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A storm of fury, free missile included. - 83%

hells_unicorn, June 5th, 2012

I like to think that every once in a while I can have a measure of pride in my home state, even though their representation in the thrash metal world has been somewhat lacking when compared with the exceptional acts to hail from California, New York, Texas, and the New England area. Something about the Wild West and the massive population density of the north eastern part of the country both seem to exude a tendency towards violence, though they all tended to be just a tad shy of the outright vindictive evil that would swarm out of Germany. But a rag tag bunch from the steel city of Pittsburg by the name of Holocross managed to give all of them a run for their money back in 1988.

Picture the sheer intensity and speed crazed mayhem that typified Wehrmacht’s “Shark Attack” and marry it to the orthodoxy of the mid 80s Bay Area sound (somewhere along the lines of Testament meets Slayer), and that’s the general mood of “Holocross”. This album is more than a mere exercise in violent thrashing; it’s an explosion of fury comparable to a world war of riffs and shouts. The drum work, in particular, is scarcely ever satisfied in keeping the beat and simply has to either blast away with both barrels or load up on the fills almost to the point of sheer gratuity. In similar fashion, the vocal work veers back and forth between a low key Chuck Billy growl and frequent interludes into Tom Araya shriek territory, with maybe a slight helping of Udo influences at times as well.

Granted, by 1988 this approach to thrash metal was not unheard of, but the excessive speed and aggression factor on here is more in line with that more associated with “Beneath The Remains” and “Pleasure To Kill” than the party oriented sound that was starting to crop up amongst the New York crew. It’s largely a one dimensional affair where the guitars blur and crunch away with no time for quiet interludes and next to no time for breakdowns. That’s basically of the charm of this sort of an album, there may be an occasional intro that’s more mid-tempo such as heard on “Warpath” and a lone clean guitar intro found on “Seizure”, but the vast majority of what is heard on here just unloads in the most intense manner possible and skips all the drawn out additives. Much of what is on here either clocks in below or just barely above 3 minutes in length, and it’s likely because the sort of head-banging required for these songs would see heads rolling on the floor if they went much longer.

This isn’t an album that immediately lends itself to classic status, primarily because it’s so damned intense that it simply leaves a vague impression, right on the listener’s skull. People tend to remember albums like “South Of Heaven” and “Coma Of Souls” better because they offer a variety of different ways to ruin the spinal column, whereas this is just a straight shot of pure adrenaline that tends to fade away once the music stops. The crazy leads, the crushing riffs, the barely intelligible screams, and the drum showboating all accomplish what they need to, a one-dimensional fit of rage that brings to thrash metal what early Bolt Thrower would bring to death metal. It’s definitely far removed from the greatest thrash album ever made, but definitely worth the time for anyone who likes it fast and vicious.