Review by Josh C.
Thrash metal is a genre primarily associated with the 1980s, and while that was certainly its heyday, the genre is still alive and well up to this day! Bands, both new and old, are putting out albums that are not only their best but the genre’s best. Here are five selections of thrash albums released in the 21st century that are worth your time!
Death Magnetic is Metallica’s ninth album, released in 2007. After their experimentation with the Loads and St. Anger, Death Magnetic marked Metallica’s return to the formula that defined their classic albums of the 80s, the albums that made them the leaders of thrash and of metal in general. The songs are long and expansive, exploring a large variety of ideas and sounds, giving riffs room to breathe and develop over the span of the songs. Interestingly, it features a very stripped-down production style, a departure from their previous albums, and especially from the very commercial, well-produced albums of the 1990s. During the resurgence of thrash in the mid-00s, this album was the one that granted mainstream legitimacy to the burgeoning movement and shined a light on many of the other fantastic thrash albums that were released in the following years.
Standout songs: That Was Just Your Life, All Nightmare Long, The Judas Kiss
Time is Up is the second album by the Denver band Havok. Released in 2009, this album catapulted Havok to the top-tier of the new bands picking up the torch of thrash metal. A tight 42 minutes, Havok effortlessly wraps up the aggression of the genre with melody and fantastic songwriting that makes every song distinct and hard-hitting. It features some fantastic guitar pyrotechnics from the then-new Reece Scruggs, who has since established himself as one of the best shredders in the movement. The same can be said about drummer Pete Webber, whose drumming on the record is ear-catching, unique, and iconic. No filler here.
Standout songs: Prepare for Attack, Covering Fire, Time is Up
Woe to the Vanquished is the fifth album released by Los Angeles, CA-based band Warbringer, released in 2017. Somewhat of a comeback after personnel issues that prevented them from releasing any albums for several years, Woe to the Vanquished is one of Warbringer’s best albums. It cemented their place as among the best of not just the modern thrash bands but of the genre in general. This album features the band flexing their songwriting muscles and branching out, featuring elements of extreme metal and other influences never before seen by the band. It also features a shift in focus lyrically to historical subjects compared to the typical thrash fare of their previous records. They very vividly depict the topics with a weight and gravitas appropriate for both the intensity of the music and the serious nature of what’s being discussed.
Standout tracks: Silhouettes, Remain Violent, Shellfire
Ironbound is the 15th album by New Jersey band Overkill. Overkill, by contrast to the last two bands, were among the first thrash bands, forming in 1980. After a lull in commercial and critical favor in the 1990s and 2000s, Overkill gained a lot of renewed attention with 2010’s Ironbound. Following in the footsteps of many of their contemporaries in the 2000s releasing comeback albums, Overkill returned totally to the style of their classic records such as Taking Over or The Years of Decay. With it, they released one of their best records to date. Featuring a very tight and aggressive production perfectly benefiting the songs, Ironbound is an essential album for any fan of the genre.
Standout tracks: The Green and Black, Ironbound, Bring Me the Night
The Evolution of Chaos is San Francisco-based band Heathen’s third album, released in 2010. Despite the relatively recent release of their third album, the band actually formed in 1984. Building off of the hype from their 2005 demo featuring three songs on this album, Heathen managed to release not only one of the best thrash albums of the 21st century but arguably in the history of the genre. Opening with as strong of a mission statement as the sublime “Dying Season,” a standard is quickly set for what the listener should expect. The album features a lot of dynamics and expression, from the short and fast Bloodkult to the massive, 11-minute epic “No Stone Unturned.” Despite its length, pushing 70 minutes, it never overstays its welcome, taking you through a fantastic journey all the way until the final seconds of the last song, “Silent Nothingness.”
Standout tracks: Dying Season, Control by Chaos, Arrows of Agony