And here I thought it was dead.
Metal, I mean. Or more specifically, thrash metal, that vicious mutant of punk aggression and Black Sabbath doom riffage spawned in the Bay Area in the mid-1980s that carried me through high school.
Slayer. Kreator. Exodus. Megadeth. Overkill. Metallica.
Their ghosts were jarred loose in my memory Tuesday night at Stillwater when Portland's Toxic Holocaust blitzkrieged through a 30-minute set that was as much a celebration of a defunct metal movement as it was a satire of its excesses.
Toxic Holocaust is the brainchild of Joel Grind, a one-man-band who plays all the instruments and sings during the recording phase and goes live with a hired band when opening up for metal acts such as GWAR and Napalm Death.
Grind, in his mid-20s, is impossibly young to be playing such throw-back music. Thrash metal thrived in the Reagan years, when good and evil were clearly marked and the world very much still worried that two bloated superpowers would one day heave nukes at each other at a moment's notice.
Everything about Toxic Holocaust screams irony, from its stitched denim jackets and Bathory and Venom vintage shirts to its kitschy album covers (which, I was floored to discover, were drawn by Ed Repka, who inked now legendary covers for Megadeth in the '80s and the famous image fronting Death's "Scream Bloody Gore").
Needless to say, I was skeptical.
It didn't help that Grind himself looks less like a raw-meat-eating Slayer clone as he does a holdover from Los Angeles' glam scene, complete with poofy blond hair and a headband.
My doubts quickly subsided when Grind plugged in his Flying V and tore into the opening riff of "Lord of the Wasteland."
Ah, man, they can play, I thought.
TH was Ramones-like in its efficiency on stage. No more than three seconds elapsed between songs. The tunes explored generic thrash staples such as cheap Satanism, nuclear war and zombie mutants devouring the living.
"This is the final Armageddon,
the final judgment day
See the false run and hide,
the weak will all be slayed
A massacre, a holocaust, total genocide
Face your fate like a man or choose suicide"
— "Endless Armageddon"
Yet, each cut was played with speed and clear precision. Songs switched riffs three and four times, each movement broken apart by a wicked solo before folding back onto itself a la "Peace Sells"-era Megadeth.
Grind's screech-to-growl vocals at times ventured into black metal territory, but were a welcome reprieve from today's grunt-and-whine deliveries tossed onto the mainstream by lame-o melodic metal such as Slipknot and other bands I don't listen to.
Stillwater is a capable metal venue. The acoustics spread the sonic assault to eardrums hiding in the back. Though Ashland is one of the few places you would see a dreadlocked dirthead in the mosh pit beside Deicide-shirt-wearing gargoyles.
Toxic Holocaust is on tour in support of Napalm Death. It plays constantly throughout the Pacific Northwest and is definitely worth catching if you want to relive your metal past.
Is it all a joke? Probably. But it's a good one.
Listen to a few Toxic Holocaust tracks and watch its video for "Wild Dogs" at the band's Web site at www.myspace.com/toxicholocaust.
Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feedback, blood and distortion
And here I thought it was dead.