When thrash was exploding in the Bay Area in the 1980s there was another movement that was cultivating on the other side of the ocean that was equally as important. In the early ’80s Germany was a hotspot for three up and coming bands that were about to change metal forever. Not as polished as their American counterparts, Kreator, Sodom and Destruction brought a chaos and intensity that was unmatched.
Most metal fans are familiar with the impeccable catalog of the Teutonic Three’s landmark material so I wanted to focus on lesser known German bands that were never given their proper reverence. The following bands are all diverse in nature and some of them had lengthy careers while others shined quick and bright before fading out. Here are my choices for the best German thrash bands not named Kreator, Sodom or Destruction.
Vendetta had their own unique style and sound. They perfectly executed the complexity and precision of their peers blended with a more lighthearted touch. Releasing two stellar albums in the ’80s, Go and Live….Stay and Die and Brain Damage are flawless affairs. Songs like “Brain Damage,” “War,” “Suicidal Lunacy” and “On the Road” all feature fast paced and melodic riffs merging with the unique double vocal pairing of Daxx and Micky.
Unfortunately, the members split up into two factions with original Bassist Klaus Ullrich continuing on the Vendetta name but not with equal results. Vocalists Daxx and Micky have formed a new band entitled Brain Damage which is much more inline with the tradition of their early material.
Forming in the mid ’80s, Paradox are one of the best kept secrets in metal. They blend the complex riffs of early Metallica and the Bay Area thrash scene mixed with amazing melodic vocals courtesy of founder Charly Steinhauer. Their sophomore release Heresy is an all time classic and though it might sound like heresy, it can be mentioned in the same breath as Master Of Puppets or Reign In Blood.
Reforming in 2008, Paradox have continued to release quality material throughout their career and show no signs of stopping. The second half of their career is equally as compelling as their beginnings. Steinhauer has the rhythm sensibilities of James Hetfield and the vocal prowess of Joey Belladonna.
With the opening frantic riff of “Satan’s Gift” from Deathrow’s relentless debut Riders Of Doom, one can instantly hear the brutality and aggression that these Teutonic terrors spewed forth. Reminiscent of early Kreator, Deathrow are one of the more aggressive outfits to come out of the ’80s thrash metal movement. Their sophomore release Raging Steel is more refined, but equally as destructive.
In the late ’80s they completely shifted gears and released a technical tour de force, Deception Ignored. Introducing more melody, ambitious time signature and complex riffing, they showed a tremendous amount of growth and maturity. Unfortunately, they broke up in 1992 and have remained dormant ever since.
One of the earliest thrash bands to form in Germany, Tankard are one of the most prolific and consistent bands the genre has seen. Releasing 16 albums so far in their storied career, there is no mistaking what Tankard represents. Merging insane speed riffs with Gerre’s unique vocal attack make them instantly identifiable.
The majority of their lyrics deal with being drunk or hung over and they wear their party band reputation proudly. Their first three releases: Zombie Attack, Chemical Invasion and The Morning After are all whirlwind affairs that never let up and still stand as Tankard’s best.
Exumer’s high octane 1986 debut Possessed By Fire is considered an underground classic among the die hard thrash metal legions and they wouldn’t be wrong. Unfortunately overshadowed by other legendary releases Exumer’s reputation would continue to grow as time marched on. Blending the chaotic energy of Kreator with the melodies of early Exodus, their debut is a true metal statement.
Their sophomore release (1987’s Rising From The Sea) isn’t nearly as well regarded with vocalist Mem Von Stein departing, but it still is an intense worthy follow up despite not living up to the debut. Exumer disbanded in 1991 but reformed in 2008 with Von Stein back behind the mic and they are still unleashing quality material.
What other German thrash bands would you recommend?