Years of Decay 1989

14 min read

1989…30 years ago… Many metal classics were released. But we chose these ones.

Enjoy our 1989 selection and most of all – enjoy your Sunday!

DEFIANCE – Roadrunner Records
February 2019, Roadrunner Records

DEFIANCE… I only knew of this album around 1991/1992. And I can say it was “love at first sight” eheheheh. Or almost, I do not know. lol. The tape where I had this album recorded, rolled and rolled many times in my walkman. tchhhhh. read more

A few years later, afterward I got the LP in the old Strauss store (which I already mentioned here). This is an LP that still plays here in my house. The memories that come to mind … Tchhh … Bins moments listening to this great album by Thrash Metal.

Unfortunately, the band did not last for many years.

The Key Keeper

SODOM – Agent Orange
June 1989, Steamhammer

My today’s choice is a natural continuation of my 1987 YOD. A natural timeline. “Agent Orange” is SODOM’s next studio release after their 1987 “Persecution Mania”. It is an absolute thrash classic and it is almost on par with “Persecution Mania” in Sodom’s discography. Meaning – in 1989 SODOM released their second-best record ever. Featuring band’s most iconic line up with Tom Angeripper, Frank Blackfire and Chris Witchunter (RIP), “Agent Orange” is another war occupied record, bringing relentless thrash metal. It still carries the brutality of “Persecution Mania” without being so raw/primitive. On contrary to the next album “Better Off Dead” where the sound is significantly softer and it carries the spirit of NWBHM. read more

The Teutonic thrash competition has been furious just in these 85-90 years. All the bands grew and developed their playing and composing visibly, releasing absolutely forever classic album. SODOM’s music has always been great because of its simplicity, awesome riffs, and great drumming tempo. And yeah, that hammering bass of course. “Agent Orange” carries just this. Amazing headbanging tracks with absolute no remorse spirit, but also tamed energy. “Agent Orange” clearly demonstrates the growing up of the band in the thrash field. Since the opener “Agent Orange”, the album leads us through forever thrash “hits” like “Tired and Feathered”, “Incest”, “Remember the fallen”, “Magic Dragon”. “Ausgebombt” is among band’s most famous tracks too. Released as a single, “Ausgebombt” 7” features a cover of Tank’s “Don’t Walk Away” cover version. (yeah, in “Better Off Dead” we have another amazing Tank tribute by SODOM – on “Turn Your Head Around”)

Promoting the album in 1989 in Europe, SODOM took SEPULTURA to open for them on their live shows. The Brazilians have just released their all-time famous “Beneath The Remains” classic. I can imagine this has been a hell of thrash devastation.

In 37 minutes, SODOM created an awesome album with “Agent Orange”. I can never stay calm while listening to the above-mentioned songs. They are so fiery, so catchy, and sign and stamp an end of THE thrash decade, full of fantastic thrash klassiks coming from Europe, US or Brazil. I can rant a lot about that album, but it’s meaningless. That said, “Agent Orange” is among the most important thrash albums ever released. From those albums which happen once in a lifetime.

Count Vlad

W.A.S.P. – The Headless Children
April, Capitol Records

What a mighty return to form this album was from Blackie Lawless’ W.A.S.P. Having unleashed an out and out klassik with the self-titled debut in ’84, it could be argued that on the back of the serviceable ‘Last Command’ in ’85 and the decidedly shaky ‘Electric Circus’ of ’86, the trajectory of W.A.S.P prior to this 4th album was actually on a downward curve. read more

Expectations at the time were muted. Reassessing their position over the proceeding 3 years, ‘The Headless Children’ saw W.A.S.P & Blackie shake off the shock-rock/glam tendencies in the most dramatic fashion. This album marks the moment where W.A.S.P delivered something of true artistic value and actually made people sit up and take the band seriously. There is an emotive depth and maturity in the front half of this album that would clearly serve as a blueprint to Blackie’s ‘Idol’ album forays moving forward. Armed with a magnificent heavy production, a socially darker melancholic lyrical approach and the stunning drumming talents of Frankie Banali – THC is easily one of the greatest albums the band has ever captured on tape. As stated, the first half (opening 5 tracks) is virtually untouchable as a set of tracks, including the phenomenally inspired version of ‘The Real Me’. The trio of ‘The Heretic/THC/Thunderhead’ are massive tracks. Huge. Musically powerful and absolutely stunning in comparison to the material offered up on ‘Electric Circus’ some 3 years earlier. Still, THC isn’t perfect as the bands former knuckleheaded approach is still evident on average tracks like ‘Neutron Bomber’ and ‘Man Eater’ and even the well intentioned ‘Mean Man’. They’re not terrible by any stretch, but in the light of the albums front half, the quality drops away just a tad. Still, track quibbles aside, THC remains a favourite to this day and easily sits among one the best Metal albums of 1989.



GODFLESH – Streetcleaner
November 1989, Earache Records

I would love to be able to say that back in ’89 I was cool enough to be listening to GODFLESH, but really I was 8 years old and many years away from being able to process anything so dissonant, bleak and crushing.

It must have been about 2007 when I read an interview with a guy called Justin Broadrick, promoting his then band JESU. Broadrick spoke with this interviewer about his love for the first 5 KILLING JOKE albums, before going on to say how when the band later went on to dabble in trance remixes he felt physically sick. I remember thinking “who the hell does this weirdo looking guy think he is to be critiquing my idols?!”. Well, so I later discovered this “weirdo looking guy” was not only a member of an early incarnation of NAPALM DEATH (amongst other notable musical ventures) but the founder of one of the heaviest bands I’ve ever heard: GODFLESH. read more

To describe the band’s debut album “Streetcleaner”, I find myself reaching for words like ‘crushing’, ‘brutal’ and ‘savage. Although the guttural vocals for example would not be out of place on a Grindcore record, GODFLESH don’t use speed and head-spinning riffs for impact, instead “Streetcleaner” combines screeching guitar feedback, cavernous bass and sparse programmed drums, to form something that’s part Industrial and part Metal. While BIG BLACK had been hammering listeners with ear piercing, misanthropic, drum machine driven nastiness since the early ‘80s, GODFLESH emphasise deep, down-tuned tones, to make the overall sound more metal than punk.

The influence of early SWANS on tracks like “Locust Furnace” is apparent in the dragging, pounding beats and grim vocals and in general the resonance on this album is so visceral, that like SWANS’ “Cop” you can almost feel the percussion hitting you and the distortion on the verge of pealing your skin off. Needless to say this music is seriously grim. While NAPALM DEATH would offer an overtly political perspective, “Streetcleaner” comes across more as a demented, existential scream for the void.

Lazy music journalists talk about the birth of Nu-Metal as though it marks the origin of down-tuning guitars. I guess they don’t think it worth mentioning “Christbait Rising”. Now that’s heavy. If you want to hear how deep and brutally heavy a couple of guitars, a bass and some drum programming can get, it doesn’t get much more crushing than “Streatcleaner”.


DREAM THEATER – When Dream and Day Unite
Mechanic Records

Hot diddigy, 1989 eh? Another one of metal’s strongest years with albums such as Sodom’s ‘Agent Orange’, Sepultura’s blistering ‘Beneath The Remains’, Obituary’s ‘Slowly We Rot’ , and a pathology obsessed band from Liverpool called Carcass with the suitably filthy ‘Symphonies of Sickness’ to name just three – lest we be here all day reeling off sizeable lists. However, those choices are a little bit too obvious, aren’t they? Therefore, let’s talk about the 10 legged prog metal machine from New York called DREAM THEATER. read more

Dream Theater originally formed in 1985 covering Rush and Iron Maiden albums originally under the name of Majesty, initially as a 3 piece band comprised of guitarist John Petrucci, bassist John Myung, and Mike Portnoy on drums expanded further to include Kevin Moore on keyboards and vocalist Chris Collins. However, due to “life getting in the day” those early days where somewhat hectic and Collins was replaced by Charlie Dominici a year later in November 1986. A lawsuit was filed against the band due to unwittingly sharing the same name with another, resulted in them changing their name to Dream Theater, suggested by Portnoy’s father. Their debut album ‘When Dream and Day Unite’ was fraught with problems based upon their record label Mechanic Records messing them around, resulting in poor promotion and limitations on where the band played gigs. Dominici only managed to play four live shows until he was let go due to vocal limitations, to be replaced by James Labrie who has been the frontman ever since.

Annoyingly, when Dream Theater albums are mentioned people always think of ‘Images and Words’ and ‘Awake’, whilst their debut remains completely disregarded. Or rather, this is what happened in the late 1990s to me when I finally got the ball rolling hanging out with some friends; catching up with them a year after I started my first job and they have done other things such as university etc. “Dream Theater? Yeah mate, I’ve got ‘Images and Words’ and that’s all you need isn’t it?”, to which I found it hard not to roll my eyes in derision. Obviously, I knew better of course, due to rapidly “updating” my college tapes for shiny new CD’s, thanks to said job. Because of such things as “herd conformity”, they dismissed ‘When Dream and Day Unite’ as “crap”. Of course, what the hell would they know? Tracks such as ‘A Fortune in Lies’ are amazing, with one of the best intros of all time. Super dramatic drumming, searing lead solos, before it kicks of with THAT MASSIVE PHAT RIFF – thus:“DANDANDANDIGGADIGGADANDANDIGGADIGGA DAHHHN DAHNNN!”, 58 seconds in followed by a sweeping keyboard riff then Dominici sings “I can remember when, In the unity of our five-day session…”. To be honest, his vocals suit the album perfectly well as a whole, and the musicianship that pours from the CD is ridiculous. Then again, in a parallel universe, you can’t help but feel the band may have been a super obscure one album wonder that our esteemed scribe Kman talks about in his ‘Forgotten In Time’ tweets, known only to people with an elephantine knowledge of metal.

Thankfully, at some point in 1998 one of the lads from said ex-college group nicknamed Beavis rang me up one night after work, asking if I would be interested in seeing Dream Theater in Manchester who were touring their ‘Falling Into Infinity’ album. Naturally I jumped at the chance, booked two days off work and his dog eared Bedford Astramax van (the CD player was worth more than the van itself) rocked up outside my door one spring morning with four other mates of his piled in the back, whilst he attempted to break the land speed record and failing in a ten year old clapped out diesel van. Thanks to getting into Manchester very early on an opportunistic hunt for the band, we struck absolute gold when we discovered James Labrie, John Petrucci, John Myung, and Mike Portnoy in one of the most surreal occurrences of my life: We found them, buying fish and chips in a “chippy” that was a couple of streets away from The Academy – I SHIT YOU NOT! Brilliantly, they were the friendliest bunch of blokes you could ever meet, and weren’t phased in the slightest by five awe struck babbling 21 year old lads with combat trousers stuffed with CD booklets and Sharpie’s. The gig was as incredible as you could imagine, in a small intimate setting that had a bunch of lava lamps stacked on top of the amps and speakers in a simple, but effective stage show. And YES, they played ‘A Fortune In Lies’ , with a whole new dimension and power than I previously heard from that CD. Oh yes!

Goth Mark

TESTAMENT – Practice What You Preach
August 1989, Megaforce Records

I give credit to my older brother for introducing me to the likes of Metallica and the rest of the Big Four, but he should have started with TESTAMENT! “Practice What You Preach” came out on August 4, 1989 and I was a fresh 10 days old… Nevertheless, it quickly became one of my favourites after I heard it for the first time over 10 years later. It’s still one of my main go-to thrash albums, with it’s eye catchingly ominous album art just as relevant today as in the dying months of the 80’s. If you’re a fan of thrash metal, then it’s time to practice what you preach and blast some TESTAMENT!!  read more

The album aptly starts with the title track, “Practice What You Preach”, which proceeds to immediately punch you in the face with thrashy hooks and relentless drumming. They also seal the deal with the first of many barn burner guitar solos to set the mood. This album is a banger from start to finish and is full of memorable moments. “Perilous Nation” has a wicked opening bass riff, and “Sins of Omission” has such a brilliant misleading start before going in for the kill.

“Envy Life”, “Time Is Coming”, and “Blessed In Contempt”, carry the middle of the album well with no end to the madness. One of my favorite tracks of all time is “Greenhouse Effect”. To write a song about habitat destruction and global systems in 1989 brings a smile to my furry face. The hook that drives the song in the main riff is fantastic and the lyrics cuts like a knife with the sharp guitar tones utilized. “Our only hope to breathe again, to stop the madness closing in. What will we do when all is lost? Environmental holocaust!!”

One of the surprises on “Practice What You Preach” comes in the form of “The Ballad”, which offers an interesting change of pace to things. We get a rare window into Skolnick’s versatile ability before they kick things up back on “Nightmare (Coming Back To You)”. They close with the thrashy and quite funky instrumental song, “Confusion Fusion”. While the song is definitely not the best on the album, it is another quirk of the album I quite enjoy.

Let’s get one thing straight. TESTAMENT have been one of the most consistent thrash metal bands for years and Practice What You Preach is one of their best albums. Alex Skolnick’s guitar solos are leagues ahead of many of the main staples of thrash during this era. He turns every song into a complete hellraiser. perfectly placing quick shreddy fills and always offering unique full throttle solos to melt your face. When you combine this with the rest of the band and the always on point vocals of Chuck Billy, you get a band with all the thrashy goodness of the big 4 but with an extra layer of instrumental ability throughout the fury. In a genre filled with straight forward aggression, this is what pushes them ahead of the pack. They have a new album coming out this year, so if it’s been awhile since you’ve blasted some thrash metal, there’s never been a better time to be a fan of TESTAMENT!

Metal Yeti

EQUINOX – Auf Wiedersehen

When we are picking an album for a specific year, one tends to check out some sort of list of what came out that year. But when 1989 was picked, I knew right away a favorite from back then. Technical Thrash Band: read more

EQUINOX, and their debut album “Auf Wiedersehen”. In Norway at the time Metal music was almost entirely underground, the contemporaries of EQUINOX were bands like CADAVER, ARTCH, WITCHHAMMER, RED HARVEST and of course MAYHEM. The album was first released by Laughing Deer but was picked up by BMG very quickly and re-released immediately. Being signed to BMG was considered a “home run” for a Thrash band from Norway. At the time BMG was the third largest record company and the largest independent record company in the world. Sadly, they never gave EQUINOX the international launch they promised. The band released 3 more albums, before calling it quits with the release of “Labyrinth” in 1994. But the debut is still hailed as their pinnacle release, and my personal favorite. “Recorded and mixed in forty-five hours” gives it a fresh not overproduced sound, (some similarities with CORONER`s RIP album, but a bit rougher). The core of the band is brothers Grim and Skule and drummer Raggen, joined by Tommy on guitar in time for making of this album. No real weak spots, just an overall solid effort, outstanding tracks might be “Floating Man”, “Dead by Dawn” and of course “Auf Wiedersehen”. The album is a regular on my turntable, and now I have owned it for 30 years, how did that happen?


KREATOR – Extreme Aggression
June 1989, Noise Records

Although the pick for the year 1989 was difficult, Kreator´s fourth album “Extreme Aggression” did stand out. While having seen them live only once (shame) and yearning to see them again as soon as possible, it is also funny to think of the fact that the fourth album was released 30 years ago, when I myself was only about six months old. I still have to ask a certain older metal head brother why the Kreator albums were not a regular thing in my cradle. read more

So well into adulthood, I obviously had much to catch up on and they are nowhere done yet. By now 14 full length albums are out along with oh so many singles, splits, live albums and so forth and yet, returning to the old stuff is always just as much enjoyable as can be seen by the fact that Extreme Aggression didn’t enter German album charts until 2017 with the remastered issue, 28 years after it was released, even if it became a metal hit for them in Europe in 1989.

The album of course greatly increased their popularity outside of Europe as well, most like thanks to the video to the track “Betrayer” which became a major hit on MTV´s Headbangers Ball program. And even with the changing sounds and different approach towards looks and polished productions instead of shear brute force (I’m looking at you, glam poser bands!), Kreator still knew what had to be done and didn’t want to take the same path as others were taking. Easy examples such as Metallica and Anthrax which took pathways of more commercial approach, Kreator took the experimental pathway with death and industrial metal, resulting in different reactions from the long-term fans.

But hey! That’s evolution for you!

But that’s also later on.

“Extreme Aggression” followed the previous formula they devoted themselves to on the Terrible Certainty record with a certain continuing musical progression as can be heard, with some people even stating the record was superior to the previous ones in accordance with production and lyrics for example along with the more sophisticated guitar work instead of the previous harsh and ferocious material. The riffs are the main weapons in tracks such as “Don’t trust” and “Bringer of Torture” and even if some of the long-term fans viewed the material after Extreme Aggression to be of a complete different sort than they had been working with before, I believe Kreator managed to leave the 80s era of thrash respectfully with a leap into the new era without compromising what they stood for.


Truly Yours,
Blessed Altar Zine Team

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

(Visited 120 times, 1 visits today)