Onslaught

Sounds of Violence

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Although they were easily one of Britain's best ever thrash metal exports of the 1980s, Onslaught still failed to escape the clutches of the underground due to a succession of bad breaks, an inability to hold on to a reliable singer, and, of course, the sheer intractability of their aggressive sound, not to mention those pentagram-foisting album covers (not very popular with authority figures anywhere). This ill-starred trajectory proves both a curse and a blessing for the reconfigured band's new millennium comeback: simultaneously giving the group a smaller fan base than other recently revived former competitors to try reconnecting with, but also a less impressive body of work to try living up to. This curious quandary already benefited 2007's surprisingly stout Killing Peace and it does so again for 2011's aptly named Sounds of Violence, which makes use of a particularly ominous martial intro to preface both punishing speedsters in the Exodus mold ("Born for War," "Rest in Pieces," etc.) and more complex, dynamically charged thinking man's thrash à la "Master of Puppets" or "Seasons in the Abyss" ("Code Black," "Suicideology," etc.). Other songs don't prove quite as memorable (see "Hatebox," or rather, don't) and wind up slipping through the cracks between these two workable templates, but the band's performance never lacks for intensity from start to finish, and credit vocalist Sy Keeler for driving the action with amazingly evil rasps and thundering croaks worthy of Chuck Billy. And while it's true that dozens of young bands, and even some of Onslaught's old peers, have done a pretty decent job of replicating the ‘80s aesthetic to perfection while making things interesting, you have to respect these veterans for choosing to forgo safety in nostalgia and risk exploring a more modernized mosh machinery on Sounds of Violence.

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