Onslaught - Sounds of Violence (AFM)

Onslaught. Never were a band so aptly named? That's debatable, but this album is indeed a no-holds barred onslught on your sensibilites...
Release Date: 
19 Jan 2011 - 11:30pm

Onslaught. For a brief while in the eighties they looked like being Britain's best bet for stemming the tide of American and German thrash that was flooding the ears of metalheads the globe over, until somehow they managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and limped off into the shadows of failure, demonic metal tail hanging limply between their collective legs, as it were. Like many bands from the UK of that era, there was always a whiff of bandwagon-jumping about the band (certainly once they'd escaped the punk/crust roots of their first album, the titanic Power from Hell), with the band's first effort for Music for Nations (the pre-eminent underground metal label of the day), The Force, eagerly appropriating the collected works of Slayer for it's own (admittedly impressive) ends. Once they'd mined that particular seem, it was all Anthrax stagewear (guitarist Nige Rockett a particularly enthusiastic wearer of Budweiser-themed gridiron shirts a la metal's most famous cuckoo clock engineer, Dan Spitz) and Metallica riffs until the end came. Which was a shame, because whatever cynical dissenters like me had to say on the matter, Onslaught was without doubt the finest thrash metal band ever produced by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

This standpoint is entirely borne out by Sounds of Violence, Onslaught's third outing since their twenty first century renaissance. It's 2011 now - everyone is stealing from everyone else these days - and Onslaught's occasional appropriation of other people's riffs doesn't matter anymore as it works perfectly within the framework they've chosen to work in. Hence the Slayeresque mid section of Code Black is welcomed as being positively the right thing to do by the song rather than decryed as a shameless ripoff, and rightly so. In simple terms, everything that Onslaught do on SoV proves what a monstrously iron grip they have on what makes a 'classic thrash' album work. Vocalist Sy Keeler is a revelation; in 1986 he was undeniably a poor man's Tom Araya. In 2011 he is an utterly convincing heavy metal vocalist of the top draw, mixing some gutteral death growling with a beefy mid range to utterly devastating effect. Again Code Black is the high water mark here, the man's vocal adding massive dynamic punch to the song, always complimenting Rockett's thick, meaty riffage, whilst elsewhere his deployment of a hoarse, almost Petrozzaesque rasp is never less than compelling and, perhaps more importantly, so very right for Onslaught's music in 2011.

Make no mistake, there's nary a hint that this album might be the work of some tired old hacks intent on screwing a few quid out of a tattered legacy. Sounds of Violence is the work of a band utterly in tune with what makes a great modern heavy metal record, and their utterly superb ability to pull off the execution of same. This is an undeniable album.