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The Best Thrash Metal Album - Metal Storm Awards 2021





Dutch thrashers Cryptosis are actually Distillator with a new name, but the change in name did not just happen for rebranding purposes; it also brought a shift in sound. Cryptosis are still a thrash band on top of it all, but now they have a more technical and progressive character. The Dutchmen showcase technical prowess both in the songwriting field as well as execution-wise, and it is undeniable that Bionic Swarm is more interesting than what the band members did with Distillator. Conceptually, they are into sci-fi and they are also fans of the Black Mirror TV series, which earns them extra points. Overall, Bionic Swarm is a promising debut of modern but - thankfully - undiluted thrash metal and, while in anticipation of a new Vektor full-length, this is definitely worth your time.

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Enforced, not to be confused with Enforcer, despite the retro DNA they share, seem to have been so impactful with their debut album, At The Walls, that they instantly made the jump to Century Media Records. And the result, Kill Grid, feels like a bigger budget album, less raw but more pummeling. The two guitarists of Enforced spend the record throwing meaty riff after meaty riff and breakneck paces and headbang-inspiring rhythms. Put Knox Colby's hardcore shouts on top and you've got yourself into a wild ride. So wild, you can't help but abuse your neck. Pure blunt force trauma.

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Blunt, unashamedly uncompromising, and oh so enjoyable, Exodus return after what feels like too long, delivering the goods in the way no one else does better. With Zetro cementing his place back behind the microphone alongside the return of Holt to the helm, the band tears through an album laced with some of the most cutting, visceral, and down right intense thrash metal this side of the ‘80s. Exodus continue to highlight why they are often considered the honorary member of the thrash elite, with releases such as these that leave a trail of destruction in their wake.

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Continuing perhaps the unlikeliest late career revival in metal, Flotsam And Jetsam have as of late produced a slew of album-of-the-year contenders whenever they put out a new record; with 2021’s Blood In The Water being no different. With Knutson having perhaps the most ageless voice in thrash, the combination of these melodic vocals with the guitar tandem of Gilbert and Conley makes for must-hear listening. Woe betide the person who sleeps on this beast and continues to write the band off as a band whose best days were left in the ‘80s.

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This is a different kind of Cavalera Conspiracy, one featuring Max and his son, Igor, Jr., alongside Khemmis/Black Curse drummer Zach Coleman; Go Ahead And Die functions partly as a spiritual successor to the elder Cavalera's Nailbomb project, but the junior member brings a lot of his own spirit both vocally and lyrically. Each track is a blunt bruiser of simple, punk-like abrasions, fueled by anger over societal ailments like police brutality, the mistreatment of immigrants, and religious extremism. Whether its approach is beastly and menacing or swift and lean, this album has one message that will reach you for sure: go ahead. Make Max Cavalera’s day.

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Molten come from San Francisco (where the best kind of thrash metal was once made) and Dystopian Syndrome is their debut. And this debut has everything a no-frills metal fan wants: headbanging riffs, body-moving bass rhythms, menacing and versatile vocals, pounding drums, and intricate solos appearing from everywhere and often when you least expect them. It is a death-loving thrash metal record, but it very much relies on traditional heavy metal as well, particularly as far as the lead guitar work is concerned. Dystopian Syndrome is alternately heavy and melodic and an extremely satisfying embodiment of the combined energies of thrash, death, and heavy metal.

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The Final Chapter leans heavily on the melodic side of thrash but without losing in aggression, and fans of modern Kreator should love it. The lead guitar is omnipresent, with stunning licks and fantastic solos all around, while its groove is incredibly addictive. Thrash metal albums often become tired quickly after a few listens and even during the first listen, with the songs being repetitive and lacking hooks, but The Final Chapter is chock full of hooks and gets better as it progresses; it really takes off when "Purgatory" starts and does not let up after that. The stellar lead guitar work, the on-point production, and the fact that its content is strong throughout will make you hit 'replay' the moment it finishes.

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Nekromantheon combine the sadistic mania of old Slayer, the gruff brutality of old Sepultura, and the frenzied, flesh-rending fury of an old demonic entity to create an onslaught of thrash that's as vibrant and fun as it is rough and raw. They succeed where so many other modern thrash bands fail: they seek not to copy the sound of the elder titans, but to recreate the energy that made the classic albums so invigorating and deadly in the first place. Visions Of Trismegistos has clear forerunners in bands like Kreator and Testament, but it's pure Nekromantheon in the end, and because they understand how to create music and not just copy music, that means a killer album full of haunting melodies, dark atmosphere, and ripping riffs that stands amongst the best of this generation of thrash.

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If you ever wondered what it would sound like if a thrash metal band did a tech death metal album, here's your answer. Blend tech death sounds from when thrash was still a huge component of the sound (think Atheist and Pestilence) with some more modern sounds (think Gorod and Obscura) but merge that with more technical thrash (think Watchtower and Voivod), and you've got an album whose closest tangent to death metal lies in the vocals. Take that away, and you can feel the aggression in a very thrash-specific way. And dear Lord, those snares!

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One impressive thrash metal debut was given to us by Paranorm in 2021. You don’t often come across a band that plays thrash metal and adds death and progressive elements to their sound. If this was a chemical experiment, you would expect this to explode. And while Empyrean does explode in many ways, it’s for all the right reasons. This blend Paranorm has created on their maiden album works brilliantly: it’s aggressive, yet very nuanced at times; it's fast-paced, yet it leaves open enough room to broaden the sound with some experimentation. Empyrean is an intense and engaging thrill ride. In short, it’s an absolute banger!

Bandcamp / YouTube (full album)

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