Lee Barrett: "Razor and Sacrifice made the type of thrash that I genuinely loved"...

Lee Barrett is perhaps best known as the founder of Candlelight Records, and as being the man who foisted Emperor and Opeth on an unsuspecting World. But he knows a fair bit about thrash metal too...

Hello again Lee, it's good to have another chat with you. I remember being at an awful lot of thrash metal shows in the early and mid eighties, most of which you seemed to be at too. Let's see what sort of memories this set of questions throws up! Getting right into it, what are your views on the so-called 'Big 4'? "I suppose in terms of sales and profile the present selection makes sense. It’s difficult to argue against it from that perspective. I guess bands like Exodus and Testament would be a shoe-in should one of ‘em decide to drop out".

Maybe we should just have done with the Big 4 and expand to a big seven or eight. Thinking about those early years again, where would you say the sound of thrash comes from? Geographically I mean. "Canada, closely followed by Germany. I guess it only really applies to a couple of bands, but Razor and Sacrifice made the type of thrash that I genuinely loved then, and still do (don’t mention Piledriver...). Germany had Sodom, Destruction, Kreator, Exhumer, Deathrow, Assassin and many more, but those two Canadian bands are enough for me to give the Hosers the prize. I never got into the Bay Area stuff like Testament, Exodus, et cetera. It sounded to me like regular heavy metal speeded up, rather than 'actual' thrash if that makes sense? Too polished for my palate"

Blimey. I'm not averse to a bit of Razor (or indeed Exciter, if that isn't too infra dig...), but I'd never have had Canada down as the epicentre of thrash! Anyways, enough about me - Five essential thrash records - name them please. "Only five? Fuck... OK. Shotgun Justice and Violent Restitution by Razor, Attomica's Disturbing the Noise, Pleasure to Kill by Kreator and Darkness Descends by Dark Angel. That’s six. Sue me. I wish it was a top 20 at least. I’ve had to leave out Beneath the Remains (Sepultura), Terror Squad (Artillery), Schizophrenia (Sepultura), Morbid Tales (Celtic Frost), Obsessed by Cruelty (Sodom), The Haunted's self titled album, Forward to Termination (Sacrifice)and so many more. Arrrggghh!"

Enough about records, what about the live arena? You've seen them all in your time. Who was/is the best?" "I’m gonna sound like a broken record, but for me it’s Razor. The two albums I have listed above (and only those two, really) encompass everything I love about thrash. Razor always had Dave Carlo and his amazing riffs, but they were hampered until the arrival of Rob 'Quick Snare' Mills on drums. He completely changed the dynamic and they finally had a guy behind the kit who could keep up. I love my thrash to be super fast, angry and utterly relentless and Violent Restitution and Shotgun Justice are all of this and more. Utterly relentless, savage and absolutely no fucking “mosh” parts. And while I understand why they were never bigger (local label, shit artwork, the rise of death metal, thin production, they got good too late, etc) I think it’s a genuine shame they never were."

And what about the worst? "Fuck my old boots, where do I start? The whole UK scene besides Sabbat and Deathwish, maybe? I’ll go for Xentrix. Dull, insipid, 10 pence Metallica clones without a single original idea in their heads. Or any band that decided to use slap bass once Faith No More or the Chili Peppers started selling records. *cough* Mordred *cough*".

Xentrix? I supported them once - top geezers! But there might well have been a few Metallics riffs flying about if I'm honest... Now, what about songwriting - what makes a top thrash tune? "Speed. Aggression. A ham-fisted awareness of social injustice.The best thrash for me is the type where it seems that the drummer is out of control and the rest of the band are struggling to keep up. I know you get gravity blasts and all that shite these days, but does that actually 'sound' faster than Necrophobic by Slayer? To me; no. I love the tooth-grinding intensity of thrash played right. The likes of Metallica or Testament lack that for me, as do pretty much every ‘retro’ thrash band I’ve heard so far besides Fastkill and Ramming Speed. Give me Attomica any fucking day".

Let's talk about individuals now - put together a dream thrash act from the last 30 years for me. "Chris Natalini from Blood Feast on vocals; Dave Carlo backed up by the Stützer brothers from Artillery on guitars, Rob “Quick Snare” Mills on Drums (Gene Hoglan can be his tech). Bassist? Who cares? If you can hear the bass player in a thrash band then he’s probably showing off. Kick him out!"

But...but... you're a bassist! Although clearly a modest one. Final question - What do you think history will see as being thrash's greatest gift to heavy metal in general? "A new perspective. It’s hard for the younger readers to imagine, but there used to be a time when there were actually new types of music to be invented and it was lovely to be swept away in it all. While I can sit here and listen to new bands and say “oh, that’s an old At the Gates riff” or whatever, my elder brothers were never able to do that when I put on something like Sodom. While there have been new phenomenon in metal in the meantime (black metal, djent, tech, etc), we’ve had nothing quite as radical as thrash since it’s inception".

Amen to that...