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AFM (2013)
Rating: 7/10

British thrash metal – now there’s an unknown commodity! Back in the 1980s UK thrash, despite being a burgeoning scene, was such an overlooked powerhouse, to the extent that it seemed to reside forever more in the shadows of the US and European sound.

Onslaught began life as a punk-influenced band rising from the not so murky depths of Bristol. Oddly, it was their 1985 debut album Power From Hell that I really dug due to its satanic imagery and rough, basement-type sound. Eventually the band would transform into a decent thrash metal combo and were responsible for such cult offerings as The Force (1986) and the glossier In Search Of Sanity (1989).

The band would suffer several line-up changes, especially in the vocal department, resulting in their eventual split in 1991. No-one, not even me, expected such a furious return with 2007’s Killing Peace, which fitted that Slayer mould of aggression. Onslaught was now clearly ready to battle with the rest of the world, and this grit and determination was concreted with 2011’s Sounds Of Violence.

Two years later and the band is back again with the unimaginatively titled VI. It’s a nine-track affair and the first to feature drummer Michael Hourihan, and as expected it’s another feisty encounter that once again boasts that Slayer-type of aggression and deranged attitude. Whether this is the real Onslaught sound remains open to debate, but there’s no questioning the weight and ferocity of VI.

After the brief opening of ‘A New World Order’ Onslaught hit the ground running with the aggressive spits of ‘Chaos Is King’, a sneering, battering-ram of a number that is very much of the new thrash ilk, as Sy Keeler barks out orders over the frantic guitars of Nige Rockett and Andy Rosser-Davies. In its hostility ‘Chaos Is King’ brings to mind that modern Exodus flavour; Onslaught for some years now leaving behind that typically British, underproduced feel, choosing instead modern dynamics to give their sound a fresh, crunching approach.

‘Fuel For My Fire’ is a menacing ankle-biter, but the band really show their maturity with the superb ‘Children Of The Sand’ with its mystical opening and mid-tempo guitar work. It’s the pivotal and longest track on the opus clocking in at over six minutes, and it’s the most reflective bringing to mind Slayer at their darkest and most pensive, albeit for some female vocal injections, and the melody here is spot on.

We’re then battered by the infectious ‘Slaughterize’ with its rampant drums and killer chords as Keeler vomits, “Killing is my aim in life, killing is my way of life”, and I don’t doubt him for one bit. The real thrash metal anthem of the opus however has to be the brilliantly titled ‘66’Fucking’6’, a brooding number that builds into a muscular inferno of flame, blood and gristle which rains down from the sky in the form of those war-torn lyrics and the steely guitar sound.

The last trio of records suggest that Onslaught can no longer be overlooked as a thrash force, but if anything, tracks such as the aforementioned ‘66’Fucking’6’ sees the band enter the same combat zone as Germany’s Sodom and Destruction, such is the metallic fury here.

My only issue now however is that what was once recognisable as British thrash, is no longer evident, as acts such as Onslaught and Evile opt for a cleaner and tad more formulaic sound. After all, ‘Cruci-Fiction’ and album closer ‘Enemy Of My Enemy’, despite their aggressive intentions, are nothing out of the ordinary when it comes to modern thrash.

Onslaught’s VI is a good thrash record that harbours a batch of strong, belligerent numbers, and while I still prefer the earthy evil of the band’s debut and the scathing efficiency of Killing Peace, this new platter should still leave enough debris to impress the fans.

Neil Arnold

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