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Pounder EP

Sidipus (2015)
Rating: 6/10

Nuclear Assault was without a shadow of a doubt one of my favourite thrash bands of the glorious 80s. One could never argue with the brilliance of Game Over (1986), Survive (1988) and Handle With Care (1989), and I’ve still got a soft spot for the more tepid Out of Order (1991) and even Something Wicked (1993).

However, the band knew it had run its course, and yet like so many bands within the metal genre they tried to resurrect themselves in 2005 with the hugely disappointing Third World Genocide, even though the band seemed ashamed of it.

But, we live and let live, and with bands of this ilk we’re always happy to give them another chance. Ten years later, Pounder is the result; a four-track EP which I hoped would harken back to the good ol’ days of Brain Death (1986) and The Plague (1987)… but alas, no. Okay, so maybe these rather run-of-the-mill momentary lapses of reason are just blips and the band will release a scorching seventh full-length opus, but then again there’s also that possibility that one of the greatest loved thrash metal titans has breathed its last breath – and gone out with a whimper.

Like so many people, I so wanted Pounder to be that return to the late 80s and early 90s style of sonic thrash, but it’s actually not. For a start, the production is pretty lame and I sort of feel sorry for the combo as they charge through the usual murk. John Connelly is still spewing out that distinctive, almost restrained dry rasp, but I just hate songs where the lyrics naïvely try to evoke memories of times past. Forget it guys, just move on and blast us into oblivion rather than conform to trend, because as tracks go ‘Pounder’ is a rather run-of-the-mill thrash outcry which gallops relentlessly but does nothing to really get its hooks into you, suggesting the band has lost its barbs in favour of a rather half-arsed, through-the-motions feel. Or maybe that’s just me craving something I know I just cannot have anymore? Nevertheless, ‘Pounder’, as a track and an EP, is rather unremarkable.

‘The Blind Follow (a.k.a. Lies)’ follows as a mid-tempo chugger. It does what you’d expect from Nuclear Assault, the quartet hinting at the ferocity of those early EPs, but there’s also that sense of the band just putting out something in support of a tour – Connelly (vocals / guitar), Dan Lilker (bass), Glenn Evans (drums) and Erik Burke (guitar) lacking that conviction of decades gone by. ‘Lies’ is probably my favourite track of the four on offer however, bringing some nice chugging and gang-chants, but it’s still rather formulaic thrash metal.

Next up is the brief stint known as ‘Analogue Man In A Digital World’ (I know the feeling guys!); it’s a brisk catchy number which is over in a flash, but does make its mark, even if does sound like an inferior take on D.R.I.

The last cut on offer is the slightly unusual ‘Died In Your Arms’, which begins with an accessible crunch with hissing cymbals and Lilker’s juddering bass, but Connelly’s vocals do leave a lot to be desired – his watery tones hinting at Dead Kennedy’s Jello Biafra before finally giving away to his more recognisable rasp. However, it is Nuclear Assault showing diversity and range. ‘Died In Your Arms’ is probably the most memorable moment on the record, but it’s not the sort of EP that’ll have me running rampant through the streets as old Nuclear Assault did.

Now, I don’t know if this is the last stand of New York City’s finest thrashers in terms of recorded material, but as a parting shot it’s certainly an improvement on Third World Genocide (then again, it couldn’t have been any worse!), although it is not the encore I would have hoped for. The 80s heyday of these guys now seems a long distant memory… I just wish I could have had my ears pounded for one last time.

Neil Arnold

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