A broadening of sound for the rising thrashers
With the resurrection of thrash metal in the new millennium a whole host of acts soon flooded the scene, thrusting thrash metal back into vogue with a vengeance. While there were some great bands to come out of the reinvigorated scene (Evile and Warbringer are two immediate names that spring to mind), there was a longer list of acts that barely ranked above imitation level. One name that stood high above most was Portland (Oregon, U.S.) based act Toxic Holocaust, who took the thrash metal scene by storm with their critically acclaimed debut effort Evil Never Dies in 2003.
Since then, the speed/blackened thrash metal outfit have maintained their status as a force to be reckoned with, with their subsequent albums Hell on Earth (2005) and An Overdose of Death... (2008), not to mention their incredible number of singles and split E.P.’s in the meantime, only garnishing more and more praise amongst the growing number of thrash fanatics in the years that followed. Now Toxic Holocaust has made their highly anticipated return with their fourth full-length release Conjure and Command and, while the album is another slab of pure thrashing metal, it also represents a slight change of sound for Toxic Holocaust.
The first real noticeable difference between this album and the ones that proceeded it is that vocalist/guitarist Joel Grind has decided to share recording duties alongside his fellow band members (namely ex-Rammer bassist/backing vocalist Phil ‘Gnaast’ Zeller and Kingdom of Sorrow drummer Nikki Bellmore), rather than record the album himself. Although it’s hard to determine just how much of an impact this has made on the album, the fact that this is more of a band effort does signify a big difference from previous efforts.
Aside from the recording line-up, the other real notable changes can be heard throughout the ten tracks Toxic Holocaust offer up on Conjure and Command. While the band’s trademark speeding thrash sound remains intact in part, there’s also a greater emphasis on slower tempos and melodic structures, which means that while Conjure and Command is undoubtedly a Toxic Holocaust album, it’s far from a carbon copy of their previous releases.
The album opens up in a speeding fashion with Judgment Awaits You, which under two minutes, well and truly announces the return of the band in truly destructive form.
Despite its slower build-up, Agony of the Damned is a potent mid-paced thrasher that showcases Grind’s measured and gravelly semi-melodic style of punked-up/blackened vocal style, while Red Winter and Nowhere to Run follow a similar path in terms of tempo.
Unfortunately, not everything works in terms of the band’s newfound slowed down pace, with I Am Disease and the slightly faster In the Depths (Of Your Mind) a little lacking in the chorus department with their somewhat bland delivery. Thankfully, the stronger tracks outweigh the weaker efforts, with the classic Bitch, the driving The Liars are Burning, the savage Revelations and the call to arms anthem of Sound the Charge the real picks on the latter half of the album.
Conjure and Command isn’t going to be hailed as one of Toxic Holocaust’s strongest efforts, but it will at least go down as one of their more diverse and varied efforts, with more than its fair share of killer tracks.
(Relapse Records/Riot! Entertainment)