Destruction – Diabolical (Album Review)

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A sinister conspiracy exposed via old school excellence.

In many respects, the past two years have amounted to a prison sentence for most of the planet, and with it has come the desire for a long overdue jailbreak. Few would be ringleaders of a such an uprising could hope to match the raw intensity and power of one of Germany’s original thrash masters, namely Württemberg’s own Destruction, whom have been anything but quiet since the Covid lockdowns commenced. With two solid live albums keeping the beacon aflame for the thrash-starved masses in 2020 and 2021 respectively, it has been a foregone conclusion that this metallic mainstay was itching to storm the prison walls and unleash a truly formidable offering as their studio entry into the 2020s. Yet even when accounting for the obligatory explosion of rage and fury that tends to go with a new album by this outfit, the unstoppable force that is “Diabolical,” their 15th LP, is an atypical undertaking that turns back the stylistic clock in many respects, though still maintaining a very current flavor.

As if the visual of a denim-clad zombie throwing the horns while leading a legion of ghouls through a lake of toxic waste didn’t already make the point, this album takes heavy cues from the late 80s era of thrash’s golden age where socially conscious lyrics and vertebrae-destroying riffs coexisted in perfect harmony. The massive, compressed guitar tone and crisp production quality that has been more a staple of Destruction’s recent output is still very much present, but has given way to a looser and more open sound as much of the post-production tricks normally done to perfect the drum performance has been forsaken for a more organic sound. Nevertheless, the kit work of Randy Black retains a strong enough precision to give the glassy bass and thick guitars that extra punch that made “The Antichrist” and most of the albums that followed so powerful. But the most blatant shift in direction comes with Schmier’s vocal performance, which turns back the calendar to 1986 something fierce with an array of high screams that rival Tom Araya back during his 20s.

Despite the loss of original guitarist and co-founder Mike Sifringer just prior to the composition of these blistering anthems, Destruction has lost absolutely none of its spirit. The entry of Argentina-born guitarist Martin Furia, joining Damir Eskic in maintaining the two-guitar format that was adopted on the previous LP “Born To Perish” after decades as a power trio, has seen the band transition seamlessly into a new era that, from a qualitative standpoint, matches the prior one at every turn. In fact, the riff game at play here is a cut above most of what has come out bearing the Destruction label since the 80s, bearing a strong resemblance to some of the fancier work to come out of the Bay Area during its original heyday. Whether it be blistering speed demons such as opener and title anthem “Diabolical” and “State Of Apathy”, or more mid-paced crushers like “Whorefication” and “Tormented Soul”, the riffing style at play brilliantly merges the menacing quality of Slayer with the technical flourishes of Forbidden, while the solo interchanges that emerge function as a missing link between the traditional dueling approach of Tipton and Downing and the wilder character of King and Hanneman.

Yet even more impressive than the sheer mastery on display in how these songs are executed is how the entire album unfolds in storybook fashion while still embodying the varied portfolio character of a typical 80s thrash opus. Though not a proper conceptual work, there is a unifying lyrical theme of corruption, political opportunism, isolation and perseverance tied to the pandemic period that permeates this series of pummeling thrash anthems, some more obviously than others. The high octane fervor of “No Faith In Humanity” provides a general picture of society’s disunity being on full display while laying on the auditory carnage, while the similarly fierce crusher “Hope Dies Last” provides a more optimistic counterpoint, chock full of crazy double kick work and featuring one of Schmier’s most insane vocal performances to date no less. Likewise, “The Last Of A Dying Breed” presents a rallying cry to the elder generation of metal heads above an eruption of raw sonic energy, while the thudding stomp of “Whorefication” lampoons the phenomenon of online influencer culture.

Far from being just another notch in Destruction’s expanding discography, Diabolical offers a new manifesto of thrash metal that embraces its past traditions as well as its current character. Though each song embodies elements of their past and present, the most blatant demonstration of this conjunction of old and new is the riveting cover of GBH’s “City Baby Attacked By Rats”, an important transitional punk rock anthem often cited by the forefathers of thrash metal in America, Germany and beyond as a key influence on the latter style. The aggression factor has been exaggerated further to fit the modern thrash template, yet it retains that loose and rustic character throughout. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to declare this the greatest work that has come out of Destruction since their 2001 smash return to form “The Antichrist,” and there is even a case to be made that it’s the best thing to come out of their arsenal since seminal 1987 offering “Release From Agony.” No punches are pulled here, no mercy shown, and no self-respecting thrash trustee will forgive themselves for missing it.

Released By:  Napalm Records
Release Date: April 8th, 2022
Genre: Thrash Metal

Musicians:

  • Schmier / Bass, Vocals
  • Martin Furia / Guitars
  • Randy Black / Drums
  • Damir Eskić / Guitars

“Diabolical” track listing:

1. Under The Spell
2. Diabolical
3. No Faith In Humanity
4. Repent Your Sins
5. Hope Dies Last
6. The Last Of A Dying Breed
7. State Of Apathy
8. Tormented Soul
9. Servant Of The Beast
10. The Lonely Wolf
11. Ghost From The Past
12. Whorefication
3. City Baby Attacked By Rats

9.3 Excellent

Turning the clock back in the some ways while staying very much current in others, Teutonic thrash legends Destruction arise from the aftermath of the worldwide pandemic with a gargantuan assault of old school mayhem with a modern sound and set of topics to mark their studio entry into the 2020s

  • Songwriting 9
  • Musicianship 9.5
  • Originality 9
  • Production 9.5
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