Onslaught – The Sound of Violence – 4/5
Well it's about time I updated this blog with what new music had been hitting my ears of late, and the answer is this the home grown retro-thrash act Onslaught, holding a short-lived career in the 80s before burning out into obscurity; out to prove now 25 years on from their debut that they can still kick off like the best of the new talent, and that they can. Fitting somewhere between Death Angel and Slayer in their style of thrash, displaying a certain element of Groove, but don't for a moment think they've lost that aggressive element that defines the genre. They might not race off at a breakneck speed – in fact quite a number of the tracks are decisively slow - but what they lack in sheer speed they compensate in tone; crushingly heavy bass lines, slow and viciously pounded drum lines to complement the ground shaking guitar work and a vocal prowess that is spoken with such conviction that you at times wonder whether he's singing or asking you to join him a political revolt.
The albums pacing is impeccable, it doesn't spend all its time at one end of the spectrum but tries to vary between the shredded solos that never seem too far away and the slower, epic, at times almost anthemic passages. And this does more than simply add diversity to the proceedings, it allows you to more readily take in the melodies that they create, to better appreciate the riffs given time to flourish. There's method to the madness and rather than just sound as though they're playing fast for the sake of it, there's an element of catchiness to them that lends itself to making the whole experience memorable. I've always been a fan of a little touch of Groove in my thrash proceedings for precisely that reason, and here they deliver on just that: a touch. The guitars still give no second thoughts to melting your face off at a moments notice and the vocals have this hoarse roar that at his peak infringe on death metal territory, demonstrating a mid-paced growl borne out of his already rasped cries.
They've taken political themes as a theme involved in explaining the conviction they demonstrate, but if there was ever a big stumbling block to it all, it would be the lyrics. I wasn't really expecting much but it's only as you start humming the chorus to some of the tracks that you realise just riddled with generic clichés it really is; words like 'annihilation,' 'hatred,' 'war,' and 'new world order' all tossed in between a few swear words. If you're intending to slow down the pace to the point you can clearly make out everything on display, clearly making sure each word is properly annunciated, you better make sure you actually have something to say.
The production is distinctly modern, and give a certain sense of polish to allow for that deep bass-laden crunch to come through and make everything feel appropriately heavy whilst not detracting from the rest of the instrumentation. Fans of the old way of doing things that despise the new wave that has emerged will find little here to their liking; they haven't taken the route of trying to re-live the glory days of tinny treble-laden production and denim jackets but accept the changes that have occurred since, it feels 'chunky' and 'rich' in its sound, the bass and the rhythm forming a thick sludge-like thrash backing that wouldn't have been possible back then. The album name couldn't be more apt; this is the Sound of Violence. Dark, powerful, epic and filled with a demomic rage; possessed with a unwavering and uncontrollable sense of aggression to be let out on all those surrounding you. Those who despise retro-thrash will have stopped reading already but for the rest of you, enjoy one of the more convincing thrash comebacks.