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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.