Destruction - Sentence of Death (1984)Release ID: 3001

Destruction - Sentence of Death (1984) Cover
Ben Ben / April 15, 2019 / Comments 0 / 1

I must admit that I didn't really enjoy Destruction's so-called classic albums. Neither Infernal Overkill nor Eternal Devastation did much for me and I think they're both overrated. So, when I first checked Sentence of Death out, I assumed I would hate it. That hasn't turned out to be true and in fact I enjoy it more than the full-length albums.

The first thing to note is that while the production isn't great, it has far more impact than either of the previously mentioned albums do, which seriously lacked any sort of grunt. Marcel's vocals are also less annoying on these tracks, specifically not reverting to that terrible squeal as much that pops up often in their music.

I'm still not going to rate it very highly as it only has 5 tracks, lasting under 20 minutes. And while Mad Butcher is certainly memorable, and Satan's Vengeance is decent, none of the other tracks make me want to come back for more.

Daniel Daniel / May 21, 2019 / Comments 0 / 0

By 1984, the Americans had well & truly planted the seeds of a strong US thrash metal scene that would go on to dominate the rest of the decade. However the Americans weren’t the only heavy-weights of the movement, & the second most important market place was just about to take off with arguably the first legitimate Teutonic thrash metal record hitting the shelves in November 1984. The only previous German thrash releases had come in the form of crude demo tapes from the likes of Sodom & Holy Moses but it was about time we saw a label put their money where their mouth was & release some of this material in a less primitive format. For those that are wondering what the difference between the US & the Teutonic models of thrash metal is, well the German model is much rawer & more abrasive with decidedly less polish. It has a more underground feel to it & was possibly more influential on the more extreme forms of metal like death & black metal. Sodom may have been the Godfathers of the German scene however it’s debatable as to who got their proper label debut out first. There are contradicting release dates across the various online resources in regards to Sodom's "In The Sign Of Evil" E.P. which makes it difficult to categorically determine whether it received a 1984 or a 1985 release but given that their “Victims Of Death” demo tape was recorded quite late in 1984, it's probably more likely to have seen the light of day in 1985. If this statement angers you then please…. do something violent…. it would please the metal Gods (no not Rob Halford). But there’s no doubt at all that Destruction’s initial effort, the “Sentence Of Death” EP, first saw the light of day in 1984 so let’s take a look at that.

Destruction first formed as a three-piece in 1982 under the awkward moniker of Night Of Demon. They wouldn’t change their name to Destruction until 1984, just before the release of their highly- regarded “Bestial Invasion Of Hell” demo tape which I used to have on a bootleg CD along with Tormentor’s “End Of The World” demo way back in the day. This demo would lead to a recording contract with Steamhammer Records who were also involved in the release & distribution of several other major metal releases in 1984 including Sortilege’s “Metamorphose”, Trouble’s “Psalm 9”, Metal Church’s self-titled debut & Brocas Helm’s “Into Battle”. The resulting “Sentence Of Death” E.P. unquestionably showcases a definitively German brand of thrash metal that’s easily identifiable over the US material that was around at the time.

The tracklisting is comprised of five songs & a short intro piece over a duration of just over 19 minutes but boy is there a lot going on during that time. Destruction cram so many riffs into each short track that the E.P. really does appear to be a lot more substantial than its short running time would have you believe. The production is suitably raw although this is hardly an inhibitor for the band. In fact, the sound suits Destruction’s image quite well. I mean if you look at the cover artwork you’ll see three young dudes sporting so many studs & spikes that you’re left wondering how they’d even pick up a guitar, let alone actually play it! It’s really pretty hilarious & I have to say that it appeals to me quite a bit on an old-school level. But despite the primitive nature of the production & packaging, you can comfortably make out all of the instruments & you don’t miss out on any of the nuances with the more complex riffs on offer despite a very messy guitar sound that’s lacking a bit of smooth distortion. And that’s interesting because Destruction are KNOWN for having pushed the complexity of their music much further than their German counterparts did during the early stages of their careers. I have to admit that I don’t buy into that concept as much as other people do though. Yes they certainly play a lot of riffs but I wouldn’t say that they’re overly complex apart from the odd legato lead run from guitarist Mike Sifringer. There aren’t any drastic time changes or riffs that are all that technically challenging to play here. It’s really just that they’re played at such a ferocious tempo all the time & that none of them stay around for too long that leaves the impression of complexity.

Destruction focused very heavily on being amongst the fastest metal bands on the planet at the time & the influence of speed metal on their sound is undeniable. Don’t get me wrong. You’ll never be left wondering whether Destruction are truly a thrash metal band or not. But you can definitely hear a speed metal component in the makeup of almost every track included. Surprisingly, I often see people referring to “Sentence Of Death” as an influence on early black metal too but I can’t say that I hear anything remotely like black metal here apart from the ridiculous attempt at evil lyrics & the over-the-top cover artwork so I wouldn’t pay much attention to that.

Instrumentally, this is all about the guitars. The rhythm section simply make as much noise as they can whilst keeping the tempo as high as possible. I wouldn’t say that there’s any particular talent being displayed there despite what people may say. In fact, drummer Tommy Sandmann pretty much plays the same beat throughout every track & doesn’t contribute much on an artistic level. This might not be such a bad thing though because his technical skills are really pretty limited with his double kick work being particularly scrappy which probably answers the question about why such a fast brand of thrash metal built on a speed metal backbone wouldn’t utilize one of the most prominent tools of the trade more readily. But guitarist Mike Sifringer has a unique ADD-fueled guitar style that steals the show anyway & you’ll never get bored waiting for something to happen. His raw energy reminds me a lot of Voivod’s Piggy in that he possesses a unique & abrasive style that doesn’t conform to the common thrash metal constrains. His enthusiastically performed guitar solos are quite accomplished too although I have to admit that his mainly pentatonic style doesn't appeal to me all that much because there’s not a lot of melodic experimentation going on. I suspect that he’s drawn a fair amount of influence from Motorhead’s Fast Eddie Clarke but a lot of the time it sounds like he’s playing predominantly the same scale & resorting to hammering the same intervals really fast. Bass-player Marcel Shirmer handles the vocal duties really well & his rough & grindy delivery is the other main focal point of the band. I really like his style actually. He reminds me a lot of a combination of Venom’s Cronos, Sodom’s Tom Angelripper & Voivod’s Snake & being a fan of the more extreme forms of metal I really enjoy a less accessible & dirtier vocal with my thrash.

All of these elements combined see “Sentence Of Death” taking the early thrash metal sound of Metallica & Slayer & smothering it in the speed metal filth of Venom & Motorhead only with noticeably less punk influence than a band like Sodom. Destruction certainly sound a little less dark than some of the other European bands like Kreator, Sodom & Bathory however I think a lot of that can be put down to the outrageous speeds the band insist on playing everything at. If you’re going to play at those sort of tempos all the time then you need a bad-ass metal drummer with real power & a dark feel. I don’t think Tommy is that guy to be honest & he does struggle to keep things sounding tight for the most part. Closing number “Devil’s Soldiers” is a prime example of this as it simply falls in a heap with the band all seeming to be playing completely different songs. I honestly can’t say what they were trying to achieve there. It’s an absolute mess & a terrible way to finish the EP.

Look…. I know I’ve said a few negative things about “Sentence Of Death” thus far which will likely shock many underground thrash fans as this is generally a very highly regarded record but be warned… I’m about to take things one step further & say that I’ve never gotten on with “Sentence Of Death”. It sounds like something that should have a fair amount of appeal for me on paper but there’s just something that doesn’t quite click with me in the execution. I struggle with the messiness of the compositions, the primitive nature of the production & the lack of genuine evil in their atmosphere. There are certainly a couple of solid tracks here (like "Mad Butcher" for example) however I don’t think they manage to overcome the few weaker ones & I’m left feeling disappointed at the end of each listen.