Despite the fact that Technical Speed / Thrash Metal didn’t gain the same audience in the long run as the conventional / commercial Thrash bands, such as Metallica or Slayer, its fans have been, are and will always be the greatest Thrash ‘fighters’ out there (in a good sense). In the midst of all the musical and cultural upheaval of the 80s and the creation of bands that had began to cover every spectrum of the extreme music, Toxik (originally named Tokyo) sprang up in 1985 from Westchester, New York with Josh Christian as leader and the only original member to this day. Their course is more or less known and flowed as expected. Local concerts that over time became bigger, of course making a wider opening to the general public, just to reach 1987, the year they signed with Roadracer Records (later known as Roadrunner Records), with which they released the magnificent opus “World Circus”; an album which to this day makes me shiver. If you wanna find out more about the band’s debut, visit: https://metalinvader.net/toxik-world-circus-tech-thrash-manifesto/.
A characteristic behaviour of both older and younger crowds is the tendency to expect maximum effort from a band that offered them a dreamy debut and that’s actually very logical. At the same time, however, somewhat paradoxically, despite the fact that every respective band tries and releases an equally good second album, we either fall into the trap of comparing it with the debut, where in 95% it will certainly not meet our sky-high “conditions”, or expectations or we will spurn it and dissmiss/reject it, condemning the whole thing into an eternal “yes but” discussion because “I only listen to their first album, man, that’s the real deal” (I almost threw up in my mouth just writing that).
So against this current, I would like to talk about Toxik’s second album and make us all admit that not only it was a spectacular record, but flips its finger to the ones who think they could do better.
“Think This” was released two years after Toxik’s debut “World Circus”, amidst changes in the lineup and general redefinition of the band’s direction. The main change in the roster was definitely the replacement of Mike Sanders on vocals by Charles Sabin. Not because the vocals took a hit, because -between us – Sabin had incredible range and vocal control, but because that characteristic, almost haunting voice quality behind the microphones changed. So, at that moment, Toxik were consisted of Charles Sabin on vocals, Josh Christian on guitars, Brian Bonini on bass and Tad Leger on drums.
In a very general analysis, we would say that “Think This” did not escape the style of the debut, but built on it and climbed to other heights. We are definitely talking about a much more technical record, which almost touched the progressiveness of Watchtower and Atheist, thinking abstractly. Basically fast compositions, extremely many solos and shredding riffs, fast scales and arpeggio passages, drums that balance between thrash outbursts and avant-garde – marginal jazzy – passages and rhythms and a vocal presence that handles equally very high but also low frequencies (hence we are talking about a complete, fully fledged and obviously mature voice). In honor of their Progressive origins, we often encounter changes in rhythms and tones, in tracks like “Black and White” where the rhythms are constantly interrupted, “There Stood The Fence” with more classic prog compositions, plus tracks like “Technical Arrogance” and especially “Shotgun Logic” could be homage to Voivod. Collectively, “Think This” consists of complex structures with successive levels and a very demanding technique. The album also includes a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Out On The Tiles”, a song they actually reworked. To me it is an extremely contrasted choice, because while they chose a song that could highlight Sabin’s voice, it flows at the same time strongly outside the lyrical meaning of the album and the general messages the band wanted to convey. And since we are talking about the lyrics, in this album, Toxik, like for example Ozzy Osbourne in “No Rest For The Wicked” (1988) and Sanctuary in “Refuge Denied” (1988) deal with the tele-evangelists who at the time held a large share of television time, blasting this trend, denouncing those responsible for manipulative methods and puppeteering thousands using the Church for personal gain. In order to make us a part of the whole experience, Toxik used mini-samples of “ads” of the time in such a successful way that if you let yourself get carried away while listening to the album, you would think that a tele-evangelist cut off the flow to talk to us about his divine work. The strongest point of “Think This” regarding this side of the album lies in the song “In God” which begins with an orchestral passage entitled “ɯᴉᒋ uɹnᗺ” (which is essentially a composition by Johan Sebastian Bach) to openly and emphatically criticize everything I mentioned above. In addition, Toxik – to a lesser extent – address other issues in their lyrics, such as social injustice and imbalance, nuclear war, and the political and economic impunity of those who govern us. A typical example is the introduction to the track “Greed” where we find a sample from the movie “Wall Steet” (1987), where Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko notes that: “… Greed, for a lack of better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. ”
Following the release of the album, John Donnelly joined Toxik to assist the band in their live performances. Indeed, the success of “Think This” allowed Toxik to tour extensively in the United States and Europe, alongside many well-known bands such as Sepultura, Prong, Exodus, Sacred Reich, Pantera and King Diamond, just to name a few.
After years of touring, Toxik officially disbanded in 1992.
Personally, I consider J. Christian one of the most ambitious guitarists of the time and a musician who, to a large extenti, influenced and still influences the technical thrash movement, therefore “Think This” for me is a milestone for both the band and the genre. The album cover was created by Ed Repka and we have to talk about him at some point. In 2005 “Think This” peaked at number 409 on Rock Hard Magazine’s 500 Best Rock and Metal Records. In Thrash Metal circles, “World Circus” and “Think This” belong to the most classic and decisive albums for this musical current.
The album was re-released by Metal Mind Productions and Displeased Records in 2007, versions of which include different bonus tracks.
* “Think This” was released on CD, vinyl and cassette, but the LP omits the tracks “Technical Arrogance” and “Out On The Tiles”.