Welcome Home...Near Dark would see a number of improvements for the obscure German band Toxic Shock. Not only would they join the stable of the growing Nuclear Blast label, but they'd also up their ante as songwriters considerably. The vocals here are more plausible than the 1988 debut Change from Reality, with an angrier bark akin to US bands Sacred Reich and Hallows Eve, and the songwriting is catchy, with a belligerent melodic bluster that works rather well alongside the crude production. There are still heavy traces of Kreator and Destruction in some of the riffs, but there's also a street readiness about them that brings to mind a lot of US acts of their day.
"Behind the Guillotine" sounds like a slightly less brutal outtake from Sacred Reich's Ignorance, with the same sort of deep drawl in the vocals, and a fuzzy inflection to the guitar tone that creates an adequate momentum over some tight riffs. "Change from Reality", one of those 'named for but not included on the album of the same title' tracks is also quite good, careening between fist pumping force and grooving scales. "Dragon's Power" and "World Power Rules" see an increase in speed, the latter a particular standout here, while "True Insanity" has a pretty killer bridge/lead section. A few of the later cuts falter in quality, namely "Termination", "The Challenge", and the rather plain title track, which has a few worthy guitars but otherwise feels like it was already served across the first half of the album, and a sloppy melodic anthem in the bridge.
But despite its lack of overall consistency, Welcome Home...Near Dark does deliver where the band's debut did not, and this is without a doubt the sort of underground record the cult thrash seeker will want to examine. I really love the cheesy, authentic tone and the bruising vocals, not to mention the great cover art. Unfortunately, the band would not be able to stay put with Nuclear Blast, it was a one time thing, and Toxic Shock were really coming into fruition as their genre was beginning to die out, but fans of bands like Sacred Reich, Demolition Hammer and Sacred Reich should track this down for a listen.
Verdict: Win [7.25/10]