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I have never been big on thrash, but every once in a while, I do enjoy a romp through the bullet riddled bad lands of the genre. I grew up on Metallica and spent the first couple years of post high school listening to quite a bit of Slayer and Pantera (somehow, I never latched to Megadeth, Anthrax, or Testament), and since I feel like I can’t find a decent metal show these days that doesn’t have at least one black/thrash band in the roster, I like to think that, despite my handicap, I do know a few things about thrash. I would say if there’s one thing preparing for this review has taught me (i.e. listening to this album 4 or 5 times in a row), it’s that thrash hasn’t changed much in the past few decades. The production is shinier, we have drum triggers now, and the modern bands absolutely adore using blackened vocals, but for the most part this is the same WWIII predicting, genocide loving genre that has laid the foundation for so many subcategories of metal over the years. So get out your bullet belt and copious amounts of alcohol, because we’re going to take a little trip through the new album of one of the leaders of modern thrash.
Toxic Holocaust is a band that, up until very recently, consisted of one man recording anthems of death and destruction, then finding a bunch of touring musicians to fulfill his vision in a live setting. That man is Joel Grind. Mr. Grind is also a man who I have never seen a picture of where he wasn’t wearing a Bathory shirt, a leather jacket, and some of the craziest bleach blonde punk hair you’ll ever see this decade. His music is the most vicious elements of the thrash legends of the past, except with all epic melodies, soft passages, and clean singing removed and nuked into oblivion, leaving behind machine gun double bass and razor wire riffs that will slice through your metal pleasure centers and leave you wanting more.
Before even hitting the play button for the first time, it’s hard not to notice that there have already been some major changes to the Toxic Holocaust that we have come to love. The album artwork is no longer an image of pestilence or radioactive killer nazi wolves with a purposefully gaudy spikey thrash logo. Instead we are given an underground black metal vibe, almost something you would expect from a Southern Lord recording like Black Breath. It’s cool stuff but a definite deviation and the first sign that things have changed.
Once the play button is finally pressed, we are treated to just over a half hour of the punishing warfare that has come to be expected from Joel and company, but with a few subtle changes. If you have never heard this band before you will probably be stricken with a very strong case of “well this is pretty cool… but wait, is this it?”. If you have heard Toxic Holocaust before you will probably be let down by the changes and if you have not, you may not even bother to check out their other releases.
It’s not that “Conjure…” is bad or annoying. Actually, there are a few really cool songs on here, and this has the best production of all of Toxic Holocaust’s releases. But overall there is nothing presented that we have not heard from the genre before or from the band a million times. The songs have slowed down, with stronger emphasis on groove and melody, Joel Grinds vocals are less barked and more enunciated, and everything sounds exactly like you think it should, with no surprises.
There are some bands that benefit from that sound of everything falling into place perfectly, but punk driven thrash isn’t that kind of style. This band needs rough edges and riffs that sound slightly thrown together.That’s what makes their brand of thrash fun: the ability to say “let’s drink some fucking beer and rock out!!!”. If you want precision and calculated execution, I’m pretty sure Revocation just came out with a new album.
“Conjure and Command” does have some strong points. Even though there are new musicians and artwork, this is still Toxic fucking Holocaust we’re talking about. Jet-fueled speed and crusty hateful lyrics are still represented despite the changes. The song “Bitch” has one of the catchiest chorus’s ever written in the history of songs about burning witches, and is my favorite track. “Red Winter” is a pretty chilling song (sorry for the pun) filled with images of Russian soldiers painting snow drifts arterial red with their insides as they are blown to pieces.
Overall this album is not terrible. On the contrary- it’s a solid thrash album with black and crust elements to boot. I just hope Joel Grind tries a bit harder next time, maybe gets all these other yahoo’s out of here and start writing everything himself again. So, if Municipal Waste isn’t serious enough for you and you have heard every Metallica riff ad infinitum (and seriously who gives a fuck about Lazarus A.D.) then you should probably pick up some Toxic Holocaust. But start elsewhere, perhaps An Overdose of Death… then once you have the knowledge to judge for yourself, check out “Conjure and Command”.
Originally written for: http://leatherandtrash.wordpress.com/album-reviews/toxic-holocaust-conjure-and-command-2011/
With their "An Overdose Of Death…" release of three years ago, crusty thrashers Toxic Holocaust pushed themselves high up the modern thrash tree, their punked up and brash style a nice contrast to the more common all-out thrash attack of most of their contemporaries. New album "Conjure and Command" pushes in a similar vein, which as a quick-fire blast of 32 mins of spiteful thrash is confident in it's abilities yet strangely resistant at breaking beyond the boundaries set by themselves.
Whereas previously I noted a strong Discharge presence in mainman Joel Grind's set up, with a full band behind him in the studio for the first time, the potion is far more stereotypically thrash, at least following the conclusion of snappy opener "Judgment Awaits You". "Agony of the Damned", and "Red Winter" show the band are happy to drop the pace for a moment or two before unleashing the full-frontal assault with Joel's blackened rasp guiding the piece along, but you'll be hard pressed to remember any incidents from them. Through the Sodom-ised "Bitch" and Slayer-derived "Nowhere To Run" TH pen a good riff or two, peaking with some of their riffing bridges as they never letting the nodding relent, but after so many listens now I'm convinced I'm still yet to hear one that would not be the work of any other minor-league thrash band.
When the longest track on the record (at distinctly non-epic proportions of 4'24"), "I Am Disease", promises much with it's menacing start yet fails to build on it's momentum through not attaining the Venom air of punk loutishness it grasps for, the thoughts creep ever further forward that "Conjure and Command" is not the step-up after "An Overdose of Death" the band needed at a time thrash has arguably ridden beyond it's revival peak. Once closing tracks "The Liars Are Burning", "Revelations" and "Sound the Charge" flash by I can't help be stuck by the feeling this could have been so much more had a greater effort been put into the composition of all but a few of the riffs as very little remains lodged in the psyche, even after a good 6-8 listens thus far. Shortened to an EP or injected with a dangerous dose of punk this would have been better but there is not enough going on to improve Toxic Holocaust's standing in the thrash world nor do anything to slow the genre's descent down the hill of burgeoning creativity.
Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net
Toxic Holocaust is undoubtedly one of the top bands of this tragedy called the New Wave of Thrash Metal. As much as I love thrash metal, I also love originality, and in the vast majority of these bands, very little is found. That's not to say these people aren't talented musicians, I just feel bands are using this NWOTM gimmick and not putting forth much of an effort as a real act. And that's what makes bands like Toxic Holocaust, Warbringer, Skeletonwitch, Evile, Diamond Plate, and Vektor so special to me. They advance their sound and never seem to use the retro scene as a stepping stone. They just play and make some damn good music.
Amongst these, Toxic Holocaust holds a special place in my heart. I have always respected Joel Grind not only for his punk rock attitude, but also for his drive to do it on his own. Not waiting for others to hop on board but actually recording whole albums himself. That is dedication, and in my opinion Toxic Holocaust has done nothing but get better as they went along. Conjure and Command is my favorite effort to date. It offers a more varied track list musically and better lyrics in my opinion. Each song holds its identity among the rest. I never caught myself asking if I had accidentally went back a few tracks. They are all different in one way or another.
Joel's vocals hold a different sound then on any previous album. They are not too far off those from Overdose of Death, but they are harsher here. They are more strained, but also have a more natural sound and are closer to his live performance sound, which is good. Overall, this album has a far better production then Overdose had.
I found myself enjoying this album the whole way from front to back. My favorite tracks were Bitch, Red Winter, and Nowhere to Run. The only songs that seem lacking are Sound the Charge and Judgement Awaits You. Just bad picks to start and end the album. I Am Disease was a bit hard for me to get into. I admit that the first time I heard it I hated it. It wasn't Toxic Holocaust to me. But the more I listen to it the more I like it. It's among the many good tracks on this album. I would recommend this album to any metal fan and I'm sure they'd enjoy it. Even friends that weren't Toxic Holocaust fans liked this album. Hope this review manages to help somebody into making a good purchase on a truly great album.
Originally posted on my reviews-blog at www.heavymetalspotlight.com
In my interpretation, the fourth album of many bands marks the barrier between being a new-band and a well-established band. Toxic Holocaust's fourth offering "Conjure and Command" seems to fit into this framework quite nicely, and it has the sound of a band which has continued to mature and grow since it's predecessing albums.
While some of the songs may not be as fast as the songs in the albums predecessors, they possess a great infusion of energy, suggesting that Joel Grind's songwriting is going from strength to strength, with more powerful, moshable and down-right badass riffs than ever before. There is also a lot more lead work, with emphasised solos. Having other full-term band members for the first time certainly seems to have lead to a synergy of ideas and musical intentions which the band's existing sound, creating something which is in the style of, but slightly more organic sounding than the previous albums, with many subtle changes thrown in. Vocally, Grind has diversified somewhat, making use of his traditional snarling delivery with a partially sung vocal style very much in the vein of Cronos of Venom, which he makes use of in tracks such as "Nowhere to Run" to great effect.
The lower tempo of some of the songs, instead of spoiling anything in the album, distinctly adds to it - The slower parts add attitude, diversity, and atmosphere, making for a much more varied thrash-album than the band's previous works. Production wise, too, this album could potentially be my favourite. The guitar sound is wonderfully crunchy, and all the instruments seem extremely suitably produced, encapsulating thrashiness perfectly. The booklet which comes with the album proudly states that "Absolutely no drum replacement, triggering, quantitizing, or amp modelling were used in this recording" and with the way the album sounds, I wonder why so many bands feel the need to use these entities, as Toxic Holocaust seem to manage to make a damn nice sounding album without them.
The album blends the old with the new, certainly. While unmistakably a Toxic Holocaust record, changes have certainly been made, and this fact is emphasised by the change in logo, which I found a little disappointing. Sound wise, however, the changes pleased me, although I cannot guarantee that all shall share that belief.
Toxic Holocaust is THE biggest name in the NWOTM and they have now released their 4th studio album, entitled Conjure and Command via Relapse Records. I'm going to be honest here and say that I didn't understand all of the hype about Toxic Holocaust based on their first 3 albums. I never found any of them to be overly exceptional, but my perception of the band changed when I heard the first single released from Conjure and Command. That track was "Nowhere to Run." This song was fast, catchy and aggressive which is always a formula for success in thrash. Then came the next track, "Bitch." After that familiar drum beat went away and the rest of the song came along I was hooked and immediately Conjure and Command became a must buy album for me.
Joel Grind and company delivered an amazing album this time around with a good mix of tracks here (total of 10) from fast thrashers to heavy and slow evil sounding tracks to some songs that featured some crust punk elements. The guitar tone on this album is great. Its heavy and the production isn't exactly old school but it doesn't sound very modern and it retains that evil and heavy sound. The vocals are great and mix with the rest of the music beautifully making the tracks that much more catchy and memorable. The solos sound like a mix of Kerry King and Kirk Hammett on Kill 'Em All, while the riffs range from straight forward thrash riffs to riffs that could be found in a War Ripper song.
There aren't really many criticisms I could make about this album, because it's that good and it is definitely a contender for thrash album, if not metal album of the year. The best tracks to be found here are "Nowhere to Run," "Bitch," and "Agony of the Damned." There isn't a single bad track on this record, but if I had to pick my least favorites they would be "I Am Disease" and "In the Depths (of Your Mind)."
Originally written for Skull Fracturing Metal