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Nuclear Assault´s first full-length was released in 1986. Unbelievable, I was just 18 years old. But in contrast to me, it has not lost its juvenile appearance. Shit. In any case, all dams began to break as soon as the first tones of "Game Over" filled the room. Equipped with a perfect sound that combined power and pressure in a flawless manner, the band celebrated its very fresh kind of thrash metal. It was enriched with some elements of hardcore and punk, but any kind of primitiveness did not show up. The basic framework was definitely built by thrash. For example, the guitarists had the permission to perform some furious solos and the songs as a whole were not reduced to the essentials. Stormy high speed eruptions like "Radiation Sickness", insane outbursts of anger ("Hang the Pope") and dangerous mid-tempo numbers such as "Betrayal" merged harmoniously into the overall design. The songs of the first category played the dominant role. Driven by the precise drumming of Glenn Evans and the restless bass guitar of Danny Lilker, the band impressed with neckbreaking tracks. With the exception of the nonsensical "Mr. Softee Theme", every single song revealed an unstoppable force, albeit John Cyriis and his agents of steel did not play a part in this context.
Especially the bass guitar benefitted from the highly effective sound of the vinyl. Lilker delivered the menacing element of Nuclear Assault´s sound so that there was nothing left to be desired in terms of heaviness and fierceness. But his bass performance was not the only trump card of the band. Despite its raging approach, the guys showed an unexpected talent in respect of writing catchy choruses. In unity with the sharp and edgy riffs, they led to an extremely explosive mixture. And there was a further surprising feature. Each and every song scored with a perfect flow. I was amazed to see that the band skimped on breaks without neglecting the necessary tension and liveliness. Every member of the group received song credits and if you think that I would like to call them perfect songwriters, then you are right. (Only two years later, I had to realize that they were not as perfect as I had thought.) Pieces like "After the Holocaust" or "Brain Death" would had been highlights on almost every other thrash album. But on "Game Over", they were just very good tracks which were surpassed by brilliant killers such as "Sin" or "Radiation Sickness", "Stranded in Hell" or "Vengeance". These fast-paced songs were belligerent, irresistible and glittered with the maximum degree of dynamic. But the entire debut distinguished itself through its individual character and its charisma.
The visual design of the album went hand in hand with its excellent sonic content. Ed Repka, the undisputed grand master of cover artworks, had created an apocalyptic scenario. It marked one of his best works, in any event as long as we do not have to face this situation in reality. The inner sleeve collage payed tribute to the predominant trend of the mid-eighties and the varied lyrics were printed on the other side of the inner sleeve.
"Brain Death", the final track, stood out because of the playtime of more than seven minutes. It marked a comparatively epic ending and served as the ultimate proof that Nuclear Assault belonged to the metal scene and not to the punk community. The instrumental part after the second chorus has often been blamed for repetitiveness since the release of the album. I understand this position. Nevertheless, I disagree. The song was neither too long nor boring and its repeatedly performed guitar lines were fantastic. With regard to all these strengths, this debut was and still is nothing less than a milestone. At the same time, it is the reason why I never lost the interest in the activities of the band. I am therefore delighted that they release a new four track EP in July. The teaser on Youtube sounds great and makes me curious for more. Nevertheless, one thing is certain. "Game Over", which was released on the same glorious day as "Reign in Blood", will remain unrivaled. However you look at it, the chemistry between the band members and the fascinating energy level cannot be reconstructed. 1986 is long ago.
Lilker was fired from Anthrax and took his particular revenge forming his own band, which became a serious rival for this old pals (haven’t you heard that story before?). Nuclear Assault was formed by 1984, a truly early period for thrash when it was all raw, unpolished and brutal, a period when many kids decided to emulate Metallica and Slayer playing their own music. An enormous bunch of generic groups appeared; some later evolved and defined their distinctive style while others keep ripping-off Slayer riffs till the end of time. These guys made a difference in that aspect, because from the very first beginning they did something characteristic, original, not only taking influence from the popular big daddies of the subgenre.
So these tracks are something special, alternative from the blackened evil thrash most of bands performed by the mid-80’s. But that doesn’t mean energy, aggression and attitude are lacking here, you got fine numbers like “Cold Steel” or “Nuclear War” based on straightforward raging speed/thrash that give you the chance to headbang like a maniac to those loose energetic riffs that generally control the music, though soon you can notice John’s extravagant vocals also design some of the structures and distinct sequences. In fact, choruses are totally infectious, omnipresent on each tune, from “Stranded In Hell” to “After The Holocaust”, on that last one they’re combined with surprisingly varied arrangements, richer structures and diverse tempos in constant alteration, so numerous verses and certain level of complexity (in their own peculiar way) make a competent combination. The epic “Brain Death” particularly proves the instrumental versatility these guys were capable to conceive, mixing a delicate acoustic guitar intro with rapid rhythms, unpredictable instrumental changes and that memorable lengthy lead break riff that made thousands of kids mosh hard back then. However, complication ain’t the rule of Nuclear Assault’s rather basic methodology. It’s true riff variations are constant and structures avoid uniformity usually as cuts like “Radiation Sickness” or “Betrayal” clearly demonstrate. On other hand, those guitar lines are explicitly primitive and easy, far from meticulous or pretentious, just good enough to determined solid bases for the cuts and lead the pack through them. “Live, Suffer, Die” or “Vengeance” prove thrash doesn’t have to be necessarily difficult, not even longer than 1 minute to be good, neither immaculate on its execution nor polished. Even those humoristic short songs “Hang The Pope”, “My America” and “Mr. Softee Theme” sound amusing and cool.
In contrast with the general trends of thrash by that time, Nuclear Assault didn’t really put all attention on trying to make their material sound the heaviest of all, it does get pretty intense and rough at times but that wasn’t their only intention. Attitude is more notable, obviously inspired by the rich New York hardcore scene from which Lilker and co. took a huge influence (that terminal velocity and those punkish riffs speak for themselves), though not only musically, it also had a big impact on their urban identity. However, lyrical themes are different to what most crossover acts were singing about. The group didn’t choose their name in vain; it determines most of their words about cold war, environmental issues, pollution and apocalyptic nuclear disaster prophecies, current stuff by those times. So these guys were pioneers on introducing vocals about something alternative to the mysticism and violence of most of early thrash heroes. Musically, they are unique as well, creating a fresh pattern of what we could describe as toxic hardcore thrash, a concept based inevitably on riffing supremacy which avoids getting specially technical, deprived of progression and melody absolutely, rather constructed by simplicity and speed, just like their hardcore idols did. Although Nuclear Assault sometimes intend to play it advanced for their limited technical level. They introduce some elaborated breaks & bridges, sudden rhythm modifications and an unusual diversity of structures that achieve a decent level of solidity. They were more professional than most of their peers back then unexpectedly, in particular when they decided to speed-up making use of Glenn’s precise double bass-drum kicks and Lilker’s accurate bass lines, so it’s not uncontrolled senseless velocity. The combo Connelly- Bramante might not be the greatest, though, but this music didn’t demand virtuosism or impressive abilities.
This record has become with the years a cult masterpiece for thrashers, featuring essential anthems of the band that still sound remarkably refreshing and enjoyable, no matter how many years have passed since they were originally performed. It has the usual handicaps of a primitive thrash record, although apart from the lack of technical precision and maturity, that bad production and inexistent sophistication, the handicaps here are tolerable. In fact, their style wouldn’t evolve much during the following years, from the beginning they knew what they wanted and their identity was defined. So enjoy this genuine thrash classic, get your necks ready to headbang hard because once you push play there’s no turning back with this album.
Though I'm no stranger to the genre, it's been a few East Coast bands- Overkill and Nuclear Assault, to name a couple- that have managed to really get me into the fury and torment of thrash metal. Whatever the cause for my change of heart may have been, I'm glad I've given the style a closer look. Nuclear Assault was one of the bigger names in the eighties thrash scene. Following hot on the heels of Voivod's dirty, nuclear-themed take on thrash, Nuclear Assault's "Game Over" is a fierce, somewhat futuristic album with more than enough energy to fuel an armageddon. Throw in a few sounds of hardcore punk, and you have one of the better thrash debuts to come out of the eighties. It's not without a few glaring weaknesses, but Nuclear Assault deliver where it counts.
In keeping with their genre, Nuclear Assault's music is aggressive and intense, certainly moreso than the material bassist David Lilker and guitarist John Connelly had played with Anthrax. "Game Over" starts off on a furious note. "Live, Suffer, Die" is a quick minute-long introduction that emphasizes speed and aggression, throwing any manner of subtlety out the window. Although Nuclear Assault first come across as a relatively primitive incarnation of thrash metal, the first full song on the album proves the band to be a step above the average. Despite keeping the raw power on par with the album intro, "Sin" is a remarkably complex tune. Technical riffs, slightly dissonant guitar tone, and Connelly's rough-yet-catchy vocal performance sounds like it could have been off Voivod's first record.Nuclear Assault keep a focus on speed throughout most of "Game Over", yet the band's technical chops are what keeps it interesting. "Sin" is no gimmick either- "Nuclear War" is rife with tempo changes and riffs that could make Slayer blush. The most intriguing track on "Game Over" comes at the end however. "Brain Death" is an epic by thrash standards, beginning with a surprisingly atmospheric bit of acoustic guitar before the rest of the band creeps in and delivers a thrashy display that bears a few resemblances to Slayer's "Angel of Death." "Brain Death" ultimately feels a little patchy in terms of the way the ideas are put together, but it's great to hear them getting ambitious with their craft.
As has been mentioned in many past reviews of the album, there is an influence of punk rock evident in Nuclear Assault's music. Although I've never found myself really getting into punk or its hardcore derivative, the added bass presence and raw power that the 'punk' sound brings largely compliments the band's style. The only place where Nuclear Assault seems to go off the rails with it is "Hang the Pope," an unenjoyable track whose only saving grace is its relatively short length. It's almost as if Nuclear Assault decided to see how far they could take the speed and 'intensity'; it frankly ends up sounding like juvenile nonsense. Given the musical quality Nuclear Assault bring to the rest of the album, I am almost certain it was meant as a joke. Regardless of its intentions, it hurts the album's flow.
The potential and ferocity on "Game Over" would be arguably perfected on Nuclear Assault's de facto masterpiece and sophpmore, "Survive." This is an ambitious take on thrash metal; there are some rough transitions and musical kinks left in the final mix, but Nuclear Assault began their career on a strong foot.
New York City. Where the bomb dropped. Nuclear Assault. Perhaps never one of my absolute favorite thrash bands in the universe, but I'm not gonna lie to you: I owned the t-shirt. I bought the records. I watched the videos. I went to the gigs. I learned the songs on my guitar. This was surely one of that group of 'essentials' in the 80s that could provoke excitement by the mere mention of the name. Their visibility, touring and lyrical matter transformed them into one of the most emblematic, idolized and oft imitated thrash acts of the period. Hell, just the logo alone. But even more than that, I feel like Nuclear Assault were the 'iconic' East Coast band in this niche. Sure, Anthrax and Overkill sold more albums in the long run. Outlived Connelly and Lilker's band of mutants. M.O.D. might have developed a comparable buzz with their goofy antics. But when you close your eyes and think back on those halcyon days of hi top sneakers, denim vests and moshing in the shadow of the Cold War, your inner child drifts towards memories of mushroom clouds, panic on the streets, and a group of ragtag New Yorkers whose dead center delivery and violent riffing might have carved out an empire had they not rendered themselves irrelevant by the dawn of the 90s.
Of course, Game Over was set to tape well in advance of that inevitable decline, and it might be better dubbed 'Game On', because it sowed the irradiated fire seeds of its influences into something that would inspire urban slammers and party thrashers everywhere. The West Coast might have been the best coast, with its incredibly advancements in aggression (Dark Angel, Slayer, etc) and what with producing the most popular metal band of the 80s, but where the Atlantic metropolitan groups like Nuclear Assault excelled was in brandishing their punk and hardcore influences more directly into the angry writing and lyrical modus operandi. It doesn't take a genius to discern bands like Discharge or Minor Threat on this album; the brilliance is how they took such youthful unrest and applied to classic NWOBHM/speed metal riff structures to produce an urgent, distinct style to themselves, producing a cross cultural aesthetic that drew even more of the marginal metal audience over from the skinheads and mohawks usually associated with 'the other side'. There's a damn good reason bands like Nuclear Assault came up alongside the Cro-Mags, Agnostic Front, Leeway and Sick of It All: their sociopolitical messages and gang-like resilience were often only divided by the length of their hair. And, in some cases, not even that...
But first and foremost, Game Over is a metal album. Its clean, rapid fire licks are the stuff of Venom and Motörhead intensified to beyond the speed limit ("Live, Suffer, Die"). The thundering implementation of the double bass to punk-borne chord sequence ("Sin", "Vengeance") manifest a complexity and busyness that you simply didn't expect out of the Ramones or Sex Pistols. There was a deeper side to the band than just their street savvy, and songs like "Brain Death" or the clinical mid-paced thrasher "Nuclear War" were more cognizant of melody and traditional riffing from over the pond, to the point that the contents of an album like this one were often set at great contrasts ("Hang the Pope" vs. "Brain Death", for instance), and perhaps the band were still not quire sure of how to flesh out their identity. But, then, that's the joy of this album: it's so damned earnest and innocent that it's impossible to dislike even in lieu of its flaws, which primarily appear in the uninteresting and unfunny vignettes like "My America" or the "Mr. Softee Theme", which even made me cringe as a 13 year old.
It was pretty par for the course in the 80s for thrash, punk and hardcore groups to include these goofy shorts as if to remind the audience that they were comedians in addition to musicians (a trait that would rub off on a lot of later grindcore), but where something like "Hang the Pope" at least has some vicious fortitude due to the accelerated riffing, these other two briefs always felt painfully unnecessary to me. Otherwise, this is a damned strong album, at least 7-8 of the tracks kick ass, and there's no question that this was one of the most manic and potential-ridden blue collar groups of the scene. You always felt like Nuclear Assault were your peers, your friends, good for a beer, never snotty or inaccessible, and the character pervades the very music on this album. So what if a bit of snot ran out of Game Over's nose and wound up in a cloning vat that would later produce the party crossover throwback called Municipal Waste?
The real star of this album: the production. Man, do I love the mix of the guitar on this record. Crisp and clear, with a lighter use of distortion than you might expect. Later records like Survive and Handle With Care would take the band into a harsher environment tonally, but here they were able to perfectly capture the balance of hardcore and speed. Lilker's bass also deserves mention, pumping and throbbing and bouncing with all the puerile punk tropes, yet too fast for the ol' circle pit. Glenn Evans' drums are admittedly pretty clean, but the levels provide an excellent exhibition of his fluidity. The guy was no Gene Hoglan, granted, but you could hear how he earned his sweat and respect, whether jamming on a typical rock beat in the lurching and quickening "After the Holocaust" or blasting through "Hang the Pope".
Which leads us to John Connelly, whose vocals were one of the most distinct features of Nuclear Assault. I can't think of anyone else out there who sounded like this man. He had an almost drunken swagger to the raw timbre of his throat, and yet it carried a particular melody with all its edginess. I suppose you could compare the pitch to something like Accept or AC/DC, but despite his ability to hit shift between higher notes and a ruddy mid range, what I enjoyed most was how I could connect to it. He didn't sound like a Geoff Tate or a Bruce Dickinson, removed from the everyman by several orders of magnitude due to their natural talents, but like a really fucking pissed off dude next door freaking out over some unforeseen spike in his electric bill. Like a metal Sam Kinison in one of his fits of rage. Or, rather, an even MORE metal Sam Kinison.
Favorites? I'll have to go with the intro instrumental "Live, Suffer, Die" which could have given Dave Mustaine and Megadeth a run for their money, so fast and flurried and precise. "Sin", "Stranded in Hell" and "Radiation Sickness" all stand with the fast paced chops, and the lyrical patterns and mid-paced banging gait of "Nuclear War" would no doubt rub off on the following album, Survive. "Brain Death" might just take the cake, though, the epic finale of the album which opens with clean and atmospheric guitars and then busts into one of the more memorable vocal choruses, and even got its own EP the same year (which I've covered elsewhere). The fact that even among the more impulsive, youthful tunes that make up the bulk of this record they would include a moody departure (and not a shitty ballad) like that speaks volumes that they were something special.
Ultimately, Game Over is not my favorite of the group's full-lengths, if only because I prefer the pummeling industrial-grade abuse and stronger songwriting of the two that followed it. I don't like some of the short bits. A few of the riffs (like the punk verse in "Vengeance") just don't stick with me. But it's immediate. It's (for the most part) fun. And miraculously, it holds up to scrutiny after 25+ years of dust and rust. Well worth owning whether you're a crossover diehard, you've got NYHC stamped on your knuckles, or you believe yourself any level of urbanite thrasher. If an East Coaster from Boston down to Washington, then this applies doubly to you: neglect at your own risk.
This is what you get from a bunch of kids from New York born to write thrash. You have to think about the fact that New York at this time was surrounded by punk and thrash, so the crossover sound in this record is expected but this record has a few things that make it more special than others. The fact that the songs are longer than two minutes are pretty amazing, too.
You start off fast with Live, Suffer, Die, a song that really shows off what the band has to offer with musicianship, though not so much with songwriting. Short but fun, and is the sort of thing you expect from a thrash record. Next is Sin, which seems like the song is rising, or it could be me just going nuts. You are reminded of the vocals, something you can truly either hate or love. You start to notice that there is not much of technical side to the riffs, though they are still great. Gotta love the little bass you can hear in this song. Likler does a great job here. Cold Steel starts off slow, but then at fast speeds you can't sit down and listen to this song. Catchy lyrics here change the voice a bit, but its still got that sound. You can smell the punk influence here.
My name is evil
Soon you shall see
You will obey me
Or watch yourself bleed
Radiation Sickness starts off smooth for a thrash song, you then get a great bass line thumping away with the song. The chorus is what makes this song great. Radiation Sickness starts off soft, but goes on with a great riff that's slow and chugging. Then boom, the drums go off punching and gets you going. Stranded In Hell has some great riffs, but nothing really that special, along with Betrayal. Good songs. Hang The Pope is short, but great with thumping bass and non-stop drumming. What more can you ask? Mr. Softee Theme is useless, but a nice stop from the madness going on. Nuclear War is one of the highlights with its heavy riff that works in a non-heavy way. Yeah, I know it makes no sense, but just listen to it. It's a slow song compared to the others, but damn, it moves. Can't forget speeding down the highway with this blasting. You feel the rush from the engine, but the song just takes you away. A free trip.
My America is pretty useless, but not long. Vengeance gives you a boost before the long song next. Yet again we get the punk smell, it’s gotta be the bass. Love the vocal change in the song; it fits very well with the guitars in the background. Now the best song on the record. Brain Death is special because you can feel that the band is trying to find its sound and I think it's just beautiful. The intro always sticks with me. Anytime I think of a soft intro I’m trying to make, this always comes inside my head. The acoustic guitars seem to just blend into lava, sharp but soft. Then you have clean guitar and bass and the bit of jazzy, but bluesy influence here. Boom, you hear the guitar and drums. You look around and you hear the riff surround you, then suddenly drums and more guitars. Full blast, you don’t know what to do. You look around and your surrounded, scared, and alone just like always. The vocals mix in well and keep you wanting more. Help me, save me! You keep banging your head. The only bad thing about the song is that the riff slows down and lasts way too long. You kinda wait impatiently for it and the song to end, but besides that, what do we have?
Well, this record is far from perfect, but it just has that young feel that not a lot of thrash records have. You look at these other thrash bands and they want you to think you’re being raped by Satan's hot dog, but this record just wants you to die in a nuclear blaze. The drums fit perfectly; it's not worth mentioning, but they do well. The bass is one of the highlights of this record. How can you not love it? the guitars are great with a blistering tone and great playing. Solos are above average, but nothing special. The vocals are a highlight and are very different. If you hear these vocals, you automatically know it's Nuclear Assault. Great album cover as well, showing what the band is trying to get across: nuclear assault.
Beside the classic thrash metal, in the 80s we could find lots of different hardcore and crossover groups born at the beginning of that decade. The most famous ones were Suicidal Tendencies, M.O.D. and S.O.D. for example. Then, there were different bands that tried to mix both these two kinds of metal with their particular touch, one of these were Nuclear Assault. This group is quite important for those who want to know where the crossover/thrash reached the top and this “Game Over” is the manifest.
The speed, the spontaneity of the hardcore is mixed with the more complex and structured thrash metal without disliking some speed metal viruses. “Sin” is the first classic example of that with a long solo break in the middle with mid paced riffs on the background and following restarts. The melodies are quite catchy in their rawness and the Connelly’s vocals are fucking twisted in that childish touch, being quite completely detached from the instruments sound. Anyway, it’s damn personal and recognizable.
“Cold Steel” has something of Dark Angel’ “Darkness Descends” on it for the tempo and the raw riffage with the pounding bass, always so powerful. Anyway, they didn’t have that potential and strong sound. Thanks to several tempo changes and riffs that remain stuck in your head, Nuclear Assault in this album don’t result boring or annoying, always being able to capture your attention.
The tracks are not technical for sure and it’s enough to listen to the main riff on “Betrayal” and the following solos to realize that. But, in this case, who cares? They are unique in this way and I couldn’t imagine a technical Nuclear Assault! It would be so weird. The punk essentiality of lots of riffs is very important to understand how this genre was important those days for the growing grind movement that brought this essentiality to the extreme.
It’s also good and important to notice how some solos are quite melodic, forgetting a bit the classic non sense tremolo picking to focus the attention on different parts and sounds. “Hang The Pope” is the classic example of proto grindcore with semi blast beats and the sick vocals by the great Lilker. But exactly when everything seemed so extreme we have the doom, murky beginning to “Letter After The Holocaust” or the long, obscure “Brain Dead”. That’s the great thing. On the other hand we can still find a weird song like “My America” and it’s exactly here that lies the greatness of this album: it’s quite mature but essential and minimal at the same time.
This is their masterpiece in my opinion because here that formula was not abused and each influence was perfectly balanced. Great album.
With this album being unleashed Nuclear Assault immediately reached out to the world and solidified their importance in thrash metal history. Of course their best work was still to come and they still had to crystallise their own sound but Nuclear Assault already had enough character going on here to put them on the map in a very crowded scene.
Not only did Nuclear Assault differ from (most) contemporary thrashers in sound (John Connelly has a very specific voice), but also their lyrical content which was on the socially aware side of the thrash metal spectrum instead of singing about bikes, studs, babes or mr. Satan himself. Contrasting with their PC lyrics Nuclear Assault also were in the mood for a joke and each album features some.
On ‘Game Over’ Nuclear Assault isn’t always Nuclear Assault yet. At times one can hear the band searching for their own sound and incidentally incorporating some generic speed and heavy metal ideas. ‘Sin’ and ‘Stranded in Hell’ weren’t pure thrashers but on the aggressive side of speed metal. Songs with a more than obvious touch of old (Fisful-era) Anthrax. Which obviously is no surprise considering Dan Lilker’s history. This does not take away the fact that these are just great songs! However ‘Cold Steel’ and ‘Vengeance’ are of lesser quality and somewhat generic but still enjoyable since especially ‘Cold Steel’ has a great chorus.
‘Betrayal’ is by far the least impressive song with long dull mid tempo parts and a mediocre vocal melody.
‘Radiation Sickness’ and ‘After the Holocaust’ are high quality thrashers that indicate the path Nuclear Assault would choose on later albums. Something which also could be said about the anthemic classic ‘Brain Death’ with the exception of its slightly overstretched mid paced middle section. What becomes most obvious on Game Over is that Nuclear Assault simply sound at their best when playing at full speed. Even though John Connelly has the ability to mix screaming with what might be called vocal lines, he excels when the whole band speeds up.
And when discussing Dan Lilker one cannot deny, apart from the Anthrax history, that the Crab Society and S.O.D. days had left their mark, resulting in the funny short tunes ‘Hang The Pope’, ‘Mr. Softee Theme’ and ‘My America’. The addition of short funny songs was kept on their next releases even though none of them would ever touch the brilliance of the highly DRI-influenced S.O.D.-ish song ‘Hang The Pope’ which remained a staple live song.
‘Game Over’ introduced John Connelly’s manic vocals to the world and some Nuclear Assault classics. Something we al should be happy about. The album was very good but they even got better on their next two full lengths!
Nuclear Assault's debut is one nasty bastard of an album. Of all the classic thrash albums to come out in '86, Game Over is arguably the rawest, potentially one of the most intense, and easily the most tactless. But what it lacks in tact and refinement it certainly makes up for in attitude and sheer badassness, keeping the metal newbie and the seasoned veteran alike headbanging from riff to riff until its very end.
Things get off right away with the quick instrumental riffage of "L.S.D." before heading into the albums true songs. There's a very punkish quality to the band's playing, most notably in the shorter structure of most of the songs, but also in the frantic drumming, the relatively low-gain guitar distortion, and the quick, pounding (and quite audible) bass playing. Parallels can be drawn to S.O.D.'s debut as well as D.R.I's early output, and that crossover thrash influence is pretty evident throughout. There's even a pair of speedcore numbers thrown in for a quick 30-second or so riff-fest, though they're far less spectacular than the standard songs. Those songs, the brunt of the album, are just long enough to properly develop the mighty riffage of the Bramante/Connelly guitar tagteam, but never too long to bring down the band's massive speed high. Add in some shred-worthy lead, some simple yet effective subject matter, and the insanely energetic vocal delivery of John Connelly and you have a winning recipe for a solid thrash album.
The only truly questionable song (not counting the two short ones) is the album's epic closer, "Brain Death." The song is interesting lyrically, features a nice extended clean intro, and does have some marvellously heavy riffs in the main song section, but the bridge is just too damned drawn out. The same two riffs repeat back and forth for several minutes and there isn't even a real solo (there's a brief lead melody) or a bridge verse to make it interesting. Their hearts were in the right place, but the song just doesn't stand up to the mighty thrashers that come before it.
Oh, and the "Mr. Softee Theme" really sucks. It's unlisted on my copy and fades in right before the first side ends, so i usually just flip the record to avoid hearing it. It's dumb and a waste of vinyl.
But overall, this is a solid...no, a necessary addition to any thrash collection. It's a bit rudimentary when compared to some of its longer, more technical contemporaries, but kicks more than its fair share of ass by the day's end.
Straight outta Noo Yawk City came Nuclear Assault, and they were on eof the meanest bands around at the time, for me. The New York crossover scene featured some throughly badass bands (Cro-Mags, Crumbsuckers, and the legendary S.O.D. and M.O.D.) and NA were among the elite in those circles. Aside from the absolutely terrible, tinny production (especially the guitars--what the hell was Carl Canedy smoking?), this album OWNS. It spent LOTS of time on my turntable back in the day and was the first album that got me improving my bass guitar technique as I furiously strove to keep up with Danny Lilker's skinny forearm of steel keeping those riffs anchored.
To the record proper; "Live Suffer Die" kicks it off in fine thrashing mania, straight ahead blazing riffs and Glenn Evans' staggeringly fast drumming, flowing right into "Sin", a crunchy mid paced number with some good soloing delivered with riveting intensity. The wailing feedback intro for "Cold Steel" rips into another fabulous riff anchored by yet more stellar drumming--Glenn Evans was one of the best and most underrated drummers of the 80s--and headbanging bliss! Man...those were the days! "Hang The Pope"...ok, a throwaway, but an amusing throwaway, since I hate the Vatican and all it stands for in the first place. "Stranded In Hell", "Brain Dead", "Betrayal", all are other outstanding tunes here on this album. The only thing I really didn't like about this band was that the soloing needed more character, they were a little faceless for my taste. And John Connolly's vocals are unique, to say the least, perhaps even an acquired taste. But nobody out there sounds like him at all, like another fave of mine, Csihar Attila.
NA never quite followed up the impact of this classic release (except maybe with the following EP, "The Plague"), unfortunately, but I was still a huge fan. And I still love this album dearly to this day. Urgently recommended for newbies wondering just what the hell the glory days of the 80s were alll about, this album is. Throw "The Plague" in there for good measure, while we're at it...
Personal recognition go the album cover, one of the most hilarious ever made. The NA logo with the words "Game Over" below it and people running getting their shit ruined by the atomic blast that destroyed their city and will let them vulnerable to "radiation sickness" later on. The "game" is "over" for them. Hahahahahahaha. Geez, me and my morbid sense of humour.
So, what you're gonna get with this album. Well, thrash, simple and to the fucking point. A short instrumental intro lead us to "Sin", a fast number with great vocals and great riffs that go slower and crushing in the middle. John Connelly has that D.R.I. vibe to his way to sing. In fact, the whole album has a punk vibe to it. If you think about it, some hardcore-punk can't be bad if it is able to inspire bands like this. "Cold Steel" follows the same formula as the previous song. "My name is evil...." blah, blah, whatever the fuck he says, i'm too busy banging my head and playing air guitar. "Betrayal" is meaner, specially in the verses. "Radiation Sickness" is at this point the best song here, with some shouted vocals and the memorable "Die / Slow / Death!" line that makes you wanna hit the next person that dares crossing your path. Let's hope is not your gf, otherwise you won't get any love that night. In that case, you'll always have this album to fight the sorrow. Who says headbanging can't be therapeutical?
Next track follows, and the album turns a bit weird. If "Hang the Pope" isn't a hardcore song, i don't know what it is. "After the Holocaust", more headbanging, the usual Nuclear Assault "lets crush this assholes with some more thrash-meets-punk". Maybe too usual, almost an unremarkable song. "Stranded in Hell" begins faster, with a strong riff beneath the punkish drum pattern, and Connelly going wild again. More headbanging. Nice rhythm guitar backbone to the even nicer solo. Kudos to Anthony Bramante. He may not be technical, but his style is rich in good and catchy melodies. "Nuclear War", least punky and more thrashy. Fucking crushing in the verses. "Vengeance" walks into punk territory again, a very fun song with one of the catchiest chorus of the album. Of course, it makes you wanna headbang. Aren't you getting sick of this too? Where's my Garth Brooks album?
"Brain Death" is more interesting. Has an acoustic intro that precedes a solo bass line coming out of nowhere. Then the main riff, similar to the one on "Radiation Sickness", total thrash from then on. It goes slower in the middle, but no less effective. It is also the longest song, 7:14 minutes among the majority of others that clock around the 3 minute mark. Overall, get this if your thing is to simply thrash as consistently as you can. Remember, being complicated doesn't always mean better.
A very interesting album - thrash metal stripped down to its bare riff essence for the most part. Minimal distortion combined with punkish vocals results in a really catchy album, completely driven by interesting headbanging riffs. There are maybe 20 good solid whiplash-style middle breaks in all of thrash. Nuclear Assault have about nine of them. Including two in the first song!!!
We start with the hyperfast "Live, Suffer, Die", which moves fluidly into "Sin". Some nice riffs to be found here, including the intro riff of "Sin" which will be varied subtly throughout the whole song. Great thrash break #1 here. And #2. Don't waste 'em, kids. TWO IN ONE SONG!!
"Cold Steel" is more fucking ownage. MYNAMEISEVIL!! Then, "Betrayal" is kinda sloppy and stupid and midpaced, and ya know what, Nuclear Assault have never been good at playing slow, so they should just quit...
And play "Radiation Sickness"!!! I can't fucking understand the lyrics, but that's okay... the only part I can understand is the end. DIE SLOW DEATH!
"Hang the Pope" is the first throwaway song - Nuclear Assault can't seem to make an album without them. It's fast and incoherent. But then we get back to "After the Holocaust" which has a really cool intro - for the most part, Nuke A have always been good at the tasteful acoustic introes (see "Fight to Be Free", for example)... then some hideous shrieks by John Connelly, and some really well-done riffs. Then we are forced to sit through the Mr. Softee Theme for no reason, before going to "Stranded in Hell", with its maniac intro riff.
"Nuclear War" is also very good, with a solid backbone of catchy riffs - most songs here are based on two or three main riffs, played in about 6-8 total different ways, moving along at efficient speed with a few jaw-breaking time changes here and there, though not quite as much so as on the next N.A. album. "It's better just to die!"
"My America" - yet another throwaway, a waste of a perfectly good intro riff. "Vengeance" is very nice, then we get to "Brain Death", which shows Nuclear Assault's sense of melody - it's about 7 minutes long and starts off with a build-up intro, and then goes into frantic verses, and then an awesome riff-after-riff midpaced section.
Overall - the good thing is, that all the crappy songs are about 40 seconds long and therefore don't require you to suffer through them for inordinate periods of time, while the great songs are definitely worth hearing.