The EP was a popular format for thrash bands signed to cash strapped labels. Typically holding between three to five songs, bands filled these shorter records with a variety of material. Sometimes an EP unveiled new songs. Other times the format doubled as a live album. Cover songs were another popular option. Join us as we explore the glory days of the Thrash EP!
SLAYER- HAUNTING THE CHAPEL
Clocking in at just over 13 minutes, Haunting the Chapel was the perfect follow-up to Show No Mercy. “Chemical Warfare” and “Captor of Sin” were instant classics. Live versions later appeared on Live Undead and Decade of Aggression. Both songs remain staples of Slayer concerts.
The title track is an underrepresented gem in the Slayer catalogue. “Haunting the Chapel” embraces the “satanic” theme common among eighties metal bands. Slayer’s tale of hellish ghosts unleashing fury on the house of God was so over-the-top, no rational person took the lyrics seriously.
NUCLEAR ASSAULT – BRAIN DEATH
Nuclear Assault made quite an impression with Brain Death. The title track is a 7 minute thrash epic. Clean guitars create a solemn soundscape. Light overdrive builds intensity before escalating into pure thrash. “Brain Death” showcases the musical sensibilities of a band that had yet to release a full-length album.
Connelly’s voice is abrasive yet musical. It’s the perfect tone to convey the terror of being strapped to a hospital bed as insane doctors perform lethal surgery. Glenn Evans holds a groove but also plays at breakneck speed. Harmony guitars dash in and out of the sound spectrum during the breakdown. Dan Lilker holds it all together. It’s a well-planned masterpiece that is miles beyond the average thrash band.
KREATOR – OUT OF THE DARK…INTO THE LIGHT
Out of the Dark…Into the Light has everything that an EP could offer. “Impossible to Cure” was a brand new Kreator song. The band also recorded cover songs by Raven and Tygers of Pan Tang in addition to live tracks.
A trio of Kreator classics round out the EP. Recorded at Einhoven’s famed Dynamo Club in 1988, “Terrible Certainty,” “Riot of Violence” and “Awakening of the Gods” capture the intensity of a Kreator concert.
TESTAMENT – LIVE AT EINDHOVEN
In 1987 Testament only had one album. Suddenly the little thrash band from the Bay area found themselves across the Atlantic and playing on a festival stage. Before a sea of European fans, Testament rips through material from The Legacy. They play with the energy of a young band tasting an early sign of success. Live at Eindhoven immortalizes five songs from that rain-soaked set of metal.
FORBIDDEN – RAW EVIL
Raw Evil:Live at the Dynamo captures three songs from Forbidden Evil, including an inspired romp through their classic “Chalice of Blood.” The real treat of the EP is a Judas Priest remake. Technical and anthemic, “Victim of Changes” represents the very pinnacle of early Priest. Forbidden nails every part. Intricate harmonized guitars, complete with moody breakdown, are flawlessly reproduced. Russ Anderson belts out the high notes with the same ease as Rob Halford. Raw Evil documents a passionate performance from a tragically underrated band.
ANTHRAX – I’M THE MAN
Anthrax may be the kings of the EP. Armed and Dangerous, I’m the Man, Attack of the Killer B’s, Penikufesin and Anthems kept fans swimming in covers, live tracks and amusing comedy songs. I’m the Man is particularly memorable for its hilarious title track. Three versions of the rap/metal hybrid fill the EP with endless laughs.
There were no worries that Anthrax had abandoned thrash. Fresh off the heels of Among the Living, the EP is closed out with live versions of “Caught in a Mosh” and “I Am the Law.” Perhaps most memorable was a spot on cover of “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.”
DARK ANGEL – LIVE SCARS
Dark Angel had undergone a transformation in 1989. After two albums, including the landmark Darkness Descends, the band parted ways with original singer Don Doty. Leave Scars debuted new vocalist Ron Rinehart and holds the distinction of being Dark Angel’s most successful album.
The following year, Dark Angel released Live Scars. Alongside material from the new album, the EP featured Rinehart singing classic Don Dotty songs. The blistering tempos of Gene Hoglan remain in tact and offer insight to the acclaimed drummer’s nickname as “The Atomic Clock.”
OVERKILL – FUCK YOU
When Overkill recorded the Subhumans classic, “Fuck You,” the song took on a life of it’s own. The punk anthem fit perfectly with the Overkill attitude and quickly became part of the live show. Thirty years later, “Fuck You” remains a highlight of Overkill concerts.
The cover art was particularly memorable. Not only was Blitz’s middle finger boldly emblazoned on the vinyl 12 inch, but the cassette version arrived in stores with a censored cover. The insert featured the Overkill logo on a simple white background with the message “The record THEY tried to ban.” It was a spirited swipe at the PMRC whose “Parental Advisory” sticker was featured in the lower corner. Once opened, fans simply had to turn the reversible cover inside out to restore the original art.
In addition to the title track, 4 live songs capture Overkill in support of Taking Over. With Rat Skates on drums and Bobby Gustafson on guitar, the classic line-up runs through tracks from the first two albums. Classics like “Rotten to the Core” and “Use the Head” are interspersed by Blitz’s colorful stage banter. Fuck You perfectly captures the energy and excitement of the 80’s thrash scene.
MEGADETH – HIDDEN TREASURES
Megadeth have contributed songs to multiple movies and compilations. These soundtracks yielded no less than four videos that enjoyed frequent rotation on Headbangers Ball. Songs like “Go to Hell” were among the band’s best material but unavailable on a Megadeth album. That all changed with the release of Hidden Treasures.
Three cover songs complement the original material. Megadeth’s version of the Sex Pistols classic “Problems” was the only track to appear exclusively on Hidden Treasures. “Paranoid” was taken from a Black Sabbath tribute album but the most famous cover was Alice Cooper’s “No More Nice Guy.” A well-received video mixed footage from Wes Craven’s Shocker with images of a young Dave Mustaine. For the finale, Dave is strapped into an electric chair and executed.
METALLICA – THE $5.98 EP: GARAGE DAYS RE-REVISITED
Metallica fully embraced the EP format. The $5.98 EP: Garage Days Re-Revisited incorporated the budget price directly into the title. A hype sticker reinforced the price and instructed fans “DO NOT PAY MORE!!!”
What truly mattered was content. Five cover songs, mostly from obscure NWOBHM bands, were performed with the passion of early Metallica. Garage Days had the feel of a new Metallica album, even if they didn’t write the songs.
The sole cover NOT taken from a UK band was that of a punk group from Jersey. Already famous for wearing Misfits attire, Metallica now played their songs. The combo of “Last Caress” and “Green Hell” made for a powerful one-two punch. For a laugh, a few bars of Iron Maiden’s “Run to the Hills” are tacked on at the end as the EP fades out.
That concludes our Top Ten list of Thrash EPs. Be sure to also check out Sacred Reich’s Surf Nicaragua. It’s a flawless album and is the only EP to grace our list of Top Ten Thrash Albums!