Destruction strikes back, devastating thrash attack! A full force metal package hits Toronto tonight, part of the Teutonic thrash titans’ North American promotional trek for last year’s Under Attack. This varied line up exhibits classic, mid-era and modern metal; bullet belts and patched denim are wholly encouraged.
California’s Warbringer fared well carving a niche within the overstocked thrash metal revival last decade, winning a prestigious slot on Century Media Record’s roster for their 2008 debut War Without End. Five albums later and these soldiers continue to impress fans of contemporary thrash and March commanded the release of Woe to the Vanquished. Technically accomplished and Exodus-inspired metal is Warbringer’s weapon of choice and it’s hard to avoid watching vocalist John Kevill. His stage presence is particularly animated and he makes a superb effort to win over spectators while shooting a hybrid of hardcore and thrash vocals with the odd falsetto. Unfortunately, the guitars spend the performance battling for audibility among the other instruments. Half of the set is conscripted from Woe to the Vanquished, including “Shellfire” and “Remain Violent”, while older assaults like “Living Weapon” and “Living in a Whirlwind” spill drinks in the pit. Warbringer may tour a lot but their energy on stage remains insubordinate. This is what thrash is all about.
Perhaps the odd band on the line up, Jungle Rot’s old school-inflected death metal features strains of thrash in their latter efforts. Either way, their hammer-smashing rhythms are a perfect condiment to headbanging tasty thrash and the audience stay put as they unfurl their set. With primitive groove and copious amounts of chugga-chugga, these Americans batter the crowd with unpretentious stripped-down death metal. “Strangulation Mutilation” features Dying Fetus-style battery; “Ruthless Omnipotence” thrashes to raise the needle on the speedometer while “Paralyzed Pray” can level cities with its stomping rhythms. Frontman and sole original member Dave Matrise employs a threatening guttural clamour while disseminating bone-scraping riffs and frequently broadcasting praises to old school metal, which are met with raucous approval from the attendees. Mosh pits are not as consistent as they were for Warbringer but when they do flare up, they’re disruptive. Brutal death number “Psychotic Cremation” concludes the set in a minute and a half with punctuating pacing followed by a hearty round of applause.
Spitting out the title track of Under Attack as an opener, Destruction waste zero seconds firing out their updated ‘80s thrash, brimming with bravado and instantly inciting moshing insanity. Fans unfamiliar with the thrash trio’s latest cacophony recognize the following number, the genre-classic “Curse the Gods” from Eternal Devastation. Beginning with lonely yet eerie melodic guitar, the song melts into a rough and ready headbanging experience. Frontman Schmier’s vocal rasps are as venom-spat as ever while guitarist Mike shreds with the updated guitar tone that appeared on the Thrash Anthems take of this track. It sounds cleaner and less violent than its 1986 counterpart but remains mean and unapologetic live in concert.
The other classic songs are reimagined with this same modernized sound – not a surprise for those who have witnessed Destruction over the last ten years. “Nailed to the Cross” deploys waves of battery and sees the fans delighting in singing the punctuating chorus. Under Attack songs “Dethroned” and “Second to None” are impeccably performed but are less appreciated compared to the highly lauded “Mad Butcher”, “Release from Agony” and “Total Desaster” all swallowed with gusto by the drunken crowd. Instrumental “Thrash Attack” from debut album Infernal Overkill is a fine addition, weaving storied Germanic thrash via exploratory guitar narration. These Germans truly hit hard live and with a microphone at either end of the stage, Schmier is not restricted to a single spot as he wields his bass and roars away.
When the frontman announces “This song is from All Hell Breaks Lose,” it can only mean Destruction are about to thank their loyalists with “The Butcher Strikes Back”, a composition that isn’t usually uttered by thrashers as one of their best but is certainly underrated, despite being a mandatory set piece. It hits like a wall of bullets and works its way to a lofty pinnacle, one of the best instances of post-‘80s thrash. After this, the Germans leave the stage but the audience keep chanting their name. Their encore aptly begins with “Thrash Till Death”, rallying the crowd around the reasons they left their homes this Tuesday night. However, the end of the song sees Schmier bass blow out. It takes a while to fix but soon the Germans are back with one final cut throat song, “Bestial Invasion” – what’s a Destruction concert without it? This dirty number storms the venue and leaves the crowd baying for more but that’s all for tonight. Tonight delivered a meaty setlist with everybody’s favourite Destruction songs making an appearance. Such a shame the venue was only half full but those present undoubtedly hold no regrets.