Onslaught @ O2 Academy 2 Sheffield, 18/7/2014

On a very pleasant Friday night in the middle of July, at the invitation of Mike Exley of MEPR, who look after Onslaught in the UK, I trekked down the M1 to the O2 Academy 2 in Sheffield to see a band I’ve somehow managed to miss at every single opportunity: the mighty Onslaught!

The Academy2 is nice, intimate club-sized venue, so is something of a sweatbox, especially on the kind of day we’d just had.

Unfortunately, I missed seeing last minute substitution opening act, Demonic Resurrection since I was sat outside in the evening sun having a chat with Sy Keeler.  From what I overheard when a portion of the audience came outside, the reaction to the quintet from Mumbai was very favourable.  Having spoken to one of the band members, we’ll see if we can sort out a Skype interview over the coming weeks.

Next up were one of the very first exponents of European Thrash: Denmark’s very own Artillery, on their first ever tour of the UK.  This was a band that Sy was excited about bringing over, and it was fairly easy to see why.  The Danes are exponents of Proper Heavy Metal – fast riffs and solos coupled with gymnastic vocals in a fairly similar manner to Spreading The Disease-era Anthrax.  Admittedly, they aren’t offering anything new or particularly spectacular, but they deliver a very enjoyable brand of Old School Thrash of the kind you really don’t hear anymore, with the older material blending very well with the newer stuff from their current .  Frontman Michael Bastholm Dahl’s enthusiasm was hugely infectious and his charm coupled with the tightness of the band in general, as you’d expect from a Scandinavian outfit, won them some friends on the night.

Dad... can you play bass in my band, please?
Dad… can you play bass in my band, please?

Then came the main event: Bristol’s very own Onslaught.

Nige Rockett
Sy Keeler
Sy Keeler

This is most assuredly a band whose name fits them perfectly.  From the very first note played by the quintet, it’s obvious they mean business.  Onslaught have been doing this in it’s current form since 2004 (when they reformed), and thanks to the crystal clear sound quality delivered by The Academy’s rig and the sheer proficiency of the band, they delivered a crushing performance.

The combination of Nige Rockett’s punk-fuelled Thrash riffing and soloing, working together with new boy Leigh Chambers, Sy Keeler’s snarling delivery and the sheer power thundering out of the rhythm section of Mick Hourihan (drums) and Jeff Williams (bass) mean calling them Onslaught really could be classed as a textbook case of nominative determinism.

The classics, such as In Search Of Sanity (“…one I wasn’t on!” said Sy as he introduced the song), Onslaught (Power From Hell) and Let There Be Death were there as you’d expect, as well as a sprinkling from post-reformation albums like Sounds Of Violence and newie, VI.  The musical box tinkling followed by brutal battering of 66Fucking6 generated the night’s first moshpit.  The musical highlights came thick and fast.  They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but the Eastern influence on Children Of The Sand put the lie to that, showing that this band really are at their best when pushing the outside of the envelope.  Onslaught ain’t your Dad’s Thrash band, despite Sy (at least) being the Dad of a teenager!

Jeff Walker and Sy Keeler

On the evidence of this show, long may it continue.

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