SKULL31

NUCLEAR ASSAULT, Alive Again (2003, Steamhammer)

The skull:
As dashed-off afterthoughts go, this is among the laziest, as the skull is not original to this album, but a close-up crop of the skull from their classic sophomore release Survive. Excised from the original cover and plopped, translucent, over a terrible collage of a cemetary, a lyrics sheet, and a clearly-not-moshing crowd, this once proud skull now stares blankly into the middle distance, wondering how it all came to this. “I was signed to fucking Ian Copeland’s label…” he barely recalls as he nurses a double of whatever well whiskey the bartender at the club provided in exchange for his two drink tickets.

The music:
Somehow, I never saw Nuclear Assault back in the day. I had tickets to see them on the Out of Order tour, with Coroner opening, but the show was cancelled due to lack of interest. While it stung mightily to miss Coroner, I never really felt too bad about missing out on Nuclear Assault, as their subsequent live album, Live at the Hammersmith Odeon was pretty terrible, and the band had a reputation among the kids at my school for kind of sucking live. That said, I fucking adore 1990’s Handle With Care, and in fact, all the albums up to that point were good to great. So, when they got back together in the early aughts, I finally got a chance to see them, and they were amazing! They played the tiny upstairs bar of the club they were supposed to play in 1991, and the place was still only three quarters full, but they tore shit up. John Connelly, who is the most adorable little heavy metal hamster you can imagine, was funny between songs and lacerating during them, and the band was on fire. So how’s this live album recorded around that time? It’s okay. The sound is a bit rough, and though it takes the band a few songs to really get warmed up, they play well, and Connelly’s love-em-or-hate-em vocals are as good as you could possibly expect. But, listening to this just doesn’t capture the actual sweaty energy of seeing these guys, long after they gave up on making it, just tearing through a set of the classics because they love it. There’s more energy here than on that first live album for sure, but I think the only way to properly experience Nuclear Assault is the old fashioned way.
— Friar Johnsen

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