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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.