Thrash Metal of the 1980's was one of the best and continues to be one of the most respected scenes in the Metal community. Whether it was the complexity of METALLICA, the speed of SLAYER, or the acerbity of EXODUS, this subgenre kept underground Metal alive during the nauseating Hair Metal trend. Even acts outside the U.S, like Brazil's SEPULTURA and Germany's KREATOR, were instrumental in establishing thrash to its fans.
Thrash Metal essentially combined the "New Wave Of British Heavy Metal" sound with the speed and aggression of Hardcore, Punk and the likes. It hit its commercial peak during the latter half of the 80's, with multitudes of Thrash Metal bands being signed up by major record labels, before being knocked out of the media spotlight by the Seattle-based "grunge" scene and having Death Metal take over as the king of the "Underground Metal".
Thrash Metal bands like OVERKILL, SODOM and KREATOR, soldiered on throughout the 1990's and continued releasing albums, but a majority of their thrash contemporaries either broke up or abandoned their thrash roots. At the end of the 1990's, a number of the Classic/ Old-School Thrash Metal bands reformed and some, including EXODUS, DESTRUCTION, DEATH ANGEL and ONSLAUGHT, even recorded and released new albums.
In the past few years, there's been a resurgence of 80's-style thrash in both spirit and practice. Like their classic counterparts, bands of this new movement incorporate high-pitched yelling vocals, up-tempo shredding, and propellant beats. Essentially, it's an aggressive, no-frills sonic creation with a more modern production; but not so slick and glossed over that it loses its bite.
Along with the ever present and reunited Old-School Thrash Metal bands , there has been a sharp rise in the number of new Thrash Metal bands forming over the past couple of years as a new generation of teenagers discover Thrash Metal. The UK music press listened, with features claiming the return of thrash in magazines such as Kerrang! and Metal Hammer. Even the NME, a magazine not usually associated with Metal, ran a story using Earache’s “Thrash is Back!” slogan as the headline in one of their issue. Indeed, EARACHE RECORDS played a pivotal role by promoting and signing new thrash bands.
So this revival basically started off with old school bands releasing new records and reaching out to larger audiences. A lot of it had to do with Ozzy booking bands like SLAYER, re-united JUDAS PRIEST, and a re-united IRON MAIDEN in the middle of the decade. The mainstream appeal for "retroactive metal" was certainly there after that. People also started talking about a Thrash Resurgence/Revival about the time KREATOR/ SODOM/ DESTRUCTION did their European tour together, then KREATOR/ DESTRUCTION hitting the U.S in 2002.
After that bands started popping up out of the woodwork in the late-2000. Thrash Metal bands started reforming or reuniting with old members. Many returned to their thrash routes. Once that happened thrash seemed to have become popular again. Influences such as ST. ANGER and Risk were a healthy promotion of what NOT to do, i guess people got sick of hearing that stuff and started playing some real thrash. And now look, METALLICA and MEGADETH took a leaf out of their books and started playing real music again. In a way, they inspired us to inspire them. A circle, if you will.
Internet played a vital role in this movement. It’s not 1990 anymore. Extreme Metal has moved out of the basement. It’s no longer the sole providence of society’s rejects. It’s no longer the province of young rockers disgusted with the consumer culture nightmare of the 80's, it’s a full blown global culture. It’s one that’s just beginning to be studied in academia. Most of today’s metal heads are essentially a generation of nerds. They didn’t go to the “beer party” in their friend’s garage to get their first taste of grind or Death Metal; they found it on the web. The encyclopedic nature of the internet allowed for absorption of Metal culture on a massive scale. No more tape trading or grimy zines. They did battle with one another in web forums, hurling obscure names and references like iron spears. File sharing allowed for some of the world’s most abstruse releases to grace the ears of metal-heads around the globe.
Personally, I don't think one band started the entire thrash resurgence movement more a handful of bands e.g DEKAPITATOR, CRANIUM, HYPNOSIA, then later EVILE, MUNICIPAL WASTE, FUELED BY FIRE, MERCILESS DEATH etc. Also old thrash bands reforming, playing shows and releasing new albums helped the scene. However I think something that drove the scene a lot was the current state of Metal, and all the watered down but talented Mallcore/Nu-Metal/Screamo which had been releasing as Metal, kind of like Glam Metal was back in the 80's. There's a reason FUELED BY FIRE have a metalhead strangling an emo kid on there album cover. I guess it was just time for it to come around again.
When it comes to the sound not everyone in the resurgence is exactly what I consider playing 80's styled thrash. They do blend other "modern" influences in their music which is acceptable as long as they still reflect and represent the roots and spirit of the movement, which they do. Like, EVILE is Progressive but has a brick-in-your-face thing to it. One man act TOXIC HOLOCAUST is raw and dirty "blackened thrash" with an "old-school" vibe full of "semi-crossover" attitude and feelings. SKELETONWITCH is a badass concoction of Thrash Metal and Melodic Death Metal. WARBRINGER stands out above the dime-a-dozen "retro thrash" bands easily. MUNICIPAL WASTE, I would say is happy thrash, it has the pure DIY fun and speed of Hardcore. GAMA BOMB and BONDED BY BLOOD are brothers in arms determined to take the original blueprints and create their own style from it. For a dose of ZOMBIECORE, SEND MORE PARAMEDICS is the best bet. REVOCATION is the freshest Technical/Thrash Metal out there. Their sound is a unique blend of Groove Metal, Thrash Metal, Technical Metal and Melodic Death Metal. Mutant are a rocket-paced racket, they've got their own brand of kind of technical, progressive, thrash that doesn't really sound like anything else.
The benefits of this resurgence are obvious: bringing great music back, and to a newer audience. What better way to teach new Metal devotees about the genre than with a little lesson in Old-School Extreme Metal? Yet a few problems linger: at what point (if it hasn't already) will this throwback scene become a meaningless trend? With so many bands emulating their 80's idols, it seems just a matter of time before opportunists latch onto the idea and water it all down. Even the original thrash scene became inundated with second- and third-rate bands looking to capitalize on a metal cornerstone. Still another question must be asked: would we rather have a band take risks to craft their own sound (with the potential failure that it implies), or just basically stay safe by imitating a sound already proven by time? Or should we just enjoy the music and stop caring so much?
I have always looked at the thrash resurgence as a surge of new Thrash Metal bands. Not really a resurgence of thrash itself.
So all you metal-heads out there (old farts and new ones both) go get a chilled beer and check out these super-ass-kicking bands and bang your heads off!