Overall Score: 4/10 Musicianship: 4/10 Futurism: 0/10 Inventiveness: 0/10 Pros: Adept thrash metal Cons: Bland, uninspired, benign, insipid, dull, boring, tedious, uninteresting | Too rigidly stuck in a bygone era
Thrash metal: The 80s sub-genre du jour. Thrash metal saw an unprecedented rise during the 1980s, but as grunge and nu metal took over the world, its fortunes waned, and it became a shadow of its former self. Bands sold out and abandoned the once beloved aural assault, some never to return. Recently we have seen a resurgence in the popularity of thrash through the likes of Havok and most notably, Power Trip, but what of those bands that have stuck it out through thick and thin? Those stalwarts that never deviated from the path. Now celebrating his twentieth year as a project, crossover thrasher, Joel Grind, returns under the moniker of Toxic Holocaust totake a grim look at a dystopia future in the far away year of 2019.
For an album being sold as a futuristic odyssey, Primal Future:2019 feels oddly stuck in the past. Opener, Chemical Warlords has a distinct feeling of Metallica’s Hit the Lights to its main riff, and thrashes by numbers. There is an awful lot of Megadeth worship on display here too; blistering solos that are made to display technical prowess and melt faces, while the Anthrax quota is filled by album’s ever so slight punk edge. All that’s missing is Slayer, but wouldn’t you know it, the lyrics are all centred around war, destruction of mankind and other variously apocalyptic themes. So, this album is a condensed Big 4 in a neat and well produced package. Sadly, it lacks any of the flair, originality and passion that the four bands listed above had in their golden years, instead sounding like a passable impression of its influences rather than evolving beyond them.
The fact that this album is a one-man venture should be praised. Joel Grind performs all vocal, guitar, bass and percussive duties you hear on the album and does so with reasonable aptitude. His playing is adept and tightly focused, with each song following a well-worn structure with aplomb. But it is on this well-trodden path that something is lost, and that is a sense of purpose and meaning. This album doesn’t feel like a necessity, its very existence feels ancillary. This is a Sartrean nightmare put to a thrash metal soundtrack. It is surplus to requirements and exists as a passion project for Joel Grind, but lacks the panache to inspire passion in anyone else.
What we have with Primal Future:2019 is a project twenty years into its existence that hasn’t moved beyond square one. This is a thrash album through and through and if thrash is your genre of choice you will have a rollicking time banging your head to the dull and uninspired riffs that chug voraciously. However, if you want something more, something interesting and something with exhilarating musicianship, steer clear. There is nothing inherently wrong with or bad about this album, but there is so little to it that it just exists in a vacuum of nothingness. It is an album so relentlessly stuck in the past that it probably would have voted to leave the EU. To paraphrase the Nine Inch Nails single, every song is exactly the same; there is no variation on display, no cohesive flow and this actually leads to quite a frustrating listen. Enduring the entire album starts off as a benign task that quickly descends into the irritating. If Toxic Holocaust wants to stand shoulder to shoulder with the best of thrash metal, it needs to go away, do some research, get some inspiration and come back with fresh eyes for a modern world. 2019 might still seem like the distant future to a man so stuck in time as Joel Grind, but unfortunately for him we are all living in 2019 as the present.
Primal Future:2019 from Toxic Holocaust is released on the 4th of October 2019 through eOne music.