Onslaught - ‘In Search of Sanity’ (Dissonance) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Gerald Stansbury   
Friday, 07 July 2017 04:00

Onslaught In Search Of Sanity artworkI remember reading ads back in 1989 that compared this album to ‘Master of Puppets,’ which made me interested, especially with the addition of Steve Grimmett on vocals. While I had never heard of Onslaught before those ads, I really enjoyed Grim Reaper’s ‘Rock You to Hell’ album. I had not listened to the full album in many years, but still had a few songs from the album on my iPod before seeing this reissue pop up for review. I took a trip down memory lane to see how the full album sounds 28 years later, while doing my best not to get caught up in nostalgia.


The album begins with the “creepy” instrumental ‘Asylum’ designed to create uneasiness and set the mood for the album. At five minutes, this track is about three minutes longer than it probably should be, but it does serve as a warning to the listener that there are some long songs coming up on this album. The title track begins with a cool riff and some thrash soloing leading up to the first verse. This song remains one of my favorites from the album and has some added pop with the remastering without any noticeable clipping. Every word is easy to understand due to Steve’s crisp vocals. Following the second chorus, there is a break before Nige Rockett and Rob Trottman interject some cool solos that, at times, remind me of Megadeth. One of my favorite elements of the song is the subtle riff that takes place under the chorus of the song. The song still sounds fresh all these years later, but I can definitely understand long-term Onslaught fans wanting something different vocally.


‘Shellshock’ features another cool riff to begin and hits the mark with James Hinder (bass) and Steve Grice (drums) creating a mosh-worthy rhythm. Vocally, Grimmett begins the song with a lower tone before expanding his range leading up to the chorus where he hits the mark with a higher pitch. The chorus features plenty of hooks. The band work in a mosh part in between the guitar solos before another run through the chorus and a guitar solo outro closes out the relatively short 6 minute song. ‘Lightning War’ begins with a dirty thrash riff that could have been at home on ‘And Justice For All’. The vocals here don’t connect with me, especially through the verses as the high pitch and clear style feel out of place. This song would connect better if it had a vocal style similar to Mille from Kreator or even Dave from Megadeth. At nearly seven minutes, the song would have benefitted from some editing as the chorus also feels overly long. I remember this being one of the songs that I felt rather “blah” about 28 years ago, and nothing has changed.


The old Side One concludes with a cover of AC/DC’s ‘Let There Be Rock’. I have always enjoyed this track and wish Grimmett had used some of the grit his vocals included on this song on ‘Lightning War,. This really doesn’t offer anything different to the original to my ears but serves as a short respite following the 3 long songs that preceded it. Grice offers a thunderous assault to introduce the old side 2 on ‘Blood Upon the Ice.’ Grimmett sticks to his mid-range while Rockett and Torttman continue to lay down some solid thrash riffs. It hit me during this song that musically there are points in this song where I am reminded of Anthrax’ ‘Among the Living’ album while there is another part that brings to mind the call and response of Metallica’s ‘Master of Puppets’. This is another solid song, and one that has spent some time on the iPod.


‘Welcome to Dying’ has been a song that has remained on the iPod and is my favorite song on the album. It opens in a similar vein of a Testament ballad like ‘Return to Serenity.’ The slow guitar work perfectly complements the mood of the song, and Grimmett begins his best vocal performance on the album. I would actually say this is my favorite piece of work by him that I have heard throughout his career. The song picks up through the pre-chorus before the layered vocals of the chorus rise up to meet the listener. The song then returns to the softer sound . The second pre-chorus hits a little harder than the first and then the chorus explodes again. The song continues the heavy riffage before another call and response moment on the record. The chorus then comes back and turns it over for some melodic soloing by Rockett and Trottman. Hinder’s bass work shines here as well as the bass plays a prominent part in the mix. The transition to the heavier parts comes back with more solos and faster solos coming at the listener. Naturally, the song returns back to its softer element for the next verse. At over 12 minutes, this song does not feel like it has any wasted moments or redundancies.



‘Power Play’ is another straight thrasher that leaves me feeling like the vocals and music are clashing against one another. This continues to be a song I am likely to skip, and it also suffers because of the heights ‘Welcome to Dying’ reached. It does not help that the song stretches out over six minutes long. A cover of Angel Witch’s ‘Confused’ closes the album with some high quality New Wave of British Heavy Metal sounds, with Hinder showing off his skills for the full two minutes.


The production work by Stephan Galfas is solid, and this reissue adds in an eight song live disc of this line-up from 1989. The sound on the live disc is rough in some places but enjoyable for at least a listen. There are only two songs from Onslaught’s earlier albums included, and Grimmett gives it his all on those two songs.


‘In Search of Sanity’ remains an uneven album for me. It does not live up to its ‘Master of Puppets’ advertising, but there is a reason that songs from this album have remained on my iPod Classic over the years and revisiting them here reasserts how much I like songs like the title track and ‘Welcome to Dying.’ It would have been interesting to see where the band would have gone with a follow up if they had not broken up a couple years after its release. The band, of course, reunited about ten years ago with Sy Keeler back on vocals. Grimmett would go on to front Lionheart before recently returning to the Grim Reaper name, without Nick Bowcott, who was their primary songwriter, included.


‘In Search of Sanity’ is available now. You can get your copy HERE.




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