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No doubt, this band was storming through the sub genres in a mind-boggling manner. After having played punk, death metal and Slayer-influenced thrash, the guys of Onslaught (or an imbecile consultant) had the dubious idea that Metallica-inspired metal seemed to be more lucrative. (A few years later, their compatriots of Xentrix made the same mistake.) The management, the bureaucrats of the record company, they all were very happy. The only outcast was Sy Keeler. He lost his job and his raw appearance was replaced by the more melodic voice of Steve Grimmett. This was a bad omen from my perspective, because exactly this pseudo-thrasher had also been responsible for the vocals on Grim Reaper's "See You in Hell", one of the greatest flops of my record collection. And - surprise, surprise - Grimmett's performance on "In Search of Sanity" was doomed from the start, because everybody expected the next violent attack, but his probably well trained voice was anything else but aggressive.
But the contribution of my old friend was not the crucial factor for the totally unexpected failure of the album. After the mind-numbing intro (five minutes of total emptiness, did they call that a joke?), a slack riff welcomed the perplexed listener and the title track began to spread its slightly stinking aroma. Grimmett chirped his lines, the guitars set the focus on sleepy harmonies and the drummer acted in slow motion. Some melody lines and solos were not completely bad, but honestly speaking, this seemed to be another band. "Shellshock" was a little bit more forceful. Its solid riffing and the convincing chorus left a good impression, but Grimmett's high-pitched intermezzos attacked my nerves. Nevertheless, "Shellshock" illustrated that Onslaught were still able to compose more or less good songs, although it seemed as if the "Flame of the Antichrist" had cauterised a lot of the musician's creativity.
I don't know what was worse. Fairly aggressive songs like "Lightning War" or "Power Play" that were almost ruined by Grimmett's inadequate singing or absolutely lame tunes such as "Welcome to Dying" which were equipped with emotional (and completely tiring) guitar lines. I tend to the latter. But the greatest catastrophe was yet to come. I am talking about the AC/DC cover. It sucked! Well, due to whatever reasons, the insufferable Celine Dion has covered "You Shook Me All Night Long". I must mention this impertinence in this context, because this is probably the only AC/DC cover which is worse than Onslaught's performance of "Let there be Rock". The eponymous record from 1977 was my first vinyl and it is a brilliant album with an outstanding title track. Too bad that Onslaught raped this sonic monument without any feeling for its quintessence. I don't know if they core their apples, but they definitely cored this masterpiece. Separate Angus Young from his band mates, give him an acoustic guitar and he will play a more violent version of his classic. Onslaught's interpretation was just a violation of musical high culture.
Irrespective of the commercialized approach, most of the songs were much too long. Nobody needed more than eight minutes of "Blood Upon the Ice". Everything was said and done after the first half of the song. But instead of offering a compressed version, Onslaught knew no pity. They stretched the piece endlessly, not realizing that this was hardly to swallow for their new target group (also known as superficial mainstream consumers). Due to my affinity for Onslaught, I really tried to fall in love with this album, but it was impossible. It just did not work. By the way, the same applied for the light production. But it makes no sense to speak about the quality of a production when being confronted with totally disappointing song material. It was no wonder that the album did not put the scene into turmoil. Quite the opposite, it was a foreseeable development that "In Search of Sanity" marked the last Onslaught album for a very long time. The loss of credibility could not be compensated.
Here we get a little heavier and enter the realm of thrash metal, although this time it makes sense as this was the first and only album released by this British thrashers with Mr. Steve Grimmett (Grim Reaper, Chateaux, Lionsheart). Over the years this album has been despised by some Onslaught fans due to its more commercial edge compared with what could be heard in "Power From Hell" and "The Force", but I've never really understood why. Yes, some of the violence is gone, but hell, this one is also impressive. I don't know if it's better than its predecessor, but it surely surpasses the music from the debut, and does more commercial mean worse? Usually that's the way it is, but sometimes this also comes with an increase in quality, compositional abilities, and overall sound. That's the case with Onslaught's third release and last before their initial split.
"In Search of Sanity" (exquisitely produced by Stefan Galfas) places the band among some of the more refined speed/thrash metal bands of their time such as Testament, Annihilator, and especially Metal Church and mid '80s Metallica (the production sounds very similar to Flemming Rasmussen's works with the four from San Francisco); lengthy, fast, and sometimes quite melodic or even progressive speed/thrash metal songs with a perfect mix between the really hard guitar riffs and Steve Grimmett's amazing voice. It's quite understandable why some of the hardcore thrashers never swallowed the crystalline sound of "In Search Of Sanity" and Grimmett's melodic vocals, but this album should have taken the band to a wider audience that never became aware of Onslaught's activities. Quite a shame, but I think that we should blame London Recordings for this. Just one year after the release, Steve left the band, being replaced by Tony O'Hora, but their fate was already written.
Onslaught’s third full-length release In Search of Sanity is definitely a change in sound from their last two releases. Instead of a full speed Slayer esque thrash assault In Search of Sanity, represents the far more melodic and commercial approach that a lot of thrash bands were incorporating into their style in the late 80’s. The darker atmosphere and lyrical approach of Power from Hell and The Force has been dropped in favor of more death and insanity oriented topic. The songs are even longer than on The Force and are much slower and more melodic.
In Search of Sanity is a mix of power, thrash, and speed metal with a more melodic edge. The songs themselves are mainly mid-tempo besides Power Play which is the fastest song on the album and rely more on repeating riffs, leads, and choruses. Acoustic guitars are used mainly on the Metallica inspired Welcome To Dying which sounds like a less heavy, much longer and more melodic hybrid of One and Fade to Black. A speed metal version of AC/DC’s Let There Be Rock is present and while it is a solid cover it doesn’t add to the album.
The band’s performance is solid if a bit uninspired considering the highly repetitive nature of In Search of Sanity. Steve Grimmett provides vocals on this release and instead of the harsher less melodic vocals of earlier Onslaught, Grimmett sings in a melodic classic metal style with a higher range. Nige Rockett and Rob Trottman play their guitars skillfully, but play the same riffs too many times and focus more on the riffs than the leads and solos. James Hinder’s bass guitar gives a bass heavy feel to the album and follows the guitars the whole time. Steve Grice drumming is standard and really doesn’t stand out at all from the rest of the band member’s.
In Search of Sanity suffers from some major weaknesses which bring down the score a lot. First off the songs are on average two minutes too long and could use more riffs. The album length is as long as many of the late 80’s progressive thrash albums but In Search of Sanity is far from progressive. Steve Grimmett is a great and versatile vocalist but doesn’t give off any of the usual angry thrash vocals and doesn’t really fit on this album. Finally Asylum the album opener is a pointless horror based atmospheric song which is too long and doesn’t fit the music on this album at all.
In Search of Sanity overall is a solid thrash album but far from an excellent release. If In Search of Sanity had been shortened and made less repetitive it could have been a classic. Best songs are In Search of Sanity, Lightning War, Welcome To Dying, Power Play. I recommend this release to fans of melodic thrash metal not thrash metal purists.
-4 points songs are too long and repetitive
-4 points album length is way too long
-4 points vocals do not fit In Search of Sanity
-4 points pointless atmospheric album opener
Onslaught's previous release The Force had me in quite an awe, it was a relentless thrash assault I could easily see myself enjoying along with Artillery, Exumer, and Grinder just to name a few bands (that sound similar), but what the hell happened here? I guess I can't say I was totally surprised by this, since it's got quite a nasty vibe going for it already. Though my interest got the best of me and this was just another one of those albums I wanted to hear for myself. It's not pretty, not one bit.
Yeah, we've all seen it happen before especially with some of the bigger names out there. Thrash bands take a turn for the worst, get a little "groovy" slowing everything down and try to be more approachable. This is probably what Onslaught were trying to accomplish with this release but ... damn is this just a mess. Even if their softer/slower style wasn't enough of a change, they brought in Steve Grimmett of Grim Reaper fame to take over vocals. Along with this a new bassist and guitarist were added replacing former members, which probably just added more to the big equation.
Don't get me wrong, I gave Grim Reaper's "Best Of" compilation quite a nice review a long time ago and it's still something I really enjoy - I really enjoy Steve Grimmett. He's an incredible vocalist and really classy at times with that great 'NWOBHM' styled voice that he carries. I love my thrash and I love my shrieking vocalists. But it's the way Onslaught used him here, I'm not sure if it was Grimmett himself that made the band change so drastically or not but these vocals here don't fit at all! At times it sounds like they just recorded some completely random vocals over some completely random music, it's just that bad. The worst part about all of this is that it definitely could have worked out. Just look at Toxik, Realm, Flotsam and Jetsam, etc, there were plenty of thrash bands out there with clean vocalists that were great (although thrash fans are always torn on this aspect, I'm sure we can all agree at least the way the vocals were executed they fit in with the band perfectly, which is not the case here). As the former reviewers have stated, Grimmett does truly do a great job singing here, it's just that he doesn't sound in tune with the music at all or with Onslaught's image. He tries to soar away with nearly every single note and after awhile it begins to sound too disjointed and makes this really flavorless.
Now I've honestly seen bands take even more drastic turns for the worst and really this album is still pretty heavy at times; just nothing you'd compare to Onslaught's previous releases. They start things off terribly with a five minute long intro that does nothing and from there, it quickly becomes obvious of how out of place the music is with itself on In Search of Sanity, even the guitar tone on this track sounds incredibly odd. The riffs are hardly memorable and there's quite a bit of short quick picking with the guitars which doesn't sound that great at all, so you sometimes don't even end up with powerful riffs of any sort. When the riffs come in they usually don't sound complete or don't continue on for very long, so it's quite a let down on some of the tracks. Overall the music is pretty generic and once you've heard a few tracks you've really heard them all. Lightning War and Power Play seem like the best picks here, being the most aggressive tracks you'll delve into but even the best here aren't without quirks. To pretend this album didn't come from Onslaught might allow one to appreciate it more, but even so it sounds too out of place to fully enjoy and remember. Can't really recommend this one, maybe if you like Annihilator. The Force makes this look like a joke though.
This has to be one of the biggest disappointments… ‘Power from Hell’ & ‘The Force’ are two very different albums, but both managed to capture some incredibly killer tunes and atmosphere. ‘In Search of Sanity’, however, is very dull, tame and flavourless. The musical equivalent of being bashed to death with a fluffy toy. Let us dissect this failure…
Yet another vocalist change brings Steve Grimmett into the picture. Very melodious, schooled and correct in his pitch. That’s the problem! It’s too ‘goody goody’ sounding. A lame attempt at softening and commercialising Onslaught. Where are the satanic references? Where is the danger?
The guitar playing of Nige ‘Rockett’ is super clean & too light. The song structure he’s written is weak, boring and there are too many solos. I’m sure it’s so he could show off how ‘mature’ he had become since ‘Power From Hell’. There’s hardly any shred (Lightning War is an exception). Instead he provides us with over-produced, over-clean power ballads.
They even desecrate AC/DC with a horrible cover of Let There Be Rock. Why??? I’m sure the corpse of Bon Scott is vomiting in his crypt.
Instead of moving the band into another level of fame and fortune, this record seemed to kill them. Don’t waste your time with this. But don’t overlook their previous work either. Before ‘In Search Of Sanity’ they did release some intense headbangers. They receive the highest recommendation from me. This one… receives a pitiful score of 20%. It’s for die-hard collectors and bargain bin buyers only!
First of all, Onslaught is one of the greatest U.K thrash metal bands ever although they weren't popular enough to attract worldwide fans.
Anyway, "In Search Of Sanity" is regarded by other fans all over the internet as the worst Onslaught album. And overall the first two albums are a lot more appreciated than this one.
In my opinion, "In Search Of Sanity" is one of the best classic thrash metal albums ever. The guitar work on this album is totally amazing and clever in the same time, and the vocals lines are so melodic and powerful. So you can hear this great combination between Thrash (Metallica's Master of Puppets) and Heavy/Power Metal (Grim Reaper) which produce a great harmony.
And I really can't understand how people prefer the two first two albums (Power From Hell & The Force) though the whole work is very standard accompanied by annoying guitar riffs and vocals line very similar to the early Slayer era.
"Lightning War" is my favorite track on this album because it contains some much power in it presenting speed riffing and complex thrashing elements. “Let There Be Rock" is a wonderful cover that was played and maintained very well. "Shellshock”, "Blood Upon the Ice”, "In Search of Sanity" are great songs formed by some amazing complex heavy thrash riffs and tremendous lead melodies. "Welcome to Dying" is one of those really complete songs where you can find anything you want from soft clean arpeggios to power riffs and solos (Guitar & Bass).
Finally, I wish I can congratulate personally the guys from Onslaught on this great effort and I hope to see them reunited one day ("In Search Of Sanity" line-up).
So we have England's best black-thrash band at the time, Onslaught, the purveyors of quality raw thrash metal, and then they get the dude from Grim Reaper on vocals. They also get some really slick production and melody and... well, it's really not BAD, but this is not the Onslaught that we love.
There are still some great fucking thrash riffs to be found here, but the fluffiness tends to dominate quite a bit. For example, the intro track is FIVE minutes of random noises. Skip button. Then, the title track for example. Monster thrash riffs come out of nowhere, and then... we've got that dude that used to sing for Grim Reaper. He's a great singer but he does not belong on a thrash album. His drawn-out melodic vocals just do not go well with the choppy riffage.
Okay, vocals aside, because he still is doing a good powerful job, so I won't hate him like I hate Gene Adam. The riff quality also went downhill a bit, in that the middle breaks are not nearly as interesting as on the previous album. It also seems they are riding that one midpaced riff (the opening riff to the title track, for example) just a bit too much without all that much variation to it, as it pops up again pretty much in every song. For example, Shellshock is a total continuation of In Search of Sanity.
The highlight of the album has to be Blood Upon the Ice, because it has the best overall riff assault. That midpaced riff is pretty damn cool, and you know what, an entire album using it as a backbone probably COULD work well if you didn't fuck up the other details - but it's on shaky ground with the vocals and the general lack of great counterpoint riffs. Then, a lot of the songs are overlong - longer on average than on The Force, and with fewer riffs, that is bad. Welcome to Dying is the perfect example of this. Snooze.
The lead guitars - those are great here, much more focus on them than in previous albums. However, unlike other thrash albums with great lead guitar (see Coma of Souls), these do totally replace the riffs in the mix a lot of the time, as opposed to adding to them.
Oddly enough, the bonus track is very nice, because it's a demo or something - thus it doesn't sound nearly as overproduced!