Power from Hell Onslaught - Power From Hell (Candlelight USA) 1985

1. Damnation / Onslaught (Power From Hell) (5:21)
2. Thermonuclear Devastation (1:30)
3. Skullcrusher 1 (4:39)
4. Lord of Evil (7:06)
5. Death Metal (3:42)
6. Angels of Death (3:21)
7. The Devil's Legion (2:17)
8. [The Devil's Legion continued] (1:49)
9. Steel Meets Steel (3:55)
10. Skullcrusher 2 (3:45)
11. Witch Hunt (3:44)
12. Mighty Empress (0:56)

Onslaught are a four-piece from Bristol, England and were part of the mighty NWOBHM movement.  England isn't exactly known as a hot bed of thrash metal with Germany and America stealing most of the limelight. However, England had their share of thrashers and Onslaught are one of those bands. Their sound on this debut album is combination of the raw energy and dark occult lyrics of Venom mixed with the speed and energy of Motorhead, or perhaps early Slayer. What this album has going for it is that crude sound that while roughly recorded works in favor of the band. (Not unlike early Raven, Venom and Celtic Frost.) Unfortunately the songwriting lacks a whole lot of memorability and is somewhat non-distinctive, even for 1985. So while the music is raw and heavy the overall album is underwhelming. Onslaught would get better with age and their next album would be a vast improvement. Though it seems to be an unpopular opinion, I believe that Onslaught put out their best album in 1989 with Steve Grimmett (of Grim Reaper fame) behind the microphone. 

It's interesting to note that both Onslaught and Possessed on their "Seven Churches" albums both had songs titled "Death Metal" and both were released in 1985. Possessed are generally credited with coming up with the term Death Metal but Onslaught might have equal claim to the term. 

This particular CD copy is a 2005 re-release on Candlelight USA Records. 

The Force Onslaught - The Force (Candlelight USA) 1986

1. Let There Be Death (6:42)
2. Metal Forces (6:37)
3. Fight With the Beast (6:02)
4. Demoniac (6:50)
5. Flame of the Antichrist (7:50)
6. Contract in Blood (6:13)
7. Thrash Till the Death (4:39)

"The Force" is the second album from English thrash metal band Onslaught. The first album was often compared to bands like Slayer and Venom. With "The Force"Onslaught strives to gain their own identity without completely abandoning the sound they built with the debut.  If it be possible, "The Force" has all the raw energy, speed and aggression of the debut but is more refined in musicianship, production and songwriting. Fast tempos, chugging riffs, manic drumming and an overall punk-like delivery are coupled with the screeching vocals of new singer Sy Keeler and a slightly cleaner recording. The songs are longer with the shortest track clocking in at around 4:30, while the majority of the tracks being over six minutes long. Keeler mainly sings with a gruff lower ranger vocal style but also adds in some high falsetto screams. 

As was the case with many heavy metal bands from the mid-80's, the lyrical themes are the typical "death, satan, death" type, which really isn't all that different from the debut. However, even the lyrics seem to be improving over the debut. 

Released the same year as Slayer's "Reign in Blood", "The Force" didn't receive the same acclaim or noteriety. However, to hordes of thrash metal lovers, "The Force" is considered a minor classic. Reviews I have read over the years have made the claim that The Force is an "outright classic album!" and "a masterpiece". I agree that it's a very good thrash metal album from an underrated band, but I still prefer their next album when they tightened up the musicianship and polished up their sound even more. 

Scream On the Cross Onslaught - In Search of Sanity (Candlelight) 1989

1.   Asylum [instrumental] (5:16)
2.   In Search of Sanity (7:13)
3.   Shellshock (6:46)
4.   Lightning War (6:57)
5.   Let There Be Rock (4:03)
6.   Blood Upon the Ice (8:22)
7.   Welcome to Dying (12:41)
8.   Power Play (6:25)
9.   Confused (1:59)
In Search of Sanity tape
In Search of Sanity cassette cover

Onslaught's "In Search of Sanity" is the CD many hardcore fans of heavy metal love to hate. With it's release Onslaught added more melody, were a little more precise in their musicianship and songwriting, and entered the realm of thrash/speed metal. It was also the first (and only) album to feature NWOBHM vocalist Steve Grimmett (Grim Reaper/Grimmstine). Apparently some fans felt the album was a 'sell-out' and was 'too commercial' compared to earlier albums  "Power From Hell" and "The Force". For me, this was the album where I discovered Onslaught when I happened across a cassette copy in a record store back in 1990. It was afterwards that I searched out their older albums and found them to be raw and sloppy in comparison. Perhaps that is their charm. Bands like Venom are best when they have that raw, sloppy sound. As well, those older albums were darker in their imagery. However, from my perspective, "In Search of Sanity" is THE Onslaught album to own. It's chock full of meaty, chunky guitar riffs, fantastic vocals and hook-laden songs that are both heavy and melodic at the same time.

Their sound is not all that far off from bands like Annihilator, Powermad and even power metal bands like Metal Church and Meliah Rage. Steve Grimmett's vocals are amazing. Grimmett sings in an aggressive, sightly gritty, classic metal style adding in some appropriate high screams.

The album opens with a long intro that is, quite frankly, far too long. It's like an extended version of Stryper's "Abyss". Once the actual music kicks in, however, it's just one riff-fest after the other. "Lightning War" is one of my favorite songs with it's lightning fast riffs and galloping drums. "Welcome to Dying" is one of the lengthier songs on the album and is also a bit more melodic and progressive than much of the rest of the songs. The album also features a cover of AC/DC's "Let there Be Rock", which I suppose is another reason some fans felt the album was a sell-out. This cover was released as a single by their label. The cover is a technical thrash metal version of a song that is infused and built around a massive rock 'n' roll groove, so it comes off a little stiff. However, with the exception of this cover and "Welcome to Dying", the rest of the album is just pure thrash metal. "Shellshock”, "Blood Upon the Ice” and "In Search of Sanity" are all straight-forward, heavy, thrash metal songs.

"In Search of Sanity" was Onslaught's last album before they disbanded in 1991. They later reformed and released their fourth album "Killing Peace" in 2007.

The CD was for a long time out of print but was re-issued in 2006 and then again in 2008 by Candlelight Records. For whatever reason, the re-issue has the cover art so dark it's hard to tell what is going on. I suppose this was to give the original art a 'darker' feel, but frankly it just looks poorly reproduced. The CD cover above is a scan of the re-issue. I've also included a scan of the cassette copy above for a comparison. The re-release contains a bonus song, a cover of Angel Witch's "Confused".

VI Onslaught -VI (AFM) 2013

1. A New World Order (0:36)
2. Chaos Is King (4:05)
3. Fuel for My Fire (5:05)
4. Children of the Sand (6:05)
5. Slaughterize (4:01)
6. 66’Fucking’6 (5:11)
7. Cruci-Fiction (5:08)
8. Dead Man Walking (4:06)
9. Enemy of My Enemy (5:09) 

Though Onslaught don't have near the popularity of some other more known extreme thrash bands from the 1980's, they are considered an underground classic band. They were one of those bands who scared kids in the 1980's with their over-the-top occult imagery. musical chaos and blinding brutality. It was something new and scary and out of the ordinary in the 1980's. After a couple releases of that nature the band decided to do something a little different with their third album "In Search of Sanity", keeping the speed and intensity, but dropping the imagery and adding some more melody and better musicianship. Thrash fans hated it, though this thrash fan loved it and I still consider it to be their best album from those early years. Flash forward a few decades to 2007 when the band reforms and releases "Killing Peace" and the band returns to the nastier, heavier brutality of the early years. Unfortunately they also returned to the the over-the-top occult imagery of those early years. "VI" is their third release since 2007 and the song remains the same. This album is chock full of fast tempos, crunchy riffs and speedy guitar licks nodding to the intensity of early Slayer and Possessed. Songs like "Chaos is King" and "Children of the Sand" would more than give Slayer a run for their money. "Children of the Sand" opens with ans eerie Middle Eastern intro that quickly gives way to a vicious thrash assault. Vocalist Sy Keeler gargles with razor blades, his voice spitting nails and ripping through the wall of sound created by the dual guitar barrage of Andy Rosser-Davies and Nige Rockett as well as the pounding rhythm section of bassist Jeff Williams and new drummer Michael Hourihan.

Lyrically the band is going for the evil, tough-guy imagery. "Fuel for My Fire" is one of those anger-infused macho songs while "Slaughterize" is a tongue-in-cheek song about how much they love to kill. "Killing is my aim in life, killing is my aim in life, killing is my way of life!" "Cruci-fiction" is about as preachy as a band can get, and yet people complain about Christian bands being preachy and cramming their belief down people's throats. "Deny the resurrection, Reject the hand of god, Be cleansed by your confession, Sing evolutions song, Religious misconceptions, Based on a book of lies." Really? Sing evolutions songs? "66’Fucking’6" is a thrash anthem with lyrics that sound like they were written for the band's debut "Power From Hell". "We are the chaos legions, we fight with an iron fist, we play the devils music, we are the union of the 6-6-6, 66'fucking'6." (Didn't Anvil already write this song?) With songs like this, Onslaught attempt to come off as rebellious and over-the-top but they really come off as goofy and another in the hordes of followers, which is unfortunate when the music is so strong.

Lyrics aside, it's about the riff. In this aspect, Onslaught excel. "VI" is technically proficient old school thrash played to near perfection. It's just a shame the lyrics digressed back. 

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