help but compare them to Doom. And to me that's very much a good thing, seeing as I find Doom to be one of the most unque bands to have ever been associated with thrash metal. Braindamage's contentness not merely to get weird and angular but to let their sound spiral into noise as well as in and out of solos is one of my favourite things about them.

1993, Italy, technical/progressive
They are not quite as unique and out there as our other Italian underground features here in Jester Beast and Braindamage, though for some that's a pro not a con and I wish to have something for everyone. Certainly I think it's fair to suggest Testimonia are somewhat inessential, but I simply could not deny my enjoyment of it and I'm sure I won't be the only one who's into them. They're not super technical, they're not super progressive, but they're not quite unga bunga either. Really they give you a little of everything, it feels to me like a blend of the American style of Heathen, Toxik and Forbidden with some of Europe's cult classics like Mekong Delta, Target and Stone. A jack of all trades if you will, cool riffs here, tasteful solos there, a sprinkle of keyboard usage. It works, it really does, it would have made my life easier to pretend it's not good and move on but I simply couldn't deny it. I will say though it is a tad overlong.
136Acrimony (POL)
In Unknown Direction

1992, Poland, technical/progressive
It has demo-tier production but it works and musically, it picks up where the late '80s Mekong Delta lineup left off in many ways. This deserves a lot more love and if you really enjoy stuff in the vein of The Principle of Doubt or The Music of Erich Zann, there's a lot to love here. Hey, even if you enjoy Atheist, this is a forgotten gem worth digging up for yourself. It's even on Spotify if that's a deal-breaker for you!
Mental Slavery

1989, Brazil, straightforward
The crown jewel of Brazilian thrash is of course Sepultura, the only band to really "make it" into the mainstream as it were. The next layer of arcane knowledge is about the filthy virulent sonic assault that bands like Sarcofago and Vulcano were putting out in the mid 80s, often bordering on black and death metal, influencing the so called Norwegian second wave, sharing more than a few similarities with Bathory's first two albums and with the output of Italian underground bands like Necrodeath and Schizo. But let's forget about that for a minute, because MX admit they weren't really keeping up with their peers' cutting edge of extremity. They liked their Slayer, their Exodus, their Destruction, and it certainly shows. Thoroughly competent, somewhat intense, very slightly technical at times thrash, with melodic leads here and some sick bass there... What's not to like? As overdone as the bay area sound largely is, these guys are some of the best at pulling it off well enough to hold your attention.
138Juggernaut (USA-TX)
Baptism Under Fire

1986, USA-TX, USPM/technical
Near the top we had Watchtower, one of the most lowkey important bands in all of metal. It seems only fitting to finish with Juggernaut, a similarly overlooked early technical band featuring the drumming talent of Ron Jarzombek's brother Bobby (who'd find more acclaim playing for Spastic Ink and more recently the modern incarnation of Fates Warning). Heavily trad-influenced, somewhere between Exodus and the USPM stylings of Helstar or Flotsam and Jetsam, it bounces, it jumps, it treats you to delicious bass all throughout. The tracks Juggernaut and Blizzards even have a noticeable Watchtower feel to them. But really if you liked Slauter Xstroyes, Have Mercy or hell even the classic early material of Queensryche and Fates Warning you shouldn't sleep on this one! Their follow-up is a bit proggier and certainly worth a check as well.
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