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Excuse me for starting this review with a little quiz question. What is the only flaw of a 100% debut? Of course, you know the answer. Its successor is always a disappointment. In the event of Nuclear Assault´s second album, maybe my expectations were just too high. Therefore, do not take the headline too seriously. I just have adopted a line of "Brainwashed" in order to express the adolescent anger that I felt when listening to the album for the first time. From today´s perspective, "Survive" displayed mid-harsh thrash metal and cannot be blamed for being a flop. In general, the full-length (can we really speak of a "full-length" in view of a ludicrous playtime of 31 minutes?) offered solidly composed songs. But the debut´s density of highlights remained out of reach. Furthermore, the album suffered from some minor flaws.
For example, the two minimalist pieces prolonged the series of Nuclear Assault´s unadjusted eruptions. But we were already familiar with these kind of jokes and both "Got Another Quarter" and "PSA" completely lacked of ideas. Even S.O.D.´s extended version of "Diamonds and Rust" was more witty, although it clocked in at four seconds. At least Danny Lilker should have known it. However, compare these moronic and insubstantial stopgaps with "Hang the Pope" and feel the difference. Furthermore, nobody needed a cover song of Led Zeppelin. In terms of quality and style, this tune marched to a different drummer and left nothing but a stale aftertaste. Finally, only a few of the regular songs reached the level of the debut´s highlights. "Game Over" had set the bar too high.
The best of the new tracks was called "Brainwashed" due to its rough pop appeal and the carefully thought out lyrics. "Television, the idiot tube, helps to raise our children as fools" was just one of the lines with which I agreed. It came as no surprise that Nuclear Assault hated conformity as well as manipulation and they articulated their opinion convincingly. The text of "Fight to be Free" was also worth reading. It scored with a differentiated consideration of military missions ("I believe this country's worth my life to help defend / I won't fight to help keep Dow Jones out of the red"). Unfortunately, some other lyrics seemed to be written in five minutes, for example the Darwinian poetry of the title track. Nonetheless, this was one of the best pieces. With regard to its unbridled approach, the hostile aura and the sharp-edged main riff, the lyrical emptiness did not constitute a remarkable shortage.
Generally speaking, the first third of the album made your head bang while giving you a very good opportunity to kill eleven minutes of your time. Its second third presented, inter alia, the sluggish yet captivating "Weird". But at the latest after the rapid ninth track "Equal Rights" with its mechanized vocals, the band was running out of ideas. Aggravating this situation, the stupid cover artwork and unfortunately also the production did not deserve the highest praise. It was slightly dull and the drums failed to deliver the necessary degree of power. Due to this reasons, "Survive" also failed to be on a par with "Game Over" in terms of the technical implementation. To cut a long story short, the band fell short of its possibilities while presenting only some exciting songs instead of offering a killer full-length.
A physical copy of this album will run you quite a good amount of scratch, but I feel it's completely worth it for those like me who are hell-bent on owning and collecting. For everyone else, definitely download this album, because it is one of the best east coast thrashers from the 80's. This annihilates anything Anthrax ever put out, and has some downright essential tracks that will be frequenting your thrash playlist.
Let's start with that cover art. Is it not one of the most striking thrash covers you've ever seen? Because it doesn't just look cool, it makes a statement. The looming self-destruction of our planet emphasized with the simple smoke and bubbles of a nuclear power plant eclipsing the overlooking death skull, while in mockingly blank font the title tells you directly to SURVIVE. Just awesome.
Production wise this album fits in great with that timeless 80's sound, with a sufficient crunch to the guitars, a steady reverberating drum tone, and what I will describe as a boiling bass sound. Lilker's rapid bass lines meld through the guitar riffs with this very bubbly sound that is the perfect volume. Speaking of the bass, the bass lines here are just great and a true highlight of the album. Dan Lilker doesn't just follow the guitar for a lot of the album, and when he does, it's usually on faster bits that the bass elevates to a truly crushing and ripping sound. Yet the sound is more evocative then your average thrasher. Every time I listen to this album I am taken to an nuclear apocalyptic world a la Mad Max, Fallout, and the like.
Particularly on the two most atmospheric songs on here, Fight to be Free, which is my favorite here, with one of the best acoustic introductions I've heard, and the slower paced Wired. Wired shows Connely's vocals at their peak, with an awesome echo that bellows over though chords to create a dismal atmosphere that is as eerie as it is head bang worthy. Fight to be Free is just a great song that you should just listen to now.
The bulk of the album though is ripping and fast. Human Rights has impossible to understand fast vocals, that is good benchmark to sample to hear what the faster sections are like. The guitar work is typically fast, sloppy, and delicious. The two guitars backed by such a great rhythm section make for a very headbangable, enjoyable, and yet rather (as mentioned) atmospheric album.
The outlier here is obviously the Led Zeppelin cover which may end the album on a sour, out of place note. Personally, after all that apocalyptic thrashing ending with a really happy song, brought to a great level thanks to Connely's slightly slurred but charming delivery. At the very least I always have a smile on my face when the album ends. Even if it is a bit of deal breaker for you the rest of the album will still kick your ass, guaranteed.
The only reason I find myself taking off a few points is because amidst all the mayhem, some of the songs start to meld together a little bit. Also the really short grind songs don't really hurt at all thanks to the brevity, but after a few listens they don't really add much either. If anything they kind of mar the albums otherwise consistent vibe throughout. Despite The really minor flaws, I definitely encourage you to get this album if you can, as it offers a unique, east coast thrash assault that doesn't get old.
For capturing the 80's thrash metal scene mixed with 80's nuclear fear, Survive gets a 5 out of 5!
Fight to be Free
Good Times, Bad Times
It may have been rough around the edges, but "Game Over" was a great start for NYC thrashers Nuclear Assault. On top of being considered an underground classic for thrash metal, it also holds a special importance for me as an album that helped me open up to what the genre has to offer. However ambitious it may have been, "Game Over" had some juvenile traits about it that held it back. In keeping with my expectations, Nuclear Assault's second album "Survive" addresses this issue and more. It's fairly usual for a band's second time around to me more mature, but with this added sense of maturity, a new level of aggression and heaviness has been reached. This exchange sacrifices some of the catchiness and fun of the first record, but Nuclear Assault are better for the change; "Survive" is an album that feels complete.
Both "Game Over" and "Survive" are fine examples of thrash doctrine, yet in the short years between the two, it's clear Nuclear Assault changed up their approach quite a bit. The debut was laced with a progressive quirk that screamed Voivod, and though I would not say Nuclear Assault have thrown that sound away completely here, they've certainly taken some steps towards the more speed-oriented realm of Slayer. It could be a matter of my own personal taste and musical experience, but this change makes Nuclear Assault's second album a bit more challenging to get into. There aren't the same amount of standout tunes this time around, but the songwriting is more concise and consistent.
Although the riffs are not as immediately impressive as they were on "Game Over", virtually every other aspect of the band has improved. Most notably, frontman John Connelly's vocals sound incredible. His style rests somewhere between an aggressive clean voice and thrashy bark. The most impressive part of his delivery lies in the range. The album's most memorable tune "F#" is a testament to his high-pitched screams; he not only hits the high note, but pulls it off with the same fierce intensity one hears throughout his vocals on the album. Although his drumwork on "Game Over" never really stood out to me, Glenn Evans offers a thunderous rhythm to this soundtrack of atomic warfare.
"Survive" is usually the album that I hear mentioned whenever Nuclear Assault is discussed. Although I'm not sure whether I personally prefer "Game Over" more- if only for sentimental value- but "Survive" is a definite improvement in regards to its success as a start-to-finish album. Even the Led Zeppelin cover "Good Times, Bad Times" feels right at home, given a radioactive do-over. If one was to nitpick, the ten-second 'interlude' "PSA" sounds out of place (I swear it sounds like it could have been heard on Blasphemy's "Fallen Angel of Doom!"), but the lame 'short' tracks that de-railed the debut have been largely phased out of the formula this time around. It's little over half an hour long, but there's enough energy here worth many a listen.
One minor detail that always struck me about the Nuclear Assault sophomore was the imperative tense of the title. This isn't 'survival', or 'surviving'. No, the band is telling YOU to survive, while a menacing Satanic skull leers at you from above a pair of toxic smokestacks. It all plays into how relevant the New Yorkers were to the 80s, that time of late Cold War paranoia, AIDS pandemic, waste dumping and ozone depletion circa 'glamor'. Like Jimmy and Billy Lee fist fighting through the fictional streets of Double Dragon, so too do the Nukes, ramping up the level of hostility showcased on their earlier EPs and issuing what might prove to be the very pinnacle of urban East Coast riot-thrash to its day, an excellent soundtrack for curb-stomping post-apocalyptic mutants or just flossing out the cerebral nodes of all the bullshit that surrounds you on a daily basis.
Tonally, Survive is not a massive evolutionary stride forward from the previous album. You're still getting those punk and hardcore motifs, they just seem to better bleed into the harder bite of the metallurgical ingredients they culled from their traditional/speed influences. The crisp springiness of the Game Over guitar tone has been supplanted by a more muscled aesthetic fit for abusing carcasses at a meat packing plant. I'd say that the production of this record was more 'professional', better balanced than the other area breakouts of this time without sacrificing any of its visceral potency. For example, State of Euphoria and Under the Influence had nothing on this in terms of sheer bludgeoning force quotient. That's not to say I preferred the sound here to the debut, but it certainly fits the bill for a band who were outwardly exploding into the market like this one. The vocals, bass and drums are all well managed in the mix, and there remains that substratum of urgency to Nuclear Assault's performance here which made you feel like the sky was dropping, that all hell had broken loose in the street outside your home, and that you'd break out that spiked bat or those brass knuckles and phase into survival mode.
The bass playing is quite good. Not only do the lines bustle along with a kinetic, workmanlike utility similar to fellow New Yorkers Anthrax, but Dan Lilker loads in the fills and sufficiently anchors what many people today would probably consider a relatively simplistic palette of axe rhythms. Evans is mildly more forceful than on the debut, with some of his own refined fills heightening the intensity, and the guitars implement a lot of atmosphere to round out the crude, belligerent rhythms (like the melodies in the bridge of "Brainwashed"), a component they drew forward from their moodier pieces like "Brain Dead" or "The Plague". Connelly seems more emotive in his singing, though that might just come from the better lyrical configurations. These guys truly know how to get the pits worked up and the dead proteins whipping in their audience, and a huge part of that is the message behind what they're singing. Survive encourages intelligence and individuality to a fault with tracks like "Brainwashed" and "F#". This isn't poetry, and the lyrics and concept might seem rather plebeian to a modern audience, but in 1988 we needed all the ammunition we could to battle the hordes of Bon Jovi and Poison drones, and Nuclear Assault provided us with an entire silo of rockets and rounds.
Where the album really excels for me beyond its elder sibling is in the songwriting. There are still a few of those flighty, cheesy briefs like "PSA" and "Got Another Quarter" which speed past in such a blur that they hardly matter. The cover of Led Zeppelin's "Good Times, Bad Times" does nothing for me, not because I can't appreciate the band's love of classic rock or the contrast against the harder originals, but I feel like they might have made it far more incendiary and a better fit to the remainder. Survive is not an album I wanna turn to for hard rock grooves and firing up a bong. It's for flinging manhole covers at the passing vehicles of police and politicians, or subway rumbling with Ajax and Swan. So, while it's not at all a bad version of the 1969 classic, I've always felt like one of these things did not belong with the other. Otherwise, though, you're getting about 28 minutes of knuckle dusting, pavement scraping apocalyptic entertainment the likes of which you're just not going to hear outside of other classics, like the painfully underrated Act of God (ZnoWhite).
"Brainwashed" is the towering juggernaut here, a mid-paced anti-TV/radio brawler which earns points not only for its unforgettable, iconic chorus of 'why don't you think for yourself ' but also for the gleaming knife like leads, bridge atmosphere, and for including the phrase 'regurgitated pap' under its eaves. This also had quite a cool video with the guys moshing around their local turf, creating havoc, Connelly standing on stage for his close ups with an utter lack of pretension, just a baseball hat and ANGER. Again, as I mentioned on the previous review, there was no sense of separation between this band and their audience. These were the dudes standing next to you at the gig. They WERE you, only given a louder voice through vexed, precision thrashing. Easily one of my favorite headbanging tunes of 1988, which is saying a lot, since more than any other the year was over saturated with excellence (to the point that, as much as I enjoy Survive, it wouldn't even have made my year's end top 20). This brought the word 'conformist' to the forefront of my vocabulary to the point that I must have pissed off everyone I knew.
It's not alone, of course, and between the hammering momentum of "Rise from the Ashes", "F#" and "Equal Rights", the last being the most hardcore inflected on the record, there seems no end to the crushing unrest. Other mid-paced beasts like "Great Depression" and "Wired", with its great bass flow and echoed, arching screams might not prove so catchy as "Brainwashed", but they effectively exhibit the band's added level of compositional variation and depth.There's another pretty popular tune called "Fight to Be Free", the first single, which brings back the clean guitar and harmonies the band had used before, and even while it's not a particular favorite of mine, there's an airiness to it that seems to foreshadow the following record, Handle With Care; though the band does lurch into a straight up mosh sequence in the bridge with some countered, rhythmic barking and zippy leads.
Survive has itself survived the ensuing decades with nary a scratch to its surface, sounding just as volatile, energetic and rebellious as it did when I bought it. There were definitely other thrash albums around this period which I preferred, like the the staggering artistry and complexity European groups like Coroner and Deathrow had evolved towards, or the accelerated splatter of Razor's Violent Restitution and Tankard's Morning After, but this felt like East Coast. It felt like home, and like Game Over, Taking Over, Among the Living, Why Play Around? and other staples of the region, belongs in the paws of any discriminating cypher of the asphalt.
Nuclear Assault always gave an impression of wanting to jump on board with the crossover craze, and though they came a lot closer to it than Anthrax did, they just didn’t quite fall completely in line with the obligatory shortness from start to finish and utter simplicity demanded by it. There’s always the token sub-30 second ditty to remind the listener of the overt hardcore influences that are just a little more present here than in any of the Big 4 followers in the style, but ultimately this is a band that likes their fast solos, their high pitched shrieks, and their slight edge towards complexity.
“Survive” sees the band falling 100% into this niche, leaning just a bit more closely to the punk side of the coin, yet also incorporating a bit more of a metallic edge in the overall production department. The guitar sound has taken on much more of a crushing, Testament/Metallica character that meshes perfectly with the snare heavy, reverb-infused character of the drums. John Connelly’s high pitched yell definitely takes some cues from Discharge, but also from a couple of noteworthy NWOBHM vocalists that had more of a tuneful tendency to their grit, and has since become a wellspring of inspiration for the likes of Municipal Waste and a few others at present. The bass is perhaps the lone outlier, taking on more of a punchy, thick sound more in line with Dave Ellefson’s raunchy approach, yet with about twice as much intrigue and activity.
Unlike many of the more noteworthy punk influenced or embryonic death metal purveyors of the 80s, this is a band that knows how to pull off a skull-crushing mid-tempo riff fest without need of resorting to the cliché light speed thrashing break (“Reign In Blood”) or blast fests (“Speak English Or Die”), as indicated by the masterful crunch exhibited on “Brainwashed” and “Wired”. Still, the vast majority of work found on here definitely plays up the neck-ruining maelstrom something fierce, particularly that of “Great Depression” and “Survive”. At times things get so violently exhilarating that it gets difficult to avoid comparing this to the more intricate efforts of the Bay Area, namely that of “Eternal Nightmare”, but this still manages to come off as a bit more in control and low key than most of the outright hurricanes of riffs and shouts typical to a lot of the more excessive late 80s efforts out of San Francisco or Sepultura’s “Beneath The Remains” for that matter.
If there is any Persian flaw to be found in this otherwise brilliant follow up to the magnificent “Game Over”, it’s that Connelly’s vocal performance gets a little excessive at times. Obviously trying to comprehend the hyper-speed babble occurring on the blast beat drenched ditty “Psa” is a lost cause, but at times even on more conventional thrashers like “Equal Rights” it almost sounds like what’s written on the lyric sheets is put there just for show and that what Connelly’s is actually saying is more along the lines of a complex series of blahs. Still, even when things are impossible to lyrically discern, it’s still a boatload of fun for the whole family, provided that you belong to a family of screwed up thrashers with a few too many missing from the liquor cabinet.
There’s a lot of really excellent material to choose from if one is predisposed to 80s New York thrash metal, but this is definitely in the essential category. It’s not quite as memorable as the debut, but it more than makes up for it with aggression and attitude. There’s also a pretty solid cover of Zeppelin’s “Good Times, Bad Times” to polish this thing off, including the obligatory cowbell for anyone still reeling over the Saturday Night Live skit parodying “Don’t Fear The Reaper”. Thrash in good health.
If Nuclear Assault’s debut is the thrash equivalent of the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima, than their sophomore release, Survive, is the equivalent of a thermonuclear carpet bombing. We’re talking nuclear winter here; this thing’s power is measured in megatons. With Survive, NA improved significantly from Game Over: upping the distortion (and consequently, the riffage), cranking up the intensity level to at least 12, and dramatically increasing their kill radius beyond comparison to most conventional nuclear weapons (having wrecked the necks of countless listeners to date).
This is one of Nuclear Assault’s finest hours, showing them at their absolute best for almost its entire duration. The songs on here are a bit longer than the ones on Game Over, allowing for more tempo changes and structural diversity without slowing the band’s frantic pace one bit. Much of this is fast as fuck, as one would expect, but there’s plenty of mid-paced madness as well (“Wired” is a good example, it kicks ass regardless of the slower tempo). There’s even a nice clean intro to “Fight to be Free,” featuring a sweet solo from front man John Connelly. Though his playing and writing work magnificently with Anthony Bramante’s throughout the album, most of the choice solos are played by Bramante. But they suit one another nonetheless, with plenty of dueling leads to be found here. Glenn Evans once again beats the hell out of his set in that unhinged, yet spot-on way that only he can, impressing friends and embarrassing foes. Danny Lilker also continues to impress, with a better fit in the mix this time around and more great fills. Lyrics continue in the vein of their earlier politically-minded material and once again it works well.
The songs on here are varied, but almost entirely awesome. The fury of “Equal Rights” and “Rise from the Ashes” perfectly suits the crushing mid-tempo stompers like “Wired” and “Brainwashed.” Unfortunately, there’re a few pointless tracks included here as well, which seems to be the case on most of the band’s albums. I’m talking about “PSA” and “Got Another Quarter,” not the cover of Zep’s “Good Times Bad Times.” That song is a pretty accurate cover, though heavier than the original. Only downside is that it shows John Connelly’s general inability to sing well. His voice suits the band’s original material flawlessly, but he’s not much for imitating anyone with a melodic voice. But yeah, “PSA” and “Got Another Quarter” are pretty worthless. At least “Hang the Pope” from Game Over had a good message behind it.
But overall, Survive is an enjoyable release from an enjoyable band, definitely ranking among the best thrash albums from ’88 (though admittedly there are fewer classics from that year) and a staple addition to anyone’s collection. Supposedly it’s a bit rare on CD; in that case, get a fucking phonograph, this album is worth it.
As simple as that. Although I personally will always prefer ‘Handle With Care’, most others mention ‘Survive’ as being their favourite Nuclear Assault album. Not without reason of course. We’re talking about a brilliant thrash metal release from the eighties here. In a time when some thrash metal bands were talking it a bit slower (Slayer), or getting more technical and accessible (Exodus, Kreator) or more elaborate (Metallica, Overkill), Nuclear Assault decided to unleash a no-holds-barred full speed thrash explosion.
‘F#’ has one of the most powerful vocal melodies on the album as far as catchy verses are concerned. The changes of pace on ‘Rise From The Ashes’ seem somewhat contrived instead of created but still the song makes sense. Mid tempo tunes ‘Wired’ and ‘Brainwashed’ are welcomed in this racket of up tempo quality thrash metal. ‘Brainwashed’ probably has the most memorable lyrics of the album (and the video was just simply cool.)
Now ‘Equal Rights’. What a fast thrasher that is. What the hell was John Connelly thinking here? What idiot would put this amount of words in a verse. All I can say, get the lyrics and try to sing along folks! The title track is also worth mentioning, being catchy with each line ending with ‘Only the strong will survive ’. The Led Zeppelin cover ‘Good Times, Bad Times’ is remarkably good. It’s a good thing they didn’t choose a musically difficult Zeppelin tune of course but mostly it’s John Connelly’s vocals that make this version worth listening to!
As always I forgive them their funny tunes. Actually I like a lot of them. Can’t see my Nuclear Assault collection without Hang The Pope, Lesbians, My America nor even later stuff like Mother’s Day. Here on ‘Survive’ it’s ‘Got Another Quarter’ and ‘P.S.A.’. However both do not even come close to the genius that was ‘Hang the Pope’. But hey, that’s only 32 seconds on the entire 31:21 minutes the album takes so who’d complain? Not me anyway.
‘Survive’ is their most furious album, presenting the world some superb hyperactive thrash metal with very characteristic vocals and a lot of catchy vocal lines, choruses and hooks.
You like thrash? Then this album is already in your collection. If not, shame on you.
Nuclear Assault seems to be fairly well-known and loved by Trash enthusiasts, but it is just about unknown to any non-metalhead. I think they are one of the most overlooked bands in history, and clearly did not receive the attention they deserved as one of the best thrashers out there.
“Survive” is Nuclear Assault’s best album, IMHO. The songs are nonstop adrenaline-pounding pure thrash and speed – exactly what metal music should be. Amazing pounding riffs are heard throughout the album, as well as several [amazing] dual guitar solos. The highly distorted guitars add a more heavier and dark sound to the riffs, which are guaranteed to keep you headbanging all album long.
One bad side of this album is the slight lack in production. Nevertheless, the music definitely makes up for it. All the songs are slightly similar though, so you don’t get much diversity throughout the album. However, I never found this to bother me particularly much.. There aren’t any fillers, as each track is kickass, but the album IS a bit on the short side. Adding a couple songs definitely wouldn’t hurt.
One song that surprised me to see on this album is a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times, Bad Times.” I must admit, Nuclear Assault did a great job covering it. I wouldn’t expect differently from them.
Unfortunately, this album is now out of print. VERY HIGHLY recommended, so looking for it on Ebay and buying it used would definitely be worth the money. This is what thrash is all about – give them a listen. You won’t be disappointed.
The second Nuclear Assault full-length "Survive" is a pretty nice slab of NY Thrash Metal, and out of print so is a bitch to find - I've had the luck of obtaining one CD copy AND a picture disc of this one. Hell yeah.
This is just straight-up thrash, fast riffage for your headbanging enjoyment. The most unique factor of the band must be the vocals of John Connelly. He's got a weird, generally high-pitched voice, which is completely impossible to decipher without a lyrics sheet, but it works pretty damn well. Him and Anthony Bramante handle guitar duties very well - Excellent heavy moshing riffage abound ("Brainwashed" verse riff, for example. Absolutely crushing) in the classic New York vein, and also some damn nice, fast solo duels are blasted out here and there, always used effectively.
Some of the songs tend to blend into eachother though, mostly because of a rather bland production, but it all sounds good. Opening track "Rise From The Ashes" starts out nice, above midpaced and then goes into a menacing thrash break. Some songs are slightly forgettable, like "Technology" or the silly two-second songs. But for the most part, this album works damn well, and brings on the riffs you seek. "F#" is damn catchy and just damn nice, fast-paced thrashage, as is "The Great Depression" and "Fight To Be Free", which also features an excellent melodic intro. They also give us a fun cover of Led Zep's "Good Times, Bad Times" (Thrash covers of Led Zeppelin have a tendency to be amusing. Dark Angel - "Immigrant Song", anyone?) But the definite highlight is "Survive" - Now we'll see... what remains.. for the weak, THERE'S NOT MUCH! The fastest song on here, and monster headbanging riffs all over. The chorus riff is fucking nuts.
Overall, a very nice thrash album from the legendary Nuclear Assault. Sometimes the overly politically correct lyrics get a bit silly, but the music for the most part works really well, and the title track fucking owns you.