Thrash dudes Toxic Holocaust hope to pick up where they left off with Conjure and Command, one of 2011’s most ass-kicking metal albums. This year’s album, Chemistry of Consciousness, is a wicked fast, wicked dirty, wicked thrashy riff fest. From the very first riff, you should know what Toxic Holocaust aim to deliver. It’s the kind of dirty street thrash you can hear in almost any dive bar or developing metal hotspot from LA to Richmond.
And it’s served them well. The energy of this album is undeniable, as each song pounds on into the next. If you like riffs on riffs on riffs, this is an album for you. “Mkultra” and “Out of the Fire” are break-neck headbanging tunes, and “Rat Eater” drips with blood and evil before funneling all of its rage back into the typical Toxic Holocaust thrash attack.
The few lead guitar squeals on songs like “Acid Fuzz” and “Silence” are welcome changes from the onslaught of tremolo and d-beat, and this highlights the one major weakness on Chemistry of Consciousness: the scarcity of dynamic changes. While the thrash feel calls for a certain degree of migraine-inducing riff speed, it would do the listener’s brain well to have a breakdown or a stomp riff a bit more often than either appears on this album.
This is not to say that one can metronome head-bang this record from start to finish. “Salvation Is Waiting” and the bonus track, “Wargasm”, play with surf rhythms ala Ghoul, which is really pretty cool when contrasted with Toxic Holocaust’s echoed, snarling vocals. There’s a certain element of eerie foreboding in the steady, gritty groan of vocalist and guitarist Joel Grind.
The album’s title track is probably the most impressive song here. It’s mean and nasty. It tries a bunch of different ideas and they all work. The main verse riff comes in like a wrecking ball clearing the way for Toxic Holocaust to start a war. If every song on the album was as good, I’d be raving about a thrash album of the year.
Because of Toxic Holocaust’s old school, no-frills approach to metal and the regularity of Joel’s vocals, it’s a bit hard to tell that one song has ended and another has begun, unless a dynamic change is used. At its best, the album is fully metal with no compromises. At its worst, “Chemistry of Consciousness” has too many songs that sound too similar. The best songs on “Chemistry of Consciousness” are made by their dynamic flourishes, and when the song needs one and doesn’t get it, the album gets a bit too constant. Those not familiar with thrash may find this album to be unimaginative riffy vest-metal. Thrash aficionados may be impressed with the consistency and power packed into just 28 minutes of metal. Personally, I would have liked a bit more bite, a bit more crunch, and a bit more bass in the production of the album. The crashing cymbals and treble tends to overwhelm this album, and it’s considerably fuzzier than Conjure and Command.
Either way, this is a pretty good thrash album. While Chemistry of Consciousness is not remarkable in its methods, it is certainly enjoyable. I’m not huge on thrash, but I am quite big on this band, and I think I will grow to enjoy this album the more I listen to it. This album begs big speakers, big crowds, stage dives and circles of dirty metalheads thrashing their brains out.
Here’s the itunes link if you like what you read/hear!
Written by: Matt “Hobbes” Launderville – November 15th, 2013