The metal climate back when World Circus was released in 1987 saw thrash metal toying with slicker songwriting and less traditional fare. Toxik was privy to this, messing around with technical instrumental playing and progressive structures. The latter’s incorporation did not lead to rambling songs going into double-digit lengths; Toxik kept their songs digestible enough to be sampled in under four minutes.
What isn’t digestible upon initial listens of World Circus are the screeching wails from vocalist Mike Sanders. Sanders uses high-pitched falsettos that thrash metal was wise to steer away from. Though his range is impressive, cringing at some of the notes he hits is unavoidable. Sanders is the hardest piece of the band to get adjusted to, and some may give up after the first listen, but tolerance builds as the album gets more play time.
World Circus is a thrash album first, so it’s not surprising to hear unfettered aggression come out of songs like “False Prophets” and “Victims.” Toxik does that about as well as any other band in the genre, but they excel when stepping away from the conventional nature of thrash. The title track has one of the best solos on the whole album, one that rises up from the destruction laid down by bassist Brian Bonini. At points, Bonini outshines the rest of the band with his playing, especially with the bass leads on “Victims.”
“Pain and Misery” tweaks its tempos all over the place to give it a stand out quality compared to the more driven, thrash-leaning tracks. The same can be applied to “47 Seconds of Sanity/Count Your Blessings,” which starts out with 47 seconds of acoustic melodrama before the next four minutes feel like a flamethrower to the face. It’s weird to think of a label like Roadrunner hedging their bets on an album as off-kilter as World Circus, but this was before bands like Sepultura and Machine Head put the label on the map.
It will be interesting to see what Toxik will produce after such a long hiatus between records (assuming they stick around this time). One can hope they reinvigorate their career like Heathen did with The Evolution of Chaos. If they continue with what they did on World Circus, there’s a strong possibility of the same kind of admiration World Circus gets from thrash fans. For being unusual enough to stand out in a crowded thrash metal field, World Circus gets the nod for this week’s Retro Recommendation.