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Classic Review: Onslaught - In Search of Sanity
In Search of Sanity

Label: Polygram Records
Year released: 1989
Duration: 59:52
Tracks: 9
Genre: Power/Thrash

Rating: 4/5

Review online: August 11, 2006
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
Readers Rating
In Search of Sanity

Rated 4.09/5 (81.71%) (35 Votes)

Well, well, I've been wanting to do this review for…oh about seventeen years now. Onslaught were kind of the British Sodom back in the mid-80's, thugging out two well-regarded proto-Black/Thrash albums in the vein of early Slayer. Then Polygram Records came calling with a big recording contract, wanting to ride the wave of Thrash popularity that was cresting right about the summer of '87, as my memory serves. They signed Onslaught, and then spent almost two years getting a new album recorded while they pumped out a half-dozen EPs and singles to keep their new act in the public eye. The end result was In Search Of Sanity – an album that got a lot of great press but was utterly reviled by the band's hardcore fans, because it sounded nothing like their old stuff at all. This album is the poster child for what happens when you let the label fuck with your band too much, and it also happens to be a really cool album anyway.

Nothing at all like the dirty, Satanic Thrash Metal these guys had been playing, ISOS is a clean-limbed riff attack somewhere between Master Of Puppets and See You In Hell. The guitar tone is crisp and clean, the leads are really excellent, and there are no Satan references to be found. The biggest difference, of course, is in the vocal department. After the recording sessions were over, the label took exception to vocalist Sy Keeler and insisted a clean singer be brought in to replace him. Enter former Grim Reaper frontman Steve Grimmet, who rerecorded the album tracks and then joined the band for a successful tour. I am torn in my opinions on this, as on the one hand, it sucks ass that the label pushed them around like that, and on the other hand Steve sounds so fucking awesome. In Grim Reaper he was always good, but I don't think he ever sounded better in his life than he did on this album. His voice suits the new, clean and crunchy sound to a T.

The album opener is over five minutes of boring sound effects. It's a retarded way to start an album and I recall how annoying it was back when I had this on cassette and there was no skip button. Fortunately the title cut is next and it's a big, shredding riff-fest with killer solos and vocal lines. "Shellshock" is a lot like the title track, but it's still good, next up is "Lightning War", which comes pretty close to justifying the whole album by itself – awesome song. "Blood Upon The Ice" is the most Thrash song on here, and "Welcome To Dying" is a really well-written power ballad. I don't know if it had to be 12 minutes long, but I never get bored with it. There is some crap on here – "Power Play" is just so-so, the cover of "Let There Be Rock" is silly, and the 'bonus' track "Confused" is so short it's barely a song.

Flaws and all, this was cemented in my tape deck for most of the winter of '89, and I am stoked to get it on CD at last. Killer musicianship, some first-rate songs, and the performance of a lifetime from Steve Grimmet make this a classic with legs. Not perfect, but still killer.

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