Germany’s Destruction are by no means an unknown quantity, but they’re also frequently the most overlooked and neglected of the Teutonic thrash scene’s “Big Three”, which they form alongside the much more widely celebrated Sodom and Kreator. (Some people might attempt to add Tankard to that list in order to make a “Big Four”, but they’re being excised here on account of being generally pretty bad.) What also goes regularly overlooked, is that Destruction also boast one of the most potent and consistent catalogues of any thrash metal act, regardless of continent.
At thirteen albums deep and with a fourteenth on the way– along with seemingly countless EPs, re-recordings and compilations – the Destruction discography can be a daunting prospect to newcomers and the less familiar. However, as the band gear up to release Born to Perish, their fourteenth full-length record of original material, in the coming weeks, we thought we’d make things a bit easier for you by way of one of our patented Heavy Blog is Heavy 8 Tracks. All you need to do is simply, sit back, relax, and get ready to do some serious headbanging.
“Bestial Invasion” (Infernal Overkill, 1985)
The Teutonic thrash bands have a reputation for being significantly rawer than their American counterparts and, while Destruction were perhaps the most polished of Germany’s “Big Three”—at least in their early years—you can definitely hear that on “Bestial Invasion”. Destruction were relatively early adopters of the thrash sound and Infernal Overkill is nothing if not unrefined. Yet, as tracks like “Bestial Invasion” show, what Destruction’s debut lacked in musical maturity and sonic refinement it more than made up for in pure kinetic energy. Even today, over three decades later, its tracks crackle with vitality and “Bestial Invasion”, which continues to close out the band’s shows, remains the pick of the bunch.
“Curse the Gods” (Eternal Devastation, 1986)
The leap in quality from Infernal Overkill to Eternal Devastation is pretty huge, and it’s immediately apparent from album opener “Curse the Gods”. The track begins with a moody acoustic passage, which is far more atmospheric and unsettling than the contrasting beauty invoked by Metallica‘s acoustic openings. Likewise, what follows has more in common with the darkness and all-out aggression of Slayer‘s Hell Awaits (1985) than the more refined and ambitious sound the members of the American Big Four were chasing at the time. However, there’s enough of a nod to classic heavy metal sensibilities this time around to help smooth out some of the rawness and render the songs more memorable. Eternal Devastation‘s enhanced musicianship and songcraft made it arguably the classic destruction release and, from one listen to “Curse the Gods”, it’s easy to see why.
“Mad Butcher” (Mad Butcher, 1987)
Eternal Devastation might be Destriuction’s trademark album, but “Mad Butcher”—the title-track from the stand-alone EP of the same name—is surely their trademark composition. The song is re-recording of on old track from their first EP, Sentence of Death (1984), but it’s the later, more fleshed-out version that’s become the go-to rendition. Where the original version is much brighter, invoking an almost floaty, NWOBHM and traditional speed metal sound ,the EP version is far darker and more gritty—being propelled by new drummer Oliver Kaiser’s dense, tom-heavy barrage—with the meatier production perhaps signalling that both thrash metal as a sound, and Destruction as a band had truly come into their own.
“Release from Agony” (Release from Agony, 1988)
By 1988 many of the veteran thrash acts had started exploring more expansive and varied textures, but Destruction only got harder and faster. Although not as openly revered as Eternal Devastation, or even Infernal Overkill, Release from Agony appears to have somewhat of a cult-following among the band’s core fanbase, with many even holding it up as their best work. There’s at least two albums in the band’s discography that trump it for me but, judging from its title-track, it’s easy to see why someone might make that claim. There’s nothing new here, but everything is simply done to a higher, heavier standard, with the song’s catching refrain ensuring things stay grounded amid all the chaos. Plus, the album artwork is super gnarly (but also overly green?).
“Thrash ’til Death” (The Antichrist, 2001)
Destruction arguably had a rougher go of things during the ’90s than other thrash bands. They released one more record, Cracked Brain (1990), which can be assigned to their classic period at the decade’s beginning, before entering a period of line-up and label hell that saw them release only one more album—the better-forgotten Least Successful Human Cannonball (1998), which was produced sans iconic frontman Marcel Schirmer—before its close. In retrospect, maybe they did well to sit that one out. Either way, when they came back at the turn of the millennium they did so in a big way.
Following some decisive-yet-cautious steps back into the scene with 2000’s All Hell Breaks Loose, Destruction delivered what is perhaps their strongest offering in 2001’s The Antichrist. Many of the sub-Big Four bands have produced outstanding work in the modern era, but few—with the other possible exceptions of Kreator and Death Angel—have completely eclipsed their classic output in a manner so decisive as Destruction have.
The Antichrist would be a thrash classic in any era and its centerpiece pays homage to the genre’s rich history. “Thrash ’til Death” is the best thrash anthem this side of “Whiplash” and “Bonded By Blood”—the later of which it name-checks alongside Kreator’s Pleasure to Kill (1986)—and few songs outside of those and it have ever made such a convincing argument to go ahead and snap own your neck off.
“Nailed to the Cross” (The Antichrist, 2001)
Destruction’s deep catelogue offered a lot to cover, but—as if in a further assertion of its dominance over the band’s discography—The Antichrist provides a convincing argument to return to it for a second time with “Thrash ’til Death”‘s immediate follow-up “Nailed to the Cross”. …or, rather, “NAILED TO THE FUCKING CROSS!!” as its scorching chorus would have it. Seriously, listen to this album if you haven’t already. Every track is a killer, but it and Destruction as a whole are perhaps never more lethal than on this modern staple.
“Armageddonizer” (Day of Reckoning, 2011)
Following The Anticrist, Destruction have continued to produce a series of solid records, which all have something to offer hardened fans of thrash metal. However, most f these records are also largely interchangeable, which can make it hard to recommend any single album or stand-out-track over any other. The lone exception to this rule—at least until Born to Perish drops—is 2011’s Day of Reckoning. Even in Destruction’s comparatively extreme thrash metal catalogue, Day of Reckoning stands out as a distinctly malevolent effort, and while much of it brims with the same frantic energy the band have gotten good mileage out of for over thirty years, it’s the menacing, mid-paced assault of “Armageddonizer” that stands tall among the band’s remarkable, although also arguably amorphous, later period. It also goes to show that, if anything, the band are only more (ahem…) destructive when they ease of the throttle a little.
“Born to Perish” (Born to Perish, 2019)
If Day of Reckoning represents the last notable highpoint in Destruction’s discogrphy, then Born to Perish is by far their best album in nearly a decade, and even rivals that album as being their best record since The Antichrist.
There’s only so many tracks to choose from here, since the rest of the record hasn’t yet been made available at the time of writing. Nevertheless, its opening title-track is as good a pick as any. The track is an amalgamation of the band’s sound to date and constitutes one of their most accomplished and immediate compositions of their career. Also apparent is the added vitality brought to the fold by newly-drafted Swiss guitarist Damir Eskić (ex-Gonoreas) who, at 39, is roughly fifteen years the other members’ junior. (Call it the Richie Faulkner effect.)
Yet the album also has plenty more to offer. If I’m allowed a brief mini-review to point out some further highlights: “Inspired by Death” recalls Motörhead in a knowing celebration of the band’s history as (predominatly) a power-trio; “Butchered for Life”, likewise, is an anthemic invocation of the band’s history; “Tyrants of the Netherworld” and “We Breed Evil” are a straight-up pit-starters; and “Fatal Flight 17”, which takes the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 as its subject, might be their most ambitious (and one of their most successful) compositions yet.
There’s a lot there, and I’m sure you’ll hear more about it come our Into the Pit quarterly round up. However, for now you’ll have to rest assured that an absolute beast of a record is coming and whet your appetite on the eight representative tracks offered here, or even delve further back into what is easily one of the most consistent, though also consistently overlooked, catalogues in thrash metal history.
Born to Perish is out Aug. 9 through Nuclear Blast.