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Tom, Jerry, and Tina on the toilet - 86%

gasmask_colostomy, May 21st, 2015

Several years ago, I bought a few Destruction albums together and I remember listening to 'Mad Butcher' first. That EP has pretty weak production with a very even tone and not much bite to the guitars. And then there came 'Eternal Devastation'. How do I describe that guitar sound? It comes across so trebly and light, so that every time the band play fast I think of miniature cars racing around a Scalextric track in somebody's living room or one of those old Tom and Jerry cartoons. As such, this album really doesn't have the oppressive feeling of a Sodom album or the heaviness of Slayer: it stays fast and fun and seems chuggier than it is purely because that's what the production emphasises.

That said, the strangely unthreatening guitars always sound busy and have many different styles, with some trad metal riffs and fill melodies, some more atmospheric parts, and a few sections that are hard to define, in addition to fast and mid-paced thrash parts. Considering that Destruction boasted only one guitarist in their ranks, the material on 'Eternal Devastation' is incredibly riff-dominated: sometimes the drums and bass are doing little to bolster the guitar, so it falls to Mike Sifringer to keep things interesting, which is usually what happens. What does present a problem, however, is that after several minutes of skilful riffing and frequent changes of pace, you begin to wonder exactly what part of the album you are in because this pattern has emerged before. I'm not saying that Tommy Sandmann's drums aren't also busy, or that Mr Schmier's bass playing is lazy, but there's something about that production that is all speed and no power, meaning that the heavier (i.e. less whiplash, more tremolo) parts don't get quite enough distinction to completely change the mood of the song.

In fact, the trio play their socks off and could never be accused of the kind of sloppiness that marked Kreator and Sodom out as more dangerous exponents of German thrash. The solos don't quite have the sense of planning or development that the more mature thrashers achieved, yet they don't fall into fast and directionless shredding mode, ala 'Pleasure to Kill'. Some of them are pure thrash genius, especially the solo that climaxes after about four minutes of 'Confused Mind'. There are also dynamics in these songs, so that there are notable signposts on the likes of 'Curse the Gods' and 'Confused Mind' to ease the general riff assault. With any direction change, the band play totally on the pin, which makes the drop into the chorus riff of 'Life Without Sense' an incredible hook, creating the same feeling as going over a hill quickly in a car, because Schmier's little squeal causes your stomach to drop out and be left about twenty metres behind.

Schmier's voice is a little special and certainly gives the album character, except not always the character that it deserves. His high notes are not the same as Tom Araya's (certainly not that high note anyway) and sound neither brutal nor melodic: what they do sound like is exactly what I just mentioned - a sudden drop in altitude or a momentary freezing of the sound, which is totally unexpected and actually very effective. There is, however, a part of me that can't help finding it funny because I think he sounds like an adolescent girl surprised in the lavatory. This unintentional humour also gets another shot with the "Insane...brain" line in 'Confound Games' and the sound effects that close the album, both of which are almost bad enough to be considered genius. What gets me, though, is that the girlish scream of that outro is so blatantly faked, when the band had such a master mimic already within their ranks. Whatever.

The lyrics do a lot to hold the songs together, since Schmier is actually singing about something and generally has enough attitude and flexibility to keep all of his sections distinct and interesting against the avalanche of guitar. The best songs tend to be those that stay focused and develop ideas rather than just switching track: I would pick 'United by Hatred' and 'Life Without Sense' as my favourites, though nothing is poor, even if the instrumental seems a bit of a cheat on an album with only seven songs. Destruction perhaps didn't quite have the same ugly menace of their fellow Germans in the mid-80s, but they outdo them for pure skill and songwriting strength on an album like this. If you can get past the sound of the riffs and concentrate on the songs, there is plenty of tasty content on which to feast your ears.