In the early ‘80s, San Francisco’s Bay Area was the epicentre of the fastest, loudest, heaviest music in the world.
Young, riff-hungry bands like Metallica, Exodus, Lääz Rockit, Possessed and Death Angel were pushing the genre’s boundaries, playing with more speed and dexterity than their metal contemporaries. They set the standard for American thrash.
We challenged Death Angel vocalist Mark Osegueda to pick the scene’s 10 definitive thrash albums…
10. Testament – The New Order (1988)
Mark: “I think this is a great record. A lot of people would go with the debut, The Legacy, but they really came into their own with The New Order. It was less showboaty, and to this day I think Disciples Of The Watch is one of the best songs they’ve written. This is where they found themselves. I’m even fond of their cover of Aerosmith’s Nobody’s Fault [from 1976’s Rocks]. It surprised me they covered that, but I was a huge Aerosmith fan growing up. Because we were all so young, it was odd to think that other people into thrash still had respect for ’70s rock.”
9. Vio-lence – Eternal Nightmare (1988)
“You can’t have a top 10 of Bay Area thrash without recognising this record. People love it to this day; the energy is incredible and it’s lyrically brilliant. And the guys meant it when they played it. Vio-Lence shows were always crazy, the pits were nuts and people really latched onto it. Bodies On Bodies is an amazing song, as is Serial Killer and Kill On Command. When they came out in the Bay Area scene, they were a breath of fresh air. I thought they were brilliant.”
8. Sacrilege B.C. – Party With God (1986)
“This is an obscure release that’s left off a lot of classic Bay Area thrash lists. This is their debut album. Originally they were called Sacrilege, but of course there was another band called Sacrilege. This is a great record from beginning to end, it’s fun to listen to and it always puts a big smile on my face. And they’re great thrash songs – there’s Azemeroth, Slaughterhouse and Skinned Alive – so you get the vibe!”
7. Possessed – Seven Churches (1985)
“They were one of the Bay Area’s most extreme bands and this was their debut. We did a lot of early shows together and toured up to Portland, Oregon. They were like a turbo-driven Venom, basically, and what Jeff Becerra did with his voice was ridiculous. Songs like The Exorcist, Holy Hell, Burning In Hell – they were the beginning roots of death metal and they did it extremely well. Seven Churches is a great record.”
6. Forbidden – Forbidden Evil (1988)
“This is another debut record. It was urgent, they had their own sound, amazing dual guitar work and phenomenal drumming. Russ Anderson was an incredible vocalist – we were all doing our own chops but no-one was doing it Halford-style, and Russ was ahead of the game like that. The song Chalice Of Blood was an incredible song – [Machine Head frontman] Robb Flynn actually had a hand in writing that. He was originally in the band when they were called Forbidden Evil, then he left to form Vio-Lence. This is a damn fine record.”
5. Death Angel – The Ultra-Violence (1987)
“It’s always hard for me to do this because it seems selfish, but I’m going to throw a Death Angel album in there! This was our debut and I think that is the epitome of a thrash record – from the production, to the songwriting and the urgency. If you wanted to explain what thrash was to a person from another planet, you could put on The Ultra-Violence and say ‘This is thrash metal.’ It defines it. It’s NWOBHM mainlined with adrenaline, but you can hear the innocence in the production and the lyric writing. There’s a 10-minute instrumental called The Ultra-Violence, too. I can honestly say it’s one of my favourite thrash metal songs of all-time – and I can say that selflessly, as I don’t even play on it!”
4. Metallica – Kill ’Em All (1983)
“I’m going with another debut! When I heard that record, it changed my life. It’s just incredible and listening to it takes me back to a wonderful time. As soon as this record came out, we knew it made a difference to heavy metal. It truly changed the face of it. I didn’t think they’d take over the world to the extent they did. I mean, look at the album’s back cover photo of those spotty fucking teenagers! But that’s why Kill ‘Em All was even more of an accomplishment – these teenagers just got together and made a kick-ass metal album.”
3. Metallica – Master Of Puppets (1986)
“I’m sticking with the masters. I love this album. Its production is incredible and the song structures are just ridiculous. The album cover was wonderful, and lyrically James Hetfield had found his footing and was leaps and bounds ahead of everyone in the metal scene. It was about true topics that affected people – it was about reality and not just about, you know, fire and brimstone. He found something that was tangible that people wanted to latch onto. Battery is one of those songs that you’d put on and it would just pick you up, no matter what. It’s a brilliant, in-your-face record.”
2. Exodus – Bonded By Blood (1985)
“The vibe of that particular line-up was incredible; the songwriting was amazing and lyrically it was violent! Violent, violent – it’s Exodus in their purest form. Mind-blowing. In the Bay Area, everyone had the bootleg copy of this album almost a year before it came out! Everyone loved it. And their live shows back then were just insane. You couldn’t top the violence of the pit at an Exodus show. They owned the Bay Area, and rightly so. And [late vocalist] Paul Baloff lived and breathed what he was talking about. His lyrics were true. He was a twisted, violent man!”
1. Metallica – Ride The Lightning (1984)
“I’m absolutely, hands down a Ride The Lightning guy. The first time I put the needle to the vinyl and Fight Fire With Fire blasted in after the acoustic bit? I’d never heard production that powerful. I was blown away. Everyone was. Hands down, they won. They won. The songs are phenomenal and I think it’s their best record to date. It opened my eyes. Ride The Lightning is the ultimate thrash album.”
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