Hirax - Hate, Fear and Power - August, 1986
The problem with Hirax's first album, released a year earlier was that it was just too much of the same thing. 2-minute blast after 2-minute blast for a half hour can get tedious and is the main reason I've never been able to get into hardcore or grindcore. Whether it was intentional or not, Hirax improved on their debut in two ways. The first is that it's about half as long at a whopping 16 minutes. The second is that they figured out that good thrash isn't always full-speed ahead.
That second point is the key to this album being much better than their first album. Even though the first three tracks are straight-ahead speed freaks, with the 40-second title track featuring something that resembles a blast beat, it's the second half of the album where we see Hirax start to vary their songwriting. "The Last War" features an excellent, punishing main riff that sounds very similar to what Slayer would start doing a couple years later. The slower parts also give Katon's soaring vocals room to breathe and in doing so makes you wonder why they didn't do more of it. It's a shame that Hirax wouldn't be heard from again (other than a demo in 1987) until 2004, because there's a whole lot of potential in this release.
Standouts: The Last War, Imprisoned by Ignorance, The Plague