Toxic Holocaust - Conjure and Command
Record Label: Relapse Records
Release Date: July 19, 2011
Joel Grind, the mastermind behind blackened thrash outfit Toxic Holocaust, has long been the band's lone member. He records all instruments himself in the studio, bringing in session musicians only for live performances and tours. This has changed with the release of Conjure and Command, the fourth full-length to be released under the Toxic Holocaust name. Bringing in two additional musicians to round out Grind's artistic vision and already pulverizing thrash metal attack, Toxic Holocaust has "conjured" its most memorable (not to mention most deafening) effort yet. Taking the groundwork laid by previous albums and building upon it, the razor-sharp thrash riffs and pummeling drums that fans have come to expect have been refined and sharpened to an even finer point. Crunching metallic riffs played with hardcore precision are even more driving than before, and Grind's throaty black metal-influenced vocals are stronger than ever, adding an additional layer of intensity to the already crippling thrash assault on the record.
Musicianship wise, the album doesn't stray too far from the time-honored staples of thrash. Galloping rhythms, sheet metal-power chords and rhythmic vocals will all no doubt sound familiar to listeners experienced in the genre. However, it never sounds like a half-assed attempt at cashing in on the thrash scene by employing cheap musical tropes; it’s a carefully crafted metal record with ambition, one that takes these classic elements and showcases them at their strongest. So while there may not be much ground broken here in terms of creativity or innovation, there's still an ample amount of memorable riffs and chord progressions, sprinkled with the occasional searing lead guitar run. The band's influences are apparent as well, drawing obvious influence from the likes of Slayer, Exodus and Anthrax while adding their own unique touch of black metal fury to the mix. The good news is that even though such influences are present, there are no real traces of a band merely ripping off their musical ancestors.
Lyrically, this album is more or less the standard metal fare. Apocalyptic imagery is coupled with tales of demonic haunting while themes of war, destruction and chaos are present and accounted for. Though this is ultimately somewhat detracting in terms of originality, the lyrics aren't truly bad. They may not be too impressive or memorable, but this isn't an uncommon trait in this genre. In the end, they still fit the harsh, unrelenting aesthetic of the music and indeed convey the stories and scenery the band wishes to create. This is also the one point of the album in which no real progression is evident. Focusing on more or less the same topics as previous efforts, and never really improving in terms of technique or ambition, they sit fairly comfortably within the realm of general metal lyricism, never truly pulling away from that realm of demons and destruction. However, once it's considered that painting a grim picture of chaotic collapse is the band's goal, it's easier to ignore this lack of lyrical evolution.
In the end, Conjure and Command is the record thrash metal enthusiasts and black metal fans alike have been waiting for. Marrying the two genres better than ever before, Toxic Holocaust have, by evolving into a full-fledged group rather than a one-man band, come into their own. Grind's project has become a shared effort, each of the three musicians’ technical prowesses being brought in full force, ultimately making for an enjoyable and memorable album. Sure to please old fans as well as recruit many new followers, Conjure and Command succeeds in living up to its' title - it conjures a pulverizing metal onslaught while commanding the listener's attention from start to finish.