Back in action after 15 years of silence, U.K. thrash metal legends ONSLAUGHT have just recorded the album of their lives. Brutal, infectious and brimming with energy, "Killing Peace" is set to blow every other thrash album of the last two decades out of the water, as original members Nige Rockett (guitars) and Steve Grice (drums) return, ably assisted by vocalist Sy Keeler (who sang on the first two ONSLAUGHT albums, "Power From Hell" and "The Force"), bassist Jim Hinder and guitarist Alan Jordan. Understandably excited by the latest incarnation of his band, Nige Rockett is eager to share his rekindled enthusiasm — not to mention some incredible new songs — with a new generation of metalheads… Here's the full story of the rebirth of ONSLAUGHT!
Q: How did the ONSLAUGHT reunion happen?
Nige Rockett: "Well, we just realised that it's our 25th anniversary this year. Me and Steve have always been in touch. We stayed friends and lived in roughly the same area so we used to meet up every weekend, basically, and have a beer or what have you. We met up one day and Steve pulled out this royalty statement. I don't remember what it was for, but it was for five pence! We hadn't talked about the band for years. It was dead and buried as far as we were concerned. But we got chatting about things and I know he was still in touch with Jim. We talked for the next couple of weeks and then he asked me if I fancied getting the band back together and I said, 'Well, not really, no!' So then he said that he'd already spoken to the rest of the guys and they were all pretty keen to do it, so why not have a meeting with everybody and see what they say? I figured there was no harm in it, but in my mind I wasn't really up for it, but then we sat down and chatted about it and it started to sound like a good idea, so we decided to try and have a rehearsal.”
Q: What was the first rehearsal like? Were you all a bit rusty?
Nige Rockett: "It was fucking awful! Terrible! It was quite embarrassing, actually, because we went to this rehearsal place in Bristol and it's run by these guys that are all really into their metal and stuff, and they obviously knew who we were when we turned up, and the next thing that happens is this god-awful noise comes out. I don't know what they must have thought! I couldn't really play any of the old songs. Some of that stuff's pretty hard to play and I just couldn't physically play it. It was so far out there. I couldn't remember the arrangements or the riffs. It's stuff that you just let go out of your head. I hadn't played properly for about nine years. It was pretty much the same for Steve and even longer for Jim. Sy had been in various bands in between, but nothing serious. So it was all pretty bad. I began to think that we wouldn't be able to do it, but we rehearsed for a couple of weeks and it slowly started coming together. In the end we were back where we were when we stopped before."
Q: The new album gives the impression that you're all much better musicians now…
Nige Rockett: "Yeah. Once I got back to playing it was like I'd forgotten all the old bad habits. It seems like I can play the old songs much better and the new ones came really easily. It's very strange!"
Q: Does this new era for the band feel like unfinished business?
Nige Rockett: "Well, it ended pretty badly first time round. One person said they'd had enough, then someone else said it, and it went on like that and just fizzled out. But once we were sat around talking about what we wanted to do, it struck me that I was pretty pissed off with the last album and yeah, it felt like unfinished business. The first two albums were very rough and ready. We were young and just learning our instruments. 'The Force' was an improvement on the first one, but it was still pretty rough, so this time I wanted to make sure we made the album we always wanted to make."
Q: Do you think you ever received the credit you deserved first time round?
Nige Rockett: "Well, no. The American bands took all the glory and we were just on the outskirts of all that. It was a little bit annoying sometimes, watching other bands take the credit. Obviously a lot of those bands were pioneers of the genre, but we contributed a lot too."
Q: This is clearly the best album you've made and it's easily as good as anything that SLAYER or METALLICA have done for many years…
Nige Rockett: "We've had some absolutely amazing comments about this album. It's been unbelievable. We knew what we were going to get from working with Andy Sneap. That's why we went to him. We wanted a big, fat, nasty sounding album and that's what we got. He's done an amazing job, and he got an incredible performance out of Sy."
Q: Was it essential that Sy was back in the band for the reunion?
Nige Rockett: "Absolutely. It wouldn't have happened otherwise. We felt the only credible way to go back and do this again was to have Sy in the band. That was obvious from the feedback we generally get back from people. It's the only way it could've worked. I couldn't believe how much his voice had improved when we got back together. He's got such a big voice now, and he's getting better all the time."
Q: Does the new album feel like a continuation of what you were doing before or the start of something new?
Nige Rockett: "Obviously we wanted to make something new sounding while trying to continue from where we were when we made 'The Force'. Of course, it's 20 years on from 'The Force' so we needed to make something that would stand up on its own in 2007. We want to appeal to a whole new generation of metalheads who weren't around when we were around the first time. That was really important from the start."
Q: Have you always kept in touch with what's going on in the metal scene?
Nige Rockett: "When I stopped playing metal I kind of stopped listening to it as well. I'd been doing it for 13, 14 years non-stop, and I just cut myself off from it totally, whereas Sy never stopped. He knows everything about every band in the world of metal. He knows it all. He just carried on listening to all the old school stuff and he's into the new stuff too. I haven't had much time to listen to new music, to be honest."
Q: Who would say is flying the flag for the kind of metal you enjoy yourself?
Nige Rockett: "I don't know really! I like some of the CHIMAIRA stuff. I like 3 INCHES OF BLOOD. I haven't heard great amounts of stuff that I thought was new and happening, but then I don't go out of my way to hear new stuff. Like Steve, I still listen to a lot of the old stuff, and I still listen to bands like DESTRUCTION and KREATOR and CELTIC FROST. I still listen to them, and what they're doing nowadays. We did a few shows with EXODUS last year and they're sounding amazing these days. Their last album is my favorite EXODUS album. It sounds modern but it's still got the feel of the old stuff. That's great. That's what I like."
Q: When you were writing the new songs, where did the inspiration come from?
Nige Rockett: "It took a long time to find where we wanted to be, to get in the right mindset. What we started doing was digging any old and unused material from tapes and demos that we hadn't released and seeing if we could find anything usable. We probably wrote three or four songs based on that stuff to start with, but it wasn't really happening. Then Jim got more involved in the writing and pushed me in the right direction. In the end we kept part of one of those songs. Once we found our direction it all came easily. It took a few months to get there, though."
Q: It's definitely an album full of monster riffs…
Nige Rockett: "I hear a lot of albums that don't have a lot of catchy riffs on them. That's something that's lacking especially from the newer bands. Catchy riffs were a big thing in the original thrash scene, so we've tried to incorporate that again."
Q: Are you enjoying the band more this time than first time round?
Nige Rockett: "Someone asked me that recently, and it's funny you asked me because I realized that I'm enjoying it much more this time than I did last time. It's a lot better. Things are a lot easier. There's a lot less stress. There's no pressure on us now and it's a real good laugh. It's great to be out gigging and meeting people again. The scene's really good at the moment and it's much easier to get people to hear what you're doing. The Internet's an unbelievable tool. It's made life so much easier. I wish it had been around 20 years ago!'
Q: How did you end up with Candlelight Records?
Nige Rockett: "We spoke to a few labels, actually. Our old manager Pete, he's always been on at me about getting the band together again, and Steve at Candlelight and Plastic Head has always expressed interest in doing something with us again. I knew that Plastic Head had re-released the first two albums. So we had a meeting with them, talked about the stuff they'd released before, and they seemed like such honest guys and we felt at home there straight away. We only have to drive an hour up the road to go and chat with them. We wanted someone we could trust this time, so we chose them. It's been great so far. We had the German office on the phone the other day saying they were blown away with the album and that they can't wait to work with us, and we've never had that before. It's a good sign."
Q: Reactions to the album have been ecstatic so far…how does that make you feel?
Nige Rockett: "It's been a bit of a mindfuck so far! I listen to the album every day myself, as a fan. When we made the previous albums I was always in the studio for every minute of every day, and I didn't have the time to do that this time. We knew Andy could be left alone with it, and the results came out the way we expected. I've just listened to it on a fans level and I love it. I'm so pleased with the whole thing."
Q: What do you want to achieve with this album?
Nige Rockett: "I'd love to go back and do this full time again. That would be nice. I don't know if that's possible. We've already started working on a couple of tracks for the next album, so we want to keep the momentum going and make sure we follow up this album with another one quickly. And we've been to places this time that we never went to before. That's all part of the excitement for us."