The work of Destroyer 666 represents the reconciliation of two important trends in the history of Extreme Metal. The first is the conceptual unity and purpose of the early Extreme Metal produced during the 80s, the second is compositional and in particular rhythmic advances made by later extreme metal, primarily in the early 90s. These two trends may be summed up by the words viscerality and sophistication. Perhaps the central problem of the heavy metal of the late 90s was the fact that both avenues had been thoroughly explored. This problem arose from a misconception of the possibilities that Extreme Metal presented. The model of of Extreme Metal most bands were using was essentially a spectrum, with viscerality at one end and sophistication at the other. Whilst much modern Extreme Metal has preserved a veneer of incorporating both, this essential tension has remained. Exemplars of the two poles of this spectrum are raw Black Metal and technical Brutal Death Metal. Indeed, this view of the possibilities of Extreme Metal as a spectrum has become so pervasive that many bands have given up on Metal almost altogether and made, for example, RAC style hardcore or technical jazz rock, retaining only the bare minimum of a metal aesthetic in order to preserve the illusion that they are still operating within the genre. Many are taken in by this ploy (not least the bands that make this music) and assume that such moves advance the genre of Extreme Metal. Other solutions to the problem were advanced almost as soon as it arose at the end of the 80s and in the early 90s. For example, bands like Burzum, disEMBOWELMENT and early to mid period Emperor accepted that both emotional depth and compositional sophistication were necessary if metal was to progress. However, the planes to which they took their new forms of metal were alien both to the spirit of early Extreme Metal and the advances in micro-composition made by bands such as At The Gates, Demilich and Atheist. So whilst these bands were making legitimate advances in the genre of metal, they were not addressing the crisis of Extreme Metal that was soon to emerge in the mid 90s. Another, solution to the problem was presented by developments for which the paradigm is Gothenburg style Melodeath, though several 'thrash' bands (such as Slayer) and the entire -core style represent the same phenomenon. Essentially the bands in this movement have decided that if they can represent themselves as both technically accomplished and 'brutal' to the unschooled ear, then they will have solved the problem I am addressing. The aesthetic failure of all these bands (including, depressingly, At The Gates on their final album) shows that they too did not satisfactorily resolve the problem.
This distinction between the emotional and the micro-technical is so pervasive that metal fans have bought into it almost in its entirety, and it is expressed most heavily in the arbitrary distinction between Death and Black Metal. Technical Death Metal such as Necrophagist is seen as being a legitimate inheritor of the legacy of such bands as Chile's Pentagram. Nargaroth is seen as related in some sense to the innovations of Immortal. So essentially we have two problems. The distinction between viscerality and sophistication and the aggregate sense of correlation between these two poles and Black and Death Metal respectively.
The solution is, as so often, deceptively obvious. I will outline what it is, and then explain why it is so rarely presented. The solution is a reformulation of the roles of emotion and reason in music. Instead of conceptualising them as polar opposites, it must be seen that each is an element without which the other could not exist. Not only that, but in order to express one to any significant extent, the other must be well developed. In order for emotion to be properly expressed, the musical vocabulary (technical skill) grammar and syntax (compositional competence) must be well developed. Imagine Auden trying to express himself in the language of the average hip-hop 'artist' and you have some sense of the necessity of technical skill in expressing emotion. Now recall whatever technical vocabulary you are most familiar with (maybe a programming language, the language of actuarial science or the argot of the linguisticist) and examine the emotional shallowness of many of the most sophisticated and complex linguistic sub-dialects. All in all, it is clear, after consideration of the salient points, that a unity of, to use my previous terms, viscerality and sophistication, is not only desirable, but essential if the crisis of modern extreme metal is to be met.
So why is such a unification not the central project of all modern Extreme Metal? Because such a project requires that a band is not only conversant in both elements presented above, which is rare enough chiefly due to their general psycho-sociological exclusivity, but also that the band has a vision that allows for the uniting of these elements into a coherent whole. Bands such as Meshuggah, later Emperor and Strapping Young Lad have exemplified the unfortunate results of uniting viscerality and sophistication without a unifying vision. Without such a unification both the spirit of early Extreme Metal and the compositional advances of early 90s Extreme Metal become worse than irrelevant.
It goes without saying that Destroyer 666 have both visceral energy and technical skill. It goes without saying that they have successfully managed to make the one serve the other. What concerns us here is the matter of their, in the archaic sense, genius. A genius, of an individual (in this case the man who goes by the moniker K. K. Warslut) or a group, is an animating or guiding spirit. It is, in a sense, an archetype. In Jungian terms, the genius of Destroyer 666 is the Self Hero. The self because Destroyer 666's music is an affirmation rather than a display (persona), or inversion/counter-example/balance (anima in this example). Individuation through will is the thematically central expression of the band. Whilst this is clear in the lyrics, as is proper in music the sonic structures and features best express it. The Hero because Destroyer 666 express a vision of man as Demigod. Faith in Tilich's theology is a concern with the ultimate. Since heros in early myth are all, in some sense, often a very literal one, demigods, we may say they are expressions of the unity between man (struggle against limitation) and the divine (expression of ultimate will). The fusion of these two prototypes results in the creation of the archetypal Overcoming. Overcoming is the central theme of this album, and this is beautifully expressed in the album's name, 'Phoenix Rising'.
Reviewing music is always a traumatic project for a reviewer who is attached to the music he is reviewing. The inadequacy of any review of art is inherent. If a reviewer could express in words the contents of that which he was reviewing, it would not be art at all. It would be a circuitous, perhaps frivolous method of point making at best, sheer entertainment or, at worst, advertising (often times for itself). I would like to describe how Destroyer 666 uses tremolo guitars against wall of sound blast beats to achieve thematic effects in the way Immortal pioneered, or how they use stacato riffs in a way reminiscent of early At The Gates, or how they use vocals to create bridges between guitar phrases in a manner similar to Obituary's Cause of Death. But you will simply have to listen to Phoenix Rising to understand these things, and how they create something more than themselves.
In many ways the crisis of Extreme Metal has been a disaster. Most critics and analysts have characterised it in such terms. Ironically these 'elitists' have failed to realise that this crisis has created conditions never before seen in Metal in which genius can truly express itself. Not innovation, not even skilful syncretism, but true artistic vision. A very few bands have achieved in this climate, but perhaps this is something we should celebrate. Can we imagine The Chasm creating an album such as Conjuration of the Spectral Empire in the conditions of the early 90s? Can we imagine Esoteric creating Epistemological Despondency before the epistemological despondency of Extreme Metal arose?
You often say 'I would give, but only to the deserving'. The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your field... And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life deserves to fill his cup from your little stream.