Welcome to volume nine of The Most Essential Albums of the Eighties. The previous eight volumes and some companion pieces can be found here.
Week nine continues the pattern of stylistic diversity, with doom, grind, crossover, speed metal and NWOBHM all making appearances, but if there is a theme to this edition it is the celebration of obscure thrash classics. There’s also an appearance by perhaps the greatest metal band of all time, if that interests you.
INFERNÄL MÄJESTY – NONE SHALL DEFY
Album #1 from Canada’s Infernäl Mäjesty stands as one of the seminal releases responsible for bridging the gap between furious thrash and the quickly advancing death metal invasion. None Shall Defy spent equal amounts of time crudely shredding as it did evilly chugging, and Chris Bailey’s gruesomely barked vocals trotted alongside similarly fundamental grumblesnarlers such as Jeff Becerra (Possessed) to help usher metal into a new level of extremity. Bright, melodic leads swirl about piles of shredding riffs, but a clear and intrinsic focus on heaviness unquestionably delivers None Shall Defy‘s killing blow. To this day, the album’s title track remains one the heaviest tunes in thrash’s deep history.
Infernäl Mäjesty – None Shall Defy
Killing cut: “None Shall Defy”
GRAVE DIGGER – WITCH HUNTER
Many folks would probably be surprised to learn that Grave Digger was around in the 1980s, but to make this list may be even more surprising. Although cases could be made for Heavy Metal Breakdown (their debut) or War Games (their first foray into conceptual work), it’s their sophomore effort that gets the nod here. Musically, it is basically a continuation of that debut – teutonic speed/thrash topped with Chris Boltendahl’s one-size-fits-all vocal delivery. It’s raw and ripping, and a far cry from what they’re doing nowadays. However, they do earn creativity points for daring a power ballad (the slightly awkward “Love Is a Game”) and an Alice Cooper cover (“School’s Out”) when it might have been better to wait until they were more established to make those moves. Choice cuts include “Get Ready For Power,” “Fight For Freedom,” and the title track.
Grave Digger – Witch Hunter
Released: 10 May, 1985
Killing cut: “Get Ready For Power”
SUICIDAL TENDENCIES – HOW WILL I LAUGH TOMORROW…
This was the point when Mike Muir and company had finally transformed their classic hardcore/skate punk sound into fully fledged thrash metal. The difference from the 10,000 or so other bands thrashing it up in 1988? Muir still thought he was that rebellious teenager who wrote “Institutionalized,” resulting in a brand of thrash stuck in two different worlds. Possessing both a street gang goofball side (“Pledge of Allegiance”) and hints of true maturity (the title track), How Will I Laugh Tomorrow… had actual layers that were hitherto unheard of for Suicidal Tendencies. It may not be the most (in)famous of ST albums, but it is certainly their most balanced, and it kicked off the most consistent era of their career.
Suicidal Tendencies – How Will I Laugh Tomorrow…
Released: 13 September, 1988
Killing cut: “Trip At The Brain”
DREAM DEATH – JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY
With Journey Into Mystery, Dream Death brought the violent aggression of thrash and death metal to doom. “Bitterness and Hatred” is the title of the album’s third track, but it serves as the theme for the entire work. There is nothing somber, sorrowful or subtle on this album; the music is either threatening harm via massive lumbering riffs, or delivering it with a brutal, pummeling racket. Singer/guitarist Brian Lawrence only ups the ante by seemingly spitting every lyric through clenched teeth. Dream Death only lasted a few years as a band, but it left us with one of the most unique albums of the eighties.
Dream Death – Journey Into Mystery
Released: 16 October, 1987
New Renaissance Records
Killing cut: “The Elder Race”
IRON MAIDEN – POWERSLAVE
Released in 1984, Powerslave and the massive world tour that followed to support the release of the album would turn Iron Maiden into a worldwide phenomenon. The maturity displayed on The Number Of The Beast and Piece Of Mind would be greatly expanded upon with Powerslave as Iron Maiden fully embraced baroque songs with grandiose topics, high quality cover artwork and related themes, and gigantic stage shows to accompany live performances. Several songs from this album are set list mainstays to this day.
Iron Maiden – Powerslave
Released: 3 September, 1984
Killing cut: “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”
Iron Maiden – Iron Maiden
Released: 14 April, 1980
Iron Maiden – Killers
Released: 2 February, 1981
Iron Maiden – The Number of the Beast
Released: 22 March, 1982
Iron Maiden – Piece of Mind
Released: 16 May, 1983
Iron Maiden – Somewhere in Time
Released: 29 September, 1986
Iron Maiden – Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
Released: 11 April, 1988
TYGERS OF PAN TANG – WILD CAT
Oft-overlooked NWOBHM rockers Tygers Of Pan Tang debuted with Wild Cat in 1980, their only album with Jess Cox on vocals. Not technically a gifted singer (at all), Cox’s ragged semi-snarl adds a roughness to the Tygers that would be smoothed out by later vocalist Jon Deverill, and that more roughshod approach combined with Wild Cat’s rawer production and the band’s youthful exuberance meant that this disc would be their edgiest and most electrifying one. Tunes like the bouncy opener “Euthanasia” and “Slave To Freedom” are NWOBHM-riffed hard rockers as good as all but the best of the band’s peers.
Tygers of Pan Tang – Wild Cat
Released: 23 August, 1980
Killing cut: “Slave To Freedom”
MORBID SAINT – SPECTRUM OF DEATH
The Sheboygan-based thrashers in Morbid Saint were one of the late 80s’ most unfortunately overlooked acts – a long-lost gem, Spectrum Of Death (originally slef-released under the title Lock Up Your Children) didn’t make anywhere near enough of a splash when it initially came out in 1988. Produced by Death manager Eric Greif, Spectrum is filled with pure ripping aggression, treading that line between the faster and heavier side of the thrash movement and the beginnings of the then-blooming death metal scene. From the glorious gory goofiness of the peeled-skull album art to the neck-snapping greatness of “Burned At The Stake” and “Crying For Death,” Spectrum is full-throttle furious fun.
Morbid Saint – Spectrum of Death
Released: 2 September, 1988
Avanzada Metalica Records
Killing cut: “Burned At The Stake”
SACRIFICE – TORMENT IN FIRE
One the earliest entries from the Canadian thrash scene sounds just like you’d expect a bunch of teenagers to deliver: loud, fast, raw, and more than a little pissed off. Although they did take some cues from the likes of Venom, Possessed, and fellow Canadians Slaughter, Torment In Fire is the sound of a band more interested in leaving their unique mark on a burgeoning genre than in just jumping on some bandwagon. Whether or not they succeeded is up to debate (and some would argue that follow-up Forward To Termination is the superior effort), but the fact that this album is still spoken of with such reverence over 25 years later is testimony enough to its place in thrash history.
Sacrifice – Torment in Fire
Released: March, 1986
Diabolic Force Records
Killing cut: “Turn In Your Grave”
WHIPLASH – POWER AND PAIN
When an album contains one of the best songs (yes, we’re talking about “Power Trashing Death”) of the decade that shaped metal, its place in this very list of essential commodities should require no verbal justification. However, make no mistake taking Whiplash as some kind of one-hit wonder, because their debut full-length, in particular, is a real headbanger’s feast if there ever was one, introducing riff after adrenaline soaked, behemoth-sized riff and rounding things off with screeching solos that sway between faux atonality and meticulous phrasing with enviable ease. While more than just a sum of its parts, Power and Pain might not be your typical display of skillful metal composition, but what the songs might lack in dynamics they make up tenfold in take-no-fucking-prisoners aggression and lust for blood. And yeah, the vocals kind of suck…but so do our lives.
Whiplash – Power and Pain
Released: March, 1985
Killing cut: “Power Thrashing Death”
TERRORIZER – WORLD DOWNFALL
Los Angeles’ Terrorizer might well be the only band that ever recorded an outright classic AFTER breaking up. By the time this posthumous recording began, drummer Pete Sandoval had already joined Morbid Angel (whose bassist David Vincent would also perform on World Downfall), and guitarist Jesse Pintado (RIP) would spend the next fifteen years in Napalm Death. Even with three-quarters of its line-up soon to be legendary, World Downfall would live up to the pressure – it’s near-perfect early death-infected grindcore, with dirty punk-metal riffs, Sandoval’s spot-on blasting, and Oscar Garcia’s politically charged lyrics. One of grindcore’s greatest moments, and absolutely mandatory…
Terrorizer – World Downfall
Released: 13 November, 1989
Killing cut: “Dead Shall Rise”
We sure do love us some Iron Maiden here at Last Rites, don’t we? Knowing that Iron Maiden would have taken up 7% of our list on its own, our one-album-per-band rule makes a little more sense, doesn’t it?
Looks like we’re just about to wrap this sumbitch up. I guess we better cough up some Metallica and Slayer next week, huh? Or are we trully a bunch of faux-elitist, contrarian pricks? Find out next week.