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Toxic Holocaust - An overdose of death... - 75%

Radagast, November 21st, 2008

Though rising to prominence only recently and finally signing to a decent sized label, Joel Grind and his Toxic Holocaust project have been thrashing away since 1999, with the spiralling amount of demos, EPs and splits released since being dwarfed only by the innumerable cast of touring musicians that have followed the one-man riff factory across the globe in his mission to stick 2 fingers up to the norm.

Underground purists need not fear the dreaded influence of the label on their mad-haired hero though (going from years of self-promotion to a mid-tier outfit like Relapse is I suppose comparable to an established band switching from a respectable indie label to a major) as the scuzzy, Eurothrash-meets-hardcore sound Grind has established on his sprawling discography remains undiluted on his 3rd full length CD, 'An overdose of death...'

Slight improvements in production and vocal delivery are the only hints as to any adjustments in style from the 2 CDs already rolled out. The only serious change in approach is Grind's decision to relinquish drumming duties to Donny Paycheck (usually seen with punk outfit Zeke), and it has proved a shrewd decision. Having a more specialist musician on the stool has tightened up the sound noticeably (probably also due in part to the residency of grunge super-producer Jack Endino, whose presence is otherwise thankfully not noticeable) and he offers a performance of greater flair than any of Grind's own to date with an assured display less reliant on rapid snare hits and cymbal swatting.

As has always been the case, the elements of Toxic Holocaust's style knit together perfectly to create something far greater than the sum of its parts. The scowling, blackened vocal style is a perfect medium for the crude, B-movie lyrics – with topics like nuclear annihilation, experiments gone wrong, warfare and, of course, thrashing like a maniac, all bases are covered. Similarly, the punk-influenced riffing goes beyond its simplistic origins just as it did for the classic bands like Venom and Celtic Frost that have an obvious influence on proceedings to create something both vicious and impossibly catchy.

"War is hell", actually a re-recording from the first full-length, 'Evil never dies', best exemplifies this with its outstanding main riff and mandatory chorus. The unusually structured opener "Wild dogs" also closes on an addictive sort-of-chorus in a similar style to this.

The short, brutal and brilliant "War game", at no more than a minute long is the most obviously hardcore influenced of the songs, a bit of a nod back to the slightly rawer early days of the band, while the closer "City of a million graves" is perhaps a hint at a slightly more developed future. A comparative leviathan at nearly 5 minutes long, for a regular thrash band it would be a fairly run of the mill arrangement, but is approaching prog by Toxic Holocaust standards.

With widespread distribution and a market more interested in this sort thing than it has been in years, this will likely be looked on as a giant leap forward or even some sort of 'official' debut for Joel Grind and Toxic Holocaust, but the truth is that it is more or less business as usual on 'An overdose of death...' A rock-solid, and slightly clearer-sounding continuation of the great work on the first 2 CDs, it is as good a place as any to start with this band. Just don't mistake Toxic Holocaust for some Johnny-come-lately outfit.

(Originally written for http://www.metalcdratings.com/)