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We waited 6 years for this? - 40%

TheClansman, July 15th, 2009

As most people are well aware thrash, death, and black metal are sub-genres that are required to contain a certain amount of aggression in order to work. Everything about the genres from ideological basis to general riffing style has evolved over-time to simply exude a violent, aggressive nature and its this core tenant that makes the music work. Attempts to write within these genres with this core aspect absent are very noticeable as the ultimate result is something with no redeeming qualities that vaguely mimics the original aesthetic value but without any of important musical elements that make the genres enjoyable. Most troubling is that in recent times bands lacking any such aggression in their music are becoming quite popular and indeed one doesn't need to search particularly hard to find another crappy myspace/garage band of the sort. Whether its silly 'melodic death metal' acts running about trying to imitate Opeth, Arch Enemy, and In Flames, insipid self-pitying USBM acts in the vein of Xasthur, or silly 'retro thrash' bands like Toxic Holocaust and Municipal Waste ripping off bands from the 80s without truly understanding what made those bands enjoyable there seems to be a never ending stream of people who don't quite grasp what is required to make metal in these sub-genres enjoyable. Far too often in recent times has aesthetic trumped songwriting with bands relying on over-produced and over-distorted down-tuned guitars and triggered drums to make up for inability to produce music with any feel to it. Plastic aggression, in the form of growling lyrics that probably belong in a 15 year old mallgoth's personal diary, has become the primary focus of music while the idea of writing riffs that actually convey some idea, atmosphere, or mood has become a thing of the past remembered by seemingly fewer and fewer people the world over. Quite sadly this trend has claimed another victim in Destroyer 666 as is clearly evident on this album.

It's hard to pinpoint just what went wrong while this album was being written as ultimately the D666 formula that has been in use since Phoenix Rising is still present here. The riffs are still basic thrash riffs relying heavily on tremolo inserted into basic song structures that are more or less just variations on basic verse/chorus structures but something here has gone awry in a very unpleasant way. Some will probably argue that band members have run out of ideas and that this album is another example of bands turning into their own (second-rate) tribute band, while others will likely suggest the members have been listening to far too much modern metal of questionable quality with the influence starting to come through. Regardless of the catalyst for this change ultimately the result is the same, riffs that aren't by any stretch of the imagination memorable, aggressive, or even appropriate for a D666 album. This is the kind of thing one would expect from 16 year old kids who only recently discovered death and black metal in the forms of Amon Amarth and Dimmu Borgir, not from the band who previously released 'Unchain the Wolves'. This lack of effective riffing becomes even more painful when coupled with what ultimately might be the album's biggest flaw, the absolutely atrocious drumming. Admittedly, D666 haven't had an album with consistently appropriate drumming since 'Violence Is Prince of This World', for some reason insisting on drum beats that are far too slow for the music present but in the past that was always forgivable for one reason or another. Generally the drums would occasionally kick into high gear and play at an appropriate speed, or at the very least the riffs would be good enough to over-shadow the rhythmic flaws present. On 'Defiance' there is for all intents and purposes nothing left to counter-balance the plodding, pedestrian performance delivered by Mersus making the poor drumming very noticeable and ultimately unforgivable. It's as if the band is allergic to allowing the drummer to hit the snare drum at a reasonable pace, forcing him to hit it about half as often as he needs to. On the rare occasion the drummer does decide to play at a reasonable pace it's generally in the form of unimaginative and unnecessary blast beats over top of uninteresting riffs. Some folk may be impressed by the gratuitous use of kick drum but overall it comes off as pointless and more just there to cover up for lack of creativity on the kit than anything else.

To summarize the overall impression one gets listening to this album it's hard to think of a more appropriate cliche than 'going through the motions'. Large parts of this album come across as though the band has amnesia, being aware of their previous efforts but not being able to remember what it was that made them work. The end result is something that contains all the aesthetic elements one could come to expect from D666 but without any of the musical elements one would also hope were present. The standard tremolo heavy thrash riffing is as mentioned still there but feels as though it was thrown together from a mish-mash of ideas very quickly without any real sense of purpose or direction. This combined with the abuse of kick drum in certain sections where dual kick doesn't particularly belong furthers the image of a band knowing that these individual elements should be present somewhere but are not quite able to figure out how to arrange them and that to me is shamefully tragic. For all the negatives I've pointed out about this album there are plenty of moments where things actually seemed to be coming together reasonably. For example the better part of 'The Barricades Are Breaking' actually features drumming appropriately paced (even if unimaginative and simplistic) for a blackened thrash song only to be ruined by some of the most bland riffing on the entire album. The last half of 'A Stand Defiant' actually contains some good riffs that are on par with the material found on an album like 'Phoenix Rising' but the song is ultimately dragged down by a painfully boring intro and drums that would be more at home on a 'Green Day' album. Time spent trimming down the elements that don't work on this album and more time spent expanding on the bits that do probably could have produced a good EP's worth of material that would have been received warmly, but that is ever so painfully not the case here. With any luck this offering was merely the result of a rushed attempt to pump out an album, under-thought and over-produced for a reason that can't be boiled down to another band being over-the-hill and needing to retire before they further damage their legacy by releasing album after album of mediocre tripe.