Toxic Holocaust
Chemistry of Consciousness

Stuck in a perpetual ’80s thrash-punk time warp, Joel Grind’s Toxic Holocaust are a prolific institution in the retro metal field. Already this year, Grind has released a retrospective snapshot of Toxic Holocaust’s non-album material (From the Ashes of Nuclear Destruction) while also releasing a fun little solo gem with his Yellowgoat Sessions project. Chemistry of Consciousness is Toxic Holocaust’s fifth full-length album, which finds the band jagging a familiar path and bringing forth Grind’s unwavering passion for the style and staunch refusal to expand beyond familiar boundaries. And it’s Grind’s commitment to his craft and the sheer energy the whole band bring to the table that largely keeps Toxic Holocaust’s sound afloat.

And for all their predictability, to say Toxic Holocaust hasn’t progressed at all during their career isn’t entirely true. Improved production values and tighter musicianship has sanded back some of the roughest spots of their sound, but with little progression musically, coupled with album after album of very familiar material, Toxic Holocaust are skirting dangerously close to being crippled by their creative stubbornness. That being said, Chemistry of Consciousness offers enough killer riffs and fiery metal anthems to keep the band’s head above water this time around.

The songs are typically short and sweet, with only “Rat Eater” cracking the 3-minute barrier. This concise songwriting approach works to the band’s advantage as they get in, rip shit up, and promptly move on to the next headbanger. The whole album runs like one prolonged rush of adrenaline. Clocking in a fraction under half an hour, the scant length serves to offset the one-dimensional traits and ‘samey’ feel of the songwriting. The stripped back production, featuring a killer guitar tone, has that typical bare bones sparseness that has defined their previous works, lending a raw touch and delivering organic crunch and ample definition and clarity to the instruments.

“Silence” comes crashing through the gate, as slicing riffs and galloping tempos swarm around Grind’s familiar rasp. And it’s evident from this opening thrash cyclone that all is well in the Toxic Holocaust camp, and furthermore, reinvention or subtlety is certainly not on the cards. Instead we get another primal dose of familiarity and catchy thrash anthems featuring the trademark slivers of filth-ridden punk that underpins their cutthroat attack. Much of it speeds ahead with little variation and a number of tracks blend together in a blur. But even on their best efforts, Toxic Holocaust tunes often have a tendency to become interchangeable, yet with enough thrills and catchy elements to make for an energetic, if slightly disposable ride.

Chemistry of Consciousness features a handful of standouts spread across serviceable and mostly enjoyable material. The aforementioned “Rat Eater” tinkers with the tempos for a satisfying payoff, while “Out of the Fire” soundly demonstrates Grind’s riff writing prowess and knack for raspy vocal hooks. The caffeinated riffs and direct assault of “Acid Fuzz”, and sturdy crunch of the aggressive and memorable “Deny the Truth”, are other quality cuts completing an excellent mid-album stretch and putting some welcome meat on the album’s bones. The later album tracks get the job done solidly enough, with the aggressive, manic delivery maintained through to the end.

For retro thrash fiends and diehard fans of the band, Chemistry of Consciousness is a no-brainer and handy companion piece to the raw and catchy Yellowgoat Sessions offshoot. Toxic Holocaust are as solid and dependable as they are one-dimensional, an aspect that naturally has its drawbacks. Nevertheless Chemistry of Consciousness is another worthy addition to their sturdy body of work.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Luke Saunders
November 27th, 2013


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