Nuclear Assault – Radiation Sickness


“Hey, does anybody know if it’s raining outside? Yes? Shit, that’s been the weather since we got here!”

20 June 1987 and Nuclear Assault are in Europe for the first time and performing at Hammersmith Odeon, the legendary London venue where the legendary Motörhead didn’t perform on their legendary live album, No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith. Fast, loud, aggressive, obnoxious, and occasionally ironic, Nuclear Assault deliver a set of unbridled thrash brutality, covering such edgy subjects as nuclear war (of course), commies (of course), that perennial enemy of mankind known as “the system” (of course), injustice, inequality, Vince Neil’s drunken driving skills, capital punishment for the cardinal sin of being the pope, and lesbians (of course). Very angry and very tongue in cheek, the state, its advocates, acquaintances, and associates as well as its enemies – the god damn commies and the god damn lesbians – are all lined up against the wall and shot down one by one. America must have been shitting itself with such a veritable array of threats poised and ready to attack…

This release serves as an interesting historical document of where this band – and thrash itself – was when the genre was very much in its ascendence, if not at its peak before Metallica took the genre to its logical conclusion a year later. What lets this release down is the sound. The cymbals crash and splash and occasionally obscure the music, the bass drum is there, sort of, thundering and grumbling away in the murky lower frequencies, felt more than heard. The bass is barely audible, making its presence felt only on the odd occasion when the band drops out and Dan Lilker grinds out a distorted riff. And the guitars echo somewhere in the middle distance, the razor-sharp edges of the intricate and rapid riffs blunted by their tinny sound. No doubt, however, that fans of the band will love it, especially those that were there and have since worn out their copy of the 1991 VHS release of this performance. Maybe those who have since discovered the 80s in all its nostalgic violence will enjoy its “authentic” retro sound too.

Sound flaws aside however, the band are raw and tight, every riff is a flurry of fury, and every lead break is a slice of fire. And given that it was early in their career and the band had only one album and two EPs to draw from, the set list is pretty good too. Nuclear Assault were always good at whipping up a storm and the energy in this performance is palpable and contagious. And if that isn’t reason enough to have this in your collection, the liner notes are. Weed, sex shows, leaving Holland by mistake, discovering Rik Mayall, Ade Edmondson and their neighbour, Mr Jolly, Frank Zappa (sort of) making an apperarance, the German Police checking the band’s papers, tour tales are usually funny, but not this funny – or outrageous. Oh, those crazy kids…

Words by Jason Guest

Available through Cherry Red Records here from 13 October 2023

Track list:

  1. Betrayal
  2. Stranded In Hell
  3. Nuclear War
  4. Buttfuck
  5. Justice
  6. My America
  7. Radiation Sickness
  8. After The Holocaust
  9. Hang The Pope
  10. Lesbians
  11. Vengeance