REVIEW: DESTRUCTION – “Under Attack”
The last few years have seen many notable thrash metal bands from around the world like Exodus, Megadeth, Slayer, Tankard and Anthrax release new albums, as well as upcoming material from other classic acts of the genre such as Death Angel. For now though, the focus is on German thrash band Destruction, one of the “Teutonic big 4” of the genre alongside Kreator, Sodom and the aforementioned Tankard. Their release this year, titled ‘Under Attack’, is the group’s newest studio release since 2012’s ‘Spiritual Genocide’.
In some ways, you know what you’re going to get from a thrash metal album before you’ve even listened to a second of it: namely harsh vocals, aggressive shredding guitar and unrelentingly fast double bass drumming. The record features a total of ten songs, meaning that it doesn’t go on for too long and is thus able to keep the attention of the listener for just the right amount of time without becoming tedious in any way. The album opens with the title track, “Under Attack”, which opens with an acoustic intro reminiscent of Metallica’s “Battery” before introducing some relatively mellow electric instrumental elements. The tempo gradually builds in pace thanks drummer Wawrzyniec “Vaaver” Dramowicz, with the guitars kicking in shortly afterwards along with the vicious vocals of Marcel “Schmier” Schirmer.
The second track “Generation Nevermore”, unlike the title track, starts off with the expected combination of thrash metal musicianship right from the beginning. Imagine Death Angel with tinges of Anthrax and Overkill all mixed into one, and I think you’ll have a fairly accurate idea of what this particular song sounds like. “Dethroned”, the following track, is by quite a considerable margin the most “metal” of the songs so far on the album despite its noticeably more melodic guitar tones, which pave the way for the more down-tuned ones shortly afterwards. Even though it is expected that a thrash band will make heavy music, it is nice to see Destruction take advantage of this instrumental tactic and purposefully make their music as riff-laden as possible. The fourth track on ‘Under Attack’, “Getting Used to the Evil”, stands out in the instrumental department with its alternation between the guitar, drums and vocals as the spotlight on these different elements bounce back and forth. This is certainly something you don’t hear a lot of in contemporary rock and metal, which makes it all the more surprising when it does happen in an album.
“Pathogenic” follows on from “Getting Used to the Evil”, combining typical thrash with a sort of muddiness in the drumming which harkens back to classic death metal acts from the genre’s golden age, such as Obituary. In terms of the general song itself, the bass solo in the middle is an extremely nice touch as it breaks away from the usual thrash riffery and allows for a quick breather before the shredding guitar re-announces itself once again, making “Pathogenic” one of my favourite songs across the whole of the album Under Attack. “Elegant Pigs” makes itself present right from the get-go with some very technical-sounding riffing on the part of guitarist Mike Sifringer, along with a vocal performance by Schmier that one moment resembles that of Dave Mustaine, and the next moment that of Death Angel frontman Mark Osegueda. The fact that Destruction have shown themselves perfectly capable as a musical force within heavy metal to take inspiration from other bands while still sounding like themselves is quite the accolade, as it shows their willingness to branch out and recognise what else is happening in the scene as a whole.
The seventh song “Second to None” again borrows similar sounds and inspirations from another classic American thrash metal band; however this time, it is Exodus. The same point mentioned earlier on remains true here, regarding the multitude of thrash bands being admired by Destruction on this album, making for what could be considered as a musical mixing point of quality thrash metal music. The relatively extended guitar solo in this song which comes into the track about two thirds of the way through contains various layered sections which transition from one to the other in terms of instrumental complexity, with the only downside being that some of the lyrics are quite cheesy at times. Aside from this, it’s a decent effort.
“Stand Up for What You Deliver” contains the repeated galloping riff that has become particularly prevalent in the music of one Iron Maiden, a band whose influence on early thrash metal bands cannot be overstated alongside that of Motorhead, Venom and others. What is also noticeable right from the beginning is the change in tempo in comparison to previous tracks on the album, giving this song the feeling like it has suddenly brought the album’s pace to an unexpected stop out of nowhere. A bit more speed especially in the drumming would have been appreciated in this song. The eventual conclusion of the album draws closer with the ninth track “Conductor of the Void”, and with its random stop-and-start mechanics brings something new to the album. This sort of thing is what makes an album stand out; the fact that a band can embrace new musical elements this far into a record’s duration is a general testament to Destruction’s creativity and talent as musicians. On other fronts, however, all of the expected staples of thrash metal are present, making for a pleasant listening experience as one of thrash’s most iconic bands delivers once again.
The record closes with “Stigmatised”, and while a lot of bands use the final track on an album as an excuse to produce a relatively mellow piece of music, Destruction do the complete opposite and instead end their album just as metal (if not more “thrash”) than what has come before it. This is a must-listen for fans of any thrash band, regardless of whether they are the classic bands of the 1980s Bay Area or the more contemporary bands to emerge since then.
In conclusion, ‘Under Attack’ is a worthwhile listen for fans of thrash metal. While not a perfect record, the album is an amazing effort that contains more pros than cons with enough thrash credibility to hold your listening attention. If you like loud, fast, heavy and unrelenting metal, be sure to check this album out.