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Album Review: Onslaught – VI

3 min read

I should level with readers – my hair isn’t long enough to justify my writing of this review; I’m not wearing black; I have no tattoos; I’m much happier tapping my foot in a blues bar than banging my head in a mosh-pit. So when I say that Onslaught’s latest album VI isn’t really up my alley, it should probably be metal fans’ first sign that the band is doing something right.

OnslaughtVIThe group formed in 1983, and I’m sure they’d take it as a compliment if I suggested that they wouldn’t have been out of place on the hit-list of the Parents Music Resource Center – an infamous committee set up in 1985 by a group of women including Tipper Gore, wife of Al Gore, who set out to crack down on foulness in the record industry, particularly in the metal department, with a senate inquiry. I can picture a scene in which Onslaught are sitting back with smug smiles on their faces as the conservative supporters of the PMRC present song-titles and lyrics from VI as evidence: ‘Slaughterize’, says the senator’s disgruntled wife; ‘Killing is my aim in life’ says a balding, bespectacled child psychologist; ‘6 6 Fuckin’ 6’, says the elderly lady in the matching beige skirt and blazer.

The lyrics in VI clearly provide a raft of material to upset those convinced of metal’s capacity to corrupt minds, but the music is just as aggressive. After a short introductory track we are thrown into the Slayer-esque fury of Chaos is King. The album thrashes around at differing tempos with never a dull moment, and barely a quiet one – the exceptions being a haunting female voice which opens Children of the Sand, and the sound of a baby’s musical mobile, which is doubly haunting in the context of 6 6 Fuckin’ 6, and is abruptly quashed by a heavy-handed strum of an overdriven guitar. It’s easy to imagine a few thousand black-clad bodies happily throwing themselves around to the forty minutes of material contained in this record – Onslaught have been careful to maintain clarity in their grooves; rhythm hasn’t been subsumed by distortion, as seems to often be an issue with more amateurish bands of a heavy persuasion.

The virtuosic staples of a class metal act also seem to be present in VI: the rapid-fire double-kick drumming; the menacing vocals; the speedy guitar fretwork. However, notwithstanding the band’s technical proficiency, emphasis is placed on the quality of a song as an entity, rather than on showing off the abilities of individual members. Guitar solos, for example, are kept at a tasteful length, which makes them more powerful when they do occur, and makes the songs more listenable.

To my ears, Onslaught have provided a set of tunes that seem mature in their context and masterful, but as mentioned before, I consider myself somewhat ill-equipped to be claiming authority on the quality of this brand of band. Thus instead of a standard rating, I give VI four stars based on its amount of unrealisable retrospective potential to offend the delicate sensibilities of Tipper Gore and the PMRC.