Though technically flawless, Born to Perish is a frustratingly forgettable Destruction album. Its ferocious riffs and double-bass assault ultimately fail to launch, partly because the cultural force of the thrash underground isn’t around to breathe fire into the equation.
It makes sense that Destruction is touring with Overkill this year, as both have released new model year editions of their same old thrash metal. Hardcore fans wouldn’t have it any other way, and more power to them. The sounds of the title track’s killer intro will smash their heads with a shovel; and don’t worry, new drummer Randy Black doesn’t give an inch and drives the guitars home with a satisfying punch.
However, the longer the album goes on, the more neat and tidy it feels. Thrash should drip with the rust and grime of four-track recording. It should rub you raw and threaten the neighbors. Instead, Born to Perish‘s slick production sounds big and bassy. In that regard, Destruction can’t really compete with extreme metal’s successors like death metal, grindcore and doom metal.
The irony is that some choice cuts like “We Breed Evil” sound more ferocious out of an iPhone than a stereo. On these songs, Marcel “Schmier” Schirmer’s snarls have a guttural bite that deserve nastier production. Played through clean speakers, it’s too neat for his piercing roar to tie together the crushing intro to “Tyrants of the Netherworld.”
Born to Perish also lacks the flow of earlier albums like 1987’s Release From Agony. It’s one sonic assault after another, with no room to breathe until “Butchered for Life,” six tracks in. Thankfully, “Butchered for Life” allows Mike Sifringer to exercise his classical tendencies while “Black” separates itself with an interesting groove. Even if it’s only for the intro, a seventh inning stretch helps this song to stand out among the rest of the album.
Born to Perish reflects a larger problem with thrash. It just doesn’t have the edge it once had because that wave of metal already crested and crashed. Taken individually, thrash bands like Destruction don’t have much to say. However, taken as a whole, thrash briefly carried the torch of extreme metal for the macabre and brutal. Destruction, once part of the Teutonic terror of German thrash, helped pass the torch to the death metal bands it ended up inspiring. At this point, Destruction’s sound has become obsolete.
Extreme metal is heavier and more violent than ever, so standard thrash numbers like “Ratcatcher” or “Fatal Flight 17,” written in a pentatonic scale and standard tuning, feel almost quaint in comparison. While it’s a blessing that these songs both have blistering lead guitars, it’s disappointing that a band with so much history and so much talent hasn’t found a way to develop their sound in a way that feels right for this time.
Born to Perish will likely please hardcore fans hungry for more Destruction, but it’s hardly a game changer. Like Overkill’s Wings of War, its fatal flaw is what’s the same, not what’s different. On a technical level, the new Destruction album is impressive, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s just more of the same Destruction’s usual take on German thrash—good for a trip down memory lane, but always in the shadow of previous releases. Perhaps if this album had come out in 1987, it would be a classic. In 2019, Born to Perish is dead on arrival.
Follow reporter Josh Rosen at Twitter.com/tweetjoshrosen.