The British thrash metal scene often gets razzed for being behind the curve when compared with their German and American counterparts (America naturally includes both U.S. and Brazilian affiliates). This would seem to stem from the fact that Britain was the hub of the original punk rock scene and much of the subsequent hardcore scene, which had a massive influence upon the formation of thrash metal, thus Britain should have had a more direct hand in pioneering said style rather than the likes of San Francisco and New York. Still, even detractors of many of Britain’s latecomer acts such as Xentrix and D.A.M. have to give credit to the likes of Onslaught and Sabbat for giving the early masters a run for their money, and the same story holds true for a short-lived adherent in Deathwish, a band that arguably understood the Motorhead influence upon the style better than most, particularly on their extremely raw and vital first foray into the 80s thrash scene in At The Edge Of Damnation.
A key factor in separating the Deathwish sound from most of the British and the American scene is their arrangement, which consists of one guitarist in spite of the band’s sound being largely riff oriented and solo happy. In terms of execution, Dave Brunt walks a fairly thin line between the older bluesy approach of Fast Eddie Clarke and the shredding darkness of Frank Blackfire. The resulting sound of cruising speeders such as “In The Name Of God” and “Demonic Attack” could be chalked up as a speed metal infused and dirtier, yet fairly similar experience to Sodom’s Persecution Mania. The analogy is obviously far from a perfect one given that vocalist Jon Van Doorn has more of a soulfully tuned shout mixed with an occasional shrieking and gravely approach that’s more of a transitional NWOBHM sound than a precursor to extreme metal, and also as the riff work reminisces on the Motorhead influences and comes off almost as much rocking as it does speed metal.
It should be noted that while the speed metal elements of this effort are the strong point, and showcase a far more memorable version of what Vectom was trying to do a year or two prior, things prove to be almost as effective in mid-paced territory. The crunchy riff-work meshed with the raunchy and equally prominent bass work (almost making this sound Manowar-influenced at times) results in a pounding set of rock based songs that make for more of a well-rounded listen. When things are fast, it definitely has more of a German character to it and almost wants to cross over into Teutonic Trio territory, but the slower offerings definitely point to that sort of punk/hardcore infused rocking character that was a bit more indicative of fellow early British thrashers Onslaught. Particularly on “Dance Of The Dead” and “At The Edge Of Damnation” the bass-heavy, muddy, Black Sabbath-inspired character of this album rears its ugly head and is only really tempered by the more traditional vocal performance and the fairly fancy yet tried and true guitar solos.
Prior to now, this band’s body of work (namely this album and the one that followed a year after) were not widely available outside of the original 12″ vinyl versions, not all that unlike the first two Angel Dust albums from the same time period, making this a potential boon for younger fans of the darker side of the recent thrash metal revival that are curious as to where Britain stood in the mid to late 80s. It’s a pity that this outfit didn’t reform as many of their contemporaries did in response to the resurgence in interest with regard to the older style. Then again, a lot of the older stalwarts opted to modernize rather than stick to what they originally did best (*cough* Exodus), so it may not have proved to be a blessing. But whatever the case, this is among the more underrated offerings out of the thrash scene as a whole, and while the follow up Demon Preacher is the superior outing, both albums are essentially to any trustee of old school thrash where the risk goes beyond a cheap beer hangover or a pizza induced fit of indigestion.