Toxik / Savage Messiah

The Underworld, London on Tuesday 29 April 2014

Before Roadrunner records took the commercial stance in signing bands that would generate them the most cash, they were an imperative label to the extreme metal underground. One such innovative band that they announced their support for was New York's Toxik, releasing two impressive technical thrash metal full-lengths before throwing in the towel in 1992. However, 2013 saw the American underground legends reuniting, probably one of the last notable '80s thrash metal acts to regroup in this millennium. London is enduring the first day of a selfish tube strike tonight but this does little to prevent an accumulation of die-hard thrash metallers from finding their way to Camden Town to catch such a rarity.

Support comes from Earache-signed Savage Messiah, playing their home city. Formed in 2007 and with three full-length efforts to their name, these youngsters fuse together the unexpected combination of thrash and power metal. The thrash metal that they emulate flows in the modern vein of the genre rather than a class '80s sound - think the likes of the later offspring belonging to Testament, Exodus or Annihilator. The power metal face nods towards Helloween and the heavy metal crowd ala Iron Maiden. The band is confident on stage, showcasing their familiarity with the live environment. Despite the highly unusual relationship between thrash and power metal and the thin number of people in the venue, the audience are appreciatively receptive, even combusting into a mosh pit.

Opening with 'Heart Attack', the first song of their first album, headliners Toxik proceed to flatten the venue with angular old school thrash metal. Guitars alternate between sharp heaviness and creative technical spurts, all underscored with Mike Sanders' high-range vocals, still remaining as smooth as they are on CD. The audience number is sadly significantly less than two hundred but headbangers and moshers emphatically reveal themselves from the opening song. The four-piece appear very satisfied with the attendees and engage them with just over an hour of underrated classic thrash metal.

There is a new album on the horizon for Toxik and they do not hesitate to publicise this with no less than five new songs performed tonight. Bearing names such as 'Too Late' (which sees the audience singing along to the eponymous chorus after Sanders' instruction), 'No Rest for the Wicked' and 'Inhumanities', they are not a far cry from what Toxik have built their reputation on, showcasing nostalgia and a rare but highly praised fondness for guitar wizardry. The 'World Circus' release is better represented than the sophomore album 'Think This', with 'Door to Hell', 'False Prophets' and 'Social Overload' rearing their technical thrash metal heads.'Think This' material is limited but highly appreciated with 'Greed', the title track and 'Spontaneous' raising temperatures in the beer-drenched pit. The setlist is laudable but the sound is a little too bass-heavy, reducing the effectiveness of the guitar but not to unenjoyable levels.

The band members themselves are nothing short of talented and gracious, warming the audience with their stage banter and memories of their early days. Now only a four-piece rather than five members, the richness of their sound is reduced but guitarist Josh Christian is incredibly talented with odd time signatures and Watchtower-esque riffs to bang your head to. Closer 'Breaking Class' is a new number that the band bravely closes the set with, albeit with a thunderous ovation from the fans. However, they return to the stage for a fan-powered encore, namely 'World Circus', a glaring omission in the setlist that signals for one final violent hurrah before the spectators make their way home without an efficient tube service.

Toxik will always be fall under that bracket of underappreciated thrash metal but their journey to London was not in vain. Those in attendance certainly have little but positive feedback for this reunion show and hope these understated New Yorkers will return. If they do not, those who did not attend should be kicking themselves.

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article by: Elena Francis

published: 06/05/2014 13:35

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