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Spiritual Genocide

Nuclear Blast (2012)
Rating: 9/10

Destruction have always occupied the so-called second tier of thrash metal, a league that existed in the shadow of the “big four” – Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer and Metallica. But the reality is, Destruction are major league thrash. Alongside other European metal maniacs such as Kreator, Coroner and Sodom, the German band have progressed from those primitive beginnings without once letting down their guard.

The career of Destruction, and the aforementioned European acts, could be considered far greater than the “Big Four”, because even when metal was in the doldrums these guys stuck to their guns, never once letting up in their quest for thrash Armageddon.

Metallica became the heavy metal U2, Slayer tried too many times – and failed – to replicate Reign In Blood (1986), Anthrax got serious, while Megadeth floundered in the mid-90s. But for me, Destruction has occupied the same foetid pit since their inception.

Fronted by the sneering Marcel “Schmier” Schirmer (who also plays bass), Destruction has always been a tenacious trio, and Spiritual Genocide, the bands 12th all-new studio opus (and that’s without those live albums and EPs) – yes, 12th! – is another of those eye-gouging, skin-shredding, and bone-crunching thrash experiences that proves once again that the old guard are still red hot and on top when it comes to vomiting out hellish fury.

As of 2010, the drum machine behind Destruction’s blast beats has been Wawrzyniec “Vaaver” Dramowicz, a furious individual who treats his skins with no pity. Alongside him is master Destruction shredder Mike Sifringer, who has become an indelible stain on Destruction’s back catalogue alongside Schirmer.

As a teenager growing up in the 80s, bands like Destruction always appeal with their bullet belts, spiked wristbands and hyper sound. However, for many kids into thrash metal, such a band were also perceived as rather lethal; the sort of band you wouldn’t want your parents to stumble across. It’s great that, to mark their 30th anniversary, Destruction are still scaring the neighbours with their brute force pure thrash attack. Forget all the new kids on the block, there’s nothing like the originals.

Spiritual Genocide kicks off with the whispering, marching ‘Exordium’; probably the closest Destruction have ever got to Slayer. The mood is dark, the marching drums ominous and the militant whir of the guitar evokes images of stormy skies. But then it’s a full frontal assault as the terrifying trio spring from the darkest corner with a frantic work out which goes by the name ‘Cyanide’. Schirmer’s vicious rasp brings to mind the war-torn screams of Tom Araya (Slayer) and that distinctive Euro thrash feel which made the 80s such a blessed period. Dramowicz gives the performance of his life, rattling the sticks, the guitars flail, and the band rarely dropping into mid-tempo. Instead they are intent to smash the face with their mallet of hate.

The title cut also exists to batter the skull. A tumbling drum roll and twisted guitar riff and we’re back at full throttle. Sifringer’s fingers must have been grated to the stumps after this. Destruction care not for melody; this could easily have been recorded back in the foggy 80s, such is the primal rage of this 11-track mini-masterpiece.

The aim of the band here is clearly to keep things short and sweet, as there’s not a track over five minutes. ‘Renegades’ is a punishing tour de force of a track; Schirmer’s vocals become a throaty yelp on that chanted chorus, the band offer a slightly slower approach but this doesn’t last, as again the listener is pulled into the grinder for another battering.

‘City Of Doom’ is the first of four cuts that stretch more than four-minutes and this section is the real backbone of the album. There is a catchy riff on ‘City Of Doom’ that hooks into your flesh, while ‘No Signs Of Repentance’ gallops at a staggering pace. Although ‘To Dust You Will Decay’ is probably the most ominous cut on the album, featuring its chanted, punchy chorus and devilish chugging.

Those of you, like me, still stuck in the 80s thrash time warp will no doubt be pleased to hear that the band have enlisted the help of Tom Angelripper of Sodom and Gerre from Tankard for vocal contributions on the snarling ‘Legacy Of The Past’. This track is a classic thrash anthem to say the least, name-dropping several thrash classics such as ‘Hell Awaits’ (Slayer) and ‘Into The Crypts Of Rays’ (Hellhammer) as Schirmer wails: “The legend will last!”.

And if all this isn’t enough for you thrash-heads, then get a load of ‘Carnivore’ – probably the albums most melodic track (although I’m not sure about the video guys?!) – followed by the fury of deadly duo ‘Riot Squad’ and ‘Under Violent Sledge’; the former featuring killer guitar solos and ominous chug.

While these type of bands will always struggle to better their early works, this trio have no need to attempt such an impossible task. Destruction stand for thrash metal, and while they may have spent their existence in the shadow of false labels, 12 albums down the line are prime examples of what sincere thrash is all about. There’s nothing fancy here, just barbaric, ballsy, face clattering metal that consistently blows the roof of anything and everything else this year. Spiritual Genocide is a scathing opus that reeks of a pissed-off attitude… what more could you want from a thrash record? And just to think that Destruction’s earlier works are even more vicious!

Neil Arnold