What’s that saying again? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Well, that’s kind of the mantra founder Joel Grind and Toxic Holocaust have lived by over the course of a career including four full-length releases and countless EP’s and demos, and compilations since 1999. And that is by no means a bad thing. Plus, it’s not like all their albums sound the same, even if the basic principles are: stripped down, no-bullshit thrash meets punk with a hearty helping of killer riffage. But on newest album Chemistry of Consciousness, out October 29 via Relapse Records, SOMETHING is different without changing the overall aesthetic. It’s like they took an already rough sound and made it even rougher, and the results are an album that repeatedly kicks you in the balls for 28 minutes.
This marks the second record in a row to feature the same line-up of Joel Grind (vocals, guitar), Phil Zeller (bass, vocals), and Nick Bellmore (drums), and I really believe having that continuity helps their sound this time out. “Awaken the Serpent” sounds like something you’d expect to hear at CBGB back in the 80’s, and “Silence” evokes images of the early Bay Area thrash scene at times. Grind isn’t afraid to let fly with some serious solos either, as the latter firmly points out. “Rat Eater” was an instant favorite because it marches along and sounds like it’s going after somebody, then takes off at a full run until presumably it catches them.
An exercise in stop-on-a-dime time changes is what we get in “Salvation Is Waiting”, featuring more riffs than you can shake a pick at (sorry!) while “Out of the Fire” is just an all-out fucking attack that will rip faces off and send you to the ER smiling all the way! Meanwhile “Acid Fuzz” incorporates some of the best guitar riffs I’ve heard this side of the NWOBHM and is one that I kept playing over and over, and I think you will, too. The solo here is perfect for the song as well. “Deny the Truth” lays down a mid-tempo groove for much of it, save for the speed breaks and serves as a pretty cool change of pace.
The next two songs, “MK Ultra” and “I Serve” are heavy and well-played also, but one of the real gems comes out in “International Conspiracy” which has some serious shades of Motörhead in the overall feel and sound. Title track and album closer “Chemistry of Consciousness” pulls out all the stops for one final full-court press, designed to snap necks in a violent storm of metal fury. I really, really dug this record. I loved the retro feel to it, combining all the best elements of thrash metal, punk rock, and NWOBHM into a sonic bouillabaisse that is NOT for the faint of heart. More importantly there’s an honesty and authenticity found here that a number of Toxic Holocaust’s peers are sorely lacking today.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Awaken the Serpent”, “Silence”, “Salvation Is Waiting”, “Rat Eater”, “Acid Fuzz”, “International Conspiracy”