Sunday Old School: Nuclear Assault
It seems to be a fairly regular start to the story of many metal bands: "It began with a firing…" In this week’s case, the story of Nuclear Assault began when New York thrash giants Anthrax fired their bass player, Danny Lilker, who decided to form a new band with a more aggressive approach. His first recruitment into the band that would become Nuclear Assault was vocalist John Connelly, who had previously been a roadie with Anthrax, before rounding out the lineup with guitarist Mike Bogush and drummer Scott Duboys. With the group now complete, they soon recorded a demo which featured some of the songs that would become staples of their future live shows such as, "Hang the Pope" and "Stranded in Hell." They followed the demo with their first live show at the Union Jack in South River, New Jersey, before deciding that Bogush should be replaced, with his position being taken by Anthony Bramante, who made his debut with the band at the legendary L’Amour club in Brooklyn. Nuclear Assault made another change after this performance, when drummer Scott Duboys left the group and was replaced by Glenn Evans, formerly of TT Quick. This new incarnation of the band recorded a second demo entitled, "Live Suffer Die" and increased their profile by performing across the United States.
Their hard work paid off and the quartet signed a multi-album deal with Combat Records, who had previously released the debut album from Megadeth, as well as several records from European bands such as Celtic Frost, Venom and Raven. The first of these albums came in April 1986 under the title, "Game Over." The record was a hit among thrash fans and it earned the group a spot supporting speed metal act Agent Steel and British outfit Atomkraft in Europe, garnering them attention across the Atlantic. Despite their deal with Combat, Nuclear Assault felt that their contract with the label was very constrictive and they left to sign with I.R.S. Records, releasing their sophomore album, and their first for their new label, "Survive" in 1988. The record was a success, reaching number 145 in the Billboard Album Chart and spawning two singles in the form of "Fight to be Free" and the Led Zeppelin cover, "Good Times Bad Times." The commercial success of "Survive" led to the group touring extensively, including performing as the opening act for Californian thrash kings, Slayer, and their own headlining tour of Europe, where they were supported by British thrashers, Acid Reign.
Nuclear Assault hit their commercial zenith the next year with the release of their third album, "Handle with Care," which reached the highest position the band has achieved so far on the Billboard Charts at number 126, as well as reaching number 60 on the British album chart. The album also received glowing reviews and led the creation of music videos for the songs, "Trail of Tears" and "Critical Mass." Once again, the exposure from their record sales led to new opportunities in terms of touring, including performing in Japan for the first time, as well as an American tour with Testament and Savatage. The touring gave birth to an album of it’s own in the form of the first live Nuclear Assault record, "Live at the Hammersmith Odeon."
However, the constant touring created rifts within the band and by the time it came to recording their next album, "Out of Order," Connelly was mostly absent, only providing vocals on five songs. Reception to the album was very frosty and most likely contributed in Lilker’s decision to leave the band to form the grindcore outfit, Brutal Truth. Scott Metaxas was brought in to replace Lilker and the group embarked on another tour of the United States and Europe, before guitarist Bramante decided that he too would take his leave, his position being filled by Dave DiPietro. This new lineup recorded one more Nuclear Assault album, "Something Wicked," which was released in 1993 to mostly negative reviews and soon afterwards, Nuclear Assault, like many of their thrash contemporaries, made the choice to disband.
Despite disbanding in 1995, the group did one reunion show in 1997, and two more in 1998, before reaching the decision to reunite permanently in 2002, to record a new live album entitled, "Alive Again," which was supported by heading to Europe with their old buddies Testament and Death Angel, and then to Europe again with Exodus and other old touring partners, Agent Steel. The reunion was well received enough to warrant a new studio album, which surfaced in 2005 as, "Third World Genocide," which was well received by critics and thrash fans alike and allowed the band to travel to South America for the first time, where they were once again joined by Death Angel. Although Nuclear Assault haven’t released any new material since then, they continue to perform regularly, mostly on the festival circuit where they are always wanted. Although looked over in favour of the “Big Four,” as well as the likes of Exodus, Testament and Overkill, Nuclear Assault were an important band in the history of thrash metal, bridging the gap between metal and hardcore fans and proving that the two fan bases can find common ground and that maybe, just maybe, the two scenes didn’t need to beat the shit out of each other.
Nuclear Assault - "Stranded in Hell"
Nuclear Assault - "Brainwashed"
Nuclear Assault - "Critical Mass"
Nuclear Assault - "Something Wicked"
Nuclear Assault - "Price of Freedom"
Nuclear Assault - "Long Haired Asshole"
Nuclear Assault - "Hang the Pope"
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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