VERSUS: Survive vs. The Art of Partying

VERSUS: Survive vs. The Art of Partying

Welcome to Versus. The series where we look at two albums in metal history, compare them to each other, and see which one was the better record.

In this edition of Versus, we are jumping into the pit of the crossover genre. Looking at two bands from two different eras. One band, would release a second album that would become a must-have in the genre. Pushing their sound even faster and heavier. The other, one of the leaders of the resurgence in 2000's crossover. Channeling the originators of the crossover scene and dragging it kicking and screaming into the modern era. So, put down your Pepsi, jump in the pit and get ready for another crossover battle in this matchup I'm calling "The Old School vs. New School of Crossover".

In this corner, we have Nuclear Assault with their second album, 1988's Survive. Their follow up to their 1986 debut Game Over, Survive would launch the band into the thrash metal mainstream and become a name synonymous with the rising thrash metal and crossover sound of the 1980's. The band, founded by founding Anthrax bassist Dan Lilker, the album would amp up the intensity and aggression from the debut, which gained praise from critics and fans. Making it an essential classic in the thrash metal and crossover genre. What did this record bring into the ring in this matchup?

The album opens with the driving drums of "Rise From The Ashes" of Glenn Evans. The heavy riff of John Connelly & Anthony Bramante on guitar with Lilker's gurgle bass beneath it is a strong opening. Connelly's high wails kick the energy and the pacing of the song up a notch during the verse. Lilker's bass shines after the first verse into pounding drums by Evans. The song's pacing flies by and before you know it the song is over but an intense track into the wailing guitar solo of the end. Next is "Brainwashed", one of the most recognizable tracks from the band. The song has that punk-like shouting vocal delivery on the song, instantly makes me think of D.R.I. . Connelly & Bramante lead the charge with a chugging, heavy riff into a nice shredtacular solo. The song instantly makes you headbang along to the snare hits by Evans on the track. I love Connelly's yells of "Why Don't You Think For Yourself", giving me goosebumps as I hear the delivery as it heads into an impressive drum solo ending. With "F#", the speed continues with a driving palm muted opening riff and shrieks by Connelly. Instantly reminding me of Kill 'Em All-era Metallica with the riff, double bass and production style. Similar to "Seek and Destroy". Evans' double bass pounds hard through the guitar solos and pulsing bass of Lilker.

We then have the album's title track. With a up-tempo, thrash riff with d-beat drumming, the song is off to the races. Evans shines on the track as the drums are front and center in the mix. The band's speed intensifies through the whole track, only slowing for the guitar to ring during the pre-chorus. The shredding of the guitars with the bass underneath it is instant headbang and stankface inducing feeling as the song runs to the finish line. One of my favorite tracks off the album. "Fight To Be Free" starts with a slow, electric guitar piece to give reprieve to the listener after the relentless pacing of the album. Then, the rest of the band joins in on the track, accenting the opening guitar lead. It's a slower, more mid-tempo track until about the halfway mark, then the fire starts burning and the speed intensifies. Drums drive the track, along with matching riff and shrieking vocals by Connelly. I love Lilker's high bass peaking through the track, adding little accents to the main riff. A good bait and switch from the band, with the slower mid-tempo feel to another nostalgic 80's driving thrash track.

After the short instrumental track "Got Another Quarter" comes the song "Great Depression". With pounding drums and intensely chaotic guitars, the song pummels the listener with high snare hits in the mix. Crossover 101 in a nutshell. We have the heavy, chugging riff, into simple guitar hits with matching drums. Into quick, almost tremolo like guitar playing. It's relentlessly fast, in your face in its vocals and attitude, and the definition of crossover in its delivery. "Wired" starts with a mid-tempo guitar riff with Lilker's gurgling bass and simple drums behind him. A lot slower then a lot of the tracks, almost in a weird out of place feel compared to the rest of the album's fast-paced playing. I do think there is too many vocal effects on Connelly in the mix, making his vocals with the fade-in/fade-out effect a bit distracting. Potentially, my least favorite track and kind of skippable. On "Equal Rights", the pace picks back up, and we are back to the aggression and unrelenting speed of the band's sound. THIS is just unmatched speed on the song. Lyrics are barely understandable, but I don't care. The impressive bass speed of Lilker matching the guitars, is impressively fast, going into the solo. Adding rhythm and emphasis to the guitars with the countering bass. Love the gang vocals on the track on it as well.

After the short interlude/song "PSA", comes the next track "Technology". Opening with Connelly's maniacal laugh, the song is another going for the gusto opening pace. The band is pushing their talent and speed in their proficiency for the track. Evans is all over the place with drum fills, double bass and cymbal strikes. Connelly & Bramante are riff machines throughout the track, trading off solos as Lilker's bass creates the pulse underneath them. The album closes with a cover of Led Zeppelin's "Good Times Bad Times". It is an ok cover, but in my opinion this should have been a bonus track and not an album closer. With the band's sound and vocals on the track, it kind of sounds like a Whitesnake cover band with grittier vocals covering the song and similar to "Wired" it just doesn't seem to fit or match the rest of the album.

Their opponents are Virginia crossover act Municipal Waste with the band's third album The Art of Partying. Reaching major success with this album, the band would begin to rise and become a major leader in the burgeoning resurgence of crossover thrash in the 2000's. With a recognizable album cover, depicting the song "Chemically Altered", it became a popular logo and image for the band and would propel the band to popularity as support for acts like The Haunted and fellow crossover legends Suicidal Tendencies. What do these modern day thrashers bring to the ring in this matchup of past versus present?

After the pounding drums and opening instrumental thrashy track of "Pre-Game", the album officially opens with the album's title track. With Tony Foresta's shouting vocals, Ryan Waste's furious guitar is just pummeling the listener in the mix. Drummer Dave Witte's drums punch hard in the mix. Bassist Philip "Land Phil" Hall's bass comes front and center around the halfway mark. The band knows how to give each band member a chance to shine or showcase in the track, then coming back together to keep the riff intense and heavy. The song does not slow for any break and is just a solid two minutes of just in-your-face thrash.

The next track is "Headbanger Face Rip". The song instantly has that thrash energy of Anthrax, mixed with the chanting gang vocals and speed of D.R.I. . The video matches the violent intensity of the band's performance. Foresta is so fast in his shouting, almost trying to keep up with the rest of the band in it's fast-playing. The song is just a mile-a-minute, and then it just hits a wall as the song ends. "Mental Shock" opens with pounding drums and matching guitars. I love the pacing of the song, where we get an intense crossover thrash riff, into a more midtempo thrashy sounding Exodus riff, before the speed picks back up. "A.D.D. (Attention Deficit Destroyer)" has an impressively fast opening bass and drum section, before the headbanging continues with the unrelenting speed of the band. Waste is good at just going 100 mph without any breaks or rest, and it shows in the energy of the band and the fury of the album.

On "The Inebriator", it opens with an eerie, hauntingly opening guitar feedback into wailing guitars and simple drums. The song has an 80's nostalgia feel you'd hear off a Suicidal Tendencies album. Then PSYCHE, the speed picks up with Foresta's vocals having a grit and snarl, similar to Steve "Zetro" Souza of Exodus. With little blast beats flurries by Witte. "Lunch Hall Food Brawl" leads with Witte's drum fills and Waste's frantic and fast paced guitar. The song definitely has a more thrash-infused punk sound in the guitar playing going into the guitar solo. "Beer Pressure" opens with a classic 80's sounding opening riff, with drum hits and light double bass adding a bit of bounce and groove to the track. Then the band picks it up, with Witte's snare hits and d-beat drumming leading the band. With a driving tone of the guitars on the track. Waste's guitar playing on the song channels the early thrash acts. Especially in the duel harmony section at the halfway mark. "Chemically Altered" has a nice rhythmic bass bounce in the opening with the drums. Definitely giving off a punk-feel to the track. Driving and intense drums in the chorus with the double bass. A faster, manic guitar performance, adding ferocity to the song's energy and drive.

"Sadistic Magician" has a great, thundering opening bass line. With corresponding drum strikes and guitar, the song instantly has the start of a great thrash classic right off the bat. The gang vocals on the verses, along with the chugging palm-muted riff, instantly sounds like something straight out of the 80's. With "Open Your Mind" we start with building drums, but a more mid-tempo pacing. A nice reprieve from the unrelenting fast pacing of the album. And as soon as I type that, the band picks the pace up again to the same relenting speed they have done throughout the album. I do wish the band did keep the mid-tempo pacing of the opening, since unfortunately it does make the song seem like they are one long song. Not creating any individuality or uniqueness to differentiate between the songs. On "Radioactive Force", the song again begins with the driving intensity of the band that hasn't really let up throughout the whole album. Which has now started to become a little repetitive and predictable. The same can be said for "Septic Detonation". Granted, I do like the addition of more blast beats in the opening, and I love the bass playing and tone. The same can be said for the track "Rigerous Vengeance". The album's closer "Born To Party", has a blasting opening drums and guitar as the band puts their foot on the gas for the album's final track. Featuring gang vocals and crowd chanting, mixed with a classic 80's sound into the crowd cheering section of the song. A strong closing track for potentially the band's best album.  

As I sit down from being in the pit, and rest my neck, who wins this matchup of crossover acts young and old? In my opinion, I'm picking Survive by Nuclear Assault as the winner of this matchup. Survive was a strong record overall. It did try new things with songs like "Wired" and their Led Zeppelin cover, which in my opinion I wasn't a fan of, but it had its moments and was something different. With The Art of Partying, the album just got repetitive and one-note. Or the band didn't really try anything new or step outside of the high-tempo stage of the crossover genre. Sometimes, songs that slow down or have pacing changes become more memorable ("You Can't Bring Me Down" by Suicidal Tendencies is a great example). The record just became a slog near the end. I love Municipal Waste, but sometimes you have to slow down, mix it up with a tempo change and this record (and some would say a lot of their records) needed it to maybe stand a chance against Survive. Overall, both bands delivered their own defining sound in crossover, but I have to declare Survive the winner of this matchup.

Nuclear Assault would follow Survive up with the band's most successful album Handle With Care in 1989. After constant touring and recording, the following album Out of Order began to show strain and conflict between the band members. Lilker would leave the band to focus on his grindcore project Brutal Truth following the poor response of Out of Order. The band would continue without Lilker and release two more albums, 1993's Something Wicked and the band's final album Third World Genocide in 2005.

Municipal Waste would follow the success of Partying two years later with their fourth album Massive Aggressive. The band would hit number one on the Billboard New Artist chart with their follow up The Fatal Feast in 2012. The band's most recent record is 2022's Electrified Brain, which was well-received from fans and critics. The album would also make many best of 2022 album lists and one of the band's best records.

Land Phil would be very busy with other successful side projects in-between breaks from touring and album cycles with Municipal Waste. He would start a successful crossover/punk band called Iron Reagan. Making it's debut with their 2013 album Worse Than Dead. It would receive amazing reviews from fans and critics, with many citing it as a sound similar to early crossover acts like D.R.I., Cro-Mags and S.O.D. The band's most recent album was 2017's Crossover Ministry. He would also form a blackened thrash project Morbikon. Their debut album Ov Mournful Twilight was released in 2022.

His other major side project steered away from the thrash metal/crossover sound made popular from Municipal Waste and Iron Reagan, venturing into death metal. With Cannabis Corpse, the band is a marijuana-themed death metal project that parodies popular death metal songs and albums, transforming them into marijuana references in album/song titles and lyrical themes. One of the band's most popular releases, 2014's From Wisdom To Baked, would feature popular death metal vocalists like the late Trevor Strnad of The Black Dahlia Murder and Chris Barnes of Six Feet Under guesting on the album. The band's most recent album was Nug So Vile in 2019.

Do you agree with my decision? Who do you think should have won? Cast your vote on the poll below, leave your comments on our social media, and your suggestions who you think should step in the ring next. I’m Justin, your friendly neighborhood metalhead, for This Day in Metal and this has been Versus.

VERSUS: Survive vs. The Art of Partying - Online Poll - StrawPoll
What’s your opinion? Vote now: Survive, The Art of Partying…

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