Well slap my ass and call me Skippy, the premier name in super-mega, old school, retro, throwback thrash (rethrash for short) is back to teach another post-grad lesson in violence. For those not in the know, that means a new album from Joel Grind’s Toxic Holocaust. Yes folks, things don’t get more painfully stuck in the 80s than the speed churned out by Mr. Grind and if there was ever a man born too late, it’s him. You see, Joel was meant to exist during that original wave of thrash, releasing revolutionary new music to shock the world alongside the likes of Slayer and Exodus. Alas, the Fates turned a mean skein and he was cast forward to this cruel future, where all his best thrashing and bashing is considered tired, recycled and irrelevant by many. Tis quite the shame too, since the man has a true gift for penning genuine 80s thrash and his stuff always has an aura of authenticity that’s lacking in most rethrash. I loved his 2011 Command and Conjure platter of splatter and I really got into his Yellowgoat Sessions album released under the name Joel Grind (though it was pretty much another Toxic Holocaust album with more Bathory influence).
While you don’t dive into a Joel Grind project for innovation and progression, I personally found a lot of Chemistry of Consciousness surprisingly refreshing because it features an almost proto-thrash style rather than just endlessly re-running the classic Bay Area style. I hear traces of pre-thrashers like Motorhead, Venom, Exciter, Piledriver and even crossover punk alongside the typical Slayer and Exodus riffs and that makes this a much more interesting beast of bourbon. It’s also way catchier than you expect thrash to be and Grind continues to show a deft hand at writing big riff hooks. It’s tight as hell, but feels all so damn crusty, sloppy and choppy, it’s really tough to dislike (yes, even that ultra low-tech album cover).
This is short and savage little gem of thrash featuring eleven tunes clocking in at a mere 28 minutes, but Grind and his band of renown make sure that brief stretch encompasses a buttload of razor-sharp, acid-dipped riffs. Opener “Awaken the Serpent” is pure demo-era Exodus with all their furious, “kill the posers” charm and riffs that will flay your eyelids. “Silence” marries vintage Destruction with the slop-n’-bash of the Bathory debut and “Rat Eater” steals the big, oppressive riffery from Bolt Thrower‘s “World Eater.” The Bathory influences resurface like a bad penny on “Acid Fuzz” and get teamed effectively with Agent Orange era Sodom for a thunderous outing and I really like the way “I Serve” slaps a punky, D.R.I. sound together with Hellhammer and Motorhead riffs sped up to crazed levels. Hell, I even hear some Sacred Reich influence during “International Conspiracy.”
The standout to me is “Salvation is Waiting” which manages to team Agent Steel riffs with a few ripped right off Kreator‘s Pleasure to Kill album; and I also get a big kick out of simple, relentless chug riffs sprinkled across “Out of the Fire,” which feel like something Sodom would have done in the early 90s. None of the eleven tracks are weak and each has its own collection of killer riffs and memorable little tidbits.
Joel’s riffing is the thing that always makes his work stand out for me and there’s no let down in the quality here. He seems to have stuck with the Bathory-heavy approach he used on The Yellowgoat Sessions, but there’s also a Venom-esque vibe hanging over the whole thing that makes it feel very off-the-cuff and unpolished. The combination gives the material a heavy, but oddly buoyant and almost joyful, rowdy energy that screams Devil and Denium worship.
Joel’s vocals still feel like an afterthought and always consist of his one-dimensional, slightly distorted bark. They fit and sound fine, though a bit of variation wouldn’t have hurt or made this any less of a kvlt, underground outing. The rhythm section of Phil Gnaast on bass and Nikki Bellmore on drums is mighty tight and I especially enjoy Bellmore’s playing which reminds me of the old Sodom outings with Chris Witchhunter (R.I.P.) in their near-mindless aggression.
If you liked Joel’s Yellowgoat Sessions or any of the previous Toxic Holocaust releases, this will go down gangbusters. I’m not sure why I find’s this guy’s music as enjoyable as I do, but he sure knows how to make old timey thrash fun, refreshing and easily digestible. If this ends up the only rethrash band left standing, I would be okay with that and continue to support their non-evolving ways. Hey, if you’re living backward, you gotta commit to it, right? Joel certainly has.