Review: Toxic Holocaust – “Conjure and Conquer” (Relapse Records)

It’s been over ten years since Joel Grind spawned TOXIC HOLOCAUST out of the pacific northwest (Portland). In that time he was the forerunner of much of the crust punk/neo-thrash that you hear so many bands churn out ceaselessly and with zero flavor today. Plenty of things should have made him give up his dream of making it, but he never did. Joel paid no attention to fads with his D.I.Y. attitude and his love of metal and forged forward, undeterred. While all of the imitators (and a few legitimately talented bands) and johnny-come-lately’s dumped their albums on the blind masses, he didn’t fold. He continued to refine his songwriting, solidified his lineup after years of rotating casts and put out some great records building up to where he is today. Now with Conjure and Command ready to drop, Joel has fulfilled his potential and promise in spades.

First track “Judgment Awaits You” is a blistering slab of thrash and death with a hint of hardcore too. Grind‘s vocals in particular are sicker than ever before and the beautifully raw production (no triggers, no protools) sounds classically awesome. The de facto title track is next in “Agony of the Damned”. The song has some of the best riffs you will hear on a record this year. Waves of crust punk-style blitzkrieg drums pound away while blackened death sounding chords choke your ears. The breakdown is pure SABBATH-ian inspired heaven to my old ears. “Bitch” has the fierceness of old school punk (think COC) and the riffage of push thrash metal. I even hear a lot of Dave Mustaine’s snarling sarcasm lyrically in Grind, who isn’t afraid to let his many influences fly. One of the great things about this band is even when they pick a topic you’ve heard before (witches) the lyrics are always very smart and original. The half-time feel in the middle section is gonna be the soundtrack to a lot of broken bones when it gets played live. “Red Winter” is another slamming track full of speed metal and angry punk fire. In the persons of bassist Phil Zeller and drummer Nikki BellmoreGrind has finally found the musicians who can match him in hostility, talent and performance. “No Where To Run” is another track you will swear was written in 1985. Unlike many of the people and bands that followed in his footsteps, Grind has a knack for making the old-school riff sound fresh and new. I hope they play this song live because the chorus part is humongous! Sinister songs like “I Am Disease” mesh beautifully with thrash monsters like “In the Depths of Your Mind”  and “The Liars are Burning“.  Wrapping things up with the equally strong “Revelations” and “Sound the Charge”, the album files in as one of the years’ best yet top to bottom. When listening to this album in your headphones, car or home jam box, never forget that you should never underestimate one pissed off guys’ determination to make it using the power of metal and a ton of confidence.

RATING: 10 / 10
By: Keith “Keefy” Chachkes
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