Thrash has evolved into many things over its nearly 40 year existence, from primitive, crude beginnings to insanely fast, shockingly technical and surprisingly melodic forms. There’s something to be said for all these various shades, but for old timers like me, thrash is always best served raw, and rowdy with a side of cheap beer and a spiked leather fist upside the head. That’s where Toxic Holocaust lives, down in the slime with early acts like Sodom and the long forgotten NME. The solo project of speed merchant Joel Grind, Toxic Holocaust draws influence from the punky speed of the mid-80s and stomps the line between Neanderthal thrash and crossover punk acts like D.R.I. Albums like 2011s Conjure and Command and 2013s Chemistry of Consciousness offered zero frills but plenty of savage, nasty speed with bad attitude aplenty as Grind paid homage to the past. It’s been 6 years since we’ve heard from Mr. Grind, but he’s finally back with the ironically titled Primal Future: 2019, and a few new tricks and treats. It’s still uber-basic old school thrash with a punky attitude though, and it’s still ass kicking music designed to make you beat your friends bloody. That’s what thrash is all about, ain’t it?
Primal Future delivers 10 fast, angry songs that could of, nay, should have been written in 1985. From the opening cords of “Chemical Warlords” you get clunky, raucous, low-fi speed without pretensions or any attempt to sound modern. This is dumb, brainless and easy to like, and for what it is, quite well executed. “New World Beyond” sounds like the love child of Venom and Wargasm, and it is UGLY, but you can’t look away and it will get your fist pumping if you’re even half alive. “Time’s Edge” is the most “technical” track, reminding a bit of Cyclone and early Razor, and the punky gallop is satisfying and blood pressure unfriendly. “Iron Cage” is another unrestrained blaster that should be piped into gyms across the world every 10 minutes to get people moving and sweating.
The high points come late, with the back to back winners “Aftermath” and closer “Cybernetic War.” The latter is like a classic Sodom cut with a wild bass attack leading the thrash riffs into glory and disaster. When Grind croaks “It’s a nuclear, chemical, bio attack. Weapons too powerful for humans to grasp!” You’ll want to sign up for ground zero duty just be there for the fun. No nuance, nothing subtle, this is the aural equivalent of the NHL’s worst goon using brass knuckles to teach you some goddamn manners. “Cybernetic War” is the album’s sole mid-paced number, sitting closer to traditional metal, but still overflowing with crude, uncouth power and aggression. It’s also surprisingly addictive with a decent chorus that sticks out on an album of blasting fury. While no song is bad, fewer hit as hard as the best cuts on past albums, making this feel like a very solid, if safe and predictable outing. It’s still tons of fun, but we’ve heard most of it before if we’re being honest.
As with all Toxic Holocaust albums, the production is designed to sound rough, old school, and DIY. I’m constructed the same way, so I dig it, but audio purists may not. Then again, how many of those types buy Toxic Holocaust platters anyway? At 39 minutes, Primal Future burns bright and briefly, blasting by in a blur of easily digestible angst and rage. Most songs hover in the 4 minute span, with only one exceeding 5 minutes. This is the best way to do a thrash album in 2019, and Grind wisely follows the Rule of K.I.S.S. (keep it short, stupid!). Grind plays all the instruments and does a good job of it. His riffing is always his best weapon, and though he keeps things very simple, he has an ear for catchy leads. His hoarse, raspy bark is well suited to the music and though he’s limited vocally, he makes the most of what he’s got. The whole point of this is to keep it rough and unrefined and that mission is fully accomplished.
Primal Future: 2019 is exactly what you expect from a Toxic Holocaust album. It might not reach the heights of past works but there’s a lot of wild, unruly fun to be had here. If you need a nasty dose of retro thrash served in a dirty, greasy ashtray, look no further. Speed kills, but Joel Grind is doing just fine.