As a rowdy teen thrashard, Destruction was my favorite part of the 80s Germanic thrash wave, for a while anyhow. On seminal early albums like Infernal Overkill and Eternal Devastation, their oddball sound and penchant for quirky but biting riffs set them apart from and above fellow countrymen Sodom and Kreator. After 1987s Release From Agony however, things went off the rails for the band and they weren’t able to get their heads straight until 2000. Their second act has been solid if inconsistent, with some albums feeling rushed and half-baked. That brings us to their 14th thrash platter, Born to Perish. It sports a new lineup featuring a new drummer and a second guitarist and the material feels like a conscious effort to recapture more of the band’s original sound even as they make use of the newfangled dual guitar element to expand the parameters of what Destruction typically does1. Has this ancient thrash act found a way to reinvent the speed wheel so late in their career?
No, but the elder speed lords come out of the gates sounding quite spry on the marauding title track. It has that classic Destruction sound I love but doesn’t feel like a retread of past glories. It’s urgent and aggressive, with Schmier’s toxic thrash barks as caustic as they were during my misspent youth some 35 years ago. It’s a fine thrasher and the presence of Damir Eskic (ex-Gonoreas) on lead guitar pays immediate dividends, creating a fuller, more oppressive wall of riffs, and when solos are dropped, they’re impressive and excessive. The problem however, is like so many olde thrash dawgs, Destruction forgets to self-edit and the song runs on about 2 minutes too long. “Inspired by Death” is especially olde timey sounding too, with hooky riffs flying this way and that and a bouncing, almost joyous mood that belies the dark lyrical content. “Betrayal” rounds out an impressive opening trifecta of meaty thrashers that show the band is far from over the hill. It’s a straight-ahead burner with simple but satisfying riffs and a enough pure testosterone to wake the mostly dead.
Other worthwhile moments include the raucous “Tyrants of the Netherworld” which could have appeared on their debut and been right at home. “We Breed Evil” is also a solid slice of speed fury, though it has some awkward refrains that lessen its overall impact. Sadly, the remainder of Born to Perish doesn’t maintain the relatively high standards of these highlights. Cuts like “Rotten” and “Filthy Wealth” are generic, filler grade material, and “Ratcatcher” is just a bad song that should have been left on the studio floor to catch beer suds and potato chips. The Testament-esque “Butchered for Life” has a lot of good elements but is hamstrung by an inability to edit, as it runs nearly seven minutes and becomes tedious.
What you end up with is about half of a solid thrash album. There are a few keepers, some that are just okay, and a few that don’t work. This has been Destruction‘s major issue since getting back in the game in 2000, and very few of their recent albums are solid from start to finish. That being said, this is the most technically gifted lineup they’ve ever had. New drummer Randy Black (ex-Primal Fear, ex-Annihilator) is a beast behind the kit, delivering a thunderous performance that really drives the music hard. He’s the best drummer the band’s ever had and it’s quickly apparent the difference he makes to their sound. Likewise, Eskic brings a whole new dimension to the band with his technical shredding. When he’s paired with long-time axe Mike Sifringer you get a potent tandem that manages to keep the Destruction sound alive in the riffs while taking the overall product to higher planes. If they could just keep their writing consistent and the songs under 5 minutes they’d be extra dangerous.
Born to Expire begins a new phase for the seemingly indestructible Destruction, and with a lineup this stacked, it’s easy to expect good things. They didn’t quite deliver them this time, but the signs point to promising horizons if the stars align, and I’m wishing for a killer album2. In a year without an abundance of top-tier thrash, Born to Perish is still worth checking out. The good stuff is quite good and the music is quite impressive, even on the lesser cuts. Keep on truckin’, grizzled warriors of thrash.