Overkill Commando is the debut full-length from this pack of Polish punk-grinders, after a 2014 demo and last year’s four-way split with Hell United, Cemetery Whore, and the wonderfully named Necrosodomistical Slaughter. In both instances, Nuclear Holocaust’s primal death/grind has garnered comparisons to Terrorizer or Extreme Noise Terror, and there’s a definite validity in those analogies, specifically in the second.
Like those two first-wave ragers, Nuclear Holocaust’s brand of grind is raw, straightforward, and rudimentary. Like those of ENT, these riffs are punkish, simple, with no real leads and no bells or whistles; Bloodseeker’s vocals alternate between a low death growl and a slightly higher bark, with markedly high-low less differentiation than in the more modern dueling-vocal approach to grind. That lack of differentiation – within the vocals and the riffs, and then, consequently, within and between the songs themselves – plagues Overkill Commando throughout. From “Abominations Of Annihilation” through to “Atomic Suicide,” guitarist XXX-Bomber’s riffs come and go and never really stick; tempos range from full-on rage to driving seething, flirting with groove at times. There’s energy, and there’s fury enough, but yet nothing pokes its head above the storm; no hook emerges, no real moments of remarkability remain when all the chaos subsides.
All of that sounds negative, and in some respects it is, but that’s not fair, either – it’s not that Overkill Commando is bad, because it isn’t. It’s just outclassed by the greats, and it doesn’t do much to stand out, from itself or from the rest of the grind world. There are sections that are better than others, of course, but you have to search them out, rather than them leaping from the speakers: The title track sports a nice closing groove, one of the moments most redolent of World Downfall’s perfection. “Deathbringer Of Death” gets the most out of a “two-chord riff and blastbeat” combo. “Nuclear Waste Repository” sees the band slowing things down to a crossover thrash beat before jumping back into the bashing, with both sections the better for the change. The band is clearly enjoying themselves – silly song titles abound, and there’s a certain manic glee that does come through, even if the music could use a bit of tweaking to match it.
The biggest criticism of grindcore has always been “It all sounds the same,” and grind’s best examples (World Downfall, Need To Control, From Enslavement To Obliteration, etc.) manage to transcend that, to create memorability within the maelstrom. Overkill Commando falls squarely into the “one giant song” pit, and while it manages to be exhilarating in the moment through sheer velocity and crusty force of will, it doesn’t really linger long enough to last. In the end, it’s punky grind, and you can’t really expect a whole lot more than what you get here. Grinders who live for nothing more than screaming and blasting will find this enjoyable while it spins, but those looking for anything more will likely remain on the fence — it’s a good start, but one in need of a bit more refinement to truly stand out.