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1989 was the year of the culmination of Nuclear Assault’s career, although by that year they already achieved certain popularity and success, after the couple of extended-plays, the couple of long-plays and some singles they put out. Dan Lilker was able to get over his departure from Anthrax, surround himself with the proper musicians and producers, and reach the same level as his old pals. The previous record demonstrated that the group found their definitive distinctive sound and attitude, but the best was yet to come.
Nuclear Assault get serious for a second and develop their song writing and sound to get a higher level of complexity. It’s time to get some consistent coherent songs, more ambitious that the 30 seconds lenght jokes. Well, their characteristic humor is on most of the lyrics, “Mother’s Day” and “Funky Noise” in particular, but even if the compositions are still simple, basic and raw, their structure have got more convincing. “New Song”, “F# (Wake Up)” or “Surgery” are plenty of harsh riffs, hyperactive tempo changes (they slow down on the lead chorus, then speed up when verses are over and the riffing attacks again), violent blast beats and unforgettable outrageous screaming vocals. Something that didn’t change from their previous stuff on some tracks is the unquestionable presence of hardcore influence; the velocity and fierce execution of the basic riff sequence. They play as fast as possible on “Inherited Hell”, “Search & Seizure” and “Emergency” to make you headbang like mad, however the bunch of mid-paced breaks and variations on the riffing force them to calm down and put emphasis on the instrumental display as well. The slow numbers among the insane bunch of frantic tunes are the thrash anthems “Critical Mass” and the melancholy dramatic “Trail Of Tears”, along with the catchiest “Torture Tactics” and “When Freedom Dies”. The solid wall of sound built by the rampant guitars and the brilliant rhythmic section is immense, splendid; the intention of leaving the hardcore noisy chaos of the early years behind becomes evident.
Everybody loves the bass on this record, sometimes more notable and essential than the guitar themselves. Dan Lilker’s contribution is vital, indispensable and refuse to just support the bass-drum beats in a humble way, he’s playing each riff on bass like one more guitar player. The other remarkable characteristic on this album is the peculiar vocal style of John Connelly, completely opposite to the sweet mellow melodic work of David White, Mike Sanders, John Cyriis or David Wayne. His crazy uncontrolled voice tone fits the music ideally, after all nobody said that thrash music ever demanded the art of wonderful Opera singers. About Connelly and Anthony Bramante’s guitar work I must be slightly negative, we all know they are far from technical or virtuous (just like Dan Spitz), but the massive dirty distortion of their instruments is excessive, sometimes making details and notes unlistenable. Don’t expect impressing solos, their work is humble but efficient, and that’s enough for the concept of toxic hardcore thrash of this group. Glenn Evans must’ve got exhausted after recording this long-play, and probably hard to replace his bass-drum pedals, the tunes required speed all the time. I think people didn’t realize yet about his impressive skills, or give him the credits he deserves for his contribution to this subgenre. The lyrics were a nice surprise, the coolest I’ve heard along with Anthrax’s, specially those about climate change and natural environment, the persistence of time didn’t affect them at all.
I noticed that this album is usually forgotten behind “Game Over” and “Survive”, but it’s unfair because the sound on this one is superior, bigger and more solid than anything else these guys did. Just get your necks ready to headbang, play this CD as loud as possible and enjoy the culmination of the finest New York thrash in the history of metal.