Toxic Holocaust—Conjure and Command

I feel kind of bad for Toxic Holocaust because as much as I want to wax prolific about their new release I also feel like I’m doing them a bit of a disservice by reviewing it in the first place. Why should I deconstruct something that is what it is and makes no bones about it? It’s like I’m about to critique the color black for being too black. You don’t really need me to tell you that Toxic Holocaust’s new album is good because you already know it’s going to be good. Is it different from 2008’s An Overdose of Death…? Well, yeah, marginally—but you know Joel Grind won’t be pulling any swift changes in direction. And nor would we want him to. Anyway, it’s my job to delve where I’m not wanted, so with all due apologies to main man Joel, we’ll begin.

I’m making the assumption that you know all about Toxic Holocaust? They’re thrash lords whose last album was a banquet for lovers of primeval speed metal (and a gift for anyone who’s ever wondered what a Pleasures of the Flesh era Exodus and DRI mash-up would sound like if it was fronted by Tom Angelripper). Over the course of four full-lengths and innumerable splits, Toxic have dedicated themselves to the aesthetics of traditional underground thrash. Sure, there have been progressions here and there, but that’s only natural—studio experience and years of touring leave an indelible mark.

With Conjure and Command there have been improvements in the production. It sounds leaner and meaner, and there’s less of a cantankerous hardcore bite (although it hasn’t all disappeared). Vocally, it’s darker than previous releases, with Joel making greater use of his vicious drawl. And although I’d hesitate to say that it’s a huge change from previous albums, it does sound thicker—it’s clear more time has been invested in blending Toxic’s awesome crusty tones with the rest of the instrumentation.

Song wise it’s short and sharp, with the longest tune pushing a few seconds past the four-minute mark. Standout tracks? Well, they’re all great, but if I had to choose, “Bitch” grinds along with a dose of Discharge-worthy riffs, “Nowhere to Run” is just raw aggression that could easily have been recorded in 1983, “The Liars are Burning” has a seriously belligerent bite to it, and “Revelations” races along like an (even more) amphetamine-fuelled High On Fire.

So, here we are, at the end. Did I pick Conjure and Command apart unnecessarily? I hope not. Toxic Holocaust doesn’t really need any help from me to sell their work. The new album is just as thrashy, trashy and blunt as their previous work, and if you’ve not heard them before it’s an excellent place to begin. Four albums in and they’re doing just fine, slowly building a discography that hasn’t had a misstep yet. Conjure and Command has all the bile and bite we’ve come to expect from Toxic Holocaust, upping the production values has made their sound even more focused and ferocious, and if you’re after some teeth-gnashing speed and thrash madness then you’ll be well rewarded for picking up a copy.

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