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British legends Onslaught are back to the front with the latest release called Sounds of Violence, and let me tell you, from the onset this album shreds to the nth level! The old-school masters, once more, show us little guys how it’s done.
Coming off a very impressive live album, 2009’s Live Damnation, the band revisits its roots of pure thrash relentlessness, delving deep into the well that is the past and attaching a modern sensibility to very strong tracks. “Born for War” might very well be a track you could have in your helmet while battling the enemy in a head-on collision over a dirt hill somewhere. It comes in, does multitudinous damage, and then simply escapes without so much as a ‘thank you’. Without sounding at all dated, Onslaught provides a volatile soundtrack to all things conflict, building up a rush of both blood and emotion as tracks like “The Sound of Violence” literally destroy the surrounding ebb and flow. The drop-tuned element might wear thin for some bands who figure that the “C” spot is the source of true heaviness, a mistaken pattern of thinking on all ends, but Onslaught utilizes it and it makes Sounds of Violence all the more battering, as if it really needed added help. I definitely hear more of a finer edge to the groove-inspired tones of the songs, but it doesn’t seem to employ monotony anywhere, which keeps the music interesting.
Vocalist Sy Keeler is aged, but to a level of scarred perfection as his gruff delivery reminds me just what made 1986’s The Force such a masterpiece for the time. Keeping right in line with other legendary bands like Forbidden and Accept who have also put out terrific albums this past year, Onslaught proves again that the fathers of the scene are still viable and able to commit wanton acts of unspeakable violence through music. The band manages to create the often liquefied musical backdrop to a high level, only lending added credibility to the name that has been an underground staple for the last 25-years. It’s amazing to see some of these bands not only still playing the same music, but doing it the old-fashioned way and not giving in to trends. The fact they are still making music that is powerful and worth your time is an emphatic plus.
“Code Black” reminds me of a more modern Sodom sound that crushes and disassembles accordingly, all the while defying the stigma of repetition and generic recycling. The slow, tempestuous movement of the mid-section only proves that heavy is not to be confused with speed. What is also mildly evident is the band’s original punk roots, especially in “Rest in Pieces”, which skillfully marries both the schizophrenia of punk and the combative nature of thrash metal.
Other standouts include “Antiheist” and the killer cover of Motorhead’s “Bomber”, which is a fitting tribute for sure. I hope after all of these years I may get to see Onslaught on American shores because these songs would absolutely bring the walls down, without question.
The British masters lock on to the present once again and keep the torches high. This one is certainly worth picking up.
(Originally written for MetalPsalter.com)
I'm going to state before I start the review that I'm a lifelong Onslaught fan - their second album "The Force" was the first thrash metal album I ever heard at the very tender age of eight years old, and has remained my favourite album of all time since then. Saying that, this review may be slightly bias to a degree but do you know what? I wouldn't matter whether I had previous experience with the band or not. Read on.
We'll skip the long history lesson and get the important information out of the way first; Back in the eighties, Bristol's Onslaught were the biggest thrash metal band in the United Kingdom... possibly with the expection of Nottingham's Sabbat. That alone should give you an indication of what they're more than capable of, and after a 14 year hiatus their 2005 reunion spawned what was argueably the greatest thrash album of the decade - 2007's brutal "Killing Peace". While it was far from original, it was a blistering all-guns-blazing return for the band and set the bar high for all the newer bands doing the rounds, and now we're four years down the line with "Sounds of Violence". Does it live up to the previous album, or have the band lost steam?
No, no they haven't - I could end the review right there and be done with it, but that'd make for rather dire reading and a bollocking from the editor. It's difficult to know where to start with "Sounds of Violence" because all aspects of the record are so overwhelming and full of energy, from the production and the performance to the song writing itself so I'll just state that if you have a heart condition, avoid this album. The band's drummer Steve Grice may not be as young as he once was - the same could be said for everbody present - but jesus christ, he can pound those drums HARD! I'm certain that the production has helped give those vicious kicks some more 'oomph', but even with that in mind it's difficult to breathe with the album on at loud volumes. Jeff Williams' bass work here is nice and audible too, which is fantastic considering that many albums with such a thick, full-on production sound tend to lose the bass amongst the distortion and whatnot - being Jeff's first studio effort with Onslaught, I'd say he's done a mighty fine job with a shining moment of his manifesting after the bridge in 'Code Black'.
Speaking of new members, lead guitarist Andy-Rosser Davies makes his studio debt with Onslaught here too - from what I've been informed, he actually co-wrote most of the album with guitarist Nige Rockett which really shows in the songwriting. The biggest problem "Killing Peace" faced was that Nige wrote a large majority of the album himself, and though that wasn't a bad thing in one way - the songs were immense and Nige did a fantastic job - it all felt a little too similar at times. That's not to say "Killing Peace" was a bad album (far from it) or that Nige can't write or play, but one person writing a whole album will become apparent since it's their primary writing style being put forward - with Andy sharing the writing duties, all the songs present here feel more enjoyable back-to-back and don't have that ever-so-slight deja vu feeling you you got once in awhile on the latter half of "Killing Peace". Andy is a player whose abilities are nothing short of jaw dropping too, with a lot of the solos here being far more than just the standard collection of tasteless wank licks that've become increasingly more common in metal these days - it's apparent that every single riff and solo has been fine-tuned repeatedly until it was absolutely perfect. The songs are brutal, in your face and wild as all hell, yet they're still catchy and for the most part rather simplistic in their composition - the music is restrained but still kind of... not. The songs are more varied in terms of tuning, tempos and time changes as well, with the colossal C-tuned 'Code Black' being a relatively slow number in comparison to say, 'Rest In Pieces' which is possibly the speediest track on offer though this says little considering that this is a thrash record. Nige and Andy work together very well here with both their composition and their playing, and I'm already looking forward to hearing what else they may be able to bring to the table in the future. The closer of the album, a cover of Motörhead's 'Bomber', is a fantastic way to finish the listening experience and I really feel that the band have made the song their own - yeah, they only really sped it up a bit but all the same, it's a marvelous rendition. The fact that Sodom's Tom Angelripper and Motörhead's own Phil Campbell feature as guests on this track just adds to the fun factor of what was already a fantastic song.
Vocalist Sy Keeler deserves to get almost an entire paragraph to himself, for the simple fact that his performance on "Sounds of Violence" surprised me. Sy is, more often than not, remembered for his raspy thrash snarl and his epic, ear shattering high notes - the latter of which are completely absent. I was initially disappointed by this, as Sy's high-hitters were one of the key defining factors that made him so unique and in turn, so fucking brilliant, but he tries to go for the opposite extreme here by performing what are essenitally death growls... for lack of a better word. He never goes quite as gutteral as most of the well known death metal singers but he holds his own without a problem - listen to 'Godhead', 'Hatebox', 'Antiheist' and once again, 'Code Black' for prime examples. His trademark raspy, snarly thrash shout is better than ever, and he annunciates better than nearly every other singer in the genre - if that wasn't enough, on top of this he still retains a sense of melody with what he's singing, even if at times it's only slight. Even though Sy didn't write any of the lyrics - lyrics are usually Nige's thing - Sy really makes the songs work with what he's given lyrically, applying some spectacular arrangements for some truely epic choruses. The lyrics themselves deal in rather typical, maybe even somewhat cliched metal topics such as war, tyranny, hatred and of course, the infamous anti-religious statements that the band are known for, but they still pull out some classic lines here - whilst "Killing Peace" had 'Spitting blood in the face of God' in the title track, "Sounds of Violence" gets a just-as-cool line in 'Godhead' with 'Children of God, you're fucking evil'. Most certainly not one to play for your parents or at church. Nige has always managed to pull out some spectacular lyrics and this is no different, he most certainly deserves more recognition for his lyrical contributions! And on that note, I've always thought that Sy Keeler was the greatest vocalist in metal and his work present here pretty much solidifies that opinion.
There are potential complaints to be made here, though they're so slight that they only really need a brief mention - First of all, every song (with the exception of the intro/outro and the cover of 'Bomber') is over four minutes long. Overall this is fine because the album is only composed of 9 full tracks, but the length of the songs sometimes makes you lose track of where you are. Second, Tom Angelripper does guest vocals on the cover song only and I'd have liked to have heard him on one of the other tracks, and third is the lack of Sy Keeler's high screams. These are rather pitiful complaints admittedly, and overall they do very little to diminish the quality of the album so it could just be me nit-picking. Why Sy decided to nix the high screams is beyond me, but thinking about it, they would potentially sound out of place on an album so heavy.
There's nothing else to say. Onslaught have once again released an album that stands as a landmark for heavy music - this isn't a matter of opinion, a matter of taste or a matter of fanboyism or whatnot. This album is absolutely mandatory for anybody who claims to enjoy metal - despite being dubbed as a thrash band, Onslaught have become more than just some thrash outfit by introducing elements of death metal, black metal and fuck knows what else into their sound and pulling it off effortlessly. Strangely, this record eerily reflects 1986's "The Force" - they're the second albums released by the old and new incarnations of Onslaught, the pentagram is the centrepiece of the artwork, they're both leaps and bounds ahead of the respective album/s released before them in terms of composition and execution... just a very peculiar observation of mine there. Onslaught's "Sounds of Violence" is almost certainly going to be the best release of 2011, and even though we're expecting new releases from the likes of Evile and Destruction, I doubt that anybody will be able to achieve the sheer colossal intensity that these Bristolian bruisers have managed to craft. This is an album that lives up to it's name and then some, and if this doesn't help propel Onslaught to the top then there is absolutely no justice to be found in this world - if I could give this six stars out of five I would. And not even out of my previous love of the band, but purely and simply because this is as good as metal gets so buy this as soon as humanly possible - I promise you, you won't regret it!
(Originally written for brutalism.com)
This may not be the most popular opinion around, but I think “Killing Peace” was one of the strongest comebacks ever made by a long-defunct thrash group. Onslaught hadn’t lost their thrashing identity, yet showed no shame when including groove influences that avoided the usual train wreck of stupidity, and not to mention the UK faction had reached a peak of creativity and energy that gleamed through the ravenous malevolence of “Killing Peace” wonderfully, so I think it’s safe to say they pulled off quite the stunt. I’m a big fan of their raw, demonic assaults like “The Force” and the infamous thrash/power metal “In Search of Sanity” album with the dude from Grim Reaper on vocals as well; Onslaught just strike a chord with me, and with great thrash records coming from bands like Helstar, it’s no wonder “Sounds of Violence” makes me so giddy.
That isn’t to say “Sounds of Violence” is just face-peeling riffs and rawness like Onslaught’s seminal releases back in the gritty 1980s when ripping and tearing was the law. Onslaught instead defies their shape-shifting discography and establishes the groove-driven ideology of “Killing Peace” using spotless production, mid-paced breakdowns, speedy riffs, and pseudo-death metal touches ala Testament. Sy Keeler’s throat spits his signature rasps that are so angry even a UFC fighter would take cover as expected, yet I noticed the double-tracked growls he sparingly used on “Killing Peace” are a lot more prominent throughout “Sounds of Violence,” and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find myself imitating his acidic vocals as I continued to experience the album’s material. Some of you reading this might think it all sounds pretty uninteresting, but I’m here to laugh at you and explain why Onslaught is still at the top of the totem pole.
Nige Rockett and Andy Rosser-Davies issue a horde of ruthless riffs driving the record through scorching thrash cuts and slowed grooves which bite like incisors with every note. Their riffs and melodies throughout tunes like "The Sound of Violence" and "Godhead" make most of the record seem like some of the best material this band has ever done, mainly because there's a degree of catchiness among the unforgiving brutality, and having both together is a perfect match. The leads are also packed with metallic fire that burns through the crushing atmosphere like gasoline on the sun, and Sy Keeler sounds natural in this setting as well. Onslaught make no effort to go above and beyond with outlandish tunes; most of their stuff is pretty accessible, yet they do an incredible job making everything catchy, violent, and certainly worthy of release after almost thirty years in the game.
It seems the aged offerings of thrashing old-timers just aren’t on the same level of consistency as the monumental devastation surging through “Sounds of Violence,” which is undeniably one of Onslaught’s finest releases: Slayer churns out average tripe, Venom releases the same album under a different name, and Exodus falls from attempting to fly on songs that are too redundant and long; consider Onslaught the anomaly. The British titans have had nothing but smooth sailing since their incredible reunion and continue to grind a special mix of modern zest onto the signature harmonies and attitude that made the UK part of Thrashattackistan when Onslaught became the rightful leader of thrash bands everywhere. “Sounds of Violence” is likewise an excellent continuation of the band’s legacy and will not disappoint thrashers of any breed.
This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com
Reuniting in 2004 after a 14 year hiatus, Onslaught released Killing Peace in 2007, perfectly (though coincidentally) timed with the ascent of the Thrash revival fronted by Evile, Gama Bomb, and Bonded by Blood. That album was an uncompromising, no bullshit thrash attack that proved that this Bristol-based band could not only match up to their legacy but also equal and better what the new wave of thrash revivalists were churning out. And Sounds of Violence is no different in its ruthless offensive.
Once compared to Slayer, Onslaught’s sound has some similarities in the vocals and riffs but they are few and far between and owe more to the staples of the thrash genre than to direct imitation. With every thick, buzz saw guitar riff fortified with a monstrous bass sound and pummelling skin-pounding, Keeler’s vitriolic vocals become increasingly dangerous throughout the record. With the occasional leaning towards death metal, it’s Keeler’s vocals that shine. Never once sounding weak, tuneless, or, as the most wince-worthy do, thin or nasal, instead they add another dimension and strength to the work. Guitarist Andy Rosser-Davies, with the band since 2008, makes his recorded debut and his performance is astounding. The work of he and original guitarist Nige Rocket together is composed and tight. Too often, lead breaks are a collection of tasteless yet technically-proficient strings of sonic ejaculate, but here it’s evident that each note has been considered and fine-tuned. The tracks Code Black, Hatebox and Antitheist bear this out. Merciless, these tracks are where the band demonstrates to the utmost that Onslaught is a force to be reckoned with.
Bookended with two melodic instrumentals and a bonus track – a cover of Motorhead’s Bomber featuring Phil Campbell and Tom Angelripper – Sounds of Violence is a ridiculously good fucking record. Thrash nuts into the Big Four, Exodus, Testament, Overkill, etc., and fans of the thrash revivalists , would be doing themselves a great disservice were they not to give this a spin.
Alongside Sabbat, Onslaught were Britain's best hope of a genuine thrash success in the 80's following Venom's not inconsiderable helping hand in the genre's birth, before they fell by the wayside like so many others following the usual scene apathy and meddling label interference. Now on second post-reformation album "Sounds of Violence" they have followed the usual path taken by bands of the past returning to revisit former glories: choose the crisp, chunky production techniques that were not available back in 'their day' and let rip, airing all the anger men in their comfortable mid-40s can muster. The result, I'm pleased to say is almost as good as could be expected: plenty new fodder for the live show and an answer to anyone who might've doubted the worth of their reformation.
Anyone who knows me knows I prefer the thrash of the 80s with it's imperfect productions and devastating energy levels. More astonishing than the sheer number of albums that remain great to this day from that period, however, is the differentiation in sound between every noteworthy act of the period. "Rest In Pieces", "Antitheist" and "Godhead" are all blistering thrash tunes here but the resemblances in production to Exodus, Sodom, Kreator, Testament and the rest are undeniable. Until an act take the chance on a radically different sound the classic records of the 80's will forever remain the timeless examples of the genre.
Overcoming this insurmountable hurdle however reveals a fast and heavy record befitting a name like "Sounds of Violence". Sy Keeler has a gravitas about his vocals, shuddering towards hoarse, Chuck Billy-esque death metal growls on repeated occasions while guitarists Nige Rockett and Andy Rosser-Davies compliment his performance with the expected speed and precision we've come to expect as par for the course in thrash metal. The album closes with a cover of Motörhead's "Bomber" featuring their very own Phil Campbell making an appearance on guitar; it's frenetic rendition though holds little to the classic original.
Essentially any fan of thrash metal done modern is going to more than appreciate what Onslaught have got here. The naive proto-Satanic appeal of "Power From Hell" is of course no more, but in its place is a more blistering Onslaught taking their place near the top table of thrash.
Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net
Let’s face it, the thrash that we all know and loved is pretty much dead. We have a bunch of retro-thrash bands trying to sound (and dress) like they are from that era, but most of them reek of gimmickry, and aside from a few exceptions, they are mostly forgettable. We have a bunch of greats, as well as some underground heroes, like Onslaught, having re-formed in the past ten years, but for the most part the music they write sounds a good bit different from the “glory days.” Some, like Exodus and Heathen, have gone the epic route, writing long songs, with the good ones having a number of riffs. However, the majority have mixed the mid-paced and groove of the 90’s with the intense and fast thrash of the 80’s, with varying results. Onslaught belongs in the latter category: there is a heavy presence of groove, but do not stop reading just yet.
Onslaught formed in 1983 and their first album, “Power from Hell,” despite showing some signs of thrash, also had a strong influence of hardcore punk and Venom. Their follow-up, “The Force,” released just a year later in 1986, is regarded as a masterpiece of the Thrash genre, and rightfully so. After the flawed “In Search of Sanity,” the band broke up for a good while. They reunited in 2005 and released the solid “Killing Peace” and things seem to be consistent for them for the first time in their career.
In fact, with “Sounds of Violence,” Onslaught for the first time has a consistent sound. Their first four albums were so different that it was hard to establish what Onslaught’s “real” style was, although most fans up until this point would have probably picked the thrash of “The Force.” However, this is the same line-up that recorded “Killing Peace” aside from new guitarist Andy Rosser-Davies (a definite plus) and the sound is similar as well, only improved. The only two out-right thrashers sandwich the album, both “Born for War” and “Suicideology” have blazing riffs and tempo changes and should leave fans, old and new, satisfied.
However, it takes far more than that to make a great album. While there are speedier moments in between the two aforementioned songs, there are a lot of mid-paced and groove-based songs. Hearing that would be cause for concern for many fans, including me, but surprisingly Onslaught do a fantastic job of keeping things interesting. There are several key factors that keep the slower songs from getting dull. The production by Jacob Hansen is superb, everything is crisp and clear and the guitars sound fantastic. The fiery guitar-work is another plus, it is great to hear these well-thought-out shredding solos from a classic band, because some bands from that era, like Death Angel and Slayer, just cannot bring it like they used to. Also, like many vocalists from that era, Sy Keeler has really come into his own. With his voice maturing, he is able to sing more powerfully than before. The chorus of the already excellent “Rest in Pieces” really brings this song to the next level: heavy, yet catchy at the same time.
As a cool bonus at the end, there is a surprisingly good cover of Motorhead’s “Bomber,” with Tom Angelripper of Sodom and Phil Campbell of Motorhead making guest appearances. The only thing keeping “Sounds of Violence” from a perfect score are the times when the riffs get caught in a groove for too long and fail to move the song along. Also, despite several really good songs, there is no longer epic to serve as a pinnacle of the album. Aside from those minor qualms, we have one of the best albums released by a thrash band in the past five years. Do I really need to tell you that the purchase of this album is essential?
(Originally published at www.metal-temple.com)
I’ve never been the biggest Onslaught fan. I always felt they were a passable, if not good thrash band. That would all change when I caught them live. The band proceeded to rip my face off and very nearly upstaged the mighty Testament. A fine show that was, and afterwards I thought I’d give their studio output a little more attention, however I still felt a little uninspired, maybe I just didn’t get Onslaught. However, with the advent of their latest studio album Sounds of Violence Onslaught have finally managed to kick my ass with their studio output.
Sounding like the amalgamation of modern era Exodus, and Testament, with a healthy dosage of good old Slayer, Onslaught’s Sounds of Violence is the sound of a band on fucking fire. While thrash metal might be a genre easily done, it is all the more easy to gum up the works. As countless dinosaurs rising from their premature graves have shown us you can easily go wrong, the inclusion of groove and modernisms can be the death of many a great band, and I’m not going to lie, Onslaught have these elements to their sound. They just happened to hit the proverbial nail bang smack on the head.
Onslaught have never sounded as good as they do here, with an excellent recording and mixing job courtesy of the ever-awesome Jacob Hansen. Sounds of Violence has a massive sound that will knock you to the floor once the massive "Born For War" slaps you in the face. Wasting no time, Onslaught put the pedal to the metal and from this moment onwards it’s headbang city. I’m particularly impressed with the lead guitar work throughout the album, numerous times my jaw crashed into the ground salivating like the obese man at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Each member of the band delivers a superb performance here, although special mention should go to Sy Keeler whose vocals are maybe the best they’ve ever been, dripping acidic venom with a ton of bite.
Thrashers, this is a great start to 2011 and the only problem anyone is going to have here are the modernisms. With standouts such as the furious "Rest in Pieces", the aforementioned ass-kicking opener "Born For War" or the skull-crushing madness of "Suicideology" there is a lot of fun to be had on Sounds of Violence. For my money this is the best I’ve heard from Onslaught, and even the mere thought of catching these firecrackers live has my blood pumping into overdrive. Color me impressed.
Originally written for www.metalcrypt.com
Despite the fact that they've got three of their early members in tow (Sy Keeler, Nige Rockett and Steve Grice), Onslaught don't sound a hell of a lot like they used to when they released classics like Power from Hell and The Force, nor the power/thrash of 1989's In Search of Sanity, with Steve Grimmett at the helm. It's understandable that the band wouldn't want to keep repeating themselves, and thus their last album (and first reunion) Killing Peace was a fairly average slab of modern thrash with grooves and high, glossed production values, but it wasn't bad. The generically titled Sounds of Violence, their 5th full-length in nearly 30 years of existence, continues along this path, but perhaps too far, because it's little more than a heap of cliched lyrics, forgettable riffs and frustrating vocals.
To best describe the sound here would be a fusion of the past three, mediocre Exodus records, with Slayer-like riffs and Sepultura's Beneath the Remains/Arise era punch and occasional whimsied dissonance. Long gone is the harrowing, occult wretchedness that was characteristic of their mid-80s period, and Keeler shifts between a number of vocal styles beginning with a very Devin Townsend-like concentration of angst and ending with boring death growls that are often used to set up breakdowns much like you'd expect of a nickel and dime metalcore band. Very often, they're layered in together. Furthermore, the lyrics are quite weak here, just a meandering string of cliches that feel like they've been pulled out of countless other songs in the 80s and 90s. Nary a fresh image to be found, and the constant use of 'fucking' in the songs does not manifest the anger and power it feels like it should, simply placed to make the lyrics have a hollow impact. I wouldn't say that the subjects were socially irrelevant, but songs like "Godhead" and "Hatebox" sound like they should be on a dumpy Machine Head album in the mid 90s. '666, you wanna start a fuckin' war', 'rise this is the new world order', etc. Not interesting at all, and though they were never poet laureates, give me "Death Metal" and "Witch Hunt" any day.
The music itself doesn't fare much better, and it seems the only thing going for it is the forceful hammering of the rhythm section due to the massive production. A song like "The Sound of Violence" is basically just Exodus/Sepultura 101 circa Fabulous Disaster and Beneath the Remains, while "Code Black" and "Godhead" are loaded with boring groove hooks or Slayer styled descending melodies. The breakdowns feel too manufactured here, either to create mosh pits or set up some octave melody (which, to be fair, do often conjure a sense of atmosphere that is lacking elsewhere). The leads are actually quite explosive and well written throughout the album, but their immediate environment is lacking. The best songs on the album are "Rest in Pieces" and "Suicideology", both of which offer no frills, thrusting modern thrash, but they feel pretty similar to one another and they're not incredibly compelling. The cover of Motörhead's "Bomber" isn't bad, at least the band bring it to their level rather than worrying about a sound too close to the original.
Sounds of Violence doesn't completely suck, but the very 90s elements, vapid breakdowns and some of the vocals/lyrics didn't prompt much interest in my returning to the material. You've heard all of this before, and it's very unlikely to inspire the same level of respect as the band's 80s fare. There's a lot of talent within the band, especially the taut execution, the energy of the leads and the charisma Sy Keeler, but not all of these are used to their greatest impact. Dump the death growls, the bad slam parts, and some of the predictable lyrics and sharpen this beast and you'll get an Onslaught that is once again worthy of its name.