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It came as a slight shock to me that this EP was released as early as 1984, particularly as one tends to think of the German thrash acts coming slightly later than their Bay Area peers. However, it makes more sense in the view that thrash found Destruction rather than Destruction finding thrash, a view upheld by the fact that the three-piece were influenced more by Venom than Metallica, as one can judge by the lyrics and vocals on this release. I would prefer to call this fast heavy metal than thrash metal, something that was still in the system when the full-length Infernal Overkill hit the streets the following year.
What we find on Sentence of Death is a high-energy melodic delivery of Satanic garbage, constructed mainly around Mike Sifringer's slightly unusual riffing style. What makes the riff delivery interesting is that there is relatively little use of palm-muting in the sense that Hetfield et al were using it, while the riffs don't have the essential "choppiness" of thrash, instead racing forwards on light and sprightly combinations of notes and fills that often prefer speed over heaviness. There are elements and moments that are decidedly not speed metal and engage with the new extreme styles, not least in the verses of 'Satan's Vengeance', where a primitive kind of death metal riff can be heard blurring up on the bass and approaching blastbeats on the drums, something that was extremely rare for the year. However, the thing that is easy to announce is that all the songs are fast and you will be able to bang your head like a crazy person for the duration, since there certainly aren't any slow or dull parts.
In fact, Destruction try to pack as much heaviness and excitement into the release as possible, occasionally to the extent that it is overdone, resulting in slight difficulties distinguishing between the fast parts of each song and especially navigating a path through the scramble of quick solos, which bear extreme similarity to each other. There is some melody to be found in the leads, but it is such a small amount to distract from the speed fetish that it doesn't help a great deal. The opening of 'Black Mass' provides the most controlled passage of guitar work, shooting off a repeating lead to provide some measure of atmosphere and juice to an otherwise dryish sound. Schmier's vocals contribute to atmosphere too, sounding generally sicker and messier than your heavy metal or even thrash metal singer, even if he does use his trick of screeching horribly too many times.
For a small selection of songs, one would expect Sentence of Death to represent consistently high quality. In general, nothing truly disappoints, although 'Devil's Soldiers' is a lower grade closer, using a stalling rhythm to poor effect and not reaching the same levels of excitement as the other offerings. 'Mad Butcher' perhaps comes off best, sounding reasonably similar to its recorded version, while 'Satan's Vengeance' is the place to go for a touch of something different. Despite the timing of this EP and its position at the start of Germany's thrash wave, Sentence of Death is no reason to get too excited.
Similar to the other famous German thrash three-piece called Sodom, Destruction kicked off their career with an EP. One could not ignore that "Sentence of Death" wanted to shock at any cost. This intention was already demonstrated by the cover photo. The dress code of the band balanced on the thin line between truthfulness and absurdity. As if that were not enough, the lyrics pointed in the same direction. No, I must correct myself. They were even worse. I do not want to give examples, that´s not worth it. Just read the lines of "Total Desaster" or "Mad Butcher" and you will know what I mean.
Did I speak of "Total Desaster" and "Mad Butcher"? In terms of music, these tunes were outstanding examples of early German thrash metal. "Total Desaster" offered the straightest approach. It was like an explosion. Its effective main riff and the rapid chorus formed a deadly torpedo. Additionally, the band used a lot of reverb and a lot of delays of echoes in order to create an overwhelming overall picture. Not least because of this technical implementation, the vocals played their part in an appropriate manner. Nevertheless, the merciless riffs built the most important element of the song. "Mad Butcher" presented very straight segments as well as an almost playful guitar line at the beginning. A fine solo and a crashing middle-part completed the song.
The remaining tunes did not reach the same quality level. However, they did not lack of directness and belligerence. Of course, the songwriting skills of the debutants were not yet fully developed. Compared with the mature track configurations of their subsequent full-length, some parts of this first vinyl left a fairly crude impression. Especially the more or less chaotic "Devil´s Soldier" lacked of structure. But we may not forget that the band made its first steps into business. Due to this fact, a few minor imperfections should not be overemphasized.
The well balanced production did not fail to attract attention. From my point of view, it delivered a high degree of power. Well, when looking back at the year 1984, I have to admit that we did not have many opportunities to compare. There were only few bands existing that offered a similar approach. This was also one reason why "Sentence of Death" catapulted the band at the top of the German thrash scene. But it was not the main cause for the success of this output. The furious music of the EP made clear that Destruction had the skills that you need in order to play a dominant role for a long time.
Destruction stands among the main names of Teutonic thrash metal, yet they seem to be a bit overlooked in comparison to their peers Sodom and Kreator. Their historical and artistic value is often ignored or even denied by those who don’t really know shit about extreme metal; they should know something more about their fundamental influence both in the realm of thrash (with their stellar, fresh brand of riffing that influenced countless bands) and in that of death/black metal. Maybe one of the reasons why they were a bit left apart in comparison to Angelripper and Petrozza’s respective bands lies in the slightly minor exposition to the media in the '80s (a factor that improved significantly only in the early 2000s when the mainstream metal scene finally recognized them), and this created some kind of prejudice towards the band nowadays. Actually, it’s completely asinine to consider Destruction as a “minor band” just because of their little mainstream exposition in the old school metal scene, since for example a band like Anvil was even less known in the mainstream, yet it managed to influence the whole early '80s thrash wave (and let’s not talk about ultra-underground '80s acts such as Poison and Mefisto, which gave a massive influence to the whole black metal current).
However, the “Sentence of Death” EP is Destruction’s first official release. 1984 was the year of extreme metal milestones such as Sodom’s “In the Sign of Evil” (released by the same label) and Bathory’s debut. Maybe in terms of extremity there already were some bands that were looking a bit more forward, but I can state that with Sodom being the only obvious exception, Destruction were ahead of everyone in terms of actual quality in the thrash metal environment. This EP shows a newborn band that, despite needing just a bit of technical redefinition, is already very tight in terms of playing and extraordinarily capable in terms of songwriting. These songs still show a bit more classic heavy/speed metal influences in comparison to those on the next releases, but the German trio was already focused on a new extreme vision that was being pursued contemporarily by many other bands, each one in its own personal way, influencing each other but with distinctive, separated personalities. That’s the irrefutable magic of the '80s metal scene.
Mike Sifringer, the historical founder and guitarist of Destruction, attributes his main inspiration to Metallica (with the awesome song “Hit the Lights”, which blew his mind back in 1982), Accept, Venom, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, but it was clear that there was something more, something different in Destruction’s music. More power, more speed, more evil, more technicality in comparison to most other early speed/thrash bands. “Sentence of Death” shows all this, availing itself of a very good production job (for 1984 standards) that balances each instrument in the correct manner and at the same time manages to sound rough, powerful and offensive enough.
The EP opens with a gloomy and epic intro, spoken with a deep and imposing voice (a very common practice at that time):
”The end is near:
Lucifer’s legions of death are ready for attack!
They’ve got only one thing:
Then, after a minute or something of weird guitar feedback and muffled solos, the full-speed slaughter begins. The style is relatively more “ordinary” and less “inhumanly extreme” in comparison to Sodom’s “In the Sign of Evil”, but the band knows how to handle it, using breakneck up-tempos and some of the most memorable riffs you’ll ever hear in metal: it’s the case of “Total Desaster”, one of my all-time favourite Destruction tunes whose riffing is absolutely legendary and iconic (featuring even some little open-strummed parts during the refrain, maybe due to the need of technical approximation, which gives a vague proto-black metal feel to the song), or “Satan’s Vengeance”, a track whose style anticipates the absolute riffy brilliance of “Infernal Overkill”, using a very straightforward and direct approach with excellent chord progressions that definitely “nail it” in all their minimalism (and, in fact, I think that many thrash bands took something from here, sometimes in a way that’s even too evident). Schmier’s vocals are the sloppiest and most primitive element on here, but on this EP he’s at least able to deliver a good amount of aggression and wickedness (differently from his utterly poor performance of “Infernal Overkill”), appropriately interpreting the awesome lyrics of songs like “Total Desaster” whose chorus got stuck in my head since the very first time I heard it:
“I can never trust the virgin preacher,
I can never believe in Jesus Christ,
it’s all right ‘coz Satan is my teacher,
people hidden them when we arised!”
However, rude and primitive thrash isn’t the only deal on here. As stated before, this EP still possesses a noticeable influence from classic speed metal and NWOBHM. This component appears for the first time on the criminally overlooked “Black Mass”, which is a brilliant mid-paced “Iron Maiden meets Venom” affair, filled with great lyrics (which tell the story of a demonic possession crafted upon a christian devotee, but exposing everything in a very gross and funny way, clearly mocking the protagonist) and, most of all, with very interesting and quite technical guitar melodies that still maintain a certain sense of wickedness and spontaneity, but this formula is ultimately perfected on one of the band’s absolute mega-hits, “Mad Butcher”. This is one of the most genial interpretations of speed metal I’ve ever heard thanks to Sifringer’s infatuation with classics such as “Hit the Lights” that brought him to push way further past the boundaries of that style, crafting some of the catchiest and, at the same time, most schizophrenic guitar phrasings ever heard in speed metal, all perfectly concatenated together in a very linear and “continuative” way. All of this displays again a certain level of technicality and songwriting ability that gave more strength to the band in comparison to other contemporary acts and makes “Mad Butcher” one of the most memorable tunes ever made by Destruction (in fact, this is also one of their very first songs I fell in love with). Some hints of heavy/speed metal can be found even on the aforementioned “Satan’s Vengeance” which possesses on its own some other cool speed metal phrasings and ends up with an interesting melodic outro that leaves again a little taste of occult NWOBHM.
However, this isn’t even the most original component of this release; in fact, the EP concludes with a completely anomalous episode, something you can’t classify in neither of the two categories, though taking some elements from both. “Devil’s Soldiers” is undoubtedly the most stunning and atypical episode you can find on “Sentence of Death”. It begins with a rather weird arpeggio (where guitar and bass blend together), and despite the good level of distortion it sounds like something that could have came out from a “soft” '60s rock ’n’ roll record (I think to be heretical, but this stuff really reminds me of The Beatles), then an even more “extreme” massacre begins. This is the fastest track of the whole record, driven by bastard blast beats and minimalist, aggressive and wicked riffs that sound already very close to black metal. Even the omnipresent speed metal phrasings sound more evil and schizophrenic than ever. It’s a fucking spectacular track and definitely one of the most underrated songs of the whole Destruction repertory. I think that Darkthrone took a lot from here when they recorded masterpieces such as “Under a Funeral Moon” and “Transylvanian Hunger”, further stripping down that sound and making it even uglier, rawer and more epic.
It’s incredible to see how a band that still takes some evident influences from classic heavy metal is paradoxically ahead of many other peers in terms of extremity and musical vision. On “Sentence of Death”, Destruction creates a bridge between the most classic side of early '80s metal and another unknown “extreme” sub-genre that still had to find its proper form, but was already present almost as a “common sentiment” between many bands - all of this using thrash metal almost just as a vehicle. The mix of raw up-tempos and complex speed metal phrasings was already experimented by Bathory in the same year, but the result wasn’t nearly as memorable as a song like “Mad Butcher” can be. This EP is way better than Bathory’s debut. This is even better than Slayer’s “Haunting the Chapel”. This is maybe even superior to the almighty “Endless Pain” (though the level is very, very close in every case).
In the realm of thrash metal (and extreme metal in general), Destruction is only second to Sodom, and the best thing of all is that “Sentence of Death” is even inferior to what came after in the form of stellar full-lengthers like “Infernal Overkill”, “Eternal Devastation” and “Release from Agony” where the band evolved further and created an even more personal and well-developed style through a major technical redefinition and some important line-up changes. However, this EP is already an absolute masterpiece on its own and stands strong as one of the greatest extreme metal releases of all time. Listen or die.
Mere months after Germany got its inaugural ass-kicking from the developing Sodom and their infectious debut EP, another entity came along and veritably rocked the scene all the way to its core. Eschewing the NWOBHM/Punk stylings and straightforward, street-riffing simplicity of their peers, Destruction instead prescribed to the serrated precision of the Bay Area brigade, taking Metallica and Slayer as gospel rather than Venom. The technical force of Sentence of Death is immediately evident, and must have been quite a statement at the time, literally a new banner for the Germans to fly, one that could stand toe to toe with anyone else out there, if not use its precise pugilism to beat them to a bloody, quivering pulp.
Sentence of Death is a precision carving into the developing flesh of thrash metal, and stands as a ripping good listen nearly 30 years later, having lost little, if any, of its nasty, cutting charm. Destruction presented an interesting take on the acrobatic thrash riffing of their American cousins, whipping about the fret board in a frenzy. Whereas Sodom chose a few punishing chords and constructed them into a few punishing riffs per song, Destruction’s method was much more clinical and evolved, piecing together long strings of sweet notation and slathering their violent riffing in an abundance of sweet solo’s. As far as I know, this put most other thrash of the period to shame, in terms of pure ability. At nineteen and a half minutes, this is almost exactly as long as its cohort in crime, In the Sign of Evil. Not long by any stretch, but the material here is densely packed and hungry for blood. Certainly, the content is much more menacing than the goofy cover image. Perhaps this looked cool to people at some point, but it only makes me laugh incredulously. It’s oddly endearing, though, like all those other things that are so overtly and unapologetically 80’s tend to be. Just look at that hair!
Total Desaster (…desaster?) charges right ahead after a short intro, and while the riffing technique used was not exactly unique in a musical world where Kill em All was king, the vocals of Schmier certainly served to slap fans upside the face with this unique flavor. His psychotic, slimy, slur of a yell is not too unlike Angelripper in that it was much dirtier than the norm, but his higher pitch and wild inflections put a trademark stamp on their style. Black Mass kicks off with an excellent solo and slams through a smattering of semi-technical bravado that wouldn’t sound out of place on one of the better Megadeth records. Mad Butcher is still one of their most iconic songs, a driving and straight-to-the-point exhibition of delicate, evolving, razor-sharp riffing patterns that don’t shy from the minor frets… probably my favorite song on the record. Satan’s Vengeance and Devil’s Soldiers are also pretty hostile, the first a consistent fast-paced thrasher, while the second builds some atmosphere before letting loose it’s hectic, mildly blackened aggression. Not all the riffing is equally memorable, but it’s without fail pretty strong, and you won’t ever be bored for its short duration.
For all the EP’s strengths, though, my socks still weren’t really knocked off. For whatever reason, early Destruction has never exerted complete dominion over my soul, a trait that extends to lots of classic thrash that many metal heads consider to be, well, classic. Not to infer that this is in any way lacking (though their ensuing full-lengths were a bit of a slog for me), but it’s just not perfection to my ears. As to why that is, I’d guess that as a young adult of today, it’s harder for me to appreciate and identify with material that may have rocked my world had I not grown up with unceasing brutality handed to me on a silver platter. For example, the natural impact of Left Hand Path is no doubt lessened when you’ve grown up listening to Behemoth. That said, I love some other classic metal from this time period much more, so whether or not it’s because of desensitization or just plain natural preference is not entirely clear. Perhaps both, to some degree. In any case, I wouldn’t say it’s perfect by any stretch, but Sentence of Death is cool both historically and based on its own merits, and I echo most praise for it, if not quite to the same degree of rabid fellatio. For 20 minutes, this is a lot of material, and it's short enough to not overstay its welcome or stagnate in any way. It’s worth owning, and chances are if you’re an incorrigible thrash hound, you will find yourself much more smitten than I. Certainly all the young headbangers would do well to give this a go as well, if only for evolutionary knowledge of your chosen art form.
Sentence of Death is a pretty ambitious start, but only a hint at the coming changes that Destruction would continue to exhibit, for better or worse. In a world-wide context, it’s perhaps not the most unique slab of thrash ever penned, but its impact on the German scene was, and is, immense. It's also just damn good, slightly more fun than In the Sign of Evil even, and a nice bar set for both the band and the scene in general, instantly ingratiating themselves to the more technically-inclined thrashers of the world. With solid riffs, strong musicianship, and the drive to pull the elements into exciting cohesion, Destruction's debut is a pretty forceful statement, one that stood at the crest of the coming tidal wave of German thashing excellence.
-Left Hand of Dog
Released in September 1984, Sentence of Death was the first official release from Destruction. Hailed as one of the earliest Thrash Metal records, and part of the First Wave of Black Metal, this E.P. possesses quite a legendary status. That said, it may not be as easy to digest, at first, as the initial releases from some of the other Teutonic thrash bands.
It is a shame that I did not discover Destruction until long after I had already immersed myself into the early records from Venom, Bathory, Kreator, Sodom, Possessed, etc. Recordings such as Sentence of Death and Infernal Overkill failed to make the kind of impact that they would have and my initial impression was one of disappointment, mostly because this band just did not sound like I wanted them to and lacked the darkness and evil of many of their peers. However, once getting past these shattered expectations, it turned out that there was a lot to appreciate.
Musically, this release is quite impressive. The level of musicianship is far beyond what many others were capable of, especially as it regards the other German bands. Perhaps, that is one more reason for the more primitive approach taken by Kreator and Sodom, as there was no way to compete with the technical proficiency of Destruction. The riffs are far more intricate and the solos were miles ahead of a good number of their contemporaries. There is still a solid NWOBHM influence heard here, with an epic atmosphere similar to Kill 'Em All or Melissa. Even the most primitive track, "Devil's Soldiers", features a solo that would make an early-'80s Kirk Hammett jealous. Most of the riffs convey a sense of urgency and possess an intensity that is absolutely lethal. The vocals are the one real weak spot; that is, Schmier's voice takes some time to grow on you, sounding less serious than the likes of Angelripper or Mille Petrozza, for example. There is an upbeat kind of vibe to his vocal patterns, accentuated by the rather comical emphasis that he puts on certain syllables. Once you get used to this, however, you are in for some great black / thrash from the First Wave.
The production is surprisingly clear, on this E.P. The guitars possess a razor-sharp tone that cuts through you like a cold surgical scalpel and the drums pummel away until your ribs are crushed and broken. The frigid guitar sound suits the precise riffing very well and allows the listener to really appreciate the skill that is on display. The overall sound is kind of weak when compared to some other albums from this time period, but it has become part of the character of Sentence of Death. Besides, one of the great things about the 1980s was the fact that so many different bands had their unique way of doing things and also obtained various different sounds instead of everyone sounding the same.
Sentence of Death is an essential release for fans of early thrash, as well as those more into the First Wave bands. This does not have as dark and evil of an atmosphere as some others, but it is filled with memorable riffs, haunting solos and a character that is 100% metal. If you do not like this, you might as well trade in your leather jacket for your grandfather's sweater-vest. In other words, get your hands on this A.S.A.P.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com
I'm not going to go into great detail of what the German metal scene was undergoing back in 1984, because I feel all the other reviewers have set the scene perfectly and I need not be that one annoying reviewer who badgers on like a parrot. No I feel it would just be a good idea to concentrate on the music of this EP, and trust me when I say it is ram-packed with a raw unrelenting quality of thrash, it's no wonder the game had changed forever upon its release. It was like opening Pandora's box with the terrifying raspy vocal delivery of Schmier, and those raw motorised riffs which almost wreak of burning fuel simply for the depraved intensity of it all. It's not a million miles away from what had come before it, you don't have to listen carefully to catch out the more traditional bits and pieces, but it was thrash taken to a different direction. One could argue over who did the first what and who were the most important, when looking back on the early releases of the teutonic trio of Kreator, Sodom and Destruction. But let's not bother getting caught up in that, let's just appreciate the music at hand and just agree that it certainly had an influence no two ways about it.
The cover is breath taking considering the cultural overhaul that has occurred in over twenty-five years of 1984, I mean look at the three of them! Leather, spikes, enough bullet belts to be mistaken for ammunition of some kind of civil unrest, and hair so fucking long and frizzy these guys probably didn't need to sleep on a pillow. Remnents of their style still survive to this day, the inverted crosses around the neck for example. I'm probably going to be accused of being a poser, but when a band looks this fucking metal there is no denying them in your life. These days the only chance of seeing a band who looks even half as theatrical as this, then they're probably in a black metal band covered in corpse paint and trying to be as evil as possible but probably with little conviction. When I first heard this EP like Venom before them I thought Destruction WERE EVIL, but we all know this image and music to be some kind of shock rock updated to the mid-80's. Not that this EP isn't intimidating because to this day I listen to it and am utterly blown away.
The intro has a possessed like voice followed by rancid almost punk like guitar doodling, before that insatiable riff leads the way into "Total desaster" and for the first time we hear the vocal delivery of Schmier. It is so raspy I often get a soar throat just listening to it, and it seemed any oldschool swagger thrash bands might have been incorporating into their vocals, was thrown out the window the minute the play button was pressed on this baby. "Black mass" starts off with a blunt but brooding riff, as an epic build up of solos emerge that seem every bit as punk as they do metal, a very weird sensation indeed. Schmier lets out a terrifying laugh as some signature riffs emerge, and Schmier sings the first few verses like the end of days is right here and about to happen. Of course up next is the infamous "Mad butcher" and this EP version I have come to know and love, is much more fierce and intoxicating than the version on The Mad Butcher EP. I remember at the time listening to this song and my friends quaked at the very mention of the song's title. "Satan's vengeance" and "Devil's soliders" are quite a bit brief for my liking, but the intensity is ever present the quality faulters not once.
Who could have known one little thrash EP from Germany could have had such an impact? It also helped establish a European sound, pretty well distinguished from America and even the U.K to a degree. Innovation seems like such an understatement, when most folk were still caught up in Dokken, Judas Priest, The Scorpions, and releases like "Ride the lightning" were still building itself a reputation. In what seems like a click of a finger, metal had moved on and thrash was gaining velocity across the globe, things were never going to the same again and I don't say this with the benefit of hindsight. This may look oldschool, some parts in the music are smothered in a metallic coating to please the old guard, but kids believe me this is as good as an example gets when it comes to breaking new ground. The only reason I knocked off two per cent, denying it the perfect score is the fact that it isn't entirely a perfect EP. There are just a few loose ends about the place, but nothing so critical as to really notice much. When I listen to this it's like "The least successful human cannonball" was a bad dream and that record never really happened.
Wow...twenty-five years on and I'm still amazed by all that hair!
This is the debut EP from Destruction. Released on SPV Records in 1984. This one came at a very important time. As the thrash scene in the United States was getting hot with bands like Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax, Germany wanted part of the action. This EP is fantastic! It features 3 rerecorded songs from the Bestial Invasion of Hell demo and 2 new ones. The production is much better as one could expect. And while the rerecorded songs had been tweeked a bit here and there they sound a lot more brutal on the demo. Usually the case as far as demos are concerned.
The two new songs, Black Mass and Devil's Soldiers are pretty good. Black Mass is good but forgetable as it does not feature any innovative riffs or a catchy chorus. Devil's Soldiers is a lost gem in the Destruction catalog. While being very simple and straight to the point it is a very fun listen.
This EP is mandatory for not only Destruction fans but for all fans of the German thrash scene. It has shown that the band was not afraid to progress and try new things. The intro to Total Desaster is a prime example. The vocals are influenced more by metal this time around as Bestial Invasion of Hell demo had a punk vibe to it when it came to the vocals. The innovative riffs and leads by Mike Sifringer are beautiful. This was only the start to what this man could do with a guitar. An intensely aggressive and fun listen is what this EP brings to the table. I enjoyed taking a trip down memory lane while listening to this album and had a great time reviewing it. I hope this helps you.
The 'other' major release in the budding Teutonic thrash movement of 1984, the Sentence of Death EP marked Destruction's first foray into the theater of war, and a rather stunning piece that would help define the future sounds of myriad thrash artists. Similar to Sodom, they were a three piece, with Schmier on vocals/bass, Mike on the guitar and Tommy Sandmann performing drums, and the EP is about the same length, with five songs and an intro. However, where Tom Angelripper and crew derived most heavily from some of the dirtier NWOBHM acts and a clear forceful punk influences, Schmier and company were far more comparable to the early sounds of bands like Metallica and Megadeth.
In other words, they seemed immensely competent right as they blasted out the opening gates, and despite its rather crude atmosphere, Sentence of Death is already tense with the band's trademark riffing. Spry, dynamic guitars dance across steady, driving beats, and the tone is just incredibly meaty throughout, with great lead skills cutting through the writhing rhythms. Easily one of the more inventive bands to come along at this period, they put most of their peers to shame with their ability, and Schmier's vocals were some of the most insipid and violent out there, a nasty rasp that focused his accent into a cutting knife. Not to mention, the iconic cover photo pretty much helped to define the entire 'look' of extreme metal (thrash, black, and death), with the solid leather and bullet belt get-ups, don't give a fuck attitude and between the three, more hair than the devil's genital region.
It doesn't hurt that two of the band's most famous tracks, and arguably two of the best thrash/speed tunes in all of metal history, are present here. "Total Desaster" bursts in straight after the intro, with its ripping saw guitars, vocal and counter vocals in which Schmier initiates us with his mid range serpent spits into disheveled carnivorous shrieking, but "Mad Butcher" easily takes the cake for its stupendously memorable guitar lines that were easily the equal of anything a Hetfield, King or Mustaine could write during this same period. In fact, after hearing "Mad Butcher", I'm sure many other emerging thrash acts were scared for their very existence, because it's pretty much intimidation 101. Playful, aggressive and razor sharp, it is the very definition of the classic, and one can only imagine how many guitarists through the years have sat mesmerized as they learned the riffs.
The remainder of the EP is also quite good, though perhaps not so ultimately memorable. The 'intro' features walls of guitar shred, while "Black Mass" seems like a faster speed answer to Metallica's "Seek and Destroy". "Satan's Vengeance" is anointed with Schmier's schizoid laughter, fun and frenzied guitar patterns and a bridge blitz not unlike "Mad Butcher", though the chorus here is more like a breakdown that reminds me of their later "Eternal Ban". The final track, "Devil's Soldiers", is the worst of the EP, but it's constant cymbal crashing and sporadic, cystic guitars at least remain consistent to the rest of the content, and there's a nice outbreak in the middle over which a quality solo is slathered. The knife might be a little duller than "Mad Butcher" or "Total Desaster", but force it hard enough to the skin and blood shall still be drawn.
Sentence of Death is a superb opening chapter for one of thrash's eldest statesmen, and it's all too easy to forgive their fucking off from about 1991-1999 with just a spin of its contents. All said, this is perhaps one of the best EPs ever released in all metal, instantly addictive and consuming, the sort of game changer that instantly must have had many new European bands of the 80s rethinking and reworking their own strategies. It's impact is clearly felt in a lot of German thrash and speed metal to follow, and as the band even considered themselves 'black speed metal' at the time, you can imagine it had an even wider appeal. Dark, invigorating, and proficient, it remains one of the best Destruction releases to date, surpassed only by their staggering 2001 surprise The Antichrist.
The Biggest difficulty with getting yourself to actually listen to Sentence of Death is looking beyond possibly the dullest logo ever and the most hideous band picture you can imagine. It’s not because of the leather and ammo belts nor that graveyard. No, these dudes were ugly, so amazingly ugly. And! It must be said, from this day on glam bands had much difficulties getting even bigger hair!
The moment ‘Total Desaster’ bursts through the speaker it’s clear who the main influence are here: Slayer! The riffs, the pace. It’s the über-simplistic satanahrashing way with a constant polka pace taken back from Slayer to The Continent. However one can already hear the tendencies to write more technical riffs and the vocals are different as well, focussing more on Quorthonian gruff screams. ‘Satan's Vengeance’ simply continues this style.
‘Mad Butcher’ takes it all a bit further. The brilliant intro riff being slightly more elaborate and taking more influences directly from heavy metal itself than Slayer would ever do throughout their career. Add to this a catchy chorus and we can speak of a truly great song! ‘Black Mass’ with it’s laid back intro, has more diversity, melody and one can hear these guys can really play and try to be a bit more technical than the average in-your-face thrash act.
But no matter how classic and great eighties Destruction over all were. A song like ‘Devil's Soldiers’ is pretty damn bad, mostly because of the Neanderthal pummelling drums. And it’s pretty easy to hear where Sepultura found the inspiration for their song ‘Antichirst’ or for that matter Sarcófago for their entire INRI album (not forgetting how important Bathory’s ‘The Return was’ of course).
Sentenced of death is a great piece of history even though the band were playing at the maximum of their abilities and one can hear it. Influential, evil, fast, proto death thrash they way we all love.
They are the pioneers of the first way of German thrash metal along with Sodom and Kreator. They are Destruction! Their debut EP is still regarded as a milestone in the whole extreme movement in the world. If Kreator and Sodom were a bit more violent and extreme, Destruction with this debut were already prepared to massacre our ears with a solid thrash metal. The Bay Area influences are remarkable but the product sounds quite personal too.
After a small intro, we can really taste the greatness of this band with the piece of history called “Total Disaster”. The main riff is repeated lots of times with different more melodic breaks and a great solo. The up tempo parts are always present and the bass sound by a young Schmier is always pounding. The following “ Black Mass”, initially, is more mid paced with a great melodic tapping guitar solo that fits perfectly to create an apocalyptic atmosphere. Then it turns faster again. The guitars sound in very raw in the distortion, as the drum is too. The sound is like a “poorly distorted one”, very metallic and skeletal.
It’s impossible to remain indifferent when you listen to the mighty “Mad Butcher” with his unmistakable main guitar riff on the scale and the following punk up tempo. The vocals here are more vicious but in some ways, always quite thrash. It’s difficult to meet some death or black influences here because the whole “package” sounds quite pure. The influences from early Slayer or Venom are inevitable in a violent song like “Satan’s Vengeance” during the guitars parts and vocals. The solos are always goodly structured and executed. Surely Destruction were the most “technical band” of the German Thrash trio.
The few melodic breaks are great to reduce a bit the impact of songs that are mainly focused on the up tempo sessions. “Devil’s Soldiers” is an example of that, with a melodic intro and the following speed restart. Here the axes have a punk touch too that makes the song even more enjoyable and “in your face”. All in all, a must for very thrasher that either wants to know the origins of German thrash or wants to brush up his thrash knowledge.
Though not as great as what Sodom would do a few months later. It may be more technical, musically proficient and tighter, but the catchiness took a few listens to get behind. Anyways, onto the music...
As great as this EP is, the intro is extremely cheese dick. "Total Destruction!!!" Almost Spinal Tap worthy. But once this silly intro subsides, the thrashing starts with some guitar noises and finger tapping, before going into a fast paced riff, which leads the song for the next 4 minutes. The lyrics are lovable, and quite good for an early german thrash band. Black Mass continues the trend of great songwriting, but the main riff is a bit herky jerky and has one of the oddest rhythms I've ever heard. It sounds really out of place with the rest of the song. Mad Butcher is the second best song on here behind Total Desaster. It would be redone later with better production qualities, but for 1984, this will suffice. Devil's Soldiers has a softer intro, with some acoustic effects, before it leads into the typical thrash affair the rest of this album goes through.
All in all, Destruction would get better. Infernal Overkill, Eternal Devestation and especially the masterpiece Release From Fucking Agony would improve on their songwriting and production skills. The production on here is pretty bad, with the drums overpowering everything, but if you can get behind that, you'll find a lot to enjoy here.
This was the first official release of Thrash in Germany. It's historically important, and for it's time pretty brutal. The production is actually pretty decent on this EP, much better than on "Infernal Overkill". The songs themselves are speedy german thrash. More in the early speed metal vein than the proto-death metalness of "Endless Pain" or the Black metal "In the Sign of Evil" that was released a few months after this.
"Total Desaster" is definatley what this EP gives you. Speedy thrash riffs throughout this song, Schmier's early voice and evil lyrics make this a classic track. One of Destruction's best and is still played live in thier setlist today. They sure don't write them like this anymore. Extermely catchy as plenty of nice lead guitar.
"Mad Butcher" is next, and this is the song that Destruction is well known for the most part. Some crazy riffage in here, and the thrash break.....awesome, pure genious. Awesome lyrics and we have ourselves another classic track.
"Satan's Vengence" is another slab of catchy speed/thrash. Schmier has some nice shrieks in this one too. Mike has some nice soloing in it and it is quite catchy. Headbangage is to be found on this.
"Devil's Soliders" is a bit strange in riff construction. They have one really weird riff that dosen't see to fit, but the rest of the riffs are just as good as any of the others on this EP. Probably the weakest thing on here.
This was where the German thrash scene started. Three awesome songs and one average one. Evil, pissed off, and full of riffs. Should you get it? Yes, of course. It's usually packed together with "Infernal Overkill" on one cd now. If you like thrash (and who dosen't?) get this. RECOMMENDED
"The end is near...Lucifer's legions of death are ready for attack..."
It was a time when Germany’s borders were breaking at its crust, sinking into the molten core of whatever lies beneath it from the sheer metallic weight of the country’s fledgling metal scene. It was a time when Germany had to be distinguished between east and west (no bands were from the east, so why bother, eh?). It was a time when bands actually looked metal and not like ghosts, rummage salesmen, or Kojak impersonators. It’s a time now gone.
To expand a little on the third point, whether you’re buying the domestic or import pressing of Sentence of Death, one glance at either cover and you're well aware your hard earned cash has been spent on metal that will most assuredly sound nothing like Dokken, Heavy Pettin’ or Kick Axe. They were perhaps one of the most visually thrashed out bands of the time that would likely erupt in a dazzling display of gunshots if ever caught in a forest fire, yet some say they didn’t quite play as they looked. Thrash was still a new discovery in ’84. Tradition doesn’t go out the window when a new style strolls along, and is why there are a few flashes of such in the trio’s style. As well, Destruction supplied their tracks with a little more intricacy and small injections of complexity than Kreator and a lot more than Sodom. Living Death was barely in the same league.
My affection for early German thrash has always transcended my fondness for the American style save a band or two (not that there was much to work with). While thrash is supposed to be on the wild side, the krauts usually went the more savage route i.e. more untamed vocals, more over-the-top intensity, and a penchant for the darker side of sound.
If this is your first voyage into the war-torn land of Destruction, you’re welcomed with an intro with the quaint charm of a street riot, a guitar eruption of Exciter/”Oblivion” quality that roars like the wrecking ball’s motor and squeals like the twisting girders it’s demolishing. A detonation thunders “Total Desaster” to life, one of the band’s most maniacal creations that introduces the echoed, paint-peeling shriekorama of Schmier and some terrorizing rhythms that will have people running. “Black Mass” is a little less aggressive in its initial moments, but unfurls with a mid-riff/percussion marriage so skewed it’s almost like an accidental collision of instrumentation. The rest of it battles on swiftly, if not rather conventionally to call side one quits.
Side two calls “Mad Butcher” to arms, a song that would become their quasi-anthem and ethereal mascot. An uprising, involved rhythm flies until it hits the unyielding wall …“...you lie on your back…”…where’re the deafening warhead impacts in the Mad Butcher ep version? “Satan’s Vengeance” takes no recourse in some of the lyrical levity of its precursor and delivers another uncompromising speedster until after the last chorus where that traditionalism transcends the thrash. “Devil’s Soldiers”…Christ, it just goes haywire with a heretical main riff that almost seems unhinged, the hiss of perpetual cymbal work, a final frenzied solo, and when Schmier orders you to run for your lives, most back then took heed.
When the British wave was faltering only a few steps and the Scorpions were considered Germany’s greatest export at the time, Sentence of Death was indeed a breath of fume-choked air that I couldn’t get enough of, which is probably why my growth stunted at a towering 5’6”.
"...the fire of hell will destroy the fools..."
The first release from these now legendary German thrashers arrived in the time of the uprising first wave of black metal together with the oncoming masses of thrash and speed metal, and brings in a lethal dose of all this into five fast, hard-hitting and less than varied riff-monsters. Anthrax kicked the world hard in the face with the lethal debut "Fistful of Metal", Metallica delivered their monstrous sophomore album "Ride The Lightning", Overkill and Slayer released legendary debuts "Feel The Fire" and "Show No Mercy", and at the same time Hellhammer and Destruction's countrymen Sodom were zooming ahead with gruesome black metal monsters. Among them all, the "Sentence of Death" EP seems still a little weak compared to lots of great names around the time, and Destruction had not at all developed the magnificent songwriting skills they'd come to grow very shortly. The second LP and EP, "Eternal Devastation" and "Mad Butcher" is far beyond "Sentence of Death" and "Infernal Overkill" in songwriting - however, the production is equally flat and poor on all of them. But credit must be given to some of the coolest album names ever.
"Sentence of Death" is raw, fast and angry, with satanic lyrics and the classic imagery of the Destruction spikes n' leather and bulletbelts, and it rages ahead with some pretty poor quality but riffs that are sure to snap some necks, which I believe is all they were aiming for. Schmier's vocals are raw, but less than vicious, and the riffwork is not at all complemented well in the production and comes off as weak, but overall, this EP I'd say is definitely above "Infernal Overkill" in the songwriting department. Already on this one the songs had a tendency to run into eachother and not be to remarkable individually, but in a combined force they prove to demolish you pretty good, and is definitely a fun listen if you want some raw German aggressions.
The basis for this CD is pretty standard riffage for it's time, it's fast and it's fun but it's nothing that really stands out. The drumming is also quite unremarkable. It does a good, standard job with minimal fills and maximal intensity. That's really all there is to say about this EP - It's not bad by any means, but with all the great stuff that was already flying around, you could do much better.
The highlights are hard to pick, since like I said, there isn't much variety at all and the songs seem to flow into one another, but I think opening track "Total Disaster" and closing track "Devil's Soldiers" have some of the catchiest riffage. And the original version of the classic "Mad Butcher" is here of course, and while not at all as insane as the one on the EP with the same name, it's still a very competent thrasher.
"Sentence of Death" overall is a competent release, but nothing mandatory except for the thrash maniacs. It's a classic release, but not all that great.