Without a full-length release since 2011’s Conjure and Command, Toxic Holocaust, the blackened, punk-infused thrash vision of multi-instrumentalist and one-time wunderkind Joel Grind is back in 2013 with a stop-gap compilation of demos, B-Sides, rarities, and “hits.” From the Ashes of Nuclear Destruction takes listeners on tour of Toxic Holocaust’s evolution from one-man bedroom four-track recorder project to the road-hardened Relapse Records road dog we know today.
The sound quality on this career-spanning disc bounces between the necro days of black metal recorded in backwoods trailers on tracks such as “Arise from the Cemetery”, “Thrashing Death”, “Never Stop the Massacre”, and “Send Them to Hell”, to modern studio production wizardry on newer songs from the past few years like “Nuke the Cross”, “We Bring ‘Em Hell”, and “Alter-ed States”. But the overall motives and aesthetics of Toxic Holocaust haven’t changed one iota ever since a teenage Joel Grind put out his first demo in ’99. This band has always been about pure black thrash, Satanism, warfare, and general blasphemy. The lyrics are from the Venom school of stream-of-consciousness—just reference the devil, death, and battle as many times as possible and throw in whatever rhymes, bouncing between savage weaponry, unholy temptresses, the dark lord, and back again within a single song. Couple that with a lot of open-string alternate picking palm muted chug in the vein of Slayer’s “Black Magic” crossed with equal doses of Discharge, Motorhead, Midnight, Inepsy, the Exploited, and “Outbreak of Evil” era Sodom, and you’ve got the evil heart of Toxic Holocaust.
This is Joel Grind’s demon baby, pure and simple. He was that kid with the drive and desire to vomit pure evil all over a primitive home studio and he made it happen. There is no message, no politics, just evil old-school thrash as this record traces the path of a teenager working alone in his bedroom to…an older, better songwriter with a bigger recording budget working alone in his bedroom before heading to a professional studio. The vibe Grind captures is purely for the denim and patch set—those who actually listen to every band they have a patch for. This is no retro cash-in. Joel Grind may have been too young for the thrash heyday of the 1980s (he was born in ’82), but he knows his stuff and worships the power of the minor-fifth riff, and has been doing so for a long time.
What makes this record worthwhile for fans and those new to the band alike is it allows us to follow along as Grind tweaked and evolved his sound, trying out different vocal recording techniques and changing up the guitar tone from release to release, experimenting with totally fuzzed out beehive in a blender buzz on “Reaper’s Grave”, for example, before delving into something we might dare call clarity. The CD ends with the more refined beast of today, the band we know from An Overdose of Death… and the aforementioned Conjure and Command, nourished by the deeper pockets and broader connections of Relapse. The core never changes though, and it’s doubtful it ever will. It’s been a wild, beer-soaked ride through the annals of evil for the past 14 years, and Toxic Holocaust has emerged as one of the purest pound-for-pound underground thrash acts going today. Raise a chalice of blood to the next decade-plus of hellish wrath.