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The Butcher’s Deadliest, Most Intricate Strike - 98%

bayern, May 15th, 2017

The mighty Destruction… the greatest thrash metal act the German scene has managed to produce during these over 30 years. The most interesting and the most creative entity of the Holy Three (you know the other two) who, for some most idiotic and illogical reason, remained the least commercially successful of the lot. Ha! (sardonic laugh)… Not that Mike Sifringer and Co. cared too much about that, but at least genius and originality were supposed to get recognition of some sorts back then…

Or maybe not; and that’s a real pity since when the other two were still messing with their instruments, Destruction released the “Total Disaster” EP, the definitive template for the German speed/thrash metal movement. The other two had barely managed to find the synchronicity among them when this band followed with a full-length merely months later, “Infernal Overkill”, an extraordinary early achievement in the annals of the genre towering high above timidly emerging “endless pains” and “signs of evil”. The fanbase were still gripped in stupor and katatonia from the last “assault” when “Eternal Devastation” was unleashed upon them, the third coming that pretty much sealed the band’s fate as leaders of the thrash metal movement, ready to oppose to any Bay-Area practitioner at any time, day or night.

There was no other way for Destruction but to embrace the more demanding, technical sounds of the late-80’s. They pretty much hit the top on the more immediate, bashing side of the genre; there was nothing left for them there… I still suspect an organized transition within the German metal confines, the one that occurred in 1987/88 when three outfits, the other two being Living Death and Deathrow, decided to abandon their primal thrashy roots and embark on a progressive/technical journey arguably instigated by the pioneering work of Ralph Hubert, the Mekong Delta leader, and the founder of the Aaarrg label which later became a shelter for another talented progressive thrash formation, the Belgians Target, among other interesting bands from both sides of The Atlantic.

A great boost to the band line-up was the addition of a second guitarist, Harry Wilkens, and with him in line Sifringer finally found the perfect axeman to pair with and realise his more ambitious visions. So the actual transition started with the “Mad Butcher” EP which introduced the heavier guitar sound and the more intricate arrangements that had graced the superb semi-ballad “Reject Emotions” and the fabulous instrumental “The Last Judgement”. So much for testing the soil and warming-up, time for the real showdown, the album reviewed here, which mesmerizes with the beautiful instrumental intro “Beyond Eternity”, a logical follow-up to “The Last Judgement”. The title-track follows suit with the intricately woven, fast-paced rifforamas and blazing virtuoso leads Schmier’s apocalyptic mean vocals soaring above the proceedings with all their demonic spite. “Dissatisfied Existence” is the ultimate technical shredfest, a diverse opus with the fascinating fretwork, the brilliant urgent stomping mid-break and the memorable chorus, one of the band’s finest achievements and a perennial live favourite. More delights of the less expected variety, like “Sign of Fear”, for example, a doom-laden thrashterpiece with breath-taking flamenco acoustics incorporated into the first doom/thrash hybrid ever composed; the progressive build-ups, the sinister chorus, the technical escapades in the middle, and the cavernous atmosphere make this piece a mandatory listen for both thrash and doom metal lovers.

“Unconscious Ruins” is a vigorous headbanger with an officiant pounding interlude, a more immediate cut compared to the several previous ones; but comes “Incriminated” and its rolling, spinning riffs forebode more interesting occurrences like a more flexible progressive structure, less adherence to speed, and brisk outbursts of stylish dynamics. “Our Oppression” shoots intense intricate strokes into the aether in a disciplined accurate fashion resulting in several superb vortex-like formations those reaching fever pitch in the second half. “Survive to Die” is the last intriguing thrasher the guys stirring a whirlwind of technical rhythms on an otherwise more conventional background, another claim at originality being the frolic brief rock’n roll tune at the end, a tool the guys would explore more fully in the near future (remember “My Charona”).

Another winning ace in the hands of the band who literally hit the top in both musical execution and compositional skills. This album constitutes an indelible part from the 1988 legacy which gave the thrash metal field its finest products from a technical/progressive point-of-view. This effort stood proud in the very strong company of other eye openers like Deathrow’s “Deception Ignored”, Mekong Delta’s “The Music of Erich Zann”, Target’s “Master Project Genesis”, Sieges Even’s “Life Cycle”, and Vendetta’s “Brain Damage”. For some it could be the better option to the complex, multi-layered rifforamas of Deathrow and Sieges Even, and by all means the more accessible alternative to the abstract eccentricities of Mekong Delta. It served technical thrash in its purest, non-contaminated form seeing the guys a sizeable step ahead of Kreator and Sodom again.

The road up was well paved, but the band was struck by Schmier’s departure who wanted to pursue a more independent career with his own project Headhunter. This didn’t quite stop Sifringer and Co., though, who simply invited the singer of the Swiss thrashers Poltergeist Andre Grieder to do the vocals on their next instalment “Cracked Brain” two years later. This sequel was universally denounced by the band fans who didn’t want to accept the new material without Schmier’s staple mean tirades. Music-wise this effort was another capable technical thrash offering although it lacked the depth and the dark atmosphere of its predecessor. The riff-patterns were served in a more optimistic, trippy fashion probably to suit Grieder’s more melodic, more attached vocals; still, the inclusion of the cover of this horrible “My Charona” nonsense was a huge misstep.

The album was a commercial fiasco which prompted Sifringer to abandon the classic technical thrash formula, and to turn to the up-and-coming groovy/aggro vogues. And this is where the band hit the very bottom finally sidelined by their rivals, especially Kreator who proved way more adaptable to the new demands with the fairly good “Renewal”. Destruction’s mid-90’s period had better be forgotten as it represents arguably the worst metamorphosis experienced by an 80’s veteran ever, even making universally recognized flops like Celtic Frost’s “Cold Lake” sound like masterpieces. The return of Schmier at the end of the decade saved the sinking ship, and the latter has been sailing upwards ever since, the band recapturing their old school vigour with a string of high quality albums feeling jubilant and relieved, exonerated and ultimately released from all agonizing past failures.