Onslaught are a UK thrash institution. Scratch that. Onslaught are a thrash institution regardless of geography. From seminal 80’s release The Force (an album that, at the time, rivalled Slayer in the ferocity stakes) to the divisive, but blatantly brilliant and mainstream-courting In Search Of Sanity (1989), and onto their 3 albums post 2004 reformation, Onslaught have delivered nuthin’ but thrash gold!
Which brings us neatly to album number seven, Generation Antichrist, an album NOT fronted by renowned and instantly recognisable frontman Sy Keeler. Gulp. A new singer is always a difficult sell but, if Onslaught’s savage reputation is anything to go by, they’ve surely adorned themselves with a reliable replacement? We’ll come back to this particular point later as for now we’re moving onto the music.
Short, sharp and savage opener “Rise to Power” is as crushing as you’d expect, with these dogs of war seeking to re-build their army and march on to modern metal glory with thrash ringing in their ears. It works. Perfectly. Seguing effortlessly into “Strike Fast Strike Hard”, whose opening riff recalls Sepultura’s “Arise” (in a good way), we’re already heading into pure thrash nirvana. This is blatantly an updated, modern Onslaught but it’s still unmistakably the band who gave us 1986’s The Force and 2004’s Killing Peace (our favourite Onslaught albums if you’re wondering why we’ve picked them).
At this point, are we missing Sy Keeler? Surprisingly, no.
Dave Garnett (Bull-Riff Stampede – the band that just keeps on giving) equips himself remarkably well, honouring the tones of Sy Keeler while avoiding mere mimicry. This could have been a thankless task but much in the same way as Xentrix’s Jay Walsh (thanks again Bull-Riff Stampede) has ably filled the shoes of Chris Astley, so Dave rises admirably to the occasion. In this aspect, the relief is tangible because it means we can concentrate less on a new band member and more on the actual music; music which, we are more than thrilled to say, is as caustic and as nihilistically thrilling as ever. Onslaught have been peddling their wares since 1983(!) and it should come as no surprise that the pedigree of these battle-scarred generals shines through on each and every track – even if much of the line-up are relatively new recruitments!
Onslaught don’t beat around the bush, so we won’t either. Generation Antichrist contains 9 tracks of blistering old-school thrash, with a modern sheen, delivered in the manner we have continued to adore and respect ever since ‘comeback’ album Killing Peace floored us in 2007. There’s no bullshit here as Onslaught go about their business in a relatively streamlined fashion. “Bow Down to The Clowns” rips and tears, while the scathing title track, in all its blasphemous beauty, throws stones at organised religion, and the seething “All Seeing Eye” and the self-explanatory “Strike Hard Strike Fast” all sting with their anti-establishment rhetoric.
This is also one of those albums that’s, perhaps surprisingly, back-ended with its best tracks with “Empires Fall” reaching a new level of righteous indignation, the impious “Religiousuicide” acting as the perfect companion piece to Killing Peace’s title track and “A Perfect Day To Die” bringing the curtain down as the finest song on the album. As closing salvos go, these 3 songs are unbeatable and offer up exactly what you crave from these seasoned professionals.
As previously mentioned, Dave Garnett’s vocals are admirably seamless in their transition but, in particular, Nige Rockett deserves to be singled-out, not just for his exemplary work here, but also for his overall contribution to thrash over nearly four decades; such is his unwavering dedication to the cause and his innate ability to pen riffs that pin you to the wall.
In recent years, Anihilated’s Anti-Social Engineering, Xentrix’s Bury The Pain and Acid Reign’s The Age of Entitlement have considerably raised the old-school UK thrash bar, and it’s left to Onslaught to pole-vault clear over it.
Sy Keeler may be gone but with Generation Antichrist, Onslaught live on! 9/10
Onslaught’s Generation Antichrist is due for release on August 7th 2020 via AFM Records.