Onslaught – Generation Antichrist (Album Review)

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A British nod to Teutonic fury.

The story of Onslaught, who were among the earliest and most consequential bands to come out of the comparatively understated British thrash scene of the 80s, could be likened to the genesis of the sub-genre itself. Born out of the early 80s hardcore punk scene and sporting a name as indicative of it as Discharge, they would find themselves stumbling into a more metallic flavor of chaos by 1985, in much the same way that some might argue that consequential American crossover acts like Cro-Mags and D.R.I. did at around the same time. The entire concept of punk and metal cross-pollinating would seem counter-intuitive given the mutual animosity that had been expressed by both scenes towards each other in the early onset of the 1980s, but curiosity and happenstance can bring about such arrangements, and while England jumped onto the thrash train a bit later than Germany and the Americas, early offerings from this outfit in “Power From Hell” and “The Force” are about as synonymous with the style as they come.

Though based in Bristol, the signature sound of this band has leaned a bit towards the darker and more extreme fringes normally occupied by the likes of the Teutonic trio, fueled in part by a similar fashion with a viler sound, even with a highly unstable lineup that has seen guitarist Nige Rockett as the only constant member of the fold. The exodus of longtime vocalist Sy Keeler has done little to change this, as newly recruited snarl-extraordinaire David Garnett comes from a similarly extreme thrashing pedigree and brings the same degree of sepulchral ferocity that one would expect out of Schmier. Alongside a mostly brand new lineup of musicians to fill out the arrangement, this band proves to be a well-oiled, modern thrashing machine that brings the riff-happy mayhem in a manner appropriate to the present day.

While it may seem to be yet another foray into occult-obsessed pursuits typical to this band’s past obsession with Venom, their 7th studio album “Generation Antichrist” proves to be a far broader study in rebellion more befitting of this band’s punk roots. Flowing in a seemingly conceptual manner, this album lays out the various avenues by which tyranny seeps into society, is then resisted and ultimately falls, all to a punishingly heavy soundtrack that bears some notable similarities to Destruction’s similarly titled 2001 comeback album “The Antichrist”. The prelude to this twisted symphony dubbed “Rise To Power” introduces things with a series of archaic radio broadcasts, hearkening back to a 1930s/WWII type vibe, which gives way to a driving yet simplistic riff set that allows Garnett to play the twisted narrator with a combination of dank death barks and a more jagged thrash snarl that sets the stage for the brutal thrashing that all prospective listeners are about to behold.

“Generation Antichrist” Album Artwork

The 8 slabs of intensity that immediately follow reveal an album that has zero time for nuance, and largely sticks to a constant air of unrelenting rage and violence. At times when hearing muscle-bound crushers like “Strike Fast, Strike Hard”, “Bow To The Clowns” and “Addicted To The Smell Of Death” it would appear that Rockett and company have opted for a straight line of fast-paced madness. However, longer running fists to the skull like the title song “Generation Antichrist” and “Empires Fall” take some time to showcase the technical and groovier side of this band’s creative arsenal, all the while never giving even a sign of a respite from the heaviness factor. Interestingly enough, the song that seals the deal in being both raging and unforgettable is the closer “A Perfect Day To Die”, which has a bit more of a mechanistic flavor in line with the previous couple outings with Sy at the helm, which makes sense given it was originally written and recorded with him still in the fold.

If there is any downside to an album of this persuasion, it is that it comes off as a tad one-dimensional and tends to draw from a limited set of ideas, but it’s hard to complain when that’s basically all this album needs to seal the deal. Despite being short one iconic front man and all but starting from scratch, this is an album that’s equally as worthy of the Onslaught legacy as the material that was ushered in immediately following their 2004 reunion. Special consideration should be given to newly recruited guitar shredder Wayne Dorman, whose flashy guitar solos after the heart of several Bay Area greats and occasional dense harmonized lead additives give this otherwise simple offering some needed ornamentation to keep things interesting, and one would be remiss to discount the thunderous rhythm section in drummer James Perry and the heavily distorted bass flavoring of 14 year veteran Jeff Williams. It’s a full package for anybody who likes their thrash straight out of the bottle, though old school thrash Jedi knights will rightly point to “The Force” as this band’s crowning achievement.

Released by: AFM Records
Released Date: August 7th, 2020
Genre: Thrash Metal

Musicians:

  • David Garnett / Vocals
  • Nige Rockett / Guitars
  • Wayne Dorman / Guitars
  • Jeff Williams / Bass
  • James Perry / Drums

“Generation Antichrist” track-listing:

  1. Rise To Power
  2. Strike Fast Strike Hard
  3. Bow Down To The Clowns
  4. Generation Antichrist
  5. All Seeing Eye
  6. Addicted To The Smell Of Death
  7. Empires Fall
  8. Religiousuicide
  9. A Perfect Day To Die

8.3 Great

One of Britain’s premier contributions to the 80s thrash metal glory days enters the 2020s in uncharted waters after the loss of their seminal vocalist, but with a string of solid modern albums and the wind at their backs, Onslaught proves that the voice at the fore may change, but the almighty riff will always reign supreme

  • Songwriting 8.5
  • Musicianship 8.5
  • Originality 8
  • Production 8
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2 Comments

    • Jonathan Smith
      Jonathan Smith on

      Thanks for the feedback, my first experience with them was back in 1990 when I got In Search Of Sanity as a hand-me-down from my older brother. Naturally not the most conventional of their offerings given that Steve Grimmett handled the vocals, but I later discovered their earlier stuff and have been following them ever since.