For those who like scorching deserts, scantily-clad temptresses, and animals that will poison you and then rip your face right off, look no further than the land down under. Hell? Close – Australia. It’s no surprise such a rugged environment has given rise to filthy bands that blur the lines between thrash, black, and death: Nocturnal Graves, Denouncement Pyre, Innsmouth, and the almighty Deströyer 666. Of perhaps lesser profile – though no less quality – is Victoria’s Destruktor. Formed in 1997 as the pet project of one “Glenn Destruktor,” the group dabbled in devilishly quick and unpolished black-thrash in the mid-aughts with their Nuclear Storm and Brutal Desecration EPs before settling into a blackened death sound with 2009 debut Nailed.
Even expecting more black-thrash savagery, Nailed was bliss for me. The songs were catchy, ferocious, and, most importantly, well-written. Six years later and now a trio, Glenn & Co are finally set to release sophomore follow-up, Opprobrium – which, I’m happy to announce, is their most cohesive and mature release yet.
The album’s title, meaning “harsh criticism or censure,” and the Mark Riddick-penned artwork, depicting a brutal condemnation of the three major religions, say it all: just like its predecessor, Opprobrium is raw, uncompromising, and unconcerned with subtlety. Sound-wise, Destruktor occupy an interesting niche between the bassy soup of bands like Bestial Warlust and the riffier thrash of fellow Aussies Razor of Occam. Early highlight “Besieged” is a perfect example, combining black-death chord-bashing with a frantic, thrashy main riff that makes me picture some poor sap being flogged with chains in a subterranean dungeon. Likewise, “Blood Poison” features its own prominent lick that sounds inspired more by Nuclear Assault than Nuclear War Now! fodder.
Sure, with Glenn’s guttural barking and gurgly shrieks, violent power chords, and unrefined drumming that’s banging out half-beats just as often as blasting, Destruktor have their blackened death down pat – but it’s the dynamics that make this record such a win. Take opener “Priestiality,” which lingers on a doomy Hooded Menace riff for nearly two minutes before exploding into a Blasphemophagher-style riffstorm, complete with dingy thrash breaks and a re-imagining of the song’s doom metal opening over a bed of blastbeats. This same trick is repeated with eight-minute, hold-nothing-back closer “Forever the Blood Shall Flow,” whose mournful acoustic beginning is later underlaid by a scorching string of blasting, to great effect.
Even beyond the dynamics, the amount of highlights is terrific, as becomes more apparent with further listens: take the malicious and catchy-as-hell tremolos in “Tyrants Condemnation,” the Altars of Madness-inspired solo break in “Besieged,” or the mid-paced riffing that crops up in “Immaculate Deception,” making me imagine a parade of demons marching out of hell.
Admittedly, later songs like “Eradication” do lack the same spark, which is a shame considering the album contains only seven tracks. In fact, with a lower hook-to-runtime ratio than Nailed, one could argue that Opprobrium is actually less accessible than its predecessor, but that misses the point: at just under 33 minutes, this album says what it needs to, provides a small yet delicious sample of each facet of Destruktor’s sound, and gets the hell out. While a few more solos and another hard-hitting song or two would have helped, the airtight track order and commendable performances more than make up for it.
And here’s where I thank those that have stuck with me so far, because I’m sure many saw the blackened death tag and war metal-esque moniker, assumed this was an indecipherable downtuned mess like Black Witchery, and already clicked away. Their loss, because Opprobrium’s production suits this style like a well-fitted spiked gauntlet. With a clear but raw mix, oh-so-audible bass, and a guitar tone that perfectly fleshes out the sinister riffwork, not a single note is lost in translation. It’s the ideal sonic bedrock for these songs: the menacing lurches, the overwhelming blastbeats – at times it feels like Glenn harbors a simmering rage that he’s forever struggling to keep contained, occasionally letting it explode over swarm-of-locusts riffs with shouts like “HE IS NOT YOUR SAVIOR!” Frankly, if this is what hell sounds like, I’m not even sure I want to be saved. And if thrashy black-death with discernible riffs is your thing, maybe you shouldn’t either.