Any metal fan will tell you how important 1986 was in the history of heavy metal. Megadeth continued to assert themselves with Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?, Metallica cemented themselves as one of the greatest creative forces in music with their masterpiece Master of Puppets. Bon Jovi shot to superstardom with Slippery When Wet as glam continued to go head to head with thrash for the hearts of metalheads globally. Ultimately, thrash won in ’86, due to the albums already mentioned but even more so because of the following.
Slayer- Reign in Blood
From the lightning fast opening of Angel of Death, Reign in Blood doesn’t let up for a single second. Slayer were always faster, heavier and more uncompromising than the rest of the Big Four, but Reign in Blood boils that down to its purest form. In just under thirty minutes, perfectly encapsulates everything brilliant about thrash metal. Where Metallica were stretching the boundaries of thrash and song structure in interesting ways, Slayer were trading exclusively on the adrenaline filled rush of just playing fast and loud, making their music much more immediate- and crushing- as a result. Nothing here outstays its welcome, it’s in and gone almost before you can get your head around it. While speed is the core of the Slayer sound, the mid-tempo sections here are just as important and spectacular as the rest of the album. They effectively break up the breakneck pace, preventing it from ever getting monotonous. If you’re a fan of heavier terrains and don’t know this album inside out, you should sort that out. From Dave Lombardo’s massively influential drumming, to Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman’s squealing guitar solos it’s clear why this album is considered the benchmark for extreme music.
Kreator- Pleasure to Kill
Up until this point Germany’s metal exports had been largely restricted to The Scorpions. But eventually thrash metal found a foothold there, with Sodom largely influencing black metal when it reared its gnarled head and Destruction also bearing the flag. But it’s Kreator who are commercially, and often critically, the leaders of this scene. One listen to Pleasure to Kill makes it clear why. It’s a group of young kids, playing faster, harder and more savagely than Slayer were at the time. Sure, Pleasure to Kill is often sloppier and rougher around the edges than Reign in Blood, but the influence on early black and death metal is much clearer. It’s somehow even faster the Slayer, with several moments of tremolo picked lead guitar lines that would become a hallmark of black metal. The vocals are raspy and occasionally consist of high shrieks, which, once again, veer close to black metal. The mid-tempo section in the title track slams harder than anything any of the Big Four ever put their name to and imbues the listener with a willingness to crack skulls. This album is relatively simple compared to Kreator’s later output and their American contemporaries, but that’s understandable as lead songwriter Mille Petrozza was only eighteen upon it’s release. While it’s easy to get caught up in the adrenaline rush of high speed riffing, there are many interesting structural experiments here, with slower, clean sections occasionally popping up along with the aforementioned midtempo sections.
Read our coverage on 1987 here.