10 awesome ’80s thrash metal live videos to watch right now
With the pandemic keeping concerts as we know them cancelled, we've been posting some of our favorite live videos every weekday to help tide you over for when you can finally get to a show IRL. Sometimes we pick a theme, like '90s punk or '80s hardcore, and here's another themed one: '80s trash metal.
There's been a real thrash resurgence happening for a while now -- with great new bands, reunions and comeback albums from classic bands, and the continued relevance of the classic bands who never broke up -- and a lot of the bands on this list are bands who were touring right before the pandemic started and/or had shows planned for later this year. But for the purposes of this list, I stuck only with footage filmed in the '80s, which means sometimes things get a little grainy, but it's a real treat that we're able to see and hear this stuff 30+ years later.
Ten is obviously a small number and there are way more videos available that we could've included, but we think this is a nice selection of thrash viewing and we'll keep posting more live videos as long as quarantine is in effect, so maybe there's even more thrash to come. Also, I didn't pick the most obscure bands or anything, but I intentionally left off Metallica (who we recently posted '80s footage of) and Slayer (ditto) in favor of including some of the slightly less obvious bands.
And if you want to keep the party going after you watch the videos, I put together an '80s thrash quarantine Spotify playlist featuring all ten bands on this list and 16 others. Subscribe and stream at the bottom of this post. Okay, less talking, more thrashing. On with the videos...
Anthrax @ Hammersmith Odeon in London, UK - 11/16/1987
The same year Anthrax released Among the Living, they played London's historic Hammersmith, which was captured on pro-shot film. Even today, Anthrax are one of the most purely fun classic thrash bands to see live, and they were even more of an adrenaline rush in their late '80s prime. There's hardly a moment where all four non-drummer members aren't running around the stage at once, and it feels like they cranked up the speed of just about every song during this set. They're giving it their all, and going by the volume of the crowd singalongs, everyone who got to witness this show IRL gave it right back.
Whiplash @ Scum in Katwijk, Holland - 4/23/1988
Across the river from Anthrax in Passaic, NJ, Whiplash were crafting a rawer, more evil style of thrash metal that was already perfected by their 1986 debut LP Power and Pain and sounded just as vicious on the following year's Ticket to Mayhem. The year after their sophomore LP came out, they played this Holland show, which is some of the only '80s era, full-concert footage of this band that seems to exist on YouTube. It's a little rough, but it does a fine job of showing that these guys were as maniacal on stage as they were in the studio. And the constantly-moshing, stage-diving crowd was full of its fair share of maniacs too. Tony Portaro's screams are as coarse in this recording as they are on the records, but the real treat is watching him shred. His fingers move so goddamn fast.
Death Angel @ Scum in Katwijk, Holland - 6/24/1988
Here's footage from that exact same Holland venue two months later of Bay Area greats Death Angel, who were about to release their sophomore album Frolic Through the Park just a week and a half after this show. They tore through a set of songs from both that album and their '87 debut The Ultra-Violence, and the whole thing ripped. The band's just a relentless riff machine, and Mark Osegueda's vocals soared, even more so than they did on the band's early records.
Vio-lence @ Empire Rock Club in Philadelphia, PA - 7/10/1988
Up next: Death Angel's Bay Area neighbors Vio-lence. This Philly show was just a few months after Vio-lence's now-classic debut album Eternal Nightmare came out, and this video quality sucks, but the sound is good and it still shows you how apeshit this band was in their prime. According to a commenter who say they were there, "the place was over capacity by about 100 people and the air units were broke. It was about 110 degrees in there that day." Still, that didn't stop the band and crowd from remaining in constant motion for the entirety of this show. Vio-lence already sounded tough on Eternal Nightmare, and as this video shows, they looked it on stage too. Especially vocalist Sean Killian -- he's a total madman.
Overkill @ Paramount Theater in Peekskill, NY - 8/31/1988
Also from NJ (like Whiplash) were Overkill, and here they are on the Under the Influence in Peekskill, NY. The sound quality of this video is noticeably rougher than that of Under the Influence, but it only makes Overkill sound more badass. And even with the scratchy audio, Blitz's wails and Bobby Gustafson's shredding still sound out of this world.
Exodus @ Zeche in Bochum, Germany - 2/20/1989
After releasing their third album Fabulous Disasaster in early 1989, Bay Area thrash greats Exodus took that rager of an LP on a Europe tour and had this Germany show professionally filmed for a TV special, alongside an interview (which is spliced into the middle of this performance, with German overdubs). It's some of the best '80s-era full-concert footage that I've seen of Exodus, and it really shows you how much these guys had turned into kickass, bonafide stars by the end of the decade. (Compare it to one of their full concert films from 1985, which is still great but the energy of this show is through the roof in comparison.) The then-new Fabulous Disaster songs already sounded perfect at this show, and when they break out a classic like "And Then There Were None," it's as cathartic as you'd hope.
Sodom @ Eissporthalle in Braunschweig, Germany - 6/10/1989
This list is admittedly American-heavy, but Germany had a great thrash scene in the '80s too and one of their finest bands was (and still is) Sodom. Just days after releasing their third album Agent Orange, they played this home country show, which kicked off with the new album's title track and went on to include a nice selection of songs from Agent Orange and their earlier albums and EPs (including their cover of Motorhead's "Iron Fist"). Sodom had an especially evil style of thrash that's often been considered proto-black metal, and you can really feel the blackenedness in this performance. Some of these videos are pure fun, but this one is pure filth.
Nuclear Assault @ Hammersmith Odeon in London, UK - 10/4/1989
Fast forward about two years from that pro-shot Anthrax show at the Hammersmith, and here's pro-shot video at the same venue Nuclear Assault (featuring former Anthrax -- and Stormtroopers of Death -- bassist Dan Lilker). Nuclear Assault were just on the cusp of releasing their killer third album Handle with Care, which they played nearly all of at this show, and they sounded as flawless as they do on the record. There's a charm to the shaky/blurry/grainy footage we often get of this era (and it's often our only option anyway), but this super pro video is beyond rewarding. You feel like you're right there with the band, and you really get a feel for how much this band ripped in their prime.
Testament @ Country Club in Reseda, CA - 10/6/1989
Just two days after that Nuclear Assault show in the UK, Testament supported their killer third album (Practice What You Preach) with this show in the band's home state. Like on the new album, the show opened with the title track, and it's a total thrill to see Testament kicking off a show with a fired-up rendition of this now-classic song when the song was just two months old. The rest of the set was heavy on the new album, and they also played "Into the Pit," "The New Order," "The Preacher," "Do or Die," "C.O.T.L.O.D.," and plenty of other favorites from the first two albums, and the intensity never let up once. Testament are true lifers who have put out beloved albums and life-affirming live shows long past the original prime thrash era, but still, there's nothing like being able to witness the boundless energy they had in the late '80s.
Suicidal Tendencies @ The Ritz in New York, NY - 10/20/1989
Suicidal Tendencies debuted as more of a straightup hardcore band on their timeless, classic, 1983 self-titled debut, but by their 1987 sophomore album Join the Army, they started introducing thrasher influences and helped pioneer the sound, look, and style of crossover trash. That was followed by 1988's How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can't Even Smile Today and 1989's Controlled by Hatred/Feel Like Shit...Déjà Vu, and just three days after releasing the latter, they played this show at NYC's Ritz (now known as Webster Hall). Suicidal Tendencies have had like a zillion cool members over the years, but this lineup of the band (current Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo had recently joined) remains one of their best and this video really shows how much of a force they were. No matter how metal the riffs and solos got, Cyco remained a hardcore frontman at heart, and it's cool as hell to watch him barking and stomping around at this show as Rocky George shreds.
Keep the party going with this 26-song '80s thrash quarantine playlist: