Destruction – Diabolical Review

This year will see new releases from two of the Big Three of German thrash. Destruction are up first with fourteenth album Diabolical, with Kreator to answer in June. Though Destruction was my favorite of the Big Three during much of the 80s due to the cooly quirky, borderline black metal style of albums like Infernal Overkill, Eternal Devastation and Release From Agony, their later-era releases have been very hit or miss. 2019s Born to Perish had a few good moments but suffered from too much filler-grade material. Now founding guitarist Mike Sifringer is gone, replaced by Martin Furia, leaving vocalist/bassist Schmier the last remaining original member. With this in mind, I approached Diabolical with reasonably low expectations while retaining hope that the long-running act could find new fire in their collective belly and deliver a rip ride of thrash excellence. Where did my hopes and dreams get me? Let’s spin the Wheel of Thrash and find out.

Based on the fiery title track, Destruction appear to be back in black and ready to hack. It’s very much in the mold of their 80s sound, reminding a goodly amount of the Release From Agony material, and Schmier’s oddball vocals sound as weird and wild as ever. The riffs sound like Destruction riffs and the song’s intensity level is satisfying. Give me an album’s worth of material in this wheelhouse and I’m a happy thrashard. Followup “No Faith in Humanity” is cut from the same beer-stained cloth with much of that essential infernal overkill to keep your head flapping and fists pumping. It’s not reinventing the thrash genre but it’s playing nicely in the band’s well-developed sandbox while delivering tasty speed with hooks. As one would expect of a legendary thrash band, Destruction are at their best when they go for the throat without fucking about, as they do on the classic sounding “Hope Dies Last,” which could have appeared on Eternal Devastation. “State of Apathy” also sits in their classic era where speed comes first, quirky charm second, and everything else gets tossed in the incinerATOR.

That was the good news. The bad is that not everything here hits at that same level of quality and engagement. “Repent Your Sins” is a chunky, chonky mid-tempo bore which reminds me why I always hated Machine Head. There’s some nifty guitar work splashed across the song but the overall impression isn’t favorable. Elsewhere, “Tormented Soul” feels flat and generic, though it isn’t terrible, and the melodeath styling on “The Lonely Wolf” sounds awkward. The album closes out with a bonus cover of a classic tune by hardcore legends GBH (“City Baby Attacked by Rats”) that feels out of place and superfluous. One thing the band did well was keeping every track in the 3-4 minute pocket, avoiding the thrash bloat that plagues many olde timey speedsters in later life. At just under 45 minutes, Diabolical doesn’t feel overly long despite the peaks and valleys, so that too is a check in the win column.

Perhaps the best thing about Diabolical is how much like Schmier Schmier sounds. His weird nasal rasp and high-pitched screams are much the same as they were in my besotted high school days, and that’s just awesome. He helped invent the thrash vocal blueprint and few have as distinctive a style. His crazed wackiness is always a boon to the band’s thrash antics and he does a fine job here. The tandem of Damir Eskić and new axe Martin Furia is effective and together they manage to keep a good portion of Destruction’s core sound in the absence of Mike Sifringer, and for that I’m thankful. There’s also more shredding and noodling than usual for a Destruction album, but that’s a plus rather than a minus. Even the cuts I don’t love have some sweet fretwork to appreciate and their riffmanship keep even the worst tracks from total desaster.

While Born to Perish offered approximately one-half of a solid thrash album, Diabolical cuts closer to a respectable two-thirds. The lows are less jarring this time, and the highs are higher, so that makes this the superior platter. It won’t be the album I return to most when I want a dose of Destruction, but it’s a toothsome release by a band with 38 years in the thrash mines and one I can enjoy as an album rather than a poaching ground for scattered highlights. Destruction is still alive and kicking.1 Now let’s hope Kreator can take the baton and show the world that the Big Three are still big where it counts.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: N/A | Format Reviewed: Stream
Label: Napalm
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: April 8th, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. And they even released a cooking video to help you chef like a thrash titan.
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