With the dismal abyss that was 2020 finally coming to a conclusion, I thought I could dwell upon the one good thing about being confined to our homes: The quarantine music that kept us sane.
I’m not sure that it’s possible to properly manifest how indebted I am (and we all are) to the musicians that kept our mental stability intact by giving us the hope that we will have something to mosh to in 2021 when tours come back. In despondent times like this, it’s easy to underestimate the effect music can have in clearing our heads. I hope, in reading this, we all can show appreciation to the thrash metal bands out there being the binding force that keeps our movement alive.
So how was 2020 musically? How are we going to look back? Well, if there were no pandemic, I’d contend that this was one of the better years for thrash metal. The 80s fixtures like Testament, Sodom, Heathen, and Annihilator all put out really solid efforts that substantiate their prestige in thrash metal lore. Many important albums in the New Wave of Thrash Metal Movement came out this year. Warbringer, once again, proclaimed itself the titans of New Wave Thrash Metal by elevating and innovating it’s already towering sound with “Weapons of Tomorrow”. Sweden’s Warfect has stormed into the top tier of New Wave bands with it’s most complete offering to date “Spectre of Devastation”, solidifying itself amongst the millennial thrashers royalty with the likes of Havok and Evile. 2020 has set the stage for the NWOTM movement and Millenials to achieve what Generation X did for Old School Thrash Metal in the 80s.
Let’s get down to what I thought was the best of the best for the year of the Thrashdemic, 2020:
20. Mind Enforcer – “Brainwashed”
Poland 🇵🇱 – Self Released
The first full length from this Blackened thrash quartet. This solid offering fills me with nothing but optimism for their future. Quality riffage, ghastly vocals, and enough distinction to avoid blending in with the plethora of New Wave clones that calls attention to it’s own savagery.
19. Amorphia – “Merciless Strike”
India 🇮🇳 – Awakening Records
The second full length for these Indian thrashers. Their first album “Arms to Death” was a great foundation for this album and they’ve built upon that initial offering to give us an all-encompassing thrash metal assault of the ears.
18. Suicide of Society – “War Investment”
Germany 🇩🇪 – MDD Records
There was a 0% chance that Germany wasn’t going to take up multiple spots on this list. Surprisingly though, one of the spots goes to a band with its first release. Suicide of Society give a highly aggressive take on old school thrash metal without the copy-and-paste mentality we see all too often. And even when this 8 song offering slows to give you some fresh air, you are treated to very evolved songwriting that is rarely seen in a band’s first offering.
17. Skeleton Pit – “Lust to Lynch”
Germany 🇩🇪 – MDD Records
Like I said earlier, Germany typically dominates these lists. And Skeleton Pit undoubtedly quantify everything that encapsulates New Wave Thrash Metal: Sharp, aggressive riffage combined with heavy chugging on the filthy guitar tone. From the minute the first riff starts, you’re eardrums are assaulted and your neck is brutalized by the buzzsaw riffs, shrieking vocals, and driving drums. An anthemic offering for the battle vest with white high tops crowd for years to come.
16. Cyanide Grenade – “Kind of Virus”
Russia 🇷🇺 – Self Released
The second offering from this Russian trio. 2017’s “Quintessence of Death” from Metal Race Records had the beginnings of a band capable of destructive thrash riffage combined with unique, engaging songwriting. “Kind of Virus” delivers a savage piece of underground aggressiveness that can sit at the same table as some of the more refined thrash acts. The duality containing the nastiness of the frustrated youth and the precision of seasoned vets is a win-win.
15. Chainbreäker – “Relentless Night”
Austria 🇦🇹 – Metal on Metal Records
A 10 song/37 minute glorification of early Exodus/early Razor speedy 80s thrash metal, this unrelenting force never deviates from its primary mission of old school speed/thrash destruction. An homage to the youthful energy that engulfed the 80s and permeated thrash metal legends, this brutal presentation of adrenaline pumping riffage is high quality thrash.
14. Deathstorm – “For Dread Shall Reign”
Austria 🇦🇹 – Dying Victims Productions
The Kreator influence is hard to deny with these New Wave veterans. Vicious vocals, cutting riffs, and propulsive drums power this 10 song/38 minute worshipping of Teutonic Thrash mayhem. Deathstorm have masterfully translated 80s Kreator and Destruction to 2020 in something that’s both menacing and easily digestible.
13. Demolizer – “Thrashmageddon”
Denmark 🇩🇰 – Mighty Music
Two of the members of this band dabbled more in the Power/Groove areas of metal back in the 90s. But as we’ve seen an insurgency of thrash metal acts from Denmark, this band has formed and decided to give its first go in the arena of high intensity thrash violence. While there’s tons of play in the land of speed riffage, there’s plenty of heavy groove to keep us on our toes.
12. Shrapnel – “Palace for the Insane”
United Kingdom 🇬🇧 – Candlelight Records
These UK thrashers have been upping their game with every release dating back to 2014’s “The Virus Conspires”. They always manage to refine their sound with an even more professional sounding touch whilst still maintaining the aggressive thrash ethos that’s been around for almost 40 years.
11. Paralysis – “Mob Justice”
United States of America 🇺🇲 – Self Released
Please allow me to beam with aggrandizement because half of the American albums on this list are from my home state of New Jersey. Like being cocooned safely while flowing down a raging river, this album delivers a blunt, yet efficient helping of thrash riffage. Its concise transitions from mayhemic speed-riff wreckage to heavy, driving, groove gives you the sensation of ideal comfort in listening combined with engaging songwriting.
10. Abduction – “Killer Holidays on Planet Earth”
Italy 🇮🇹 – Self Released
Raise your beer and mosh it up for the Italian trio blending SciFi and Crossover thrash into this epic, anthemic, and sharp-witted offering that gives the listener the best parts of crossover thrash metal, and offers the listener more than 2 minutes a song nonetheless. The joys of listening to sub-sophmoric content (see the song “Uranus Attacks”) over thoughtfully engineered thrash riffage is the essence of mosh-culture. A must-have in the library of any Pizzamoshing Municipal Waste fan.
9. Warbringer – “Weapons of Tomorrow”
United States of America 🇺🇲 – Napalm Records
If there was ever any question about who the undisputed New Wave gods truly are, Warbringer has answered yet again with a simultaneously innovative and somehow untamed piece of thrash madness. Every time I’m convinced this band will run out of ways to keeps its sound fresh and unique they find a way to keep it going. While some of the original new wave founders have either settled on one sound and repeated it constantly or tried too hard to refine their sound only to come out overly processed, Warbringer consistently brings you a fresh perspective on the future of thrash metal.
8. Witchtrap – “Evil Strikes Again”
Colombia 🇨🇴 – Dirty Sound Records
Colombian veterans are back again with the latest amalgamation of their trademark haunting blackened speed metal. Another example of the high-level speed riffage combined with ghastly vocals creating a no-nonsense offering that’s palatable to both the new and old listener.
7. Pessimist – “Holdout”
Germany 🇩🇪 – MDD Records
German viciousness permeates this release creating a high-energy thrash gem. From 2010’s “Call to War”, 2013’s “Death from Above”, to this offering, Pessimist have had the innate ability to keep the New Wave movement on its toes and raises the stakes on how much raw energy can be packed into one thrash metal album.
6. Harlott – “Detritus of the Final Age”
Australia 🇦🇺 – Metal Blade Records
The culmination of tight riffs, heavy tone, grandiose vocals, and energetic songwriting brings this band to the forefront of the NWOTM. Harlott is one of the bands that upped its game in 2020 and thrust itself into the spotlight of modern thrash metal. The future is bright for these brilliant purveyors of thrash metal riffage.
5. Surgical Strike – “Part of a Sick World”
Germany 🇩🇪 – Metalville
These German thrashers combine the best of wailing Power metal madness with tenacious Thrash metal savagery. And the best part is you never know which one you’re going to hear in any given moment. This culminates into a catchy, anthemic, highly charged piece of unique metal.
4. Wartooth – “Programmed Dichotomy”
Australia 🇦🇺 – Self Released
There’s always one album per year that I fall in love with because it doesn’t have songs, it has “epics”. And that’s exactly what Australia’s Wartooth has presented us with. A plethora of epic 5, 6, and 7 minute adventures to get lost in. Each song a journey that you never know where you’re going to end up. All the while holding true to everything we hold dear in thrash metal.
3. Warfect – “Spectre of Devastation”
Sweden 🇸🇪 – Napalm Records
Another band that has unquestionably vaulted itself into New Wave Thrash Metal royalty is Sweden’s Warfect. I was convinced that they were a premier NWOTM band after 2013’s “Exoneration Denied” but some of you needed more convincing. And this brutal delivery has demonstrated their presence atop the elites of modern thrash.
2. Evoke – “Seeds of Death”
Norway 🇳🇴 – Pulverised Records
BLEEEEGGHHH!!!!!! Evoke brings the energetic blackened thrash sound to its most frantic, energetic climax. Bludgeoning the listener with pure thrash energy, this menacing piece of brilliance scratches the listener in all the right places necessary to achieve the perfect blackened thrash release.
1. Terravore – “Vortex of Perishment”
Bulgaria 🇧🇬 – Punishment 18 Records
My favorite album of this year goes to the criminally underrated Bulgarian quartet Terravore. Poised and refined with its quality musicianship, it has a sound that maintains it’s own individuality while paying homage to the old school greats. Aggressive, exacting, and heavy, it keeps the listener going down it’s own unique path. A path that contains violent bursts of chaotic energy. This truly is the best of all aspects of thrash metal and deserves all the accolades it can get.