Destructor - Forever in leather 4/5

Reviewed: 1-11-08


1. Tear down the heavens
2. Skull splitter
3. World of war
4. Damage control
5. Unleashed
6. Precision devastation
7. Unearth the earth
8. Forever in leather
9. Straight to hell
10. Doomed to centuries in ice
11. Pounding warriors

Fresh off their triumphant 'Storm of steel' EP issued last spring, the mighty Destructor release their 2nd full-length CD, 'Forever in leather'. Remarkably, the interval between the Cleveland thrashers' classic debut, 'Maximum destruction', and 'Forever in leather' clocks in at 22 years, which must be some kind of record for most time between full-length releases. That said, the long-running Cleveland thrash act have been on the road to recovery for several years now since their successful reformation in the early 2000s, with a pair of fine EPs (the aforementioned 'Storm of steel' and 2003's 'Sonic bullet') under their bullet belts in the interim. European audiences have embraced the reunion with open arms, as Destructor have been welcomed as conquering heroes in recent years at both the prestigious Bang Your Head festival and the Keep It True festival.

The esteemed Auburn Records is marketing 'Forever in leather' as a thrash metal CD, and I don't disagree with that characterization, but it's a bit misleading in the context of today's thrash scene. Unlike so-called modern thrash bands, Destructor are 2 parts thrash and one part traditional American metal, as evidenced by the band's use of melody (both in guitars and vocals) in a truly old-school fashion and their ability to pen convincing tunes that are not relentlessly pedal-to-the-metal from beginning to end. To be sure, there is enough high-velocity rifferama (think very early Slayer or 'Kill 'em all' Metallica) to be found on this CD to please even the most voracious speed freak, but Destructor offer up a more leavened, nuanced attack than today's "modern thrashers" do. Furthermore, Destructor have a leg up on the new crop of retro-thrashers because, rather than mimicking a musical style that peaked before they were born, Destructor are playing the music form they helped to pioneer in the United States in the mid-80s, lending the final product a ring of authenticity that today's youngsters can only aspire to achieve.

More importantly, though, 'Forever in leather' is simply a top-notch power/thrash CD that reveals Destructor at the very top of their game, firing on all cylinders, and making up for lost time. Unlike so many 80s band reunions, Destructor are not merely going through the motions here or struggling desperately to recapture past glories that have long since faded into the mists of time. There's a crackling energy and vibrancy on 'Forever in leather' that can't be faked or punched-in through studio wizardry. These guys have still got it, and it shows in every beer-stained note. The proof's in the pudding. A track-by-track comparison of 'Forever in leather' with the legendary 'Maximum destruction' opus reveals that Destructor are arguably better writers now than they were in their so-called heyday. And their sound remains absolutely pure and unmistakably Destructor, undiluted by modern influences and unspoiled by the ravages of time. The twin guitars of Pat Rabid and Dave Overkill are neck-shredding buzzsaws, while drummer Matt Flammable offers a full arsenal of double-bass flurries and circus beats. Overkill's vocals remain quite convincing too, offering just enough clean high-pitched tunefulness to offset the half-shouted roar (think Tom Gattis for a decent comparison). All the earmarks of Destructor's patented sound and style are here in spades. Were it not for the difference in production quality, one might think that 'Maximum destruction' and 'Forever in leather' were recorded in the same sessions back in 1985. Producer Don Depew of Breaker fame captured a powerful sound on this CD, but at the same time kept it sufficiently rough and raw, gritty and greasy to allow the listener to revel in the rough edges of the bulldozing Destructor machine.

For fans of 'Maximum destruction', this 'Forever in leather' is a buy-or-die proposition, the rare worthy post-reunion sequel to a monumental 80s thrash masterpiece. To those who worship at the altar of Evile, Fueled by Fire and Merciless Death who want to be blown away by a thrash originator that hasn't lost a step in 20+ years, I can only say check it out. The younger generation could learn a thing or 2 about pulverizing U.S. speed metal by studying the high-quality, blood-and-gasoline assault from the trenches that is 'Forever in leather'. Auburn Records has done it again. Now if only we could be granted a new CD from Breaker, Cleveland might regain its position as top dog for blue-collar, studded-leather metal.




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