In his 1982 screed The God of Rock: A Christian Perspective of Rock Music, Michael K. Haynes helpfully provided abbreviations for the five major Satanic themes in rock music: SE for sex, D for drugs, R for rebellion, FR for false religions, and SA for Satan. My interest in heavy metal was first stoked by the notorious book, and my adolescent self would have been elated to note that Toxic Holocaust’s latest thrashterpiece, Conjure and Command, earns a coveted Satanic straight flush.
Joel Grind, the brains behind Toxic Holocaust, earns the SE and D tags for these lyrics from the hypersonic “In the Depths (Of Your Mind)”: “Copulation in a hidden cell/Electric dose makes you rise/Perversion uninitiated/Climax as the drug takes you high.” Grind garners both an R and an SA on “I Am Disease”: “My legion brings the plagues/We raise our fists and arise…Hail Satan!” The FR comes on the excellent, relatively doomy “Agony of the Damned,” wherein Grind prays to Hecate to resurrect the walking dead.
If all of that reads like a mid-’80s Parents Music Resource Center advisery, it’s merely because Toxic Holocaust so effectively evokes the memories of first-wave thrash metal. Everything about Conjure and Command is a throwback. The title would work for a Dungeons & Dragons expansion module. The black and white cover art, depicting a human sacrifice, could easily grace a demo tape by Swiss extreme metal pioneers Hellhammer. Grind’s guitar solo on “Nowhere to Run” pays proper tribute to Slayer’s Kerry King. The band—which is to say Grind—even borrows its business model from Bathory, a genre-defining, one-man black metal band from Sweden. Grind has been the one constant since he founded Toxic Holocaust in 1999, and writes every song. Kingdom of Sorrow drummer Nick Bellmore, however, provides more-than-able jackhammer percussion, and engineered the album as well.
So Conjure and Command doesn’t break any new ground. But in an era when what passes for alt-rock sounds like Dan Fogelberg on a dilaudid bender (I’m looking at you, Bon Iver), it’s refreshing to hear a thrash band that is so single-minded about its whirlwind riffs and pastor-baiting lyrics.