From simplistic fun to technical wizardry: The bands taking thrash forward

Looking back, it’s easy to associate different eras of heavy metal with specific subgenres, usually because it’s when they first emerged and were most fruitful, but what will future generations think looking back at the metal of 2020? Right now, it seems like the genre is more of a free-for-all than ever, with bands from across the globe tinkering with existing styles, trying to innovate by twisting them into unique new shapes or simply playing a sound they love to an audience that’ll never get tired of hearing it. The OSDM revival is in full-swing and the array of subgenres that fall under the wider doom umbrella continue to be a breeding ground for exciting new sounds, whilst black metal is being pulled in all manner of directions. Looking at the genre as a whole, every subgenre seems to be thriving to at least some degree, but if there’s one core subgenre that’s somewhat lost amongst all the mayhem it has to be thrash.

Perhaps this is because many of thrash metal’s core facets make it a genre within which it is surely harder to innovate. The metal scene enforces pretty rigid genre definitions at the best of times, and thrash suffers from this heavily. It’s surely also noteworthy that the genre was once the fastest, heaviest thing going, but that’s no longer the case – if death metal is heavier, black metal darker, grindcore faster and hardcore more rebellious, then what place does thrash have? But surely this is an oversimplification. Thrash is fun, it’s reckless, and it can balance all of these things instead of honing in on just one. Approach it not as what you know it to be but instead as what it could be, or play it with such passion and talent that no one can ignore what you create, and the genre can surely stand amongst any of its peers in terms of creativity.

This is what Power Trip showed us. The band have had such a huge impact on the metal scene because they showed us just how impactful thrash can still be, and performed it with such genuine heart and a focused but chaotic power that was truly arresting. The late Riley Gale’s unearthly howls and passionate live performances were a huge part of this, and it is for this reason, as well as him being by all accounts a genuinely kind-hearted person, that his passing affected so many people so deeply. It goes without saying that the band would have had pride of place on this list.

So whether it’s by fierce dedication to crafting potent thrash that stands amongst the best metal out there, subtly blending it with other styles or indeed warping it entirely, this list entails artists that are not just keeping thrash alive but taking the torch and guiding it forward.

Oozing Wound

Once described by Pitchfork as the “world’s fastest noise rock band” and by others as playing “thrash metal for people who don’t like thrash metal”, Chicago’s Oozing Wound boast a warped rendition of the genre, swapping out precision and technicality for a looser approach with a meaty, chugging tone. In stacking punky percussion and feedback-strewn riffs up against Zack Weil’s unsettling, shrieked vocals, the band create a strangely exciting dichotomy with a sound that simultaneously entails both the existential dread of the most stifling sludge and the no-frills fun of the most balls-to-the-wall thrash.


Seventeen years and six albums in, Ohio’s Skeletonwitch have done exceedingly well to keep the creative spark alive at a point in their trajectory at which they could so easily have opted to simply stick on the creative cruise control. Latest album Devouring Radiant Light sees them bridging the gap between the depraved realms of the extreme metal underground and the ever-so-slightly more commercially viable “mainstream” end of metal’s spectrum. At times dense and impenetrable (‘Temple Of The Sun’) and at others strewn with lavish melodies (‘Fen Of Shadows’), it’s a dynamic album that stays true to the band’s thrash template whilst introducing fresh ideas, most notably a slight blackened streak.


Kent five-piece Allfather paradoxically manage to keep things simple whilst creating a sound that’s so hard to define. Clear disciples of the riff in any form, the band somehow boast both a stoner metal groove and a chaotic thrashing energy. There’s only so much genre dissecting you can do before simply labelling something “metal” and calling it day, but regardless there’s enough thrash in there to warrant a place on this list, especially since the band’s latest live EP Century Sessions Volume 1 somehow found a way to add to the sweltering intensity of their sound.


With lyrics that seem to operate in a middle ground between personal turmoil and otherworldly science fiction, Ripper’s sound is a fierce mashup of death metal and balls-to-the-wall thrash, as if you’d caught Sepultura halfway between Schizophrenia and Beneath The Remains, only with a very slight tech-death element adding an extra level of dynamism. Latest demo Paranormal Waves is powered by a raw sound that skews ever-so-slightly in favour of their death metal influences, but for their best work you’ll want to seek out 2016’s Experiment Of Existence. The album jumps out of the gate with such power that you’ll be in awe a mere few tracks in.

Gama Bomb

Whilst the veteran names of thrash metal continue to sway further from the genre’s roots in terms of ethos, succumbing to capitalist tendencies or showing how out of touch they are by suggesting that today’s bands are “spoiled”, acts like Gama Bomb are bringing the spirit of early thrash into the 21st Century. Their music is fast as fuck, bursting at the seams with mammoth riffs, scorching solos and a healthy balance between fun-time party tunes and genuine sociopolitical commentary. Ragers like ‘Electric Pentacle’ and ‘Living For The Lockdown’ are tons of fun, whilst anti-fascist anthems are like ‘Racists!”, ‘Mussolini Mosh’ and ‘Alt-Reich’ are always very welcome in a metal scene still struggling with racism and white supremacy.

Rebel Wizard

There’s two kinds of metal fans – those who like Rebel Wizard, and those who hate fun. The one-man Australian project’s unique merging of thrash, black metal and classic metal à la NWOBHM is absolutely fucking brilliant. It’s the perfect encapsulation of everything that makes metal so great, boasting quality musicianship and inventive songwriting as well as ridiculously over-the-top imagery, not to mention tongue-in-cheek song titles like ‘Drunk on the Wizdom of Unicorn Semen’. For more on why the project is so brilliant, Astral Noize writer Stuart Wain wrote an insightful review on this year’s Magickal Mystical Indifference, which is well worth a read.

High Command

With a metal scene so stacked with quality bands, there’s something to be said for trying to innovate, but there’s also nothing wrong with playing a beloved style to an established audience, especially when you’re this fucking good at it. Few bands can match Massachusetts blackened thrash fireballs High Command for raw power and energy. The band’s sound surges forward with intent (and a fuckton of groove) on their debut full-length, with some scorching solos and monstrous vocals to boot.


Blending an old-school attitude with a youthful energy, this Colorado quartet are one of the most exciting and refreshing bands in the modern metal scene. Rather than wasting your time with needless theatrics, they get straight down to brass tacks, riffing first and asking questions later. The results are tight, concise songs that are both visceral and engaging, drawing from thrash, melodeath and at times black metal to bolster their ruthless assault.


Boasting some of the most potent metal of our times, Sylosis remain a strangely underappreciated band despite their gradual rise in status. The band have impressed by managing to improve on each and every album, a feat that is much harder than it seems (just think of how many acts struggle to manage it), with this year’s Cycle Of Suffering finding the inch-perfect middle ground between sheer force and incisive melody. There’s nothing exceptionally ground-breaking about the band’s music, but a subtle progressive streak and the ability to create thrash that’s vibrant and dynamic earn them a well-deserved spot on this list.

King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard

Perhaps the most surprising name on this list, given that they’re not thrash (or even metal, really), but that 2019’s Infest The Rat’s Nest was one of the year’s standout metal albums is perhaps a sign that the genre’s “metal or nothing” attitude can be limiting. The psych rock oddballs’ fifteenth album was part Bay Area thrash worship, part homage to stoner rock and part psychedelic mind-fuck. Most notably, it was a unique album that undoubtedly benefited from the band’s non-committal approach to genre.

Cryptic Shift

This UK ensemble’s latest album may kick off with a ridiculous 26-minute epic, but there’s nothing slow or laborious about their mind-melting blend of thrashy hyper-blasts and turbulent death metal. Their music feels like a cosmic assault on the senses, and deserves to be considered amongst the best and most dynamic extreme metal currently in circulation.

Black Fast

One of the US’s most thrilling tech-thrash bands out there, Black Fast offer extreme metal of the highest calibre, with a style that refuses to rest on its laurels. Their material touches on black metal and death metal when it feels the need, using thrash as a mere building block to craft something bigger, bolder and better.


Sometimes it takes something truly out-there to satisfy your craving for sonic intensity. The frenzied assaults spewed forth by this Seattle ensemble are the perfect antidote, roaring forward with the antagonistic energy of thrash whilst obliterating like guttural, grotesque death metal. Latest album Interdimensional Invocations is an absolute must.

Alien Weaponry

Formed by three young Kiwis, Alien Weaponry may be inexperienced, but they clearly know much more about the spirit of metal than those who infest social media complaining about the genre “getting political” as if rebellion and social commentary hasn’t been part of the music from minute one. The band confront the darker aspects of New Zealand’s past, particularly colonial maltreatment of the Māori people, with a sound that doesn’t get enough credit for its originality. They aren’t exactly about to invent a new subgenre but their rough-around-the-edges blend of Hatebreed-esque belligerence and battle cry thrash reminiscent of Sepultura is certainly unique to them.


Brazil’s history of high-quality thrash is being kept well and truly alive by bands like Nervosa, a quartet with a new album just around the corner. Early singles point to yet more thrashy delights in store, but the band have also shown themselves to be more versatile than your average outfit through some dynamic songwriting and musicianship. The group manage to stand head and shoulders above the crop of decidedly average thrash metal out there simply by so viscerally maintaining the genre’s core ideals of dizzying riffs and pointed political commentary.


If thrash is to endure, it’s crucial to see it mingling with other styles, allowing artists to explore new avenues and thus breathe fresh life into the genre. With some of the best riffs going, Texans Judiciary use sprinkles of chaotic thrash to spruce up their lively strain of groove-laden metallic hardcore. The result is a gloriously filthy tone. This is a band advancing the genre by playing it with pure unbridled passion and absolutely no remorse.

Moon Of Soul 

This Hungarian ensemble are a lesser-known proposition that have been going for 24 years, and despite their output slowing down significantly in recent years, the technical proficiency on display in their riffs makes them well worth your time. The clean vocals sit surprisingly neatly on top of the progressive yet volatile metal, so whilst the band haven’t released anything since 2017’s Világteremtő and seem quiet online, we think they’re worth including here.


Driven by the thunderous thrashy percussion of Sepultura legend Iggor Cavalera and the studio wizardry of producer extraordinaire and Big Lad synth maestro Wayne Adams, Petbrick have defied genre to such an extent that they’ve been referred to by all manner of bizarre identifiers in reviews and features, but this writer posits that “noise-thrash” is perhaps as accurate as you’re gonna get. The duo’s industrialised concoctions certainly surge forward with the riotous adrenaline of thrash, perhaps offering us the perfect insight into just how far the genre’s template can be twisted.


It’s insanely tough to craft retro-thrash that actually revitalises not just the sound but the feel of a certain period in time, yet Scotland’s Hellripper make it look easy. Channelling the spirit of an early ’80s post-Ace Of Spades thrash band but simultaneously brandishing an energy that feels uniquely modern, Hellripper excel by putting their foot on the accelerator with devilish delight. October’s The Affair Of The Poisons is undoubtedly the blackened thrash album of 2020.


Portland’s Cliterati are much more than just a thrash band – in fact, they lean more frequently towards high energy hardcore and crust punk. But guitarist Melissa has no doubt brought over a talent for thrashy riffs from other band Order Of The Gash (a killer blackened thrash band in their own right), and it’s this blend that makes the band’s music so potent, making them a fine example of how thrash’s finest assets can be utilised to create something that’s more than the sum of its parts.

Astral Noize Issue 6 is available now. Order here.

Words: George Parr

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