Godiva - Destruction 4.5/5

Reviewed: 3-14-08


1. Illuminatio
2. Crawl in the night
3. Destruction
4. Pedal to the metal
5. After the war
6. Inside hell
7. Vicious blade
8. Bloody sky
9. Running from the past
10. Hell's on fire
11. United we stand
12. Bevelation (Bonus track)

Godiva just might be Switzerland's finest export that is not chocolate, cheese or cutlery. I classified their first 2 CDs, 2003's 's/t' affair and 2005's 'Call me under 666', as guilty pleasures, sort of marrying a Sinnerish teutonic stomp with dirty rock'n'roll and even a touch of glam. The songwriting on both CDs was top-notch, but something was missing. It seems that LMP agreed, as they parted ways with Godiva after 'Call me under 666', paving the way for the band to sign with Mausoleum Records for their 3rd CD, 'Destruction'. The cheap-looking CGI cover art (featuring a mostly-naked female mannequin with whited-out eyes floating in the air in front of a burning church... ermmmm, what?) did not exactly inspire confidence, but in the name of heavy metal your intrepid scribe took the plunge nonetheless.

43 minutes later, when the music ended, I struggled to scrape my jaw off the floor. Wow. This CD is a monster (and no, I don't mean that in a Hillary Clinton sort of way), a stupendous achievement that leaves Godiva's previous output gasping in the dust. How did they do it? Well, for starters, there is absolutely a heavier approach to 'Destruction' than any previous Godiva CD. The thick guitar tone and massive crunch have me thinking Primal Fear at times, or a heavier classic Accept at others. The glam and AC/DC influences are either gone or so deeply submerged beneath the surface that this CD screams "M-E-T-A-L" from beginning to end. But here's the cool part. The songwriting, courtesy of bassist Mitch Koontz and guitarist Sammy Lasagni, was always Godiva's most appealing attribute, but these guys have experienced a big-time breakthrough here. Every song is phenomenal: catchy, heavy, melodic, and uncompromising. Whereas each of Godiva's previous platters had a couple of standout songs, the Koontz/Lasagni team has delivered an entire CD's worth of material as strong as the very best tracks from the first 2 CDs. "Running from the past", "Vicious blade", "Pedal to the metal", "Hell's on fire"... every song smokes as much or more than the last. Tempos vary, but the uptemo quotient is more than adequate to satisfy this speed maven. There are no ballads, no filler, no proggy experiments, no acoustic interludes, just a constant barrage of some of the finest traditional European heavy metal that will reach your ears in 2008. (Possible exception: Bonus track "Revelation" gets a bit too techno in the verses before delivering a smasher of a chorus.) The lyrics are of the cliche variety, but there are some cool couplets including my personal favorite: "Race down the highway / Right down the middle / Let's hear the devil / Playing his fiddle." Nothing like Beelzebub resining up his bow to get the ol' ticker pounding, is there?

These songs are so tremendous that 'Destruction' would be a winner regardless of who was behind the mike and who was spinning the knobs. But here's where Godiva takes everything to the next level. Singer Fernando Garcia (ex-Victory) turns in the performance of a lifetime here. I had perhaps been too quick to dismiss him as a Marc Storace (Krokus) clone on 'Call me under 666', but he delivers power, melody and charisma galore on this CD. And producer Dennis Ward proves once again that he is a genius at getting a perfect sound and capturing the bands he produces at their very best. Without Garcia and Ward, 'Destruction' would be merely great. With them, another category of superlatives becomes necessary.

Now here's the depressing part: these Swiss lads have unleashed one of the best pure traditional European heavy metal CDs of the year, and most metalheads will probably never hear it. Mausoleum doesn't exactly have the best reputation for promoting its bands, and the crappy cover art is guaranteed to scare potential listeners away in droves. Don't be dissuaded: For fans of top-drawer peppy Judas Priest/Accept/Sinner/Primal Fear with Krokus-type vocals (only much better) and phenomenal anthemic songwriting, 'Destruction' is Top 10 material, for sure.




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