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VOIVOD Dimension Hatröss Album Cover Dimension Hatröss
4.34 | 50 ratings
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CORONER No More Color Album Cover No More Color
4.35 | 38 ratings
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VEKTOR Terminal Redux Album Cover Terminal Redux
4.30 | 26 ratings
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CRYPTOSIS Bionic Swarm Album Cover Bionic Swarm
4.43 | 9 ratings
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VOIVOD Killing Technology Album Cover Killing Technology
4.18 | 42 ratings
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VEKTOR Outer Isolation Album Cover Outer Isolation
4.18 | 40 ratings
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WATCHTOWER Control And Resistance Album Cover Control And Resistance
4.19 | 29 ratings
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MEKONG DELTA Dances of Death (And Other Walking Shadows) Album Cover Dances of Death (And Other Walking Shadows)
4.27 | 11 ratings
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CORONER Mental Vortex Album Cover Mental Vortex
4.12 | 34 ratings
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VEKTOR Black Future Album Cover Black Future
4.08 | 43 ratings
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MEKONG DELTA Lurking Fear Album Cover Lurking Fear
4.25 | 8 ratings
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REVOCATION Great Is Our Sin Album Cover Great Is Our Sin
4.22 | 8 ratings
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Synchro Anarchy
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ENSLAVED Where Is the Meaning

Album · 1994 · Technical Thrash Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Some bands have all the luck. Band names are important branding tools in finding an audience who will recognize your name and support your band by name alone if you’re fortunate enough to have such loyal fans. However in the dog eat dog of metal music sometimes a band that finds a name that fits its image is overshadowed by another band who happened to use the same name only the second comer was the one that managed to become famous and sell craploads of albums for decades on end. I’m talking about the band ENSLAVED and no not the famous Norwegian band that every extreme metalhead knows and loves so well.

This ENSLAVED actually came from Eastern Germany in the city of Cottbus situated on the Polish border somewhat southeast of Berlin. This band actually formed in 1990 a whole year before Ivar Bjørnson and Grutle Kjellson launched their successful band of the same name in 1991. Believe it or not there were actually TWO bands who chose the name ENSLAVED in Germany however the band from Crailshelm which formed around the same time never got beyond the demo stage. This ENSLAVED from Cottbus actually released two albums, two EPs and a split before disbanding in 1998.

ENSLAVED actually started out under the moniker Necrophenistic Nightmare before unfortunately choosing a name that would also be chosen by a band that would overshadow them for the rest of their career. Wisely the band changed its name to Killing Spree when it supposedly reformed in 2001 however only bassist Joerg Reinhardt appeared in the new so-called version of the band so i personally would call it a new band but whatever the case, these guys got ripped off big time due to the fact the Norwegian ENSLAVED has dominated the world of progressive black metal ever since it released its debut “Vikingligr Veldi” back in 1994 therefore absolutely nobody has heard of these guys and that’s too bad because these guys cranked out a brutally distinct version of death metal mixed with Teutonic technical thrash metal.

ENSLAVED’s debut full-length WHERE IS THE MEANING also emerged in 1994 but given the fact that this ENSLAVED came from the far eastern border city ain Germany shortly after the collapse of the entire communist block, it goes without saying that these guys didn’t have the advantages of living in a stable economic nation like Norway so it’s no surprise that these guys never really went anywhere on the world’s stage however it was certainly not for lack of talent. This ENSLAVED consisted of various members in its eight year run but on this album featured Carsten Gutsche (guitar), Lars Weber (drums), Jorg Reinhardt (bass), Frank Zerna (vocals) and Markus Lehnigk (guitars). WHERE IS THE MEANING showcased 11 tracks that went past the 45-minute mark.

This ENSLAVED was nothing like the Norwegian band. This band performed a fiery extreme metal more in the vein of Kreator and old school death metal bands however these guys were very much in that murky area between 80s thrash metal and 90s death metal with some technical chops that put them a few notches above many contemporaries so in that respect they were probably closer to bands like Mekong Delta, Sadus or Hellwitch but not quite as creative or advanced technically speaking. WHERE IS THE MEANING still though sounds quite distinct from most other tech thrash / death metal hybrids of the era. This band featured melodic trash metal chugs, off-kilter technical guitar riffing, straight forward old school death metal rampages and occasional guitar solos. The bass and drums were set to fury with blastbeats and war-like processions. The vocalist exclusively utilized guttural growls.

It’s really too bad this ENSLAVED didn’t A) choose a different name! B) live in a part of Germany more conducive to metal promotion C) continue on because… this band was actually pretty damn good. These 11 tracks have some amazingly diverse death metal riffs, tech thrash complexity, distinct percussive rhythms, well-balanced tightrope act between melodic sensibilities and atonal dissonance and best of all this band had a real feel for making authentic 90s extreme metal despite its isolation from the main scenes of the day. Perhaps this won’t dethrone any of the top dogs of the era but ENSLAVED deserves more attention than just having been a band that happened to choose a name that another successful band also chose. I wasn’t expecting to like this but it has a nasty charm that i can’t shake.

MEKONG DELTA The Music of Erich Zann

Album · 1988 · Technical Thrash Metal
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The Spotlight Kid
Mekong Delta are one of those bands that manages to stand apart, creating music which is truly unique in sound, scope and approach and "The Music Of Erich Zann" is no exception. In fact it might be the bands most ambitious offering in terms of their controlled insanity. Granted that the vocals by Keil can be a deal breaker for some with his totally bizarre and unique approach, however that's one of my favorite elements of this first incarnation of Mekong Delta's career. Sometimes singers come along who aren't conventionally good singers but they are so weird and unique in their delivery and ideas that they become just as captivating as those vocal gods we all know and love and Keil fits that mold for me on the first 3 Mekong Delta albums but especially here. I feel like this album gets unfairly maligned because yes the production is horribly thin and small sounding, however if you can look past that aspect the rewards are great. The crazy riffs, insane drumming, percolating bass lines and extravagant vocals make for a totally unique and wild ride. Harnessing the horror of Lovecraft, Mekong Delta created an album that while not for everyone is so loaded with creativity and originality and just down right bizarre coolness that for those with an adventurous spirit this album is sure to become a favorite as it has for me. a technical thrash metal classic.

VOIVOD Synchro Anarchy

Album · 2022 · Technical Thrash Metal
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siLLy puPPy
When Canada’s most distinguished technical thrash metal band VOIVOD hit the scene all the way back in 1984 with its balls-to-the-wall debut “War And Pain” the metal world wasn’t quite prepared for its impact as if this strange musical outfit had drifted in on some asteroid that hit the planet and suddenly infected the eardrums of musical extremists. The band pretty much created its own branch of metal music from the getgo and only preceded to drift into more avant-garde and progressive territories as time went on. Luckily the world caught up to the idiosyncrasies laid down by these Quebecois thrashers who easily distinguished themselves from the other so-called big four bands Sacrifice, Razor and Annihilator.

Despite having found its own unique musical niche in the now expansive world of metal music, VOIVOD remains even to this current day an act that sounds like no other. While some bands like Dream Theater or Metallica for example have legions of imitators, VOIVOD for some reason has never spawned an army of clones or bands that were influenced by them. None have even come close to its bizarre otherworldly mix of jangled guitar chord rampages, time signature quirkiness and slinking musical processions that really do insinuate a parallel reality that sits outside of the perception of most human beings trapped in the 3D construct. Yet somehow VOIVOD has tapped into the large potentials just outside of the perception of many and made a multi-decade career out of it.

With the loss of Denis D’Amour aka Piggy in 2005 it was presumed that the founder of VOIVOD’s unique guitar angularities would take his secrets to the grave but lo and behold the world had not only accepted VOIVOD’s unique musical visions but worshipped them. In came Daniel Mongrain to take the role as guitar mangler and has so far channeled the spirit of Piggy as if Piggy actually simply took over his body and continues to steer his music in an almost eerie similarity. Here we are in 2022 and VOIVOD returns with its 15th studio album SYNCHRO ANARCHY and the band which now features the lineup of Michel “Away” Langevin (drums), Denis “Snake” Bélanger (vocals), Mongrain on guitars and Dominique “Rocky” Laroche (bass) remain in the same lineup as 2018’s amazing comeback “The Wake.”

Graced with the same style of Twilight Zone visual arts that the band has adopted since the more progressive albums such as “Killing Technology” began to test metal heads’ preconceptions all the way back in the 1980s, SYNCHRO ANARCHY continues the now tried and true comfort zone that VOIVOD has been gracefully following for quite some time now and while many are going ballistic over the fact that this band never deviates from the norm and release some kind of polka metal hybrid or something just so they can trash it and castigate them for not sticking to something they know best, the truth is VOIVOD is actually quite good at what they do and after all since there are really no contenders for this particular style of hardcore punk infused tech thrash metal skirting the world of prog rock and Motorhead-esque 80s metal, why stop now?

It’s true that metal has come a long way since VOIVOD’s musicians were the true masters of weird back in the late 1980s with a gazillion bands that are even weirder these days but just because VOIVOD no longer are the masters of weird by no means signifies that they are ready to be put to pasture any time soon. SYNCHRO ANARCHY may not reinvent the wheel or any other instrument of metal navigation but what it does accomplish is that it delivers a no nonsense ferocious attack of proggy tech thrash metal that only VOIVOD can dish out in abundance. The band wastes no time with the opening “Paranormalium” which delivers ample doses of jittery schizoid guitar riffs in classic atonality in conjunct with the oddball off-kilter counterpoints of the bass, drums and distinctly VOIVOD vocal style of Snake.

The album may not take VOIVOD to “The Outer Limits” as their style once did but at this point in their career these guys are legends and are quite remarkable in how they consistently deliver album after album of top notch VOIVOD-isms in top musical form. No, i’m not expecting VOIVOD to try to be the next Mr Bungle or psychedelic blackened death metal band. I expect VOIVOD to remain exactly what they are on their own terms and in that regard SYNCHRO ANARCHY is an excellent delivery of their classic sounds and stylistic quirks. Having said that i do find this album to be less compelling than “The Wake.” Compositionally speaking, SYNCHRO ANARCHY does seem to be content in simply retreading that which has been done without even the tiniest attempt to step things up or meander into other sectors of the VOIVOD universe. Nope. These guys have fully opted to deliver what most fans probably expect and that’s what they do on this release.

So when evaluating and reviewing a classic act like VOIVOD perhaps its better to take into consideration that the band is in a league of its own and avoid comparisons to other bands both stylistically and in a temporal context. VOIVOD has always exited in the vacuum of the space-time continuum utterly and blissfully unconcerned about what is happening around them and for that i truly applaud this band who shows no signs of insecurity as many an aging metal band has displayed over time. These guys know what they do best and they deliver that with a gusto unmatched by many of the old timers. In that regard VOIVOD can only be compared to itself and in terms of VOIVOD releases, SYNCHRO ANARCHY may not sit high on the band’s canon as best releases but ounce for ounce this one more than delivers the goods for a true VOIVOD fan with not a band track to be heard. To my ears this is yet another excellent slice of nerdy tech thrash metal that will get several return visits as time marches on.

VOIVOD Synchro Anarchy

Album · 2022 · Technical Thrash Metal
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As I write this, there is a furious storm raging outside my window. The trees sway madly from side to side, splinters and small branches fly off in all directions, and all living things hide away in awe and terror, as the wind ravishes the land, howling in all its force. This ravaged scenario describes fairly accurately how my head also feels after listening to Synchro Anarchy, the 15th studio album by Canadian prog metal veterans Voivod. Out on February 11th via Century Media, the LP is a staggering, mind-blowing listening experience that left me speechless, stupefied and punch-drunk. As I am here scratching my head trying to make sense of what I just heard, only two things are clear to me. First, Voivod sound like no other band I ever listened to and stand tall in a league of their own. Second, Synchro Anarchy is a stupendous example of how to write music that is truly genre-defying and progressive.

Before I tell you further about this album, I have a confession to make. Despite being an avid prog rock/metal fan, for some reason Voivod have always flown below my radar until now. Of course, I had heard of them, but I never really took the time to sit down and listen to their music. When I saw Synchro Anarchy in the The Metal Oberver promo list, I decided that it was time for me to take a step into the unknown and find out what I actually thought of Voivod. Well, based on what I heard on Synchro Anarchy, I can only tell you that I have been a fool to ignore this awesome band for so long and that the next thing I’ll do when I finish this review, is go and check out their whole back catalogue!

If I were to describe Synchro Anarchy to someone who, like me, never approached the Quebecois spaceship before, I’d say that the album is a genre-bending amalgamation of proto-metal, thrash, jazz-infected prog, and space rock. A lot of it can very much feel like an acquired taste. The music is difficult and uncompromising, full of dissonance, shifting rhythms and variable tempos. It is rarely melodic, but when melodies do come to surface, their contrast with the challenging musical background is simply irresistible, producing the same spellbinding effect of the mirage of an oasis in the desert. Structurally, the songs twist and turn like live snakes, as far removed as possible from the canonical verse/chorus repetition. Snippets of phrases and melodies return circularly before disintegrating again into new black holes that take the music into completely different directions.

The musicianship is incredible. I was especially impressed by Chewy’s guitarwork, which is simply one of the most inventive I have heard in a long time on a metal album. My first thought was that this is how Robert Fripp (King Crimson) would have sounded if he was born 15 years later and decided to play thrash metal instead of progressive rock. The guitar riffs are angular and irregular. The use of unusual and dissonant chords is jarring, and so are the sudden explosions of jazz-infected leads and solos. Chewy’s performance is mind-blowing and is alone worth the price of the album. The rhythm section is no less spectacular. Drummer Away and bassist Rocky are a formidable pair that give the songs a solid rhythmic base that feels at the same time adventurous and tight, intricate and powerful. Snake’s singing is also impressive, in the same way as Lemmy’s (Motorhead) or Ozzy Osbourne’s vocals can be arresting. The beauty does not lie in the melodiousness or technicality of the performance, but rather in its unique character, halfway between ritualistic psalmody and punk singing. It transmits a sense of otherworldliness and transcendence that is a perfect complement for the alien musical background conjured up by the other three musicians.

There is a primal and vibrant energy running through the 9 tracks of the album, which gives away how much fun Voivod must have had writing and recording this LP. The fun is infectious for the audience too: the music is fresh and exciting, and it contains that elusive combination of raw power and dark energy that leaves you exhilarated, fervid and electrified as only quintessential metal albums can do. The flurry of bright, left-field ideas that traverse the album keep you constantly on your toes as you are never quite sure which direction each new song may take. The title-track “Synchro Anarchy” is a beautiful rollercoaster that keeps you glued to your headphones, as dissonant chords and odd times give way to a gorgeously accessible melodic chorus. “Planet Eaters” is a punkish beast that constantly challenges the listener with angular riffs, shifting tempos and sudden accelerations, before exploding in a beautiful jazzy solo. “Mind Clock” is a more atmospheric affair that turns things down a notch, offering some respite to the audience, before the frontal assault of “Sleeves Off”, another track that brings to the fore the punk verve of the record. Meanwhile, the album’s second half offers some darker cuts, like the Sabbathian “Holographic Thinking” or the doomy “Memory Failure” that closes the LP.

Graced by an immaculate sound production - warm, vibrant and with plenty of nuance -, Synchro Anarchy is a record not to miss. It’s a splendid Frankenstein that brings together genres as diverse as jazz, space rock and thrash in an exhilarating musical experience that truly incarnates the meaning of the word “progressive”. Stellar musicianship, intelligent songwriting, and irresistible energy – Synchro Anarchy has it all. The album’s mad sonic assault may not be to everyone’s taste, but those readers who do not mind being challenged and pushed beyond conventional music borders should look no further. This is the real deal. Go and buy it.

[Originally written for The Metal Observer]

MIND-ASHES The Views Obscured

Album · 1997 · Technical Thrash Metal
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"The Views Obscured" is the debut full-length studio album by German technical/progressive metal act Mind-Ashes. The album was released through AFM Records in January 1997. Mind-Ashes formed in 1993 and released the "Soul Manipulation" (1994) demo and the "Thoughts" (1995) EP, before getting signed for the release of "The Views Obscured". The band released two further albums and then disbanded in 2003.

The first thing you notice when listening to "The Views Obscured" is the high level musicianship. These guys are technically skilled and they incorporate loads of that technical skill to their music. To my ears especially two artists come to mind and that´s Sanctuary and especially Death/Control Denied. Mind-Ashes use many of the same types of scales, rhythms, and notes that Chuck Schuldiner were known for using, and may I add on an equally high performance level. The musicianship on this album is at times jaw-dropping virtuosic. The vocals are a combination of raw shouting and slightly more melodic singing and screaming. It´s definitely one of the assets of the album that the vocals are so diverse.

"The Views Obscured" features a sound production, which is clear, powerful, and detailed, perfectly suiting the complexity and sophistication of the music, but still presenting it in a raw and powerful fashion. The songwriting is interesting too, and the progressive song structures are intriguing and keep the listener on his/her toes. I consider "The Views Obscured" a bit of a lost gem to those who are interested in technical/progressive metal and it´s too bad it´s almost impossible to come by anymore. Hopefully it´ll see a reprint one of these days, and a chance for the album to be given a second opportunity to be noticed. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

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