Album Review: Toxic Holocaust - "Chemistry of Consciousness"

Chemistry, or the study of the composition, properties and behavior of matter, was not a favorite subject of mine in school but I do enjoy mixing things together to see what happens. So, lets break out the blender. Combine equal parts thrash, hardcore and punk, add a splash of anger and a generous amount of distortion. Now grind that mother. Pour the mixture into an album cover featuring a syringe-toothed cobra, surrounded by eyeballs and you've got yourself the "Chemistry of Consciousness".

"Chemistry of Consciousness" is the title of the newest album from Toxic Holocaust. This was my first time hearing Toxic Holocaust and from the opening cut, "Awaken The Serpent", I knew I was in for a record that would blow my hair back. Frankly, it sounds a lot like you would imagine a toxic holocaust would.

The album is short and sweet, taking just over half an hour to power through the 11 tracks. There's lots of positive points on this record. It's heavy on the metal riffs, light on the guitar solos (although there are a few) and contains enough hardcore style drum breakdowns to make me go hunting for a DRI record.

It's a nice combination of styles. I can feel the punk influence. Clearly there's a metal influence or, more specifically, an 80's metal influence. It's most evident in track two, "Silence". The song has moments that sound like "Kill 'em All" era Metallica but that could just be the guitar sound.

The songs are strenuous, interesting in composition and well played. Previous Toxic Holocaust albums were written and performed entirely by founder Joel Grind. It appears that Grind added a bass player and drummer to assist him with this one.

"Chemistry of Consciousness" is nothing if not in-your-face. Toxic Holocaust just gets straight to the point. No ballads, no lingering guitar solos, no long fade outs and no bullshit. One song ends, the next one starts. It's filled with "slam your head into a wall" ditties like "Rat Eater", "Out Of The Fire", "Acid Fuzz", "International Conspiracy", bang, bang, bang. It's all very efficient.

I hesitate to mention this as it is just a personal preference but there is one thing, though - the vocals. Joel uses a distorted growl to get his point across. I get the idea and I can appreciate the mood this style of singing means to create. There are certainly no shortage of guttural, growling singers out there. The band Skrew comes to mind and Possessed, among others, did it well back in the day. But the music on "Chemistry of Consciousness" is too good and too tight to be limited by such rough vocals. I feel like Joel Grind may actually have something to say in his lyrics but the message gets lost and is, at times, unintelligible. I'd love to hear this album with slightly cleaner vocals which weren't so buried in the mix.

**Footnote - The more I listened to the record, the more the vocals grew on me. I began to think of them more as a percussion instrument and that worked for me. But I still wish there were a little more meat to the vocal styling.

I did like "Chemistry of Consciousness" and will definitely be checking out Toxic Holocaust's previous releases. It's a terrific blend of hardcore, punk and metal. It'll get your blood pumping. You'll start a mosh pit alone in your living room (or maybe that's just me). It is heavy and, actually, kind of fun. If you need a soundtrack to your morning workout, this is it. You'll run faster, lift more weight and, maybe, knock a few holes in the wall. Give it a listen. There are a lot worse ways to spend a half hour. And, if someone asks what you're doing, you can tell them you're studying chemistry.

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