Merciless were a cool act. They weren’t one of the best thrash acts, nor one of the most well-known of the B-tier. Yet between 1990 and 2002, they cut 4 throat-slashing records just past the heyday of thrash before calling it a career. Or so we thought. Who would have ever guessed a throwback
band bassist would revive a classic sound in an attempt to relive the glory day? Certainly not I. But with former members of Deströyer 666, Centinex, and Portrait by his side, Total Destruction wants to lead you to a Dreadful Fate, (named for an old Merciless song, keep it in your pants, Grier)1 whether you wanted a new take/act/genre or not.
Thankfully, the Swedes don’t miss a beat, even if it’s not the most original take of the decade. With about as much interest in development and nuance as a thermonuclear warhead, opener “Vengeance’s” 2:16 says Dreadful Fate is going to kick your ass. The hyper-short length is a feature of Vengeance, not a bug, delivering a complete sense of its unfiltered aggression. Its death-tinged heft combines with a German wildness to constantly threaten to shake apart the track’s rubber band nuts and bubble gum bolts. Stepwise, the differences between Dreadful Fate and their halcyon Merciless days barely register. They sound more well-put-together, especially production-wise, but that same seat of your flaming ass feel of their classic records. The early Slayer feel pervades “Altar of Cruelty” and “Hour of Reprisal,” though, with names like that, I’d be more shocked if they didn’t have chunks of Kerry King on their stool. But it isn’t all Slayer, even within those worship pieces. “Hour of Reprisal” and “Death Sentence” lean more in the way of Sodom and Destruction’s twin pillars of chaos and, well, destruction. “The Final Sacrifice” turns to the trademark Kreator riff to close things out, mixing modern-day meat with late 80’s speed.
Vengeance rips by at such a breakneck pace that its abrupt halt a mere 26 minutes later jars the noggin. The record doesn’t exactly demand you flip it back on immediately, but it maintains enough momentum that one or two more songs would be welcome (even Reign in Blood was longer than this). I suspect DF meant the taut approach as one intent on all killer, no filler, which it accomplishes to an extent. However, it also serves a secondary purpose, though perhaps unwittingly: the record is mostly one-note. Sure, this is thrash, and if you’re looking for a 17/76 polyrhythmic brain-buster, you’ll have to look elsewhere.2 But even more than usual, the simplicity of the work demands the hems of a short runtime. Bestial (ex-Portrait) is distinctly more Teutonic in his vocals, due more to his permanent sneer and his drilling malice than his accent. However, he fails the bar of the charisma of Mille Petrozza, Tom Angelripper, or Tom “CAN YOU GUYS HEAR ME IN THE BACK?” Araya. His croaks of “Ooooo death sentence” might be one of the catchiest bits on the record the first few times, but, even clocking in under three minutes, “Death Sentence” falls into rote repetition too easily.
Even the solowork is excused from the dinner table for the sake of time. Most of Vengeance‘s spiraling monstrosities receive only a few seconds with which to work, which is a shame given the multiple facets Death Ripper (ex-Centinex, ex-Demonical) runs through on “Hour of Reprisal” when given the time. Likewise, when “Altar of Cruelty” takes the time to close methodically, it’s refreshing because that element is lacking elsewhere – yes, even thrash needs a breather every now and then. Bestial contributes to the peddle all-the-way-up-in-your-shitty-mug ethos, never giving you a moment’s peace. His forefront presence in the mix is hardly outside the norm, though it gives his acidic howls an odd sensation of crackling at parts.
Yea, yea. I know what you’re thinking: Slayer, Kreator, Destruction, Sodom. So this is just another derivative entry in the annals of metal’s most derivative genre, hip-hip-hoo-gives-a-shit. I’d be right there with you but for the fact that I’m a simpleton with low standards and Dreadful Fate bring riffs and panache aplenty. With one of these old acts made new again, you’re better off hoping for an OG line-up Metallica tour than an original thought. But in hawking Vengeance harder than a used car salesman on President’s Day weekend, Dreadful Fate defy the sands of time (not to mention a self-fulfilling prophecy) to hand in a lean and mean performance worth dodging the headsman’s axe for.