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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