With their fifth full-length album reportedly in the pipeline, Portland retro thrashers Toxic Holocaust has pieced together a comprehensive collection of their extensive backlog of non-album material. From the Ashes of Nuclear Destruction features 22 tracks, including numerous raw demo versions of their studio counterparts, and an abundance of material culled from various splits and rare singles from the prolific band, led by main-man Joel Grind. Such a release is obviously geared towards diehard fans eager to grab all the rarities in one convenient package, although there’s enough overall quality and jam-packed energy to provide some raw listening pleasure for casual fans as well. For the most part the compilation is sequenced in chronological order, which presents a nice overview of the band’s ever so gradual stylistic progression from their raw, straight-forward early days as a one man band, to the slightly more polished and sophisticated later material with a fully formed band in tow.
Several songs from the Hell on Earth sessions are included in their potent demo form, such as “Ready to Fight”, “Thrashing Death” and “Send Them to Hell”. There are further demo recordings from each of the band’s other full lengths, with the short and punishing “666” the sole track from their debut album Evil Never Dies (2003). Elsewhere, a couple of explosive tunes from the early, hard-to-find Death Master EP (2003) are featured in the shape of the hammering thrash of “Metal Attack” and balls-to-the-wall attack of the title track. “Reaper’s Grave” and “Death Brings Death” are both culled from the Reapers Grave EP (2006), fitting oddly around the middle of the compilation due to the raw, buzzing and largely underdone production. They do have a feverish intensity amidst the reverb-laden sonic assault.
Some of the later album cuts are the biggest highlights here. The final two tracks are taken from their most recent recording – last year’s 12” split with Municipal Waste. Both songs (“We Bring em Hell” & “Altar-ed”) find the band sounding tight and invigorated – bleeding metal spirit and killer riffs. The excellent ”A.T.O.M.I.C.” holds extra significance as it was recorded in 2011 as their half of a split 7” with Midnight to benefit victims of the Japanese Tsunami. The violent, ultra-catchy anthem “Bitch” from the Conjure and Command demo sessions, and the addictive mid-paced crunch of “Suicide Eye” from the Gravelord EP (2009) are other standouts. Despite not being known for musical evolution throughout their career, the latter tunes on the compilation display greater production values and a tighter, slightly refined song-writing edge to the old-school brand of punk-infused thrash that defines Toxic Holocaust’s unwavering formula.
Joel Grind doesn’t do things half-heartedly, and this compilation is by no means a slapdash affair hastily pieced together. Clearly great thought and care has gone into polishing up these tunes and sequencing the songs in a fashion that roughly charts the timeline of the band and gives the album cohesion that other such releases would lack. From the Ashes of Nuclear Destruction is a solid compilation that will hold particular interest for the diehards and completists.[Visit the band's website]