80s Essentials – Volume Ten

THIS IS IT! Volume Ten has finally arrived. And with it, so does the end of Last Rites’ 80s Essentials lists. We hope you’ve had as much fun reading them as we did putting them together. Did we catch all your favorites?



It seems like most of today’s mid-to-late teen population spend the bulk of their time TM’ing back and forth about what sort of sassy bangs they should sport for the new school year. Back in the mid-80s, however, a crew of young Bay Area teens got their shit together enough to release one of most uncompromisingly raw and thrilling thrash records to ever hit the western shore. (Or any shore, for that matter.) In truth, the die was cast just prior to The Ultra-Violence‘s release, when Kirk Hammet agreed to produce their 1985 demo Kill As One, but Death Angel‘s stunning debut tacked four more tunes to the agenda with an end result that completely bulldozed typical expectations of a crew that included a member still seven years shy of the US legal drinking age. Today, The Ultra-Violence continues to capture the same raw, frenzied intensity that epitomizes youth – a timeless example of Bay Area thrash done righter than right and well into righteous. “Eat the fucking elephant skin.”


Death AngelThe Ultra-Violence
Released: 23 April, 1987
Restless Records
Killing cut: “Voracious Souls”






By the time 1984 rolled around, heavy metal had gathered enough steam that you could define something as much by what it wasn’t as by what it was. To wit: Omen’s masterful debut Battle Cry isn’t quite NWOBHM, and it certainly isn’t thrash. Instead, it’s one of the very earliest (and still woefully overlooked) gems of American-styled power metal. If that term still gives you nightmare flashbacks of frills and frocks, though, let’s put it this way: Omen is traditional heavy metal from before one needed to specify if one’s metal was traditional. The smooth but gritty vocals of sadly-departed vocalist J.D. Kimball are the triumphant icing on a sturdy cake made of the same stuff that informed Manilla Road’s mid-‘80s output. We would, of course, also be terribly remiss if we didn’t point out that one of Battle Cry’s very best songs is called “Last Rites.” Coincidence? You be the judge; the axeman will find you either way.

[Dan Obstkrieg]

Released: November, 1984
Metal Blade Records
Killing cut: “Last Rites






In 1986 Slayer tore the still-young thrash genre a new orifice with a sonic blitzkrieg called Reign in Blood. Ripping it completely free of its NWOBHM moorings, Reign in Blood brought thrash to the pinnacle of musical extremity at the time. Slayer took the dark, twisted chaos of Hell Awaits and cranked the tempos to heretofore unimagined levels. For his part, Producer Rick Rubin turned down the reverb, turned up the guitars and allowed Slayer to shine in all its unfettered, blood-spattered glory. On the strength of its performance, production and classic songs such as “Angel of Death”, “Raining Blood” and “Jesus Saves”, Reign in Blood stands as one of the most important, influential and greatest albums of not just the eighties, but all time.

[Jeremy Morse]


SlayerReign in Blood
Released: 7 October, 1986
Def Jam Records
Killing cut: “Angel of Death”




Also Essential:

SlayerShow No Mercy
Released 3 December, 1983
Metal Blade Records

SlayerHell Awaits
Released: March, 1985
Metal Blade Records

SlayerSouth of Heaven
Released: 5 July, 1988
Def Jam Recordings



They started strong and consistently improved. Less gonzo than Voivod or Thought Industry and more accessible than Coroner or Mekong Delta, Anacrusis found the holy grail at the crux of these extremes… only no one wanted to drink. They became a touchstone for seekers of the rare, sometimes surfacing after decades to maybe elicit slight hope for new material (looking at you, Watchtower). In retrospect, these Missouri mad men led by Kenn Nardi formed a complete artistic statement across their four albums proper and, even in their earliest form, focused their ferocity while maintaining meticulous melodies; Suffering Hour scarcely reveals their impressive eventual evolution.

[Matt Longo]


AnacrusisSuffering Hour
Released: 1988
Axis Records
Killing cut: “Twisted Cross






Flotsam & Jetsam‘s fantastic debut will likely always be earmarked as “the album that featured Jason Newsted just before he joined Metallica.” As it happens, however, Doomsday for the Deceiver represents one of the finest examples of power/speed/thrash to have ever hit our planet. Newsted’s presence is clear here, unlike his entire stint under Lars’ banner, but the rest of the players light up eardrums as well, particularly wailer extraordinaire, Erik A.K. A clear argument could (and probably will) be made for the band’s glossier follow-up, No Place for Disgrace, but it’s Doomsday‘s firm grip on raw energy that pushes it across the finish line by a fair margin. Plus, no weak Elton John covers here.



Flotsam and JetsamDoomsday for the Deceiver
Released: 4 July, 1986
Metal Blade Records
Killing cut: “Iron Tears”






A mere 450 days after Pestilence’s possessed thrasher Malleus Maleficarum, these Dutch doozies went full-on death metal for Consuming Impulse. Not only does their sophomore smash-’em-up herald the Schuldiner-y shift for these riffsmiths, but it allows main-throat Martin van Drunen the chance to drop his scream by an octave, settling into the raging range heavy metal fans would recognize at first howl for decades to come. While the album is clear of the jazzy, syncopated steps of its younger siblings, it keeps your attention with concise slices of pure, flawless death metal. Its immediacy is its legacy. And what a legacy it is.

[Ian Chainey]


PestilenceConsuming Impulse
Released: 25 December, 1989
R/C Records
Killing cut: “Out Of The Body







Statement of fucking intent. Sure, Justin Broadrick had performed with Napalm Death and released the Godflesh EP one year earlier, but if the opening bars of “Like Rats” aren’t the ultimate in musical mission statements, nothing is. The pulse of the programmed drumming, G.C. Green’s larger-than-live bass, suffocating atmosphere, and the planetary heft of the riffs all gave off the sense that there was something very alive about Streetcleaner. Alive, but utterly inhuman. From the horrifying intro and revelations of “Mighty Trust Krusher” all the way to the final notes of “Locust Furnace,” Streetcleaner was the sound of industrial decay, a deconstruction of musical norms, and that rare album that can claim to be a distinct moment in the evolution of rock. True extremity is a frightening proposition, but those who shut themselves off from this scare continue to miss out on an experience that is still revealing secrets, nearly a quarter of a century later.

[Zach Duvall]


Released: 13 November, 1989
Earache Records
Killing cut: “Like Rats






Originally self-released by the band (and then titled Illusions), this blast of feral thrash bridges the gap between the more technical American school of Bay Area bashers and that of its schneller-lauter Germanic brethren. Like a tighter Kreator c. 1986, Sadus shreds and shrieks with a riff-happy, maniacal spirit not terribly far removed from the more extreme death metal acts emerging around them. Between Jon Allen’s whipcrack drumming, Steve DiGiorgio’s spongy basslines, Rob Moore’s Slayer-on-(more)-amphetamines riff-work, and Darren Travis’ biting snarl, Chemical Exposure certainly stands as one of America’s most violent thrash efforts. Sadus attack(s), indeed – and then you die.

[Andrew Edmunds]


SadusChemical Exposure
Released: 1988
Killing cut: “Sadus Attack






1986 was one hell of a year, huh? Peace Sells…, Master of Puppets, Reign in Blood, Pleasure to Kill, Doomsday for the Deceiver, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, Awaken the Guardian, and on and on. Although Dark Angel never received the same level of fame as most of those lauded peers, Darkness Descends is one of 1986’s indispensable albums, and one of thrash metal’s fastest, shrillest, and meanest documents. Fast, in no small part thanks to the absurd talents of a certain nineteen-year old kid named Gene Hoglan. Shrill, almost entirely due to the sneeringly vicious vocals of Don Doty. Mean, because… well, hell, have you heard these songs? “THE CITY IS GUILTY! THE CRIME IS LIFE! THE SENTENCE IS DEATH! DARKNESS DESCEEEEEEEENDS!” Doty channels Paul Baloff’s inimitable performance on Bonded by Blood, but turns it darker, to songs about war, Sodom and Gomorrah, euthanasia, and Hitler. Death, as they say, is certain.

[Dan Obstkrieg]


Dark AngelDarkness Descends
Released: 17 November, 1986
Combat Records
Killing cut: “Merciless Death”






The age-old argument of which Metallica album is greatest has always come down to Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets. It’s a discussion we’re all passionate about, and might even be the most popular debate throughout all of heavy metal. To me, it’s no contest. Lightning had just the perfect amount of Mustaine, Burton and Hetfield… Just the right amount of experimentation without all the filler. With the exception of “Escape,” every single track on this album is an all-time, must-have, how-the-fuck-can-you-claim-to-like-metal-and-not-know-all-of-these-songs-by-heart 80’s classic. One of the most important 80’s albums of any genre, and one of the most essential albums in the history of heavy metal. But, since everyone already knows this, it’s about that time we break it out again and keep it in the rotation forever.

[Konrad Kantor]


MetallicaRide the Lightning
Released: 15 August, 1984
Elektra Records
Killing cut: “Trapped Under Ice”




Also Essential:

MetallicaKill ‘Em All
Released: 25 July, 1983
Megaforce Records

Metallica Master of Puppets
Released: 21 February, 1986
Elektra Records

Metallica … And Justice for All
Released: 25 August, 1988
Elektra Records



Posted by Last Rites


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