June 1, 2024

By the mid 1980s, thrash metal was making the stomp towards the launchng pad that would send it stratospheric. Cornerstone albums like Metallica’s Master of Puppets, Slayer’s Reign in Blood, Anthrax’s Among the Living, and Megadeth’s Peace Sells….But Who’s Buying? had set the stage. The ‘Big Four’ were recognized, but none of the bands had reached superstar status yet. They were part of a grassroots scene, grown from street-level origins, bolstered by word of mouth and the fervent exchange of tapes in the underground network. Even before the internet era, the thrash scene had a global reach, spanning from the US coasts across Europe and beyond – thrash metal had ignited a worldwide blaze.

The debate over the ‘Big Four’ of thrash metal and the place of Exodus within the genre’s history has persisted for over 40 years. Formed in 1979, Exodus is frequently cited as the spark that ignited the movement. However, the delayed release of their debut album, Bonded By Blood, allowed Metallica to take the lead with their debut Kill ‘Em All – an album embodying the raw intensity of what would become known as thrash metal. Yet, when compared to Bonded By Blood, there is a compelling argument for the distinctive edge that Exodus brought to the table.

Fast forward to 1989, Exodus unleashed their third album, Fabulous Disaster on 30 January 1989 which was propelled into the spotlight by MTV’s rotation of the lead single, Toxic Waltz. The band embarked on a five month long tour spending a month in Europe with Nuclear Assault and Acid Reign. The US Headbanger’s Ball tour, featuring Helloween and Anthrax, broadened Exodus’ reach, culminating in the live album Good Friendly Violent Fun—not released until 1991 – recorded at The Filmore in July 1989. This album became the definitive live chronicle of Exodus during that period.

Until now.

According to guitarist Gary Holt, British Disaster: The Battle Of ’89 (Live At The Astoria) is an unearthed gem that has fallen into the band’s lap 35 years after the event and it is worthy of release in its untouched state. And Holt is not wrong. The London show had already found its way into legend as utter bedlam and a band full of confidence a mere two months after the release of one of Exodus’ best albums. Even sonically, it is possible to hear the chaos, the sweat dripping from the ceiling, the pulsing pit, feet in the air and stage divers clambering over the stage.

Opening with one of the most iconic spoken intros in thrash, The Last Act Of Defiance hits hard with its sharp guitars and Tom Hunting’s pounding drums. At the time of the Cold War, Fabulous Disaster served as a fierce commentary on global affairs, showcasing an explosive performance. Til Death Do Us Part, from the previous album Pleasures Of The Flesh, unleashes a torrent of guitars and a bone-crushing riff, with vocalist Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza vehemently snarls “fuck off to all your politics.” Corruption is straightforward in its intentions, but Toxic Waltz detonates like an explosive, embodying the band’s celebration of thrash culture and its signature dance, enduring for four decades. Overall, the setlist features the highlights of Exodus’ first three albums: A Lesson In Violence, Brain Dead, Chemi-Kill, Piranha (“this song ain’t about no fuckin’ goldfish”), and the darkly atmospheric Like Father Like Son. This album represents the quintessential setlist of Exodus.

British Disaster: The Battle Of ’89 (Live At The Astoria) may be rough around the edges, yet that’s precisely where its intensity resides. When Souza roars into the microphone, it feels as though we are right there, experiencing it live. Musically, the album captures the essence of pure energy; with razor-sharp solos, drums that confront head-on, songs that are clear and undistorted, and a mix by Zuess that hits the mark. The crowd interaction is present but never overshadows the music. This is Exodus at full throttle, eyeing global domination.

Good Friendly Violent Fun may be the ‘official’ representation of the Fabulous Disaster tour, boasting the Bay Area’s home advantage, yet it was an album released to commemorate a tour two years after its conclusion. British Disaster, on the other hand, captures the essence of the time and is a legendary show in its own right, featuring a much longer setlist from Exodus’ three acclaimed albums and its own historical significance. Looking back 35 years later, it rekindles memories of a golden era for those who were there. While Good Friendly Violent Fun may not be available on streaming services, leaving only eBay copies for newcomers, British Disaster remains the sole avenue to relive the exhilarating musical epoch of the thrash pioneers.

Either way, British Disaster: The Battle of ’89 (Live At The Astoria) is worthy of everyone’s time and is actually thrash metal historical gold. On the other hand, if anyone is going to be doing the toxic waltz in their living room – it may be advisable to give the insurance company a call in advance.