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Onslaught - VI Review

by Matt Hensch

Although it seems Onslaught's evil persona is getting a little trite at this point with song titles like "Cruci-Fiction" and "66'F***ing'6," "VI" definitely has its moments of hellish goodness. I think Onslaught's style since the squad's reunion has set the bar for modern thrash metal: "Killing Peace" and "Sounds of Violence" proved to focus on many of Onslaught's olden themes yet applied several modern elements into the musical melting pot, giving the view that Onslaught was not interested in making "The Force 2.0," but what it wanted to. "VI" provides the illusion that Onslaught is sort of, well, standardizing its instrumental assault, which hasn't changed much since "Sounds of Violence." It's still the same juggling act, only now the routine could use an additional trick or two.

However shallow or sparse Onslaught's gags may be, they still have the capability to enthrall, or at least sound like a jackhammer drilling through your sternum. "VI" is fairly limited in its delivery, falling between ripping burners like the melting "Enemy of my Enemy" and contemporary blasts that are more based on mid-paced structures and chugging grooves that boarder on breakdowns la Lamb of God. These themes are, of course, frequent fliers on the Onslaught Reunion Work Airline. The aforementioned groove sections are an ample difference between "VI" and its kin; they're much more profound and play key roles in several anthems, almost like multiple cuts cut out of the blueprint of "Hatebox" from "Sounds of Violence." I always found these one of the group's weaker points; they throw off the band's pace and generally sound forced and unnatural.

The norm of "VI," however, is usually toxic (take that as a good thing). Nothing unexpected happens-barring "Children of the Sand," one of the more audacious works they've ever penned; its Middle Eastern melodies and female vocals superb against the hammering riffs and Sy Keeler's venomous shrieks-but hey, they still have the beastly riffs and energy flooding from every orifice. Keeler's voice continues to grow more malicious with each passing album-I wonder if gargling battery acid is the key to his youthful growls, grunts, and barks. Michael Hourihan does a bang-up job replacing ex-drummer Steve Grice, with the typical berserk fills and erratic pounding untainted and usual for an Onslaught output, thankfully. It's safe to say Onslaught does not walk away with egg on its face.

Still, "VI" lacks a "Godhead," or a "Shock 'N' Awe," or a "Shellshock," or a fatal strike that is so gripping that it makes the whole album a worthwhile testament of thrash just by its presence. That breed of quality is unfortunately eclipsed by Onslaught's style making the same rounds it's been making since diving back into the game of heavy metal, but these guys still do what they do far better than many of their middle-aged cohorts who are grasping for any shred of relevancy at this point or have fizzled out entirely. "VI" is relevant. "VI" is not a snapshot of a group fizzling out. "VI" is actually a fairly decent album, and I'm thrilled to see a thrash band from the early 1980s like Onslaught make a slab of atrocity this homicidal and savage. A winner in my book.

Onslaught - VI


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