Contract In Blood: A History of UK Thrash Metal (book review)

The hard part of reviewing a book as good, as well-written, unique and badly needed as Ian Glasper’s never-to-be surpassed Contract In Blood: A History of UK Thrash Metal is keeping the review to a respectable length (the temptation to write one as long as the book is immense). Anyone who writes about music appreciates how much work goes into it, so kudos to Glasper for all his hard work. There is so much musical history here, so many fine bands that the temptation to just keep sharing them with you all is immense. But, it is best you buy Contract In Blood for that – you won’t regret it.

Chapter One covers The Northeast, with such bands as Venom (no thrash without Venom, and I was delighted to see Venom Inc featured – Venom Inc are the true keepers of the Venom flame); Atomkraft (who feature Venom/Venom Inc’s Demolition Man! I must hunt down Total Metal: The Neat Anthology), Toranaga, Warfare, Slammer (splendid fellows), Hellbastard and Evile (I interviewed Matt from Evile for Zero Tolerance magazine, and he really is a sound man. I was glad to read they will have a new album out in 2019.) There must be something in the water up north!

Chapter Two: The Northwest covers such bands as Xentrix and SSS (aka Short Sharp Shock). Xentrix were very popular back in the day, but they fell pray to the ‘novelty thrash cover’ syndrome present in the UK scene at that time. In their case, they covered the Ghostbusters theme which became something of a millstone around their necks. (Please check out Dearly Beheaded spin-off band, Damnation’s Hammer, a hybrid of Celtic Frost and Candlemass, they have a new album out soon entitled Unseen Planets, Deadly Spheres).

Chapter Three: The Midlands gives us Sabbat, one of the greatest British metal bands ever, in some alternative universe they are Iron Maiden huge. Their two albums Dreamweaver and History of a Time to Come are essential for any collection. Hugely influential, their history would be an article in and of itself. (Two things while I’m at it. Firstly, I’d like to thank Martin Walkyier for his gift of two signed Sabbat albums to me, a truly lovely chap, and I will always be grateful for that. Secondly, Sabbat have some very good demo recording and a flexi they did for White Dwarf gaming magazine, so why has some enterprising label never released them? So there’s an idea for anyone with a record label reading this.) This chapter also features the criminally under-rated Sacrilege, whose career, sadly brief as it was, covered crust-punk, thrash and then doom metal. (I would love to see them reform and record again, meanwhile I can’t recommend them highly enough.) Cerebral Fix rightly get a lot of space, their Tower of Spite album is truly great

Chapter Four: The East features Fenriz (all hail!) faves English Dogs. Cliff Burton loved English Dogs. (Also check out English Dogs: The Metal Years on Candlelight.)

Chapter Five: The Southeast features Savage Messiah, who have since gone into a more mainstream metal direction, which is a good thing for them, I feel.

Chapter Six: The South features the stand-out Deathwish (who were signed to the same label as Motorhead and supported them on tour), I was pleased to read in Glasper’s book that Deathwish hope to do a third album.

Chapter Seven: The Southwest features Onslaught, a band that could have been huge but since reforming have produced great music – well done, fellows!

Chapter Eight features Wales. I was disappointed to find that The Beast from The Chase quiz show doesn’t have a thrash band but a splendidly-named band called Tortoise Corpse does feature.

Chapter Nine covers Northern Ireland with the much loved Gama Bomb. Part of Gama Bomb’s appeal is that they are their own audience; they love 80s films and metal, and that truly is as it should be.

Chapter Ten covers Scotland with the likes of Black Talon.

There is a useful discography section, and indeed, I see a few things reissued in recent years I would like to purchase – I’m sure you will do too.

The Q&A with Bernard Doe of Metal Forces fame is excellent too, we have such a dearth of printed magazines now that it’s hard to believe how influential Metal Forces was (I suggest you check out their website).

A big difference between, say, black metal and thrash, is thrash’s sense of fun, or craic; this is a good thing in my book. It’s pleasing to note there are plenty of new or newer bands like Cerebral Scar, Thrashist Regime (awesome name), Besieged and more.

To conclude, a superb book of a magic time (that lives on and is still living). And there is a terrific box set of music that you should invest in to accompany your reading. This book is a thing of thrash metal joy forever!

(Cherry Red)

www.cherryredbooks.co.uk | www.cherryred.co.uk

Review of Contract In Blood 5CD boxset, by Steve Earles

Review of Contract In Blood book, by Craig Hayes

Steve Earles

Steve Earles is author and co-author of numerous projects, including To End All Wars: The WWI Graphic Anthology, available summer 2014 (http://toendallwarscomic.wordpress.com/writers/).