Destruction is a legendary thrash band, there’s just no denying it. In fact, they stand on the cusp of 30 freaking years in the business and that’s a huge accomplishment when you stop and think about it. They had a huge influence on the evolution of thrash itself as part of Germany’s “Big Three” and they were one of the genre’s most beloved acts through the 80s (up until Cracked Brain, anyway). Since 2000 they’ve enjoyed quite a rebirth and renaissance and yours truly really enjoyed 2011s Day of Reckoning. Surprisingly, 2012 winds down with yet another Destruction opus and Spiritual Genocide is intended to commemorate their three decades of neck wrecking. With so little time between albums, you’d be forgiven for wondering if this is a rush job and may suffer from lack of time in the musical marination chamber. Sadly, that’s exactly the impression one gets from this platter of under-heated re-thrash. While it has the undeniable trademarks of the Destruction sound and a few memorable tunes, Spiritual Genocide is a significant step down from the material on Day of Reckoning and far too much of it feels generic and incomplete. That’s quite a shame considering the momentous occasion and the respectable track record the band has.
After a short intro, “Cyanide” explodes with all sorts of righteous thrashing fury. It’s the type of material we all expect from Destruction and it has plenty of zip, aggression and anger. However, it’s a very run-of-the-mill, safe song for such legendary band and the gang-shout-alongs placed throughout are fairly cheesy. Things improve during the title track, which uncorks some vintage riffs that will take long time fans on a nostalgia trip to such classic platters as Eternal Devastation and Release From Agony. It’s thrash as thrash should be and its Destruction at their best. Unfortunately, it’s followed by such low-rent, forgettable numbers as “Renegades” and “City of Doom” (the latter sounding like a poorly executed hybrid of Sodom and Annihilator).
That’s the pattern that prevails throughout the remainder of the album. A decent cut is followed by several dull, flat and listless ditties that don’t do Destruction justice or represent what they are capable of. For all the catchiness of the riffing during “To Dust You Will Decay” and the savage plucking in “No Signs of Repentance,” nothing can save tunes like “Riot Squad” and “Under Violent Sledge” from the thrash heap of history.
The surprise highpoint comes with “Legacy of the Past,” during which Schmier is joined on vocals by Tom Angelripper of Sodom and Gerre of Tankard and they collectively shout and bellow about growing up in the thrash era. Hell, the chorus is them naming their favorite albums from back in the day, what could be more fun? It’s dumb, but endearing and the nostalgia factor is pretty hard to resist (at least for those of us who were around at the time and survived the era).
While the song writing suffers greatly across much of Spiritual Genocide, the band sounds as good as ever. Schmier’s sneering rasp is the same as always and he even channels some of Tom Araya’s hoarse roars at times. Founding guitarist Mike Sifringer plays his heart out, but has far fewer catchy, cutting riffs than he had in the toolbox on Day of Reckoning. Still, there has always been something special about his playing and even his off days have plenty of metal credibility and worth. Once again, new-ish drummer Vaaver is a joy to listen to as he mercilessly flays his kit. He throws so many interesting fills and rolls into the soup, he keeps even the most mundane material somewhat interesting. I just wish he had better songs to work with here. Joining the fun on a few cuts is Ol Drake of Evile, who lays down some cool, if not amazing solos.
What can I say, this is an off album by a band I’ve loved and respected since I was a teen. It isn’t awful and it certainly has a few enjoyable moments I’ll return to, but as a whole it feels weak and undercooked. I’m almost tempted to round this up to 3.0 based solely on Destruction‘s legendary status, but that would result in a AMG beatdown via inter-web and I want no part of that. I know they are capable of far better and I’m sure they’ll get back on track when they take more time between releases.
As a long-time fan, I want to extend a hearty congratulations to Destruction for hitting the 30 year mark. They’ve penned some of my all time favorite thrash albums and they’ve been a bright spot on the re-thrash scene since their rebirth. Keep the bullet belts tight and the fires burning bright and for the love of infernal overkill itself, don’t rush the next one. Mad Butcher!!!