It’s comforting to know Law and Order will always be in syndication on some channel somwhere and that a Big Mac will taste the same no matter where you buy it. Likewise it’s reassuring to see the big thrash acts of the 80s steadfastly refusing to go quietly into that good night. Under Attack is Destruction‘s 14th full-length of Germanic thrash and as someone who was there at their humble beginnings, it’s pretty cool to see the Mad Butchers still alive and thrashing so late into their bullet-belted old age. By now most fans realize they won’t be getting another Infernal Overkill or Eternal Devastation, and their output has been spotty at times, but hey, they’re still here and doing what they obviously love. And Under Attack is exactly what you’d expect from late period Destruction – traditional thrash with the band’s trademark quirks and few concessions to the decade it’s being released during. And as per usual, mileage may vary.
While 2012s Spiritual Genocide felt rushed and forced, Under Attack feels better constructed and more forceful. The opening title track is aggressive and urgent with some exuberant vocals from Schmier and truly impressive fret-board gymnastics from Mike Sifringer and it’s easy to digest and enjoy. The band sounds especially youthful and pissed off and that’s half the battle right there. “Dethroned” rocks some sweet riffs and solos, and though the chorus is a bit flat, it’s still an engaging burner. Songs like “Pathogenic” take things back to the golden olden days with a sharp, direct thrash attack, trademark Destruction riff patterns and wacky vocals, while “Conductor of the Void” traffics in stop/start herky-jerky leads and borrows a few pages from the Exodus cookbook. They even get a bit anthemic on the confusingly titled “Stand Up for What You Deliver,” and the simplistic, meatheaded approach works quite well.
Sadly, not every song is so successful. “Generation Nevermore” benefits from some wild guitar noodling yet still feels generic, and “Getting Used to the Evil” sounds like modern Destruction mixed with Nu metal, which is not a good thing. Elsewhere, “Second to None” manages to be catchy and cheesy at the same time, but ultimately feels too forced.
Regardless of their legendary career and obvious talent, at times it’s tough to shake the feeling you’ve heard all this a million times before from them and a million lesser copycats. It’s far better than anything Slayer is churning out these days and certainly enjoyable, but nothing here is exceptionally earth shaking, ground breaking or metal remaking, nor did I expect it to be. At 50 minutes, it also feels a bit too long and by the seventh or eighth track I find my attention beginning to migrate elsewhere.
Destruction has benefited from a surprisingly stable lineup over the years and original vocalist/bassist Schmier is every bit as entertaining now as he was in the 80s. I still love his gruff barks and scared little girl shrieks and he makes even the lesser material more interesting. Founding guitarist Mike Sifringer has grown by leaps and bounds since the days of the uber-raw Sentence of Death and his playing here is quite phenomenal and the definitive high point. He knows when to be flashy and when to rip it up and his solos are sure to impress. In fact, he’s mostly responsible for making the material worthwhile and his riffing and soloing provide the bulk of what you’d consider the hooks on Under Attack, since the choruses are often rather simplistic and of the nonstick variety.
I grew up with these crazy Germans and I’ll always have a soft spot for them, but I’m not totally blow away by Under Attack. Chalk it up to thrash fatigue and/or the jaded cynicism that comes metal reviewing, but it’s enjoyable enough and as Germanic thrash goes, it’s a worthy spin for committed thrashers. Let the bestial inwasion recommence!