Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Destruction - Infernal Overkill (1985)

When the time came for a full-length, Destruction tightened the reigns of the apocalyptic horses they used to ride into battle on Sentence of Death and wrote a pretty dazzling array of slicing thrash riffs to use as building blocks for Infernal Overkill. While most of these are admittedly fantastic, Destruction seemed to have overlooked a very important aspect that a larger block of music requires to succeed with the average listener. While they didn’t have to worry too much with the EP, as its brevity was enough to stave off any perceived repetition, Infernal Overkill suffers from a mildly crippling condition: at the end of the day, it can get a bit boring. It’s odd to say, as the average song on this is no less compelling than those on their prior release, and indeed some are much stronger, but with double the time to fill, the performance of these same few tricks just fails to elicit a huge amount of excitement. After way too many listens, trying to reign in my own opinion on this, it's grown on me enough to be about level with its predecessor, but it's still not even close to being king of thrash cove.

At the core, this is very much the Destruction we heard on the previous Sentence of Death EP, if a bit more mature and controlled. So, you can expect a pretty consistent attack of semi-technical, often surgical thrashing, far more proficient than their countrymen Sodom, and even possessed of enough raw ability to toss their hat into the ring with the likes of Metallica and Megadeth. Mike’s guitar tone is kind of thin, but it has the quality of a biting wind, or maybe a sharpened dagger, slicing little bits off your body with each deft maneuver in his flurries of notation. Schmier sounds slightly less maniacal and filthy than he did last time around, but his voice is still quite identifiable and unique, with a bit more grimness on display. The character of his tone is like some cloaked figure stalking you coldly and methodically, sinister intentions obvious and menacing. His bass work is acrobatic enough to keep up with Sifringer’s maniacal licks, even if the tone could have been a bit more pronounced. Indeed, the entire production is a bit lacking, even for the time. It becomes less of an issue the more you listen to it, but it’s not doing Infernal Overkill any favors. Drummer Tommy Sandmann also provides an admirable performance, keeping pace with the others, if not really contributing many additional flourishes. These guys can play, and they can write some damn cool music, but I just wish they had written some damn cool music in a slightly different way every so often. I consistently enjoy what I hear on this, but it's simply not dynamic enough to fully command my attention for its 40 minute duration.

Truly, Destruction’s first full-length foray is a bit of a conundrum for me. While I recognize the skill and quality of Mike Sifringer’s sharpened array of riffs, some of which are truly fantastic, redundancy is a plague upon Infernal Overkill. While the base quality of any given moment is enough to ensure it doesn’t dip to mediocrity, and will jive with more tolerant and patient thrashers, every moment feels roughly the same as the last. The exception is the solos, which are without fail incredible, without a doubt the albums best quality. Beyond those, however, there’s simply very little variation, and the songs run into one another to create one vast morass of marching razorblade riffing… in and of itself certainly not bad, but fundamentally lacking in distinguishing characteristics. It’s not even that they’re all in the same style, plenty of amazing albums do that, but Infernal Overkill is just missing that special spark that makes each of its constituent parts memorable. It’s too bad, as it definitely bears repeating that the riffs are pretty sweet the whole way through. Unfortunately, they’re all just too similar to each other to raise this to any status beyond merely ‘good.’

With my outspoken heresy out of the way, one thing is still obvious: if you’re a thrash aficionado, it goes without saying that this is still mandatory. I mean, come on, its Destruction’s first album, and even though it gets repetitive, there are still some stellar moments in here, once again mostly due to the fantastic solos, which likely would have made Hammett himself flaccid with joy. Judging by the reactions to this record from the metal community at large, I understand my viewpoint is among the minority, and it also must be noted that I have a lower tolerance for derivation in thrash than most of my cohorts, so chances are this will resonate with you much more than I. If you’re a thrasher that somehow in the name of holy pig fucking christ hasn’t listened to old Destruction yet, you’ve not a moment to lose.

I really, really wanted to love Infernal Overkill. It has some of the most badass riffing sequences I’ve ever heard, ever, and even these listed faults are not enough to nullify its prevailing, classic charm. Its importance certainly cannot be downplayed. At long last, though, this is an album I appreciate a bit more than I actively enjoy, if you catch my meaning. Taken a song at a time, it can be both fun and impressive, and it’s certainly a worthy addition to my, and your, collection, but it simply lacks that extra dynamic oomph that could have ushered it into the heights of Show No Mercy, Kill em All, or Bonded by Blood. I kept thinking I just wasn’t getting it, and re-listened to this no less than a dozen times before putting thoughts to pen. It’s so agonizingly close to breaking the boundaries to greatness it’s almost heartbreaking. For all my slander, though, it essentially boils down to this: Infernal Overkill is a pretty good album, and a classic piece of thrash. It’s an essential purchase for thrash barons, both established and aspiring, and even though it’s nowhere near the top of the genre mountain, it will still kick your ass. Not to mention, if this was released before you were born, like me, it’s important to experience and appreciate this evolutionary link in the chain of German thrash royalty. I've focused a lot on negativity here, but the fact is that when all is said and done, I like it about as much as Sentence of Death, and absolutely recommend it to any prospective thrashers, who will likely glean more than I did. I think it could have been better, but there's enough astonishing moments here to warrant a spot in your personal lexicon of extremity.

7.75 / 10 - Legions of Hell Wear Matching Suits