Album Title: Diabolical
Label: Napalm Records
Date of Release: 8 April 2022
When it comes to German thrash metal, there are a number of names that spring immediately to mind, many of them having been at the forefront of the scene for what seems like an eternity. If I was to pick a favourite, it’d be a tricky task, but I’d probably plump for Kreator, simply because of their penchant for occasionally launching into face-melting, stadium friendly melody to run alongside their uncompromising brand of Teutonic thrash. That said, any one of Sodom, Tankard, or Destruction, the ‘Teutonic Big Four’, could easily challenge, and it all depends on one’s subjective taste as to which would come out on top.
Well, today, it’s the turn of Destruction, and their latest release, ‘Diabolical’ to go under the manofmuchmetal.com microscope. Unbelievably, since forming in 1982, Destruction have released no fewer than fourteen full-length albums, with ‘Diabolical’ being their fifteenth. And across their entire catalogue, the German quartet has refused to bow down to trends, change their approach, or soften their edges at all. Of course, it goes without saying that some of these releases have hit the mark more than others – it would be an impossible task to release fifteen albums without the occasional misstep, or quality drop. But what’s not in question during their forty-year career, is their appetite and sheer unwavering tenacity, meaning that they command a loyal fanbase who appreciate the fact that this is a band that have always given everything in the pursuit of thrash metal world dominance.
I could leave the review here by saying that ‘Diabolical’ is a continuation of where they left off with 2019’s ‘Born To Perish’ and each of their releases before that. After all, if you’re already familiar with Destruction, you’ll already know roughly what to expect, and you’ll not be left disappointed here. Bassist/vocalist Schmier, guitarists Martin Furia and Damir Eskić, and drummer Randy Black create a typical all-out Destruction-esque thrash assault, despite all but Schmier being new to the band from 2018 onwards.
After the scene-setting instrumental that’s ‘Under The Spell’, Destruction take precisely zero seconds to prove that they’ve lost none of their bite and fury. Sharp, fast riffs assault the ears, before piecing lead notes wail alongside Schmier’s instantly recognisable pipes that aim for the skies. The track thunders at one hell of a tempo, a flurry of drums, riffs, rumbling bass, and snarling vocals that leave you in no doubt that Destruction are angry; to be fair, there’s a lot to be angry about in today’s reality, so it’s no surprise that a band like this has come out swinging.
Fans that like their thrash fierce and uncompromising will once again love the material on ‘Diabolical’, as there is almost no let-up in the ferocity across the thirteen tracks on this record. ‘No Faith In Humanity’ is, if anything, even faster, and more vitriolic. As a lover of the almighty riff, it’s hard not to get swept up in the sheer power and violence of this track and actually, the chorus is subtly catchy too. The album is also wrapped in a very good production that allows each instrument to be heard with sufficient clarity, whilst sacrificing none of the power of the material.
The more I listen, the more I can begin to hear the subtleties, such as they are, buried within the music. For example, ‘Repent Your Sins’ is, after a few spins, a groovier, savagely catchy beast than I had it pegged as being on a first listen. ‘Repent Your Sins’ meanwhile offers more mid-tempo groove that’s suitably infectious and enjoyable.
The standout moments for me, are those moments though when the onslaught is tempered ever so slightly to allow a little more melody into proceedings. One of the few examples of this is within ‘State Of Apathy’ another angry and savage affair that for the briefest of moments allows a modicum of bright melody into the song just after the half-way mark. It’s like the clouds part and out comes the sun. It’s a glorious thirty seconds or so, culminating in a more melodious lead solo too, but in the blink of an eye, the battery returns to the close. ‘Tormented Soul’ is another catchy number thanks to the really cool lead guitar embellishments that emerge in and around the chugging, groovy mid-tempo stomp.
There’s no denying that ‘Diabolical’ is a high-quality thrash metal affair, but I will admit to struggling ever so slightly when I listen to it. I like heavy and uncompromising just like the next person, but 45 minutes of heavy and relentless thrash metal with little deviation from the core approach tests even my powers of endurance. For my personal tastes, I need something a little more nuanced, varied, and occasionally melodic. And if not melodic, then big grooves or similar are needed to just break up the barrage of aggression. I know that Destruction do display these elements within their material, but I can’t help feeling like I want just a little more on that score.
That being said, I don’t for one second believe that long-term fans will care a jot about my slight concerns. After all, ‘Diabolical’ is simply another great thrash metal album in their own inimitable mould that they can proudly add to their lengthy discography. As a result, it’s a no-brainer for the thrash aficionado and rightly so.
The Score of Much Metal: 80%
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