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Interview with Onslaught


While never having played in the U.S. or pushing the units of German and San Francisco Bay thrash bands, England’s Onslaught has garnered a cult following. The next time you see bangers representing their love of old school metal through various patches sewn to their jean jackets, look closely and next to the Destruction “Mad Butcher” patch, you might find an Onslaught “Power From Hell” or “The Force” patch.

Those first two Onslaught recordings have found special places in the hearts of early-to-mid eighties thrash and speed metal enthusiasts. Like Kreator’s “Endless Pain” and Possessed’s “Seven Churches,” early Onslaught was raw, satanic and surely helped provide the impetus for the coming hordes of death and black metal bands. Those records were further into the underground than Kreator and Possessed, making a much bigger impact on European listeners than Americans, but along with Sabbat, Onslaught put England on the map for thrash.

Onslaught was and is definitely a special breed of metal band, so much to the extent that they found their selves hooked up with a major label. As many bands have found, though, getting major label backing does not always lead to a golden future. The promise of a house on a hill with white picket fences meant selling out, which combined with other factors led to Onslaught’s demise in 1991.

The group returned during a glorious reformation of thrash—the middle part of the 2000s, released a couple of singles and a full length, which brought great acclaim. “Sounds of Violence” (released January 18), the band’s second full-length release since reforming recaptures the balls-to-the-wall thrash of their early years, but updates their sound to the tune of the 21st Century. Guitarist, founder and song writer, Nige Rockett gave Metal Ship a career perspective, and filled us in on upcoming happenings live Onslaughts.




Metalship : Onslaught released “In Search of Sanity” in 1989 and then “Killing Peace” in 2007. Why did you take eight years to release another full length?

Nige Rockett: The band split in ’91. We had lots of problems with the label we were signed to. Basically, the band lost the will to carry on. In ’91, the grunge scene kicked off as well with Nirvana and that kind of stuff. Europe and the U.K. were hit especially hard. It was a combinations of things that year and we called it a day. It took us fourteen years to get back together and then we recorded the Killing Peace album. It was a long layoff.


Metalship : There was a big difference between In Search of and “Killing Peace,” as well as between the prior two albums. Were you guys going for more of a NWOBHM sound with Steve Grimmet of Grim Reaper at the helm?

Nige Rockett: No, (laughs) we weren’t looking for a massive change of sound. This was part of the problem that made the band split. London Records, which is a subsidiary of Polygram Records—a major record label—sent their A&R down and sat in on the recording. The representative said they didn’t really like our vocals. We were working backwards because we had just recently signed with the label. We thought it was kind of strange for them to all of a sudden say they didn’t’ like our vocals. They said they had a guy all lined up for us. I thought, “Hang on a minute, we don’t know nothing about this.” They said they wanted to bring this new singer into the band. It was kind of a dark time then. We weren’t happy with what was going on. They were basically telling us our every move. We had lost our artistic integrity. We were being puppets for a major label. We used an American producer who was more akin to doing stuff like Stryper and Meatloaf. I think they wanted to turn us into a more commercial product for Americans in particular. I think that’s why they got Steve Grimmet into the band. I’m not taking anything away from Steve. He’s a nice guy and a great singer, but I don’t think he was the right guy for Onslaught.


“Killing Peace” and the newest release, “Sounds of Violence” sound quite different from your ‘80s output. It seems you updated your sound, but the thrash and punk influences are still noticeable. Did bringing in newbies such as Andy Rosser [guitar] and Jeff Wiliams [bass] help bring in new influences?


Metalship : Nige Rockett: As you said, they sound quite different from the first two albums. We were very young kids and we were still learning to play. You can hear that the musicianship was not the greatest on the first two albums. They do carry a certain vibe and there is something cool about them, but as the years have gone on we’ve learned to play better and write what we think are better songs. When we wrote “Killing Peace and Sounds of Violence”, we looked back to the first two albums, especially “The Force,” to see what we were doing right and wrong. We also wanted to capture some of that early Onslaught feeling. I guess that’s why some of the punkier, hardcore influences come into the new album. Andy played a big part on the new album. He and I wrote the new album together in the studio without anybody else’s influence. That’s a different approach that we took for this album. I think it really paid off! It was really focused. We knew exactly where we were going, and exactly what we were doing. We looked back to the punk and hardcore influences, but also looked forward and used a modern approach in the studio. We don’t want to stagnate. We want to appeal to the next generation of metal fans, and to the old school fans as well.

I even hear a little bit of death metal on this album.


Metalship : Nige Rockett: We’re one of the few thrash bands lucky enough to cross over into the death and black metal markets. That even goes back to the early days with the “Power From Hell” stuff. We listen to a lot of that stuff. We have a good fan base in that sort of thing. We tried to combine a few different kinds of styles. Nothing is totally originally in metal today, but we were trying to fuse a few of the influences together with punk, death and black metal and the obvious old school thrash metal.


Past albums featured covers of AC/DC and Angel Witch. “Sounds of Violence” features the Motorhead cover ‘Bomber.’ Do you put out these covers as a way to praise the NWOBHM metal bands that inspired you to form Onslaught?


Metalship : Nige Rockett: Yeah, I guess. It’s been a long time since our last cover. The last ones we did were the AC/DC and the Angel Witch covers. They’re always good friends of the recording studio, and even better friends to play Motorhead. Motorhead was an early influence on the band. We decided to go for another cover, it will be fun. I think Steve [Keeler, vocals] came up with the idea to do a Motorhead song, in particular ‘Bomber.’ That’s not the most obvious choice for a Motorhead cover. Generally, you think ‘Overkill’ or ‘Iron Fist.’ Those tracks have been covered a lot. We wanted to go for something different. It was tough to make ‘Bomber’ sound a little Onslaught and a little thrash because it has bluesy riffs. I think we found a good balance, especially on the guitar. It still has that Motorhead feel, but we made it heavier. We played it a couple times live and it went over well.

“Power From Hell” and “The Force” dealt with the fantastic side of evil. The last two recordings still touch on satanic symbolism and ideas, but in a more realistic context dealing with religious fervor, politics and war. Was this just a case of Onslaught growing up?


Metalship : Nige Rockett: Yeah, I think you got it. When you’re a kid looking at that stuff it’s all part of the fantasy world. As you get a little older, you start to understand what everything is about, and you experience more things in life. You can take it more seriously. The lyrics on the last two albums are all reality based. These are truths I’ve read about or researched. Yeah, the satanic symbols are still there, but they are a sign of evil in the world today. There is lots of bad shit going on, there has been for hundreds and thousands of years. I try to bring these ideas to life, instead of being in more of a fantasy world like we were on “Power From Hell” and “The Force.”

‘Destroyer of Worlds’ [“Killing Peace”] and ‘Code Black’ [“Sounds of Violence”] touch on the topic of the New World Order. I see a lot of metal bands, including Forbidden and Agent Steel, write songs on this topic. How did you discover these subversive ideas and what are your thoughts on it?


Metalship : Nige Rockett: ‘Code Black’ is about a new world order, which is an old world order. I’ve gone back into history about this. Back then it was being classed as a new world order. It’s about an evil regime that existed before. It’s an interesting subject. I’m still doing a lot of research on this for the next album, which we are writing already. On ‘Code Black’ and ‘Destroyer of Worlds’ I went back in time to a new world order that existed at that time. ‘Code Black’ is a song that goes back to the Nazi era. I guess it’s kind of obvious if you read into it. It’s kind of cryptic. I didn’t want to make it too blatant. You can read the evils that were going on back then. It’s pretty much the same thing with ‘Destroyer of Worlds.’ It’s about megalomaniacs that seize power and kill in the name of their beliefs. It’s a dirty subject to write about, but we tried to cover it objectively.

It’s something that is more known about today. More people know about it; more people know it exists, but it’s something different to see it covered on the news.


Metalship : Nige Rockett: I try to stay out of politics in this day and age. It’s not something that really interests me. I have my views, but I don’t see a lot of good going on these days. I see a lot of bad things going on. It’s all caused by politics and religion. I have a strong dislike for both things.

Those things help turn people against each other.


Metalship : Nige Rockett: Religion is the biggest problem for me, as you can read on Onslaught songs. I had a religious upbringing and it was forced on me, which strongly turned me against it.

One song in particular, ‘Children Of God,’ which says, “Children of God, you’re fucking evil’ puts that into perspective for me.


Metalship : Nige Rockett: That’s about a cult in America. The cult is actually called Children of God, and it’s still running today, as far as I know. There is some pretty sick stuff going on there. The cult has been running since the 1960s.

What led to your changing labels from Candlelight to AFM?


Metalship : Nige Rockett: To be honest, we weren’t happy with the job that Candlelight did on the ‘Killing Peace’ album. There were some major mistakes made on the release. For example, in Japan the release date was scheduled. The reviews came out, which were fantastic, and then we had interviews in magazines and advertising, but there were no albums in the shops. They didn’t arrive for three or four weeks. I think the guys decided, because of the expense of getting the product in Japan, to make it in Europe and ship them over. It was delayed and it cost us. It was a complete mess up! The second promotion wasn’t fantastic, either. We decided to move on. We had the option to release another album. We kindly told them we were going to look elsewhere first, and then take our time and decide. We went to three or four different labels, one of them being AFM. AFM had all the right things to say. We released one track on a compilation they did. We knew how they worked. We got to know the guys. They said all the right things and made all the right moves. It’s a German-based label, which is good because our biggest market is in Europe. It was kind of a no-brainer when they asked if we wanted to sign. Everything was running perfect and we knew we had made the right decision.


Onslaught has an upcoming European tour. Please tell our readers about this tour?


Metalship : Nige Rockett: I think it kicks off March 31st and runs through the 25th of April. We are going out with a band called Suidakra and Debauchery. We’re covering most of northern Europe. We’re going to do most of the Scandinavian countries. We’re doing four or five shows in Germany—Belgium, Holland, Poland, The Czech Republic and Switzerland for this leg of the tour. Then, the summer festivals in Europe kick in. We’ll be taken up with that for the next three months after our tour. And a lot more tour dates coming after that—Japan and South America, I think, the remainder of Europe and hopefully the U.S. We are looking into that at the moment.

Has Onslaught ever played in the States?


Metalship : Nige Rockett: No, we have never played in the U.S., unfortunately. We’ve been there recording and doing other things, but we’ve never actually played there. It’s a long way for us. We have to be a bit careful because we hear lots of stories of European bands heading over to the States and loosing lots of money—25-30,000 dollars. So, we are trying to be really careful and look for the right situation. It’s not good business to end up that way. We are going to look for a good package tour or a good support tour.



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added by Darren Cowan, on February 9, 2011 for Metalship

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