Tuesday, July 26, 2011

REVIEW: TOXIC HOLOCAUST "Conjure and Command" (Relapse Records)

"Conjure and Command" is the fourth album from Portland, Oregon thrashers TOXIC HOLOCAUST. The release follows 2008's "An Overdose of Death..." and sees the band returning with a new look and a new logo (to the chagrin of some die-hard fans). But what to expect musically? Main man Joel Grind clearly has a love affair with 80's thrash metal, especially the blackened kind, like VENOM, SLAYER, KREATOR, and SODOM. Since 1999, each TOXIC HOLOCAUST release plays like a love letter to those bands, with Joel paying tribute with solid songwriting, chugging riff after chugging riff, and an evil, raspy growl. The band also tours relentlessly, and their DIY blue-collar work ethic has surely aided their ascension to prominence.
However, by their fourth album I admit I was hoping TOXIC HOLOCAUST would venture out creatively a bit more. "Conjure and Command" comes right out of the gate with opening track "Judgement Awaits You", a fast, galloping thrash anthem that could draw comparison to "Reign In Blood"-era SLAYER. From there, the band rips through song after song, varying tempos up occasionally ("Red Winter" and "I Am Disease") all the way through the closing track "Sound the Charge". This is a totally solid album, in fact in my opinion if you liked the last one ("An Overdose of Death...") you'll probably like this one too. It's just that by now I was hoping for a few new ideas here and there, as the band isn't really deviating from what they've established thus far. The other issue I have is the production. Each TOXIC HOLOCAUST album has been an "improvement" over the last in terms of sound quality, but to me this is detrimental to their recordings. For me, a large part of the charm on the debut album "Evil Never Dies" is the raw, evil production and filthy, reverb-effected vocals. It gives the music a dirty edge and a sinister atmosphere that I crave in my metal. I think you can put "Evil Never Dies" next to KREATOR's "Endless Pain" and they sound very close in sound, style, and production. So, to me the polished production takes away from that, with an album that's a little more sterile and a little more "safe".
In closing, this is a solid, well-crafted album of retro-thrash metal, sure to please die hard fans, but in my opinion I'd like to see TOXIC HOLOCAUST start to evolve and take a few risks with their sound, stepping off the beaten path and adding a little something new to the genre. 7.5/10