Quite possibly the finest commercial thrash album ever produced by a UK band, Onslaught were aiming for worldwide recognition when they released this melodic thrash masterclass at the tail end of the 80’s and it should have led to greater things.
Unfortunately, all In Search Of Sanity achieved was splitting existing fans straight down the middle and it would take 18 long years for Onslaught to bounce back. And bounce back they did, with the overwhelmingly aggressive modern thrash classic that was 2007’s Killing Peace….but that’s a story for another time.
In Search Of Sanity found Onslaught swapping the gravel-throated vocals of Sy Keeler (who thankfully did return from 2004-2020) for the power of Grim Reaper’s Steve Grimmett, transforming Onslaught from punk/thrash extremists overnight to an altogether more clinical and commercialised melodic thrash machine.
However, while In Search Of Sanity may have been more Metal Church (circa Mike Howe’s original tenure) than Slayer – and cleaner than a nun’s saintly undercarriage in the process – its go-for-broke mentality should have been applauded; thrash was huge in ’89 and Onslaught shouldn’t have to apologise for wanting their own large slice of the thrash pie.
Suitably so, the songs found on In Search Of Sanity were uniformly ambitious. Aside from Onslaught’s cover of AC/DC‘s “Let There Be Rock” (which may have been cocky but still kicked ass, with Angus’s timeless riffs fed through the thrash grinder) it was the likes of the almighty “Shellshock” – which came packed with chunky Hetfield-esque down-picking and a shit-ton of melody – and the 12 minute “Welcome To Dying” (which ranks as one of thrash metal’s finest ballads) to provide those all important head-turning moments. There was still some aggression to be found in the crunchy form of “Blood Upon The Ice” and while the track outstays its welcome by a good few minutes, it’s clear yet again that Onslaught were looking to leap light years forwards and leave the underground behind with the help of just one album.
Accusations of sterile conformity and mainstream pandering may still abound but In Search Of Sanity‘s gloss and sheen simply showcased a band willing to risk everything for success (something us Brits tend to frown on for some strange reason) and there’s nowt wrong with that!
Admittedly, there’s times when song length becomes an issue, with each self-penned track clocking in at well over 6 minutes, but that does not detract from the quality on display. This power-play signalled a leap of faith the majority of UK thrash acts were afraid to take (only Xentrix would truly attempt to gain similar worldwide acceptance) and in 2021, In Search Of Sanity‘s riches remain clear to hear.
Onslaught‘s In Search Of Sanity is a certifiable UK thrash anomaly and unrecognisable in comparison to the material that preceded it. Despite the fact that the satanic Slayer-isms of Onslaught’s brutal and genre defining The Force (1986) had been jettisoned entirely, In Search Of Sanity still stands proud as a cult item well deserving of high praise for its stellar performances and unbridled ambition…..so yeah, cut it some damn slack ya cunts!
Other albums in this series: Metallica’s Load / Megadeth’s Risk / Paradise Lost’s Host / Saxon’s Destiny / Megadeth’s Cryptic Writings / Down’s Down II: A Bustle In Your Hedgerow / Sabbat’s Mourning Has Broken