Onslaught - Killing peace 3/5
2. Killing peace
3. Destroyer of worlds
5. A prayer for the dead
6. Tested to destruction
7. Twisted Jesus
8. Planting seeds of hate
9. Shock & awe
Onslaught, everyone's 2nd favourite UK thrash metal band, are back with their first release since 1989, and their first 'true' offering since 'The force' came out a staggering 21 years ago. The final effort they recorded before their untimely split in 1991 featured the melodic vocal stylings of former Grim Reaper frontman Steve Grimmett, and was a far cry from the brutal, German-style thrash sound that had given the band their reputation. 'Killing peace' features the vocalist from 'The force', Sy Keeler, and is a return to much heavier territory.
It is a sad fact that thrash metal, as a genre, is more or less creatively dead. There are plenty of revivalist bands of young musicians imitating their heroes of course, but most of the fist wave of bands from any territory (Destruction and Sodom being 2 notable exceptions) have either split up or abandoned the traditional thrash sound to at least some degree.
It is pleasing to note that Onslaught have, for the most part, opted to keep a 'pure' thrash sound – 'modern thrash' is a phrase to send chills down the spine of most old school fans, with heavy reliance on groove, breakdowns and Gothenburg influences seeming almost mandatory to some of the older bands trying to stay relevant (see the later releases from Kreator and Exodus for shining examples).
'Killing peace' certainly features a fair amount of groove spread throughout the songs, but mainly only for use in bridges, pre-choruses and the like. Most of the songs feature some truly excellent thrash riffs and solos from Nige Rockett and his new guitar partner Alan Jordan. The rhythm section is beefed up considerably by the production and the overall sound is very intense, not really letting up from the first track to the last. A few real stand-out songs are held together by a few more that could only be described as 'solid' – there is nothing sticking out as a weak link here, it's only that a few of the songs are a little forgettable.
The biggest problem with the CD, though, is the over-reaching attempts at sounding 'extreme' – the heavy-yet-slick production (by Andy Sneap, of course) is very reminiscent of the 2 post-reunion Exodus CDs, and the songs sometimes display the same problems as those from their Bay Area counterparts. There are far too many lyrics on the CD that just scream "trying too hard" at the listener. Thankfully, we are spared the God-awful puns Gary Holt has been using in his lyrics lately, but when I hear a man who must be in his forties screaming "I hate you religiously, I hate Christianity!" it just makes me cringe. These lyrics come from the opening track, "Burn", which also has a pretty poor chorus – just the one word repeated over and over again in a 'tough guy' voice.
Keeler's vocals, however, are a big part of the good aspects of the CD – to the uninitiated, he sounds somewhere between Steve Souza and Mille Petrozza, spitting the lyrics with considerable venom. The over-the-top aspect of the vocal approach usually does work, with the "I die/you die..." rant in "Destroyer of worlds" being one of the highlights of the CD. Unfortunately, they just reach too far on a few tracks and can end up sounding pretty ridiculous.
Its not completely old-school thrash, but from an established band, 'Killing peace' is as close to the real thing as you're going to get these days. A few regrettable occurrences and less memorable tracks aside, this is certainly a CD worth seeking out if you can tolerate some modern influences (fans of the new Exodus will just love this CD and can stick at least another point onto the rating I have assigned). Considering how long Onslaught have been out of the business, they can certainly be proud of their efforts in this comeback. It's just a shame that it could have been something much better.
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