2019 has been a great year for thrash metal fans, with a multitude of releases hitting the virtual and physical shelves recently: Death Angel, Overkill, Flotsam and Jetsam, Exumer, Xentrix, Possessed… the list goes on and on, and August 9th brings another entry on this exclusive group of such high caliber releases: Destruction’s upcoming record Born to Perish.
Formed in 1982, Destruction are often credited as one of the “Big Four” of the German thrash metal scene, with the others being Kreator, Sodom and Tankard. They have created at least one essential thrash metal album, 1986’s Eternal Devastation. And contrary to many of their contemporaries, they have never stopped working, even when grunge came up in the early 90’s or when alternative forms of metal started to proliferate in the 2000’s. Granted, they abandoned their sound and their logo in 1989, when main-man Marcel “Schmier” Schirmer was let go, but this part of their history was left behind upon his triumphant return in 1999. Since then they have been consistently delivering great albums, with the highest points of late being All Hell Breaks Loose and Day of Reckoning.
As a kid growing up in Brazil, it was hard to have access to many records I wanted, but I do remember being very intrigued by at least three covers of Destruction albums, which I’d seen in local magazines at the time: the aforementioned Eternal Devastation, Release from Agony and the Mad Butcher EP. As I grew up and the country changed, I developed interest in other bands, so it wasn’t until very recently that I was able to catch up with their back catalogue and to find their real importance for the German thrash metal scene. With this new release, Destruction will cement their reputation in the pantheon of memorable thrash acts, even with such fierce competition, as stated in the first paragraph of this review.
A few things caught my attention right off the bat on Born to Perish. First of all, they’re not a trio anymore: Swiss shred-master Damir Eskić was added to the lineup, and that in itself is something to draw your curiosity to check this album out. Secondly, the haunting and beautiful cover, showing a re-imagination of the German coat of arms, with an evil two-headed figure wearing the ever present Destruction skull on its chest and surrounded by skulls on sticks. The floor is covered in bullets, and only red, black and grey are present, a combination that sets a gloomy tone for what’s to come sonically. Schmier explains: “The vulture on the cover is something like an ‘anti-eagle’ that symbolizes the insatiable greed of people”.
The album kicks off with no subtlety and no calm before the storm, with the band firing on all cylinders on the title track. Another addition to the lineup, Canadian drum animal Randy Black (of Annihilator and Primal Fear fame), wastes no time to show us his true colors on this traditional thrash number, which will definitely be a highlight of future tours. Razor-sharp guitars announce “Inspired by Death”, another bone-breaking number where Mike Sifringer displays his prowess on rhythm guitar and Schmier takes a diverse approach to vocals. With zero time to breathe, “Betrayal” kicks in with a familiar chord progression, and Randy Black again bringing his arsenal to the forefront. Damir rewards us with blistering solos on this track, and once again Schmier surprises us with several singing styles being layered on the chorus.
With a stop-and-start riff, “Filthy Wealth” adds on to the band’s crestfallen view of the current state of society, and brings the ever present mob-like vocals that thrash took from punk. Halfway through there’s a quick breakdown that grants us a rare chance to appreciate the bass sound, otherwise subdued in this release. This is succeeded by probably the only moment on the whole album where there’s room for nuance and shade, the not-so-cutely titled “Butchered for Life”, which starts out like a rock ballad and ends as a real thrash metal monster. It’s hard to miss the influence of the Angel Rat and The Outer Limits era of Voivod on this track, and it’s definitely a call to the Mad Butcher character, which appeared on many other occasions throughout Destruction’s discography.
As the album approaches the end, another high point is seen on “Fatal Flight 17”, where the guitars sound like the roar of a thousand mountain lions, and with an unusual theme: Schmier tells the story of the ill fated Malaysian Airlines flight which was shot down in the Ukraine in 2014. This is also an unfeigned tribute to his old hero Gary Moore, who wrote the dramatic “Murder in the Skies” a song which set the story of a Soviet-downed Korean jetliner. Elsewhere, “We Breed Evil” brings dissonant chords and the usual barrage of relentless guitars, paired with a fat bass sound which deserved a boost in the mix. “Ratcatcher” is the last nail on the coffin, yet another blistering showcase of Randy Black’s skin-beating mastery. The man is playing like it’s his last day on Earth in this release, and examples of that abound from the first to the last note.
Despite the recording of this album happened rather quickly – the band wanted to have an album ready before their tour with Overkill earlier in the year – the material doesn’t sound like it was hastily prepared. The German precision and effectiveness, much mentioned in my reviews of power metal acts like Refuge, UDO and others, is in full effect here. Born to Perish is immediately identifiable as a Destruction album, but with some experiments lurking, having lured them outside of the box. A great addition to their already impressive catalogue.
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Release Date: August 9th, 2019
Genre: Thrash Metal
- Mike Sifringer / Guitars
- Marcel “Schmier” Schirmer / Lead vocals, bass
- Randy Black / Drums
- Damir Eskic / Guitars, backing vocals
“Born To Perish” Track-Listing:
1. Born To Perish
2. Inspired By Death
5. Filthy Wealth
6. Butchered For Life
7. Tyrants Of The Netherworld
8. We Breed Evil
9. Fatal Flight 17
11. Hellbound (Digipack only bonus track)
Adding a second guitarist brought an in-your-face effect that fans long for on a thrash metal outfit, and new drummer Randy Black proves to be the right man for the job, with examples of his prowess abounding on ten blistering tracks. “Born to Perish” sounds and feels like Destruction is still questing, while also acknowledging their classic sound. A longed-for album with a more concise and focused songwriting approach, which will quench the old time fans’ thirst.