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Next review: » Neurotoxin - V.S.L.
Released: 2007, Prison Shank Records (Self-released)
With the reunions and returns of many of the originals and a new surge of both imitators and innovators in the genre from all across the globe, it seems thrash metal has managed to crawl out of its early grave, much to the delight of some and the chagrin of others. Amongst those obviously in the "delight" camp are Los Angeles natives Neurotoxin (not to be confused with the midwestern-U.S. thrash act of the same name who split up in the mid-90's), a four-piece outfit founded in 2003 by two pairs of brothers with plenty of talent, D.I.Y. attitude to spare, and a twisted sense of humor. 2004 saw the self-financed releases of an EP and a full-length, both entitled HARVEST YOUR WRATH, and 2007 drags kicking and screaming into the light a new EP, V.S.L. (which stands for "Violence As A Second Language"). Don't be fooled by the fact the band's logo looks what you'd expect from a gore-soaked death group...this is definitely thrash through and through with a surprisingly bicoastal feel, incorporating elements of Bay Area thrash, East Coast thrash, and hardcore crossover a la D.R.I. / early Suicidal Tendencies into an effective, energetic package.
Production on V.S.L. is much sharper and clearer than on their previous releases - a lot of care obviously went into getting a good instrumental / vocal blend that doesn't detract from the energy of the songs, including a great up-front presentation for the cool bass fills that pop up here and there. The bass drums could maybe use some more beefing up, but otherwise, a really good mix. Obvious influences are many: Johnny Toxin's vocal style mostly sticks with a hardcore-influenced shout/scream not too far removed from D.R.I. or S.O.D, but in some of the prechorus and chorus segments he goes for more of a layered, harmonized approach that sounds a bit like the early Belladonna-days of Anthrax. Many of the riffs and rhythms show influences of the aforementioned groups, but not surprisingly, there are nods to Slayer here and there as well, particularly in some of the dual-guitar harmonies, though never to the point of sounding like a ripoff. Overall, the blend is pulled off near-flawlessly and is a lot of fun to listen to. Opening cut "Degenerate" is a hardcore punk-influenced moshpit-inducer with a cool scream-along chorus...unfortunately, it's partly thrown off-track by a thankfully rare moment of off-key vocal harmony about two minutes in. It's a brief moment of weakness in an otherwise very strong song. The title track slows things down a bit with a muscular riff-driven piece that borrows equally from Slayer and Biohazard, the latter particularly in the "gang vocal" approach of the chorus. "Spite" is a great crossover stomp with an excellent groove-laden breakdown section. The EP highlight, though, is the over-eight-minute closer "Ghostly Confessor," which showcases the most variety in terms of tempo, a cool harmonized chorus, and the best lead guitar work on the release.
Neurotoxin may be very much an underground act at this point, but if V.S.L. is any indication, they deserve to get some label attention. Granted, their music may not be totally original, but they do manage to mix up their influences thoroughly enough to avoid sounding like a knockoff of any one artist or another. The band plays with a lot of heart and a ton of aggression, which makes for some really enjoyable music. No, it's not perfect, but the EP sounds better than a lot of signed acts' releases and, while a bit short at only twenty minutes, shows a lot of promise for more in the future. If you happen to be into old-school thrash/hardcore punk crossover, you can definitely do a lot worse than giving Neurotoxin a try.
4. Ghostly Confessor
John "Johnny Toxin" Hernandez - Guitar, Vocals
Clint "President" Compton - Drums
Matt "Wildcat Matt" Hernandez - Guitar
Steve "Savage City" Compton - Bass
Previous review: » Neurotica - S/T
Next review: » Neverify - Species
Released: 2007, Prison Shank Records
Oozing out of southern California, these self-proclaimed “scumbags” of Neurotoxin offer up their second spine-shattering release in the form of an E.P. titled V.S.L. All unsuspecting souls must prepare themselves for the assault that these four tracks will unleash upon your fragile minds. For Neurotoxin delivers and old school blend of thrash and hardcore that will cause your brain to seep from its once safe shell.
Falling somewhere in the same threatening neighborhood of old thrashers like early Anthrax, Forbidden, or D.R.I., V.S.L. is a tight, well-played, and surprisingly well-produced, onslaught. The opening cut, “Degenerate” is a compact, high-octane burner that has aggressive verse parts that lead to a pre-chorus populated with shouts and a more melodic singing style. After the second shouted chorus, there is a nice breakdown that centers on a surprisingly catchy vocal section that segues into a great guitar solo that is more concerned with being dark and sinister than being virtuosic. The title track has a touch more of their hardcore influences shining through, but the transitions are nice throughout, and the vocal lines are memorable. This track also has some of the more memorable lyrics on the album, for example, “The lights grow dim/a corpse in every home/ a war torn park filled with withered bone/Hearken to a new speech, a tongue of blood and grime/violence reigns and slowly burns away at the hope of reprise.” “Spite” is another straight ahead monster of heaviness, while the E.P.’s closer, “Ghostly Confessor” is a longer and more adventurous track. The latter track is an ominous adventure through sludge that plows along at a slower pace than the other three songs. It features several time changes, including a vile, evil sounding clean guitar section, and one of the offering’s more dexterous guitar solos.
Furious, angry metal is what these guys are about, but they make sure to pack it in a clean sounding package. There are tons of tempo changes throughout the four songs, lots of guitar soloing, memorable vocal lines that are at once aggressive and ear catching. These foul purveyors of insanity are sure to succeed in spreading their message of destruction throughout the world, striking fear into the hearts of those of softer sensibilities.
All those in need of a major ass kicking of old school, well-played thrash/hardcore, should head over to http://www.cdbaby.com
and pick up a copy of V.S.L. today.
4. Ghostly Confessor
Johnny Toxin – Vocals, Guitar
Wildcat Matt – Guitar
Savage City – Bass
President – Drums
Previous review: » Neurotica - S/T