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Sounds of Headbanging - 86%

pinpals, February 18th, 2011

Let’s face it, the thrash that we all know and loved is pretty much dead. We have a bunch of retro-thrash bands trying to sound (and dress) like they are from that era, but most of them reek of gimmickry, and aside from a few exceptions, they are mostly forgettable. We have a bunch of greats, as well as some underground heroes, like Onslaught, having re-formed in the past ten years, but for the most part the music they write sounds a good bit different from the “glory days.” Some, like Exodus and Heathen, have gone the epic route, writing long songs, with the good ones having a number of riffs. However, the majority have mixed the mid-paced and groove of the 90’s with the intense and fast thrash of the 80’s, with varying results. Onslaught belongs in the latter category: there is a heavy presence of groove, but do not stop reading just yet.

Onslaught formed in 1983 and their first album, “Power from Hell,” despite showing some signs of thrash, also had a strong influence of hardcore punk and Venom. Their follow-up, “The Force,” released just a year later in 1986, is regarded as a masterpiece of the Thrash genre, and rightfully so. After the flawed “In Search of Sanity,” the band broke up for a good while. They reunited in 2005 and released the solid “Killing Peace” and things seem to be consistent for them for the first time in their career.

In fact, with “Sounds of Violence,” Onslaught for the first time has a consistent sound. Their first four albums were so different that it was hard to establish what Onslaught’s “real” style was, although most fans up until this point would have probably picked the thrash of “The Force.” However, this is the same line-up that recorded “Killing Peace” aside from new guitarist Andy Rosser-Davies (a definite plus) and the sound is similar as well, only improved. The only two out-right thrashers sandwich the album, both “Born for War” and “Suicideology” have blazing riffs and tempo changes and should leave fans, old and new, satisfied.

However, it takes far more than that to make a great album. While there are speedier moments in between the two aforementioned songs, there are a lot of mid-paced and groove-based songs. Hearing that would be cause for concern for many fans, including me, but surprisingly Onslaught do a fantastic job of keeping things interesting. There are several key factors that keep the slower songs from getting dull. The production by Jacob Hansen is superb, everything is crisp and clear and the guitars sound fantastic. The fiery guitar-work is another plus, it is great to hear these well-thought-out shredding solos from a classic band, because some bands from that era, like Death Angel and Slayer, just cannot bring it like they used to. Also, like many vocalists from that era, Sy Keeler has really come into his own. With his voice maturing, he is able to sing more powerfully than before. The chorus of the already excellent “Rest in Pieces” really brings this song to the next level: heavy, yet catchy at the same time.

As a cool bonus at the end, there is a surprisingly good cover of Motorhead’s “Bomber,” with Tom Angelripper of Sodom and Phil Campbell of Motorhead making guest appearances. The only thing keeping “Sounds of Violence” from a perfect score are the times when the riffs get caught in a groove for too long and fail to move the song along. Also, despite several really good songs, there is no longer epic to serve as a pinnacle of the album. Aside from those minor qualms, we have one of the best albums released by a thrash band in the past five years. Do I really need to tell you that the purchase of this album is essential?

(Originally published at www.metal-temple.com)