Tape Wyrm XXIII: Set To Destruct Tape Wyrm XXIII: Set To Destruct

Set to Destruct

Thrash Metal’s Silent Revival

Thrash is energetic, chaotic, and filled with youthful abandon. It is one of the most defining styles of heavy metal in terms of recognition and popularity. It is an underground metal phenomenon that has reached the most amount of living rooms and workplace watercoolers. Out of the fires of speed metal and tempered with the icy waters of punk came thrash metal — a genre which would spawn numerous classic and essential records. It is important to remember this article is not about that.

If one were to plot the history of thrash, its golden period or renaissance occurred during the mid to late 80’s. Numerous high profile albums were produced as the creation of some undeniably talented acts. Thrash’s heyday continued into the late 80’s where it eventually broke the surface of the mainstream. While larger acts like Megadeth, Metallica, and Anthrax were seeing their albums reach a massive audience, other acts became more complex and experimental. Thrash’s climax occurred during the early 90’s for a sliver of time before plunging into silence and obscurity once again. I am still trying to figure out what happened.

It is not like thrash albums ceased production from 1995 to 2003. The spirit and number of bands making thrash changed and eventually evolved into something different. The major thrash albums which were released in this time paled in comparison to the quality ten years prior. Styles experience an ebb and flow not unlike the tides or a better crafted metaphor. When people discuss thrash, the majority of records and bands are relegated to its specific formative period. Because of its intensity and creativity, 80’s thrash developed into an institution — one with a unique character and personality. Perhaps this is why it was so easy to replicate.

The mid to late 00’s saw a resurgence in popularity for underground thrash. While veteran acts like Testament, Megadeth, and Kreator released new albums, a crop of younger bands produced a fresh wave of new records. While there was obviously difference among each band, there still existed a common thread of replication — one that strove for authenticity. The new wave of thrash does not progress forward as much as it celebrates the past.

Personally, I think of thrash as a style which is arrested in its development. Outside of the 1980’s thrash had minimal success in branching further than its inception. Sure groove had its time and even some people connect thrash to the nebulous term of metalcore, but thrash has not evolved in the same way as its sister genres. Perhaps it never will nor has any desire to do so. Perhaps it was meant to be a limited run. What the neo-thrash revival has shown us though, is a sound and style which is easily replicable, rigid in its format, and fun as fuck when played.

My intellectual reservations regarding thrash’s revival contrasts sharply with my utter enjoyment of the genre as a whole. Much like science fiction, film noir, and novels by R.A Salvatore, thrash exists as its own universe. Entering into the sound yields certain truths which are unique to the style. While these newer bands are doing little to no experimentation, they are preserving the characteristics of a revival. Without changing its original doctrine the newer bands celebrate thrash with sparkling masquerade. Perhaps for only a few seconds we can all pretend like it is 1986 once again.

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These Tape Wyrm articles are as exploratory as they are educational. I have long ago resigned myself to the fact I will never know every band and every album. For this article I enlisted the help of some of Reddit’s r/Metal moderators. I would like to thank deathofthesun for his recommendations which included Hellish Crossfire, Merciless Death, Witchtrap, Phantom Witch, and Antichrist. I would also like to thank BrutalN00dle for sharing his thoughts and opinions in the second half. The cover image on the front page was illustrated by Tom Martin who was generous enough to supply the painting in exchange for a battle jacket. As always these recommendations are finite with more located in the below playlist. In future, I hope to be as excited as I am now that Tape Wyrm gets the chance to have some friends over to play.

Tape Wyrm: Thrash Revivial-Spotify Playlist-

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Evile – Enter The Grave (2007)

It is difficult to pinpoint exactly where this thrash revival started. Instead, it is easy to earmark high points — at least the points when the movement seemed to gather critical attention. If the thrash revival needed strong credits, Enter the Grave‘s production by Flemming Rasmussen was given the attention it deserved. Rasmussen is famous for his work on three of Metallica’s records which have now become a part of thrash canon. Despite his work on other records (such as mid 90’s Blind Guardian) Ride the Lighting, Master of Puppets and …And Justice For All have become Rasmussen’s masterpieces. This is perhaps why he was sought out for Enter the Grave. Rasmussen’s work with Evile transformed an eager thrash band into a full scale revival complete with outstanding production highlighting their talent while still preserving infinite energy. It is easy to dismiss Evile as just a throwback band which managed to costume themselves in authentic and flattering dress. It is also easy to completely get caught up in the record especially during the intro “Man Against Machine.” For fans of glimmering production and proficient songwriting there are few others. Evile has been compared to Metallica so many times and for so long that I am ready to hand over the title and allow a new future to unfold.

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Vektor- Black Future (2009)

I spent a considerable time discussing how newer thrash is cemented to the past. It is important to note that I do not hold these same views towards the Arizonian cosmonauts Vektor. Out of most of the newer thrash acts, Vektor possesses the potential and capabilities of crafting outstanding records which lie outside of archetypes and stock characteristics. This is true despite the band having a large influence rooted in the 80’s. Vektor owes most if not all of its influences to Canadian 80’s thrash act Vovoid. From technical style, lyrical content, and even logo, Vektor unearths the path set by Voivod and continues much further than anyone thought possible. Black Future is outstanding regardless of genre. With the addition of a blackened rasp, Vektor carves out its real-estate on the opposite side of the galaxy. While the band’s short to medium songs are decent and with merit, it is the longer tracks which define Black Future. When given the space of 10 or more minutes, Vektor becomes a robotic force which ultimately possesses the power to crush planets. Run, do not walk to buy this record. I’ll talk to you about this album again after the cosmic Armageddon.

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HeXen- State of Insurgency (2008)

I sometimes love when the first few seconds of a record illustrate the cover. HeXen’s State of Insurgency begins with a bomb blast and quickly jumps into the opener “Blast Radius.” State of Insurgency preserves thrash metal’s penchant for socio political commentary. Set among fictitious scenarios and heavy handed metaphors, State of Insurgency orates social dialogue complete with pauses for guitar solos. Sure, not all of them are literary award winners. Let me check. Alright fine. Sure, most of them will never be literary award winners. Regardless, HeXen preserves thrash’s tenacity and technical bravado combined with a boldness which sets angry diatribes to the speed of neck breaking. For an album that begins with a bomb blast, its radius travels for 56 minutes. To be honest, the turn of the century would have been ripe for seething left-leaning commentary. Much like the Reagan 80’s defining thrash’s obsession with nuclear holocaust, the civil unrest of the early 00’s could have made for some memorable records. Perhaps next time.

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Gama Bomb- Tales from the Grave in Space (2009)

One of the earlier albums of the thrash revival was from crossover act Municipal Waste. They are not a part of this list. It is not that I do not like Municipal Waste, it is more that is dislike crossover thrash. Alright, to be honest I am coming around to it but its going to be a bit before I buy my D.R.I back patch. Before I get a trash can thrown at my head by a group of ruffians in sleeveless denium jackets, let me explain. While I respect the punk and thrash hybrid distilled into what sounds like a graffiti tag in a stairwell, right now it is not my thing. This is strange as I adore Gama Bomb. Coming much later than classic Municipal Waste, Tales From the Grave in Space was originally released for free by Earache through Rapidshare. Fuck it, why not? Supposedly, even giving away Tales From the Grave in Space for free, yielded a higher number of physical album sales for the band. That’s right. Fuck it all. What Gama Bomb lacks in structure and technical know how, they make up for in spirit and entertaining vocal wails from Philly Byrne. Fuck it, their also from Ireland. Why in the fuck not?

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Hyades – The Worse is Yet to Come (2007)

Another fine illustration from Edward Repka. I feel that this album was chosen based on the cover alone. Alright I can tell you that only most of this album was chosen on the cover alone. He’s surfing on a wave of the dead! How can you go wrong? Luckily for everyone involved, The Worse is Yet to Come is as awesome as its cover promised. This band answers the question whether or not awesome thrash revival acts come from Italy. Yes they do. They even answer this question with the not sure if I should be printing “Wops Still Thrash.” Their words, not mine. The Worse is Yet To Come is a rare record in the thrash revival. When listening to it nothing stands out as their own, unlike the other acts of Evile, Municipal Waste, or Vektor. Perhaps this is why I enjoy them so much. I love this record because it could have been an obscure record made in 1987. Perhaps it was and it only took this amount of time for it to be found. Look at the destruction. Look at the waves. Look at the carefree Italian surfer.

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Deathraiser – Violent Aggression (2011)

Deathraiser is from Brazil. If the previous sentence does not make you nod your head then you may need to travel back to a criminally forgotten part of history. Brazil had a massively important thrash scene which was marked with intensity and raw production. Rather than strive for calculated aggression, Brazilian thrash explodes at the speed of light. Deathraiser does the same thing and successfully continues the regency begun thirty years ago. With the ghosts of Vulcano, Sarcófago, and early Sepultura by their side, Violent Aggression sounds like a nailbomb denoted in a tornado…of glass…and acid fire. Not sure if I can make that any clearer. My neck hurts. A lot.

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From the desk of BrutalN00dle

It’s fun, sometimes, to try and draw parallels between the last decade’s thrash metal “revival”, and glorious 80s scene. Evile is the new Metallica, Gama Bomb the new Anthrax, Warbringer the new Sodom; and so on. Following the analogy, then you have the more underground gems, truckloads of bands trying to reclaim the throne Exodus left vacant, or trying to crush more skulls than Demolition Hammer ever did. The whole movement created more debate (and derision) than I ever anticipated. I myself was exposed to the neothrash concept early in my metal listening, bands like Warbringer who carried the torch of thrash metal were absolutely intrinsic to the development of my musical taste.

The most curious pattern I noticed among the general metal populace is that many people completely wrote off this new wave of thrash, based on hearing the most popular bands, the Merciless Deaths, the Eviles and the Municipal Wastes and whatnot. Is this not like ignoring the entire Bay Area because one doesn’t enjoy Metallica? Don’t like Mustaine’s voice so you never listened to the rest of the bands? It’s hypocritical and ignorant. As with all metal, the real gems are the ones festering below the surface, thrashing in the clubs; as it has always been. With the right amount of digging though, powerful thrash is still being created. Forget the Big 4, and brace your necks.

Thrash ’til death.

-Kyler

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Nekromantheon- Rise, Vulcan Spectre (2012)

Norway. Home of black metal, and the stories everyone has heard a million times and has an opinion on. Fuck that. We’re here to thrash, and so is Nekromantheon. Established 2005, with an EP and two full-lengths. 2012’s Rise, Vulcan Spectre is unfortunately not Star Trek themed, but rather the lyrics focus on Greek mythology, which is virgin ground in the scene, to my knowledge. No band has ever been saved by lyrics alone though. Rise… starts off with crushing riffs and speed, with a singular intention to murder the listener through sheer musical savagery. And that’s just the new album. If Rise… is too polished for you, Nekromantheon delivers with their debut EP, We’re Rotting. Rougher, just as hungry, just as fast.

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Byfrost -of Death (2011)

Oh you thought I was only going to talk about one Norwegian band? Tough shit. Byfrost, formed in Bergen in 2007. I first became aware of this band when their most recent album, Of Death, crept into my Best of 2011 list at the 11th hour. It looks like Norway got tired of being typecast with black metal, and decided to start thrashing instead. This band carries a bit more of a black/thrash flavor to it, but with a heavier guitar tone, rather than the usual buzzsaw that Norway is notorious for. A bit of latter-era Immortal occasionally creeps in the power chord attack, but overall this is another crushing thrasher out for blood in a sea of mediocrity.

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Evil Army – Evil Army (2006)

Back across the pond to the riff filled land of… Tennessee. While some where focused on virtuosic guitar-proficiency to execute their thrash, this American trio were focused on listening to DRI and Slayer. You’re not going to find any guitar sweeps, or overly mathematical polyrhythms here. What you will find is pure violent thrash in its most basic form. It doesn’t get more authentic than this folks. Too punk for metal, too metal for punk, too awesome to ignore. Now if only their bassists would stop OD’ing…

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Antichrist – Forbidden World (2011)

The thrash band from Sweden, if you’re looking up this group on the Archives. I challenge anyone to listen through their first full length, Forbidden World and to walk away in one piece. This is not worship. This is a no-frills blitzkrieg on the listener. There’s nothing “nice” about this. You can picture the vocalist’s sadistic sneer while he screeches the lyrics at you, only to be outshined by the riffs themselves. I’ll stop here. The music speaks for itself.

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Profanator – Deathplagued (2009)

Mexico’s finest. Profanator started a bit earlier than the other entries here, but their music is of such quality I would be doing a disservice to not mention them. The most relevant information about this band is that they have an album called Deathplauged. Look at the art. Look at it. If you aren’t already slobbering at the prospect of the riffs contained within, you must be brain dead. This album tears out of the gate, grabs the listener’s throat and then beats them to death with riffcraft. This metal is unhinged, psychopathic, and out for blood. If anyone ever doubted the South American scene, they fucking delivered in a huge way here. Sneering with absolute confidence over the wasteland their riffs have left behind. This album is a poser-disposer of the highest order.

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Again, Thank you Kyler for participating. hopefully your gift bag is to your liking. Use that 15$ Olive Garden gift certificate on someone special. You deserve it. Hello to anyone who made it this far. While I have your attention please check out Tape Wyrm’s Facebook page. I sepnt a fair amount of time making sure Dan Seagrave’s painting for Effigy of the Forgotten fit perfectly in the timeline banner. Also you can listen to me speak about albums on Champions of the Universe every week. Also if you are a metalhead who has some burning desire to write articles, feel free to contact me at kaptaincarbon [at] gmail [dot] com. I love working with people. We can have an adventure and give each other nicknames out of a 1940’s pulp mystery. I want to be “The Shrouded Ghoul.” You can be my assistant. Dr. Scorpio.



3 Responses about “Tape Wyrm XXIII: Set To Destruct”

  • ZeagleFiend says:

    Another bunch of great stuff to listen to and explore. As always, I love this column.

  • Andrew Reida says:

    “science fiction, film noir, and novels by R.A Salvatore”

    You, sir, understand me.

  • Fuck yeah man, come over to the Pinpoint offices and we’ll have a party with Drizzt Do’Urden, Humphrey Bogart, and Flash Gordon. This is how I start my Wednesday morning but hell it can be any day.