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Heavy Metal in the Blood, Punk Rock at Heart - 81%

Superchard, April 15th, 2019

By far one of the more impressive acts to come out of the new wave of British heavy metal scene to never get much credit was Holocaust, a band whose name would suggest they'd be much heavier than what's heard on their debut album, but a band that's also had their fair share of healthy shifts in direction throughout their career. From the very start, things start out simple enough, yet another self proclaimed metal band heavily influenced in one way or another by the punk rock movement. Unknown as they may be, what they're doing back in 1981 really can't go unheard to the heavy metal/punk rock music nerds out there. I've certainly heard no mention of them as being influences to any relevant artists in the same way that Diamond Head, Tank or Motorhead were, but there's a couple of really compelling nuances taking place here very early on, and to surmise that into one cohesive statement, I'd say that Holocaust aren't your average NWOBHM band, there's some elements of thrash metal at play here, specifically crossover thrash that can be heard on tracks like "Mavrock" and especially "Death or Glory". I'm not saying it sounds like an early prototype to the subgenre in question either. It's straight up crossover thrash, and in my mind there's absolutely no gray area. Sure it may be a little more accessible than something like D.R.I., but the elements are abundant. Punk rock style vocals? Check. Drunken sloppiness and raw production? Check. Power chord riffs that descend one fret at a time? Check. The thrash metal open note chug? You bet your ass.

I can't speak for their reach and how influential they may have been towards thrash bands later to come. While bands like Tank, Mercyful Fate and Diamond Head seem to get a lot of love, Holocaust could've very well gone under everyone's radar for all I know. Speaking purely hypothetically though, while the aforementioned bands could've been sources of inspiration for bands like Sodom, Megadeth and Metallica respectively; Holocaust's debut sounds more akin to the type of material that would lead to bands like D.R.I., Suicidal Tendencies, Gang Green, possibly even Anthrax of the big 4 themselves. Making such a comparison though would elude to the notion that this band actually sounds heavier than they are, though. I don't mean to be disingenuous, the closest band I can think of to Holocaust would be Denmark's very own Mercyful Fate blueprint, Brats, a band that despite sounding so similar to this one, really took the opposite end of the spectrum. Where Holocaust is a heavy metal band heavily inspired by punk rock, Brats were a punk band heavily inspired by heavy metal. No one can persuade me otherwise that Gary Lettice's voice doesn't sound almost exactly like Yenz Leonhardt. Likewise Ed the guitarists here have a tendency to go back and forth between rockin' out and wildly wicked.

I think had the original five members of the band stuck together, they could've risen from obscurity. The album art seems for The Nightcomers seems to signify that the band was tight and inseparable. What a shame that by their sophomore album, No Man's Land that the once strong lineup consisting of five members would dwindle down to two, in other words, not enough to tour on, and being practically incapable of touring any of the material on this debut without hiring a bunch of touring musicians. That being said, it's not as though they actually ever get as intricate on their debut as some of their later, more progressive material of the 90's might have you assume had you heard something like Covenant before coming to this. Make no mistake, Holocaust had just enough of a handle on quality control to actually get a record deal. By far the most interesting track on the album is the title track, saving the best for last. Everything else leading up to this was more or less stuff you've probably already heard before, albeit definitely not in 1981. "The Nightcomers" has its brief moments of wah-drenched tribalism, making for a much more experimental listen. Definitely one of the album's stronger assets, with the catchy, rolling pop-punk simplicity of "Come on Back" being a close second.

The five horsemen of the apocalypse didn't take the world by storm, but The Nightcomers was a solid debut, one that seems to have a dark cloud looming over it, obscuring its moments of brilliance from the public. While I believe this to be one of the more outstanding releases of the NWOBHM era, I wouldn't say that the content here is necessarily better than Brats 1980, or Tank's Filth Hounds of Hades for that matter, but they do bring a strong collection of songs that for me are lacking hooks to keep the songs interesting all the way throughout. "Cryin' Shame" has a nice groove to it, but where's the enthusiasm? Some of the material here may be innovative in of itself, but I question whether I'll remember any of the songs beyond "Heavy Metal Mania" years after not having listened to the album. I'd recommend the album to a niche group of listeners that don't necessarily care for crossover thrash though, it's definite a more robust listen than your average album from that subgenre, and much less predictable at that. All the while, it may even actually serve as a good stepping stone to enjoy such bands.

Superchard gets super hard for:
Heavy Metal Mania
Come on Back
The Nightcomers
Smokin' Valves

Excellent Rockin’ Metal with Shades of Doom - 88%

Dunstan, March 26th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2000, CD, Metal Blade Records (Reissue)

NWOBHM: The garden that pollinated the world with heavy metal. The seeds came from 70’s legends like Sabbath, Priest, and Motorhead, but England in the early 80’s was the garden from which the legion of metal genres that we currently enjoy were clipped and planted elsewhere. Holocaust is a great example of this culture because they incorporate more than one of those styles, including the heavy rocking “Chuck Berry on speed” style of Motorhead, doomy atmosphere and riffing of Black Sabbath.

The opening track, Smoking Valves, is an example of the heavy rocking style that was pervasive in the NWOBHM scene. Some have criticized the scene for including groups that were really just rock bands who slapped and skull or medieval warrior on their album cover and called themselves heavy metal. The double stop licks that open the album on this song can certainly cause the listener to wonder whether that is what they are in for on this offering. Smoking Valves can best be described as slower Motorhead. Come on Back, Push it Around, Love’s Power, and Crying Shame can be placed in that category, as well. That’s not to say they are bad songs. What they do, they do very well on these tracks. The album shines brighter when it gets darker. The second track, Death or Glory, is one of the best that the NWOBHM has to offer. It is mid-paced, as most of the songs here are, but it chugs along with power and energy and is undeniably heavy fucking metal. The main riff alone is worth buying the album to hear. Sure, you can find it on the internet for free, but the guilt of not rewarding the band for creating such a great riff is something you will have to carry to your grave. But Death or Glory might not even be the best song on the album. That title goes to Mavrock, an atmospheric and crunchy doom classic that builds to a climax. Holocaust adds one of the all-time metal pride classics in Heavy Metal Mania to the album as well. “I’ve got heavy metal music in my blood”. Hell yes they do.

The production of the album is very impressive and stands out among it's peers. It has possibly one of the most in-your-face guitar sounds up to that year, crunchy as hell and very loud. The guitar overwhelms the songs in a very good way, but the rhythm section is quite audible and prominent, though it mostly sticks to doubling the guitar part to present a wall of sound.

The Nightcomers is essential NWOBHM, and belongs in the collection of any serious fan of the period. The seeds that were planted in England grew into something quite special on this one.

An NWOBHM Classic - 90%

brocashelm, December 31st, 2008

I can remember thumbing through the record racks at a flea market down the shore in New Jersey at about 14 years of age and being surrounded by denim and leather clad biker head-bangers at my side doing the same. I was totally intimidated by these dudes but they took me under their smelly wings in their way, pointing out records that, if didn’t have ‘em already, I really oughta consider getting. And when a dude smells that like whiskey and motor oil and looks like Dog The Bounty Hunter after about a month of not bathing recommends you do something, I highly advise doing it. And so I went home with Holocaust, so to speak. And I’m glad I did, cause the band were one of the more roughshod exponents of the NWOBHM, less clever than Tygers Of Pan Tang though more clean than Venom. What they did have was plenty of was energy, which they forced into their sublimely simple riffs until it poured out all over them. The Nightcomers is their debut album and really the only release from back in their day that matters. “Smokin Valves” kicks things open with it’s hard charge, kind of like a slightly laid back Motorhead, whilst “Heavy Metal Mania” possesses one of the band’s trademark hemlock dipped molten riffs, and remains a poverty metal anthem to the very day I pen this. “Cryin’ Shame” functions in similar fashion, the bass-lines setting off the staccato guitar riff perfectly, inviting involuntary head banging or at least bobbing. And what can one say of “Death Or Glory,” which is simply of the best, most sublimely evil sounding metal cuts ever. So much so that death metal slackers Six Feet Under gave it a whirl a few years back. The rest, while calling the band’s amateur spirit into question, remain classic in their own merry manner. And all these years later, in writing this book, I hope I can give something back to sort of guys who laid out advice to this budding metal addict all those years ago. Hell, if I thought they were still alive, I’d send ‘em all a copy.

I’ve got heavy metal music in my blood!!! - 92%

AussieReaper, August 20th, 2005

For those who haven’t heard of holocaust, try and envision a young Metallica playing melodic rock songs. For this is one of the many influences Lars and James grew up on, if you listen carefully to this album you can hear many little licks and riffs that sound similar to future Metallica albums.
Also after listening to Gary Lettice, you’ll almost swear its James Hetfield.

I must admit this album is not very catchy nor will it grab your attention at first, but that’s where your anticipation is rewarded. Personally I found myself quite disappointed after the first or second listen, but after several listens I was genuinely hooked.
“Smokin’ Valves” is the first track that sounds like a Johnny be good 50’s rock number sung with balls and aggression. Quite raw and bluesy, I quite liked it but there is so much to come.
“Death of Glory” has a common opening chord that I cant put my finger on, I’ve heard it somewhere before. But then again its so easy and common to play it can be mistaken for anything. I really liked this particular track for its raw and simplistic lyrics, if you really want to be picky like me you can start singing the first verse to “seek and destroy” and see where Lars and James ripped them off…. but we wont go there.
(I was joking by the way…haha)

“Come on back” is an attempt to be a love song somewhat, but don’t mistake this for a weak stereotypic song. The chorus really catches up with you and solo is mellow and doomsy.

Speaking of doom, “Mavrock” is no exception, even when it picks up its still quite doomy. You can really hear the Sabbath influence in this one, fans will defiantly love this one for its gloomy feel and vocals.

Once you hear “It don’t matter to me” you start to feel a sense of dejavou (the French word, however its spelt). All the songs kind of sound the same, but surprising not in a bad way. Also you start to get the idea that the word Rock was regarded highly in a lot of early 80s songs.

“Cryin’ Shame” is a turnaround song to the others, this is slightly more upbeat and is probably the only song you will hear the bass thump over the guitar.

At last we get to the best song by far, “Heavy Metal Mania”. I must have listened to this track 20 times more than the rest of the songs. In my opinion this is the “rock and roll all night” of metal…or at least should be. This anthem has some intense, classical and mind-blowing guitar work. The intro alone is enough to get me worked up, lyrically the first verse isn’t anything special but the chorus almost brings a tear to my eye (figure of speech) and makes the hair stand on the back of my neck. Also Gamma Ray does a great version of this track.

“Push it around” is the anticlimax of the album even though it sounds similar to the first 6 tracks. Still a strong track however a slight let down after “Heavy Metal Mania”.

Last but defiantly not least is “The Nightcomers” probably my second favourite. The opening riff can only be described as unique, original, dark and gloomy. When drums and bass enter through the track it picks up and is very catchy, I could hear the intro played repetitively for some time if it were up to me.

If you’re a fan of doom or NWOBHM this album wont disappoint you. Particularly if you’re a metallica fan who wants to discover something else. If I were ever going to recommend any Holocaust album it would be this one. Unfortunately the later albums were quite poor and lacked the enthusiasm of “Nightcomers”. Gary Lettice’s absence may be a factor but the magic isn’t quite there. Enjoy this one folks, as it’s the debut and undeniably the best Holocaust album to date.