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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.