It wasn’t the cool-ass logo, the Eddie-lookin’ thrasher ripping a child from a womb, or the novelty of the solo actor’s grand vision that sold the world on Portland, Oregon thrash revivalist Toxic Holocaust‘s debut ‘Evil Never Dies’ back in 2003… it was the riffs. That ungentle emphasis on the blackened side of early Teutonic thrash (Destruction, Sodom circa ’85) blasted at the speed of Nuclear Assault was the angle that thrash needed to get back into the above-ground space as the new millennium dawned. Surely Municipal Waste had set a certain tone of true revival with their debut earlier that year but it was Joel Grind‘s one man blackened metal-punk show that set the world on fire, again, with riffs. Fast-forward a decade and five albums deep it’d appear that Grind saw the completion of his contract with Relapse Records as a jumping off point to gain vital experience in the control room mixing, mastering, and producing records for Abyss, Bonehunter, Grave Dust, and Lord Dying, among many others. Instead of reviving the old crew and picking up where ‘Chemistry of Consciousness’ (2013) left off, in a frankly redundant space, 2019 finds Toxic Holocaust rocketing back to the womb-bursting crypt that started it all with ‘Primitive Future: 2019’. That riff-intense, punk-spirited ‘one man band’ thrash metal maniac sound is inspired as hell for the first time since at least 2011 on this big, barn-storming return.
Credit where credit is due there isn’t a bad record to the Toxic Holocaust name and for the sake of sparing you my detailed thoughts on each of their records my major bias leans towards the 2003-2008 releases from Grind where the focus hadn’t quite shifted into this ‘signature’ modus that felt like a sort of 90’s Venom meets Inepsy kind of sound; Yeah I know that sounds awesome on paper but those last two records only served to clone the exciting chest-bursting alien that was the band’s big Relapse Records debut ‘An Overdose of Death…’ (2008), the live presence of the band held up but I’d personally stuck around as a fan hoping the whole gig would re-skin with time. Upping the fucking punk and dialing in those bigger riffs was all it took, and I doubt the sheer class of ‘Primal Future: 2019’ would’ve been possible without some years of reflection and the solitary vision of Grind left to his own devices. Good taste, or even just specific taste, entirely makes the difference here and that’ll become obvious with even the most cursory spin of Side A.
“Chemical Warlords” might chunk into view with an characteristic crossover-era English Dogs riff and a snarling ‘Beat the Bastards’ shout-a-long verse or two but, you’re not getting your money’s worth until the fuckin’ majestic stomp-beaten Running Wild circa 1987 chorus chimes in. A brilliant moment and a healthy surprise for the longtime fan, the signal sent is that there is some extra life to this record and the rest of the tracklist doesn’t disappoint. “Black Out the Code” more or less kicks things back to that ‘Evil Never Dies’ era of modern thrash guitar work, none of it sounds all that remarkable until the second half of the song steps into this gnarly, swinging bout of ‘Rust in Peace’-era Megadeth riffing. It’d dawned on me at this point how damned thirsty I was for big goddamn thrash riffs in 2019, that all it took was this relatively simple banging moment to thrill me up the wall and it ended up being one of my favorite moments on the album. Not to be outdone by the Cro-Mags aping chug n’ stomp crews of today “New World Beyond” more or less tugs in a flex-heavy ripper to round out the first act of ‘Primal Future: 2019’, complete with a nuclear gang-shouted hook worthy of the late-in-life spirit of Vio-lence; Hold onto your ass when the requiem comes on “Aftermath” later on.
I’ll save you the headache of a full track-by-track analysis at this point, you get the idea, right? Side B more or less mirrors Side A, complete with the book-ending Teutonic gallop of “Cybernetic War”. Toxic Holocaust are bringing their most pure thrash guns to this neon synthwave lookin’ return, not simply a ‘return to form’ moment but a full-on punt out of the park into the future with an energetic attack that classic thrash fans will pick up on out the gates. The listening experience is exactly what I, the somewhat lapsed fan, wanted from the project this last decade and a few big riffs was all it took to pull me back under wing. High recommendation. If you’re a harder sell, or looking for the early Midnight n’ roll / Venom-toothed side of Toxic Holocaust, “Time’s Edge” and especially “Iron Cage” should provide a not-so claustrophobic take on that sound. The clincher for my own tastes lies within the thrill of those first four tracks, the hook of the title track, and the brooding closer “Cybernetic War”.
Hits like a lethal injection. 4.0/5.0
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