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Embryonic Holocaust - 68%

iamntbatman, June 8th, 2010

No one would call Toxic Holocaust an experimental band. Joel Grind has perfected his vision for Toxic Holocaust and churns out simple, fast, punky blackened thrash as if it comes as natural to him as breathing. The band's earliest material, this demo in particular, serves as a document of a young band struggling to find its signature sound, jumping around between several vaguely related styles hoping to land on one that really clicks. Even on this early demo, there are several tracks that just scream "Yeah! That's fuckin' Toxic Holocaust right there!" However, the formula wasn't quite perfected just yet, which makes the atypical tracks perhaps even more interesting than those that give a clear indication of things to come.

Opening track "Nothing Will Change" is pure black metal. Soaked in ludicrous amounts of reverb and featuring some darkly mournful guitar lines, it's one of the least fun things Toxic Holocaust has ever recorded. It's a fine enough song, but when "Get In the Pit" cranks up it's completely understandable why the more fun approach was chosen. It's a prototypical Toxic Holocaust song without a doubt, complete with thrasy, punky riffs and drums and aggressive yet fun-loving vocals. Next we move on to the punky live version of "Follow and Believe," perhaps one of the punkiest things on the demo (not too far off from something like Bone Awl, other than the less extreme vocal delivery). However, it's their cover of Venom's "Raised in Hell" that really serves as an omen of things to come. The cover absolutely rips, so it's no wonder a good 80% of subsequent Toxic Holocaust recordings owe a clear debt to Venom and tunes like this, especially in vocal approach as Joel's vocals on this track are closer to the signature style he'd later adopt than the more straightforward black metal rasps used elsewhere on the demo. The Nuclear Assault cover doesn't fare nearly as well and is a poor fit for Grind's aesthetic. The final tracks are variations on the earlier sounds, exploring black metal, thrash and punk, including the quasi-cover of "Run To The Hills" (here titled "Fuck Fuck Fuck") that devolves into noisy grind madness.

The production is a little thin and quite treble-heavy but whether this was a product of circumstances or an intentional decision to give the release a more DIY black metal feel I'm not quite sure. In either case, given the more blackened feel to this release than later Toxic Holocaust material, it fits the music so I don't really have any complaints about it.

Any Toxic Holocaust fan should give this demo a listen as it serves to show why certain aborted musical ideas are no longer part of Grind's lexicon. However, the real winner here is the Venom cover, which is a fantastic recording in its own right but also because it's the most obvious blueprint for the signature Toxic Holocaust sound. It's also quite a lot of fun to hear a young Joel (and his uncredited friends who played drums and bass) mess around and have a good time. However, this is far from essential listening as the majority of the running time is devoted to average-to-decent lo-fi black metal.