Friday, January 28, 2011

Review: Onslaught - Sounds of Violence (2011)

Onslaught [ Website | MySpace | Twitter ]
Sounds of Violence

Any serious student of metal history knows that the emergence of thrash in the early and mid-'80s spawned not only first- and second-tier bands like Metallica, Megadeth, Exodus, and Venom, but also countless lesser bands who simply got lost in the shuffle. Most of them came and went like proverbial flashes in the pan, with precious few persevering through the hair metal and grunge eras. Bristol, England's Onslaught was one of horde that released a couple of albums and disappeared from the scene. Although Onslaught originated as a hardcore punk band, their 1985 debut Power From Hell was considered a solid contribution to the thrash movement. The band followed up that release with 1986's arguably superior The Force, but then the wheels began to fall off. Frontman Sy Keeler left Onslaught in 1988 and was replaced by Steve Grimmett (of Grim Reaper fame) for the band's third album, after which Onslaught was dropped by their label and ultimately disbanded. A reformation in the mid-'00s led to 2007's resurgent album Killing Peace, which received praise from both the old-school and neo-thrash camps for its blend of generational styles.

Now, four years later, Onslaught unleashes another old-school/modern mash-up with Sounds of Violence. Since the band's previous release, and in a move that has proved to be positive, guitarist Alan Jordan and bass player James Hinder were replaced by Andy Rosser-Davies and Jeff Williams (respectively). Rosser-Davies steps up to the plate admirably in his complimentary role to original six-stringer Nige Rockett. Sounds of Violence overflows with intricately punishing riffs and creative leads that are clearly inspired by the band's roots, but that also harness the punch that fans of modern thrash (and the thrash revival) have come to demand. Speed for speed's sake often gives way to riffs that are thoughtfully crafted and, as a result, possess greater staying power. The Middle Eastern flair to the twin-guitar riffs on "Antitheist", for example, serves as a refreshing break from the heightened aggression of songs like "Godhead" and "Suicideology". It's obvious that the guys of Onslaught are serious about writing good music, not just rehashing the "glory" days or copycatting what passes for modern metal.

Keeler's varied vocal performance also contributes to Onslaught's ability to deftly navigate the often-polarized thrash fan base. His primary style of gravelly shouts is pretty typical for the genre, but on many occasions - such as during "Born For War" and "Code Black" - he dips into more of a death metal growl to lend the moment some extra weight. His performance on the standout title track really caught my attention because of the similarities to the style of Ministry's Al Jourgensen. Even after more than 25 years, Keeler still has the pipes to really deliver the goods.

Tacked on to the end of the album is Onslaught's cover of Motörhead's "Bomber". The band doesn't deviate much from the original, but guest appearances from Motörhead's own Phil Campbell and Sodom's Tom Angelripper make for an interesting listen - gimmicky as it is.

Onslaught does a commendable job drawing inspiration from both sides of the fence and as a result, though it doesn't chart unknown waters, Sounds of Violence is a quality addition to any thrash fan's collection - be their tastes old-school like mine or more "contemporary".


Track Listing
1Into The Abyss1:10
2Born For War6:05
3The Sound of Violence4:14
4Code Black6:32
5Rest In Pieces4:53
10End Of The Storm1:40
Total Runtime49:39

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