If you didn’t know (perhaps you don’t read Prefix for its metal coverage?), thrash metal’s undergone something of a resurgence over the past year. Young bullet-belted tyros with little perspective and tons of energy have brought the sounds of the Reagan era back into rotation, if not fashionability, while old-guard thrashers are benefiting from the renewed interest with new label contracts and well-promoted tours. It’s a quasi-movement more interesting for what it says about heavy metal’s conservatism than the music itself. With few exceptions, the new-school thrashers have nothing to add to the legacy that Slayer, Exodus and Kreator began.
Grandfathered in to the thrash revival is Joel Grind, the slaughter auteur behind Toxic Holocaust. The (mostly) one-man band’s been at it since 1999, long enough to make grind a geezer in comparison to Warbringer and Bonded by Blood but not so long that he can claim to be an innovator. Far from it: From the mutant wolves on the cover to the nuclear paranoia that dominates it, Toxic Holocaust’s third full-length, An Overdose of Death…, is as reverent a throwback to early-’80s thrash as you’ll find this side of the cold war.
Granted, originality isn’t at a premium here, but in the context of neo-thrash, Overdose at least recycles from a unique pool of influences. You’ve gotta go back to Venom and Sodom for thrash tunes as primitive as “Nuke the Cross” and “In the Name of Science.” There’s a heavy punk bent coursing through the album, too, redolent of Grind’s admitted fixation with English crossover bands like Discharge and Broken Bones. It’s not implausible to imagine your metal-hatin’, Misfits-lovin’ cousin getting into “The Lord of the Wasteland.” Powerful hardcore drumming from the album’s sole guest musician, Donny Paycheck of punk-metal stalwarts Zeke, clinches the album’s strong crossover feel.
Toxic Holocaust’s influences didn’t benefit from a high-class production job from Jack Endino (High on Fire, Zeke, Nirvana) like Overdose does, and therein lies the irony of the album: Toxic Holocaust sounds way better than its influences, which ends up being a liability. Toxic Holocaust’s got the style and the songs down. The one thing lacking from the pastiche of Overdose is a sense of urgency that bridges the gap between 1982 and 2008.