There’s nothing much to say about thrash metal that hasn’t already been said. Amidst all the endless discussions about the validity of the thrash metal resurgence and the musical merit of what is now a derivative stylistic niche, Toxic Holocaust have endlessly churned out very consistent material in the past few years, playing a style of thrash metal that melds the grimy nature of hardcore punk with an evocatively speed metal quality. ‘Chemistry of Consciousness’ marks the band’s 5th studio full-length release after a slew of EPs, splits, demos and of course previous studio albums. The creative snobs that are finicky about the need for progression and artistic evolution of artists can stay away from this album wholly, as we see no such desire to expand beyond the sound Joel Grind has forged for the band, an endeavour that is almost wholly his handiwork. There is absolutely no need for every artist to seek out some sort of overtly ambitious artistic expression, and Toxic Holocaust is one of those bands that can lean back upon a candor-driven formulaic mode of action in a most enjoyable manner.
Grind and the boys waste little time with ambient intros and atmospheric dirges and kick straight into action with ‘Awaken the Serpent’, which effectively reflects what we already know about the band’s sound, but yet find ourselves clamouring for more. Infectious, catchy riffs are ample throughout the album that linger on in one’s mind, which are reinforced not by the strategic pauses and periods, but by robust and energetic riff ideas that do not seek out variation and versatility but instead direct their energies towards memorability and a street-level aesthetic. Songs like ‘Silence’ and ‘Acid Fuzz’ are a blatant exaltation to the Kill ‘Em All school of guitar work that amalgamated the pentatonic commutative approach of speed metal with the unembellished aural assault of Discharge and Charged G.B.H, not surprisingly one of many of the influences Grind channels across his prolific catalogue. On the other hand, songs like ‘Salvation is Waiting’ throw light on their comparatively extreme influences, ample with moments of blistering, tremolo-driven ominousness and an overall atmosphere that falls back upon syncopation regardless of rhythmic or melodic segments. There is nothing much to say as far as guitar solos are concerned – the implementation displays a certain adroitness relative to the sometimes sloppy nature of the pioneers of the early 80’s, and certainly has a ear for definitive notes as opposed to mere string abuse. The bass work of Philthy Gnaast follows through with the structure established by the guitars, and in textural quality is far too fuzzed out for it to be discerned as an individual instrument, as attested by the brief solo moments the album presents. I have no complaints in this department however, as it adds to the sturdy nature of the already crunchy riff attack. Nikki Rage’s drumming here is rather standard fare but well paced and executed, and the d-beats only add to the endearing quality of the album. Apart from the obvious proto-black metal leanings of much of the guitar ideas, the vocals are another obvious indicator of the same with their raspy texture, which changes as per the structural variations of a given composition.
In essence, ‘Chemistry of Consciousness’, much like the Toxic Holocaust catalogue at large, warrants very little analysis for a given listener. This is only a good thing in Grind’s case, be it his work in Toxic Holocaust, Tiger Junkies or his solo project. The album certainly enervates toward the end and one may find songs blending into one another, but any notions of monotony are kept at bay due to the brief nature of the songs. The essence of his music lies in its sheer simplicity and grittiness, and it is fairly evident that Joel Grind has no plans to expand beyond his already enjoyable current sonic mould. However, one finds little to complain about the album for the most part, and is really a no-brainer in terms of sheer head-bang value.