At this point in our time together, if it’s not obvious how much I fucking love thrash metal, then you might be kind of slow. No offense. Today’s long overdue edition of Mixtape Monday, wherein I make a mix with a theme, is all about thrash metal. I decided to narrow the time span to 1984-1988 for a couple of reasons:
1. Taking from a larger pool of years = too many bands to make this a realistic mix.
2. Almost all of the best thrash metal was recorded and/or released between those years. There are some exceptions to this rule (Death Angel’s Act III, Nuclear Assault’s Handle With Care, Megadeth’s Rust in Piece, and Persistence of Time by Anthrax are a few that come to mind right away), but for the most part, ’84-’88 (and especially ’86-’88) were the years when thrash metal was king.
One final note: the order of the songs on this mix is determined by release date. If I could only find the month or year of a release, I included it after other releases from the same month or year. Let’s get down to business.
1. “Ride the Lightning” by Metallica (from Ride the Lightning – 8/15/84) – This is my favorite Metallica album for a number of reasons. It showed tremendous growth in the band both as musicians and as songwriters when compared to their cacophonous speedfest of a debut from just one year prior. Kill ’em All and Master of Puppets are great albums, but Ride the Lightning is an absolute masterpiece. This here video I found has lots of badass pictures of lightning, which makes this song even more enjoyable.
2. “Burning in Hell” by Possessed (from Seven Churches – 10/16/85) – Hailing from the San Francisco Bay Area, Possessed thrashed out of the gates with one of the angriest, most evil-sounding albums of the 1980s (I might even argue of all time), accidentally helping create a whole new sub-genre called death metal. What I find most amazing about the band’s debut album is that at least two of the members of Possessed (vocalist/bassist Jeff Beccera and guitarist Larry Lalonde) were still in high school at the time of its recording. Fun fact: if Larry Lalonde’s name sounds familiar, it might be because he went on to co-found a little band called Primus with fellow Bay Area Metalhead Les Claypool (the two met while playing in progressive thrash band Blind Illusion).
3. “Demons – Evil Forces” by Hirax (from Raging Violence – 11/85) – Hirax frontman Katon W. De Pena was an early champion of thrash metal, spending much of his time writing letters and making tapes for other thrash enthusiasts around the world. This opening track from their debut album showcases his over-the-top vocal style, which is a big part of why I love Hirax, but the music is undeniable, too.
4. “Desecrator” by Flotsam & Jetsam (from Doomsday for the Deceiver – 06/04/86) – Phoenix, Arizona’s Flotsam & Jetsam played thrash metal with more of a NWOBHM vocal sensibility, and their first album is nearly flawless. You might have heard of this band when their original bass player, Jason Newsted, left some band called Metallica to join Voivod in the early 2000s. Their style has changed quite a bit over the years, but they’re still a good band. They had a minor hit in 1992 called “Wading Through the Darkness”, which is worth a listen, too.
5. “Wake Up Dead” by Megadeth (from Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying? – 07/20/86) – Megadeth’s second album is probably best known for the title track; if you ever watched MTV News in the late 80s, you know the bassline. It’s a phenomenal album, arguably their best (Rust in Peace is also arguably their best), but for me, this opening track, along with album closer “My Last Words”, are head and shoulders above everything else on the record.
6. “Lethal Tendencies” by Hallows Eve (from Death and Insanity – 08/31/86) – I first heard this song in the amazing film River’s Edge, which you should watch immediately after finishing this mixtape (whether or not you’ve seen it before).
7. “Necrophobic” by Slayer (from Reign in Blood – 10/07/86) – Reign in Blood was Slayer’s breakthrough album, and it was a thrash metal game-changer. It is perfect from beginning to end, and I don’t usually recommend listening to songs from it out of context, but shut up and listen to “Necrophobic”, then listen to the rest of this mixtape, then watch River’s Edge, then listen to Reign in Blood.
8. “Death is Certain, Life is Not” by Dark Angel (from Darkness Descends – 11/17/86) – Darkness Descends was maybe the only album released in 1986 that could compete with Reign in Blood as far as speed is concerned, and while it is a great album, the songs just aren’t as strong overall. But that’s apples to oranges, and this song is one of the exceptions.
9. “The Five Year Plan” by D.R.I. (from Crossover – 03/09/87) – Crossover is, interestingly enough, D.R.I.’s crossover album. 1985’s Dealing With It! hinted strongly at the crossover to come, and 1988’s stellar 4 of a Kind saw the crossover more or less completed, but Crossover contains a nice mix of both hardcore songs and thrash metal songs. Let me be clear, though: you cannot go wrong with a Dirty Rotten Imbeciles album. The clip below is from their live video Live at the Ritz, which will see an Old-Ass VHS Review here one of these days. Dig that crazy fucking crowd, y’all.
10. “Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.) by Anthrax (from Among the Living – 03/22/87) – The odd title to this song is a purposeful backward misspelling of “Nice Fuckin’ Life”. The lyrics were inspired by the death of John Belushi. Anthrax rules.
11. “Deny the Cross” by Overkill (from Taking Over – 03/87) – New Jersey thrash monsters Overkill often get ignored in discussions of thrash metal, and that is a fucking shame, because they are a brilliant band. Their first five albums, especially, are great, but they’re still making really good albums today. Like many of their East Coast Thrash Metal contemporaries, Overkill shows a strong punk rock influence, as contrasted with the more noticeable New Wave of British Heavy Metal influence on the San Francisco Bay Area Thrash Metal bands. Anyway, “Deny the Cross” is the first song on their second album, and it’s fucking amazing, no matter what the cover might have you believe.
12. “Mistress of Pain” by Death Angel (from The Ultra-Violence – 04/23/87) – Death Angel is such an awesome band. They rode out of the Bay Area on the second wave of thrash metal and unleashed their beastly debut album on the world in a hail of frenzied riffs, frantic drumming, and unholy screams. Fun fact: every member of the band was under 20 years old when this song and album were recorded, and original drummer Andy Galeon was 14 years old. What the fuck were you doing with your life at fourteen? Probably not anything half as cool as this.
13. “Seeds of Hate” by Exodus (from Pleasures of the Flesh – 10/07/87) – Pleasures… was the first Exodus album to feature Steve “Zetro” Souza on vocals, after he left his original band, Legacy, who replaced him and went on to become Testament. Zetro replaced original Exodus frontman Paul Baloff (RIP), who had a legendary stage presence, but who also couldn’t carry a tune, or stop partying. The band reunited with Baloff in the late 90s, recorded a fantastic live album, and had plans to record new material with him before his untimely death. Afterward, Zetro rejoined the band for one album before leaving again, to be replaced by Rob Dukes, who has now fronted the band longer than anyone. I don’t like his voice quite as much, so I sometimes forget about Exodus when I’m thinking about thrash metal, but then I remember that they have songs like this. The lyrics were written by Baloff.
14. “Victim of Demise” by Sacred Reich (from Ignorance – 10/13/87) – Phoenix, Arizona’s other thrash metal heroes Sacred Reich were one of the most politically and socially conscious thrash metal bands of their age. Their first album, Ignorance, is goddamn brilliant. They are technically still together, but they only play the occasional European festival show. I really hope I get a chance to see them live someday. The band maintains an entertaining, informative, and very interactive Facebook page.
15. “Justice” by Nuclear Assault (from The Plague EP – 1987) – My favorite Nuclear Assault album, Handle With Care, falls outside of my self-imposed timeline for this mix, so I’ve decided to include the first Nuclear Assault song I heard, on a compilation tape called Rising Metal, which my cousin Nathan bought in 1989, and which is also where I first heard Death Angel (the song above, in fact) and Flotsam & Jetsam.
16. “Disciples of the Watch” by Testament (from The New Order – 05/05/88) – The lyrics to this song are inspired by Stephen King’s “Children of the Corn”. I’m pretty sure this is my favorite Testament song. It is today, anyway.
17. “Macrosolutions to Megaproblems” by Voivod (from Dimension Hatröss – 06/29/88) – I used to read about Voivod in magazines when I was younger, and I was always interested in them (mostly because of the ads featuring their outstanding album covers in those same magazines), but I could never find their stuff in stores, living as I did in the middle of nowhere, southern Indiana. Once I had easier access, I wanted to get into them, but I knew from my research that every album of theirs was different from the others; I didn’t know where to start, so I kept putting it off. Finally, in 2007, I randomly chose their fourth album Dimension Hatröss and ordered a copy online (which I happened to receive in the mail two days before the anniversary of the release date). I listened to it three times straight through before I was sure whether or not I even liked it, and then I didn’t stop listening to it for a full two months – I literally listened to nothing else for two months straight. I tried, but I couldn’t be bothered to care; Dimension Hatröss had given me new ears, and nothing else sounded good to them. I know now that if I’d listened to it when it was new, which is to say when I was eleven years old, I wouldn’t have understood it. It’s almost 26 years old, and it’s still ahead of its time. I really need to sit down and write about Voivod soon.
18. “Serial Killer” by Vio-Lence (from Eternal Nightmare – 1988) – If you’ve read my blog before, you surely know how much I love Eternal Nightmare, the debut album from second wave Bay Area thrashers Vio-Lence. They came along at a time when a lot of the thrash metal old timers were slowing things down and expanding their horizons, and Vio-Lence had no interest in anything but neck-breaking riffs and gang vocals.
19. “Soldier of Fortune” by Razor (from Violent Restitution – 1988) – I’m a relative newcomer to Ontario, Canada speed merchants Razor, and so far Violent Restitution (their fifth full-length) is the only album of theirs I’ve heard, but if the rest is anything like this one, I have no reason to believe I won’t love them. This might be the earliest example of a chainsaw being used in a song, although unlike Jackyl’s “The Lumberjack”, the saw is not used as an instrument so much as a device to make you feel like the band might break down your door and cut your damn fool head off.
That’s the end of this week’s mixtape. Now go watch River’s Edge and rest your neck for your Reign in Blood listening party. And stay heavy, always!