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Two cheers for spontaneity! - 77%

hells_unicorn, February 10th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2015, Digital, Sidipus Records

There have been a healthy number of descriptive phrases attached to thrash metal over the years, with some of the more common ones including "the purest form of metal" and "working class metal", but one particular notion that has been often taken for granted is the style's fairly spontaneous demeanor. This isn't to say that other styles are more or less organic in their conception, but the rudimentary and raw character of thrash generally lends itself to a songwriting approach that cranks out completed works in fairly short order. With 10 years of studio silence behind them circa 2015 and a sizable demand for new material among their fans, Nuclear Assault opted for what could be dubbed the path of least resistance by cranking out an EP of original material in their older signature style dubbed Pounder about as quickly as the average person can yell game over.

Clocking in at just over 13 minutes and being born of a mere two days of studio recording and an additional two days of post-production work, it goes without saying that this is going to be a raw sonic affair, but the results actually come off as even more low-fi and gritty than the seminal work heard on Game Over and The Plague near 30 years prior. It doesn't consist so much of the sort of muddy, sloppy guitar tone and disjointed general mix that made their last outing Third World Genocide a mediocre dud, but it has a sound closer to demo territory than otherwise, likely owing to it being put together so quickly. Two of these songs start out with count-ins comparable to an early Ramones song, and a third one on a rudimentary drum fill that further imbues a sort of live album vibe into things, though naturally minus the crowd noise and the constant vocal ad libs to keep said audience engaged.

Not withstanding the raw and generally loose character of things, this is a pretty big boon to any nostalgia hounds out there who were hoping for a ride down memory lane rather than a clumsy, half-hearted attempt at modernization. Kicking things off is the cruising riff monster and title song "Pounder", which sounds fairly close to a sequel to the iconic "Game Over" instrumental off The Plague, but with lyrics and what can be described as a truly powerful vocal performance out of John Connelly, who's biting high pitched yells sound identical to his 1986 incarnation. "Lies" and "Analog Man" offer up a similarly hard-hitting display of fast and moderate-paced crunch and fury right out of the Anthrax playbook, throwing in a few solid lead guitar breaks yet keeping things about as concise as possible. The closer "Died In Your Arms" is the only real weak link out of the bunch, mostly coasting around at a restrained pace and trying to channel that sort of semi-ballad mixed with old style heavy metal trappings that occasionally adorned their early works, but without the necessary post-production to make it come off as smooth and atmospheric.

It's kind of bittersweet that, for the most part, Nuclear Assault has been relegated to semi-active status and largely making waves through sporadic live performances, because Pounder is definitely the sort of album that this band needs to be putting out to keep their name in a market where the old school thrash metal style is fast approaching the point of zero scarcity. To attach phrases like "this is more like it" to this album would be stating the obvious, though it is not without its flaws, which mostly relate to the album not having the sort of polished post-production job that would allow it to slay in the same way as their seminal 80s offerings did. The skill and energy is definitely present for a new LP to put this band right in the midst of the still ongoing thrash metal craze that kicked off a little over a decade before this was released, but for all the power that came from this highly spontaneous EP, a bit more fine-tuning would be in order to truly sell the idea of Nuclear Assault being 100% back.