ONSLAUGHT – “SOUNDS OF VIOLENCE”

ONSLAUGHT – “SOUNDS OF VIOLENCE”
AFM RECORDS (2011)

Metal Church - The Present Wasteland

As a fan of Rock and Metal music I will be eternally grateful to Albion for the rich musical heritage that it has offered, not only to the inhabitants of this great island, but also to all those like-minded people around the world who cannot comprehend music without the existence of the electric guitar! Even though extreme Metal has numerous fans here in the UK and, though there is currently a great number of high profile bands based in this part of the world, back in the 80s the story was different – especially with regards to Thrash Metal. One of the bands that really stood out back then, and which continues to impress to this day with their fine blend of aggressive Thrash, is the Bristol-based quintet Onslaught. Following the release of the quite successful return full-length “Killing Peace” (2007), the band went through yet another line up change, moved to a different label and is now about to release its fifth studio album, “Sounds Of Violence”.

Back in November of last year, I had the pleasure of attending an exclusive pre-listening party for this album, staged at a central London venue, during which a certain number of journalists were given the opportunity to listen to the album in its entirety for the very first time. I remember thinking to myself “I wish these lads would come back with something that would be both classic and modern sounding – pretty much what Testament have achieved in recent years” and, before the night was over, this was the very impression I was given by this album. My initial excitement was only reinforced the moment I was allowed to access it and, even now, I still feel that this is one of the most exciting Thrash album in recent years. Why? Well, apart from the fact that it is quite a varied album in terms of incorporated styles and tempos, the duo Nige Rockett/ Andy Rosser-Davies have come up with an enormous amount of breathtaking riffs and solos – all of the highest possible quality. Not to forget, of course, Sy Keeler’s wide-range vocal contribution and the massive support provided by the rhythm section of Jeff Williams and Steve Grice – the former providing solid bass lines and the latter going absolutely mental either when going all guns blazing on the rhythm or in his heartfelt mid-tempo tunes.

Following a short and quite pompous intro with the title “Into The Abyss”, the listener will hear the first of the many classics that are featured on this eleven track album – the five and a half minute “Born For War”. What we have here is a fast paced Thrash opus whose main riffs are simple in nature but quite anthemic and are supported by Steven Grice’s technically outstanding drum themes and Sy Keeler’s powerful multi-layered vocals, whose low frequencies are reminiscent of those used by the legendary frontman Chuck Billy (Testament). Things slow down a bit in the same titled “Sounds Of Violence”, a song whose riffs are heavily influenced by Exodus, but the levels of heaviness are raised to dangerous heights on “Code Black” – a classic track, whose head banging riffs and flamboyant guitar solos are among the best of the album. “Rest In Pieces” is an up-tempo, riff orientated Thrasher that, in terms of influence, owes as much to Exodus as it does to Slayer, whereas “Godhead” is another great example of an ‘old meets new’ Thrash Metal composition. “Hatebox” may initially come across as a pretty straight forward composition but wait until you hear its breathtaking solos prior to reaching any conclusions. Another personal favorite of mine is “Antitheist”, a song whose epic oriental melodies and head banging riffs/tunes are simply outstanding and which is accompanied by another ‘belter’, entitled “Suicideology”. By the time you reach the melancholic tunes of the outro “The End Of The Storm” you will a) still not know what it is that hit you and b) crave for more, and that is the best you can ask of any album right? Furthermore, if you opt for the limited edition of the album, you will get access to a cover version of Motorhead’s classic “Bomber” – not the most challenging or innovative of covers, but one that gave this classic the respect that it truly deserves.

As a music journalist I come across numerous, quite different releases on a daily basis, some of which I like to varying degrees. Believe me when I say that it is not very often that I come across an album like “Sounds Of Violence” – an album whose quality and overall appeal are such that they will get me hooked immediately and not let me go for many more spins! What we have here is a collection of eleven Thrash Metal anthems, one being better than the other, which, though working on classic formulae, manage to present them in a dynamic and modern fashion! There are many young Thrash Metal bands out there that currently enjoy the attentions of major labels of the music press, the vast majority of which are without, in my humble opinion, anything really interesting to offer. These are the very same bands that ought to be really afraid as it is the old-timers like Onslaught who are here to claim back what is rightfully theirs and teach the newbies a lesson or two along the way.

John Stefanis

Rating: ****1/2 (4.5/5.0)




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