Years of Decay 1988

12 min read

1988 was a monstrous year in metal history. Too many classics have been released back then and too many genre defining albums. In the end of the 80’s decade, hard rock and heavy metal were slowly but steadily losing ground, thrash was in its peak, and death metal was slowly infecting the earth. We sought for some gems, besides the too obvious choices, in order to return to those glorious days. 

Enjoy our 1988 tiny selection and most of all – enjoy your Sunday!

September 1988, Roadrunner Records

KING DIAMOND… I do not need to introduce it to anyone. Why? Cmon… It’s really necessary to say it? Lol… Let’s talk about the album and why I did choose it. When the album was out I wasn’t a teen yet and I didn’t know what metal was. Lol

I think that I heard this album around 92, can’t remember correctly. And… It’s King Diamond… And… read more

Grandma… Yes. It’s the album of the grandma. And? It’s good. The album is good, or… I think that I should say very good. Not the best album for me and for my music taste. But it’s very good. The Riffs, the structure of the songs, the solos, the voice, and all the falsetto. Unique… If you are younger the album you should listen to and know what was made in the past. Why? Because it’s metal history and it’s very good. Stay trve and stay metal.

The Key Keeper

September 1988, Noise Records

After leaving the darker and more satanic influences (so typical for the mid 80s)  in “Gates to Purgatory” and “Branded and Exiled”, RUNNING WILD decided that they were the pirates of heavy metal and “Under Jolly Roger was released in 1987. On the next year, the band anchored in “Port Royal” and it was the album which shaped in full these so typical RW sound and melodies. “Port Royal” was much more confident album by Rock’n’Rolf’s gang, with fantastic tracks, which for me definitely stood the time and still sound contemporary. And of course carrying the tiny dose of 80’s nostalgia read more

Since the very beginning the album grabs with its lively and dynamic melodic riffs. What instantly makes impression is the polished sound, especially in comparison to “Under Jolly Roger”, which uses the same song structures and themes. After the mandatory “Intro” come the immortal “Port Royal”, then “Raging Fire”, both anthemic, both catchy, easy to remember, but without getting fed up. “Into The Arena” is more dynamic, galloping. Up to now another very typical feature is the clear bass line and the active inclusion of the bass guitar with solos into the tracks. This clearly blows out into one of best ever instrumental tracks into the heavy metal music – “Final Gates”which is just a gate to the one of the most beloved and popular RUNNING WILD tracks – “Conquistadors”“Port Royal” continues confidently ahead with “Blown To Kingdom Come”, “Warchild” and “Mutiny”, until reaching the closing track – “Calico Jack” – an epic 8 minutes grandiose which showed how much the band had been grown up and what was the direction of their glorious sailing course. Yes, you can hear the creaking of the old wooden deck, and sense the smell of sea, rum, the wind in the canvas and the endless thirst for treasures and glory. Under Jolly Roger flag.

With “Port RoyaL”, RUNNING WILD began really to sail into their own water, firing their guns and winning new territories. This march continued into their next opuses – their zenith “Death Or Glory” and “Blazon Stone”. And despite that the band has always been predictable in a way, it never got boring in their best years 1984-1995. All their albums became heavy/speed metal hymns for all their true fans. And I’m one of them.

I’m riding free
Riding free with the wind
Free as an eagle
Proud as a king

Count Vlad

1988, Under One Flag

So when you’ve covered an underground, criminally ignored and underrated thrash Klassik of 1987, what do you do around 1988? You cover the follow up album from the same band! You may have read my piece on ‘87s Terror & Submission’ from L.A thrasher ‘Holy Terror’, so in my mind, it made perfect sense to throw down some words about their sophomore effort “Mind Wars”. read more

Without entirely rehashing my thoughts delivered on the “Terror & Submission” piece, it must be stated again, that this band and their demise has to be one of the greatest ‘misses’ of all time. Not only is ‘Mind Wars’ within a bees knees of matching the debut for musicianship and songcraft, but it and the debut serve as possibly – alongside ‘Tallica’s KEA + RTL, Metal Church’s MC + The Dark and Slayers SNM + HA – the greatest 1-2 combination in Thrash Metal history. The cards were all laid out, the mantle of taking Thrash forward as a genre was right there in Kurt Kilfelt’s grimy little hands. Then, not one year later, they relocate to Seattle, change their name to Shark Chum and churn out Punk Rock! What. The. Fuck? Whatever the reasons, the opportunity to really become a heavyweight in the genre went down the sewer. With the rest of the trash!

As for “Mind Wars” itself – look if you loved T&S, then getting hold of this follows up was pretty much mandatory! I know a few of my mates and I coveted its release intently. True to form, “Mind Wars” sounds like it was cut from the same songwriting sessions as the debut, and given a similar, yet somewhat slightly subdued production, it sits perfectly alongside the debut as its rightfully praiseworthy little brother. Some diehards even suggest that it is the better album of the two. The characteristic speed metal riff leanings and Possessed like intensity is there to witness along with the brilliantly conceived melodic phrasings that Kurt weaved through his riff work. If anything, Mind Wars comes off as slightly catchier album in its songwriting – nothing more evidently captured than on the magnificent gallop of ‘The Immoral Wasteland’ with its soulful lead work and the astounding vocal/lyric delivery of frontman Keith Dean. Having said that there are some brutally fast compositions to be found here – Debt of Pain, Damned by Judges, Do Unto Others and Christian Resistance to name but a few stellar moments.

“Mind Wars” is a magnificent beast. Essential Thrash in my eyes, delivered by a masterful band. Sadly after this, and despite several attempts from Kurt to resurrect the original line up, it was all over! The passing of Keith Dean in 2012 put an end to any further endeavours. One of the greatest travesties in Metal history.




Danzig – “Danzig”
August 1988, Def American

August 1988, I’d recently turned 7 and still lived in Melbourne, Australia. I remember a jingle on TV at the time “lets celebrate, let’s celebrate ‘88!” I don’t know what we were supposed to be celebrating. I don’t remember ’87 having a jingle. Maybe they were just waiting for a good rhyme. It would be another 12 years or so I guess before I came across that grumpy, little, black-winged, motorcycle-gang-Elvis who sometimes goes by the name of Danzig, but I like to call him Glen (I’ve never called him Glen). read more

By the time I heard Glen’s music he was already about 6 albums deep into a solo career, not to mention the previous Misfits and Samhain output. I must be honest here, to this day Misfits mean little more to me than the sewn on jacket patches of moody looking goth/punks and those preposterous haircuts (you know the ones, black and sculpted down in front of the nose. Is it supposed to look like a crow? Totally impractical for when you need to read the label of your Campbell’s Soup tin down at your local *insert regional supermarket chain name here*). But I digress.

Oh Glen, it’s a little unfortunate that your persona was so centred around the image of you as a ripped, dangerous, demon crooner, who’d ride in at midnight to seduce every doe-eyed young vixen and then disappear back into the darkness before the approaching dawn, ‘cos when that big fat guy knocked you out and we all got to watch it again and again forever (damn those smart phones) it really fucked with the mystique. But hey, that could happen to anyone. 1988 was a more innocent time. A time of ‘Beetlejuice’ , ‘Cheers’, ‘Rick Astley’ and the US shooting an Iranian passenger jet out of the sky, killing all 300 passengers. Ooops. Well at least there were no smart-phones.

I suppose ‘Danzig I-IV’ can be viewed as some kind of “classic” era of Glen’s band. That’s certainly all I really delved into with any great enthusiasm. Back in ’88, I can imagine the slick Rick Rubin produced debut with its bluesy feel, stripped back instrumentation, dark themes and John Christ’s squealing pinch-harmonics gimmick (he could have reined that in a bit) were pretty damned fresh. And hey, it all still sounds great today. Every track is a banger, from the rockin’ opener “Twist of Cain”, to the sleazy strip-joint friendly “She Rides”, to the super-charged “Am I Demon” (YEEEEAAAAAA), to your mother… I mean “Mother”. I’m not sure Glen is such a positive role model here if you take him at face value. I’m sure he makes a charming dinner guest though.

Cartoonish, self-glorifying, ridiculous, bare-chested, leather trouser wearing, Jim Morrison emulating hard rock… is fucking great! So enjoy it.


FORBIDDEN – Forbidden Evil
September 1988, Combat Records

So, 1988. The tail end of the 1980s, and a vibrant time for the metal scene in general with some amazing albums from Death, Testament, Slayer, Helloween and Queensryche, and Voivod. Despite the fact that most genres of metal were in fine fettle with many bands at the peak of their game – grunge was just around the corner with its plaid shirt and floppy haired tendrils that was about to shake things up; firing out Jane’s Addiction’s ‘Nothing’s Shocking’ and Mudhoney’s ‘Superfuzz Bigmuff’ as a warning shot, whilst the scene carried on absolutely oblivious. read more

Skating around that “obvious” comeback album from a certain thrash metal band who lost their bassist in a tour bus accident two years prior, Forbidden released their much anticipated debut album eventually in 1988 in the form of ‘Forbidden Evil’ (taken from what they were originally called before they dropped the latter half of their name). They had cut their teeth with a couple of  demo tapes and gigs, and were set to conquer the world an potent mix of breakneck riffs and the soaring vocals of Russ Anderson. The album is a joyous treasure trove, with tracks such as ‘Forbidden Evil’ and ‘Through Eyes of Glass’ demonstrating some very accomplished song writing and musicianship, notably with the guitar solo duels of Glen Alvelais and Craig Locicero deployed with bewitching effect, underpinned by the precision drumming of Paul Bostaph as the icing on a delicious cake of precision thrash metal.

Alas, by the time I discovered them (better late than never perhaps?) in 2000, A LOT had happened since then. Thrash was dead, grunge was dead, hair metal was dead – and we were in the middle of the nu metal and pop punk explosion where decent musicianship was swept under the carpet for down tuned monotonous guitars, lazy mumble rap vocals, baggy trousers, and stupid haircuts. One night, coming back from Maximes (a rock night that existed in Wigan, in the North West of the UK) I piled into the back seats of a Rover 600 used as a private hire taxi, with the most unlikely driver you’d ever encounter driving a middle class, old man’s car (for those outside of Europe, think of a British form of Cadillac). Because he’s a metalhead, a proper thrash metal type as well! Who played a mix tape of Obituary, Death, Testament, and Candlemass on a Blaupunkt stereo. We chatted about the night, lamented the nu metal craze doing the rounds, swapped numbers and have been in touch ever since, becoming one of my best friends. I didn’t know too much about thrash, ergo he didn’t know much about black metal and death metal – so a friendship was forged, throwing different bands and albums at each other to check out. A couple of which, was this album and Metal Church’s self titled debut – played back on his Naim Audio setup paired up with a Roksan Xerxes turntable (brilliantly, appreciated a good hi-fi setup too!), one dark winter night over a few bottle of Newcastle Brown. A friend in need is a friend indeed, especially when they’re a fellow metalhead.

Goth Mark

GRAVE – “Sick, Disgust Eternal” Demo
September 1988, Independent 

My pick for 1988 is the “first” demo from GRAVE, the first is not entirely correct, they released 2 tapes before that under the name CORPSE (formed in 1986). In September 1988 they entered “The yellow House” in Visby to record “Sick, Disgust Eternal” demo. As one of the longest running bands of the Swedish Death Metal scene, that first Demo is a clear sign of what is to come, 3 years before their debut album “Into the Grave” released in 1991, now a milestone in Death Metal. read more

The production of this demo has always puzzled me, (in demo terms its crystal clear) every detail is there nothing is lost.  The content is 3 tracks + an intro called “Pacemaker Death” with an eerie dark feel to it, evolving into an early version of their classic “Into the Grave” track later appearing on the debut album with the same name. “Annihilated Gods” and “Infernal Massacre” are the two other tracks on this demo, they are both ripping examples of early Grave, sadly they don’t appear on later official recordings. The rawness of a demo recording has its own charm, but in hindsight, this could easily be pressed to a vinyl and released “as is”. This is GRAVE, not the typical Swedish Death Metal band, perhaps more musically related to the American bands of that time. Anyway, still active today GRAVE is true to its roots and have forever earned their place in Death Metal history. 


RAZOR – “Violent Restitution”
January 1988, SPV GmbH

Throughout the 80’s, Canada had a boon of quick as hell thrashy metal with a serious attitude. With a more traditional heavy metal structure and a raw vocal style backed up by blisteringly speedy riffs, bands like RAZOR along with Anvil, Exciter, Sacrifice, Voivod, and Annihilator were flying the Canadian flag high. RAZOR were one of the first metal bands I started listening to during my metal awakening, and I distinctly remember my older brother telling me about how they were from Guelph Ontario, which was right up the road of where I grew up. When I checked out their albums, their 5th album “Violent Restitution” really caught my eye with it’s bloody chainsaw album art and it’s non-stop onslaught of ravenous riffs to ingest. read more

“Violent Restitution” is a staple release from RAZOR, however it’s still overshadowed sometimes by their breakout album Evil Invaders. This album absolutely rips, and in my opinion it’s their best work! It’s the last to feature the bands original vocalist Sheepdog McClaren on vocals, with his gritty and aggressive punky style and infamous shriek helping to drive home the speedy guitars and drums. RAZOR gives you pretty much everything you’ve come to know and love about speed metal but they also bring a bit more to it. Songs like “I’ll Only Say It Once” and “Edge of the Razor” instantly hook you in with their dirty basslines,  shredding breakdowns, and face melting solos but they also incorporate the extra details like a throttled up chainsaw in “Taste The Floor” which instantly satisfies the visceral urge for carnage in a most memorable way.

It has been interesting to observe the way culture and history repeats itself. In the modern metal landscape there seems to be a revival of old school sounds, with simple crunchy and fast as hell riffs making their way back into the spotlight. Pulling from work such as “Violent Restitution”, there is a speed metal renaissance at hand. Bands like Chainbreaker, Bewitcher, Hellripper, and Deathhammer now lead the charge, but it’s always nice to go back and pay respect where it’s due. RAZOR’s “Violent Restitution” has a nonstop pace and a primal aggression perfect for metalheads all across all spectrums. Grab some beer or your beverage of choice, it’s time to blast some RAZOR!

Metal Yeti



Truly Yours,
Blessed Altar Zine Team

**Please support the underground! It’s vital to the future of our genre

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