[20 March 2011]
PopMatters Contributing Editor
When thrash-metal made its resurgence in the middle of the last decade, a lot of people cast their gazes toward the old-school progenitors who were still kicking around to see if they could keep up with the younger bands—including Municipal Waste, Warbringer, and Merciless Death—who kick-started the grassroots resurgence. In response, some veteran bands pulled through with some great music, such as a reunited Testament and Death Angel, Kreator, Megadeth, and Overkill. But one of the best German thrash bands to come out of the 1980s, Destruction, was lagging behind. Their 2001 comeback album, The Antichrist, was a phenomenal return to form after years of creative dormancy (“Nailed to the Cross” still scorches), but after that, it felt like the trio had complacently put their music in cruise control. Subsequent albums seemed uninspired, especially when stacked against such classic early material as Sentence of Death and Eternal Devastation. Only 2007’s Thrash Anthems, which saw them re-record some of their favorite tracks (one of the only cases where that tired gimmick actually worked) saw the band working some of that old energy.
Nearly three years after the very middling D.E.V.O.L.U.T.I.O.N., bassist/vocalist Marcel “Schmier” Schirmer and longtime sidekick Mike Sifringer return with a new record label in the form of European powerhouse Nuclear Blast, a new drummer in Wawrzyniec “Vaaver” Dramowicz, and a new full-length. And it comes as a tremendous relief to those who have listened to this band for all these years that Day of Reckoning is the furious face-melter that everyone knew this talented band was still capable of.
Destruction promised a return to that good old traditional thrash, and indeed, the new record wastes absolutely no time in showing everyone the band means business this time around. Opener “The Price” kicks off with a full-on scream from Schmier, crazed shredding by Sifringer, and a tremendous, propulsive double-time beat by Vaaver. When they’re on their game, Destruction can pull off some undeniably ferocious thrash along with some very contagious hooks, and that’s definitely the case here, first with “The Price” and all the way through the other ten tracks. Sifringer’s riffs are inspired on “Hate is My Fuel”, the track bolstered by the kind of gang vocals that ignite a thrash crowd. “Devil’s Advocate” shifts brilliantly from a thunderous gallop to full-on speed, Sifringer’s nimble fretwork, in a sly nod to the classic song “Bestial Invasion”, making the song sound even faster than it is. And despite a title that ranks as one of the more ridiculous thrash song titles in recent memory, “Armageddonizer” is nevertheless irresistible, alternating from a massive stomp to a thrash chorus that swings as well as a Slayer tune.
Not only does Sifringer step up with some inspired work, but the rest of the band does their part as well. Vaaver brings a sense of renewed energy that we haven’t heard in years, his drumming ultra-precise during the fast movements but, at the same time, exhibiting a sense of groove that a lot of young metal drummers fail to achieve. The inimitable Schmier, on the other hand, is in mighty fine voice on Day of Reckoning. One of the best and most unique thrash vocalists in the business, he’s always emitted more of a shrill snarl as opposed to the hyper-masculine growls of his peers, and his persona is all over this record, conveying the power of the music while sounding totally coherent—not an easy task to nail on record.
With production that does the band and the music justice (as opposed to the dicey sound of Destruction’s early recordings) and songs smartly written, not to mention surprisingly catchy, Day of Reckoning returns Destruction back to the forefront of thrash-metal after far too long spent away. Like their American counterparts in Overkill a year ago, they’ve finally rediscovered what made them so great in the first place, and we can only hope that this will only be the beginning of a creative renaissance for the band.