Current Decibel cover model Joel Grind is nothing if not prolific. In the fourteen year tenure of Toxic Holocaust, the former one-man thrash tank has been responsible for no less than eight thousand splits, singles, demos, full lengths and EPs (the real number is more like thirty-four, but you get the idea). It seems the frenetic pace has slowed since adding a full-time rhythm section in bassist Philty Gnaast and stickslinger Nikki Rage, but the consistency has remained intact. But for better or worse, a fan of the ‘Caust has heard this about thirty-three times before.
Chemistry of Consciousness is like a cable provider that only carries Spike TV. From the ‘GO!’ that opens “Awaken the Serpent” and that time-worn d-beat, it’s obvious that a rerun of Sodom is about to come on, followed by a classic episode of Venom. And this is perfectly acceptable in the world of Mr. Grind. It’s clear he’s not out to make the next Married With Children and launch the Relapse network into the stratosphere. Dude just likes to watch what he wants without the hassle of flipping through the channels. Extra steps would only slow down the windmills of blonde hair and cause brews to get warm, so why bother? Even the slower bits of a track like “Rat Eater” are aggressively simple to the point where thought is an afterthought.
This primitive approach to an eighties-style assault (the amount of solos can be counted on one hand) can be a shining star to a listener who’s just plain fucking tired of overly-technical lead-driven proto-thrash. Standout “Deny the Truth” takes the pinnacle position of Chemistry of Consciousness with a flawless combination of elements lifted the playbooks of both Slayer and Napalm Death. As a matter of fact, the level of aggression never dips below seething.
Over the duration of eleven songs, however, that d-beat gets as stale as a piece of white bread on the front porch. And don’t misconstrue that as it becomes good and crusty, either. These songs follow a pretty distinct pattern, forcing them to bleed together at the seams when listening to the entire album in a sitting. It dulls an attack that was already based around a right hook followed by a right hook. That right arm is gonna get tired sooner or later, and with the primary focus of the lyrics being on rebellion in one form or another, those fists need to land with jaw-breaking efficiency to be effective.
There is most likely a good reason that Toxic Holocaust has such a plethora of splits and EPs, yet only five full-lengths. Any genre-specific album (especially thrash, the most limited of the limited genres) is best administered in small doses to avoid the withdrawals of boredom. And despite being a very well executed and impressive one trick, Chemistry of Consciousness is still a one-trick pony. Thrash folk and fans of the band will no doubt be dazzled and amazed, but the rest of us will just kind of look at each other and go “eh, that was pretty good.”