Celebrating 40 years of anything is pretty damn impressive. Forty years for Destruction, as one of the world’s seminal Thrash bands and one of the Big Four from Germany, is simply huge.
Destruction – Whiplash – Enforcer – Crisix
KK’s Steel Mill – 25 October 2023
Words And Photography: Paul Hutchings
Sure, Destruction, the Teutonic Thrashers, currently led by founder member Marcel ‘Schmier’ Schirmer, have had many line-up changes and experienced the same turbulence that many of their ilk did in the 1990s, but alongside their brothers in Sodom, Kreator and Tankard, they remain devoted to the Metal cause.
They may not cause the same ripples as the brash American Big Four or even the second four (Testament, Overkill, Exodus, and Death Angel) over here, but on a crisp evening in Wolverhampton, Destruction demonstrated that they still pack one hell of a punch and have a discography of songs that can Thrash with the best of them.
The crowd is already whipped into a frenzy by the feisty undercard that has gone before them when Destruction takes to the stage. What follows is a masterful demonstration of controlled aggression. They blast through their history, opening with the bruiser that is Curse the Gods.
The lights bathe Schmier and guitarists Damir Eskic and Martin Furia in blood red whilst the engine that is Randy Black, perched high on the elevated drum riser, holds down everything with an ease that ought to be banned. He’s the picture of control, even when blasting seven shades out of the kit, his double bass kicking blistering.
The pace is relentless, as one would expect. The pits may be small, but there’s some energy left for it, even if, for most of the set, the enthusiastic crowd are content to headbang and roar their approval after each song.
Unlike the polish of Metallica, Anthrax and Megadeth, German Thrash retains a rawness that hits a nerve with those who like things with a bit more bite. The tempo is high from start to finish, with Nailed To The Cross coming early and getting the crowd fired up just a little more.
Hell, I’m singing along in the photo pit when that one bursts the speakers.
Although there is a spread in the setlist, it’s largely drawn from earlier classics, with huge cheers for the likes of Tormentor, Thrash Attack, and main set closer Bestial Invasion. A nod to the present day appears in the encore as the title track from the most recent release, Diabolical, gets an outing.
Tight and on point, it’s a mesmerising 80 minutes, which bludgeons its way past in the blink of an eye. Even a pointless guitar solo can’t take the temperature down, and as the band completes final encore, Thrash ‘Til Death, it’s evident that there is a symbiotic relationship between the band, who are clearly impressed with the Steel Mill and the audience, who have given everything.
We don’t get Destruction over here often, but when they do come, we don’t forget it.
When Razor had to drop off this stacked line-up, there were many collective sighs, but US legends Whiplash are a more than adequate replacement. Not far behind Destruction in terms of longevity, the trio of the legendary Tony Portaro, alongside newbie bassist Will Winton and drummer Rider Ripperson, demonstrate their steel with a punishing set.
The only letdown is the rather thin sound and the absence of the rhythm guitarist that gave Destruction such heft. When Portaro drops into his solos, there’s a lighter feel than you want. It doesn’t in any way detract from the iconic Walk The Plank, Stage Dive or Red Bomb, but you just want a little more beef to hit you over the head.
There’s not a huge amount of talk, and when it does happen, Winton is confident enough to take some of it. It’s mainly their thunderous Thrash that does the talking, with the old-school loving tracks from Power And Pain, Ticket To Mayhem and Insult To Injury.
Given that Whiplash last released new music in 2009, some 14 years ago, it’s no surprise that they draw heavily from their first three records.
Snarling Thrash Metal rarely comes in a refined package, and the closer Power Thrashing Death sees the place go rather crazy. It’s a stellar set, and another iconic band ticked off the list.
There’s usually one band who sits slightly outside the genre that dominates these packages, and on paper, one could point at Swedes Enforcer as that band. Yet, as they race through their speed-induced Heavy Metal, which is so infectious it could be laced with crack, it’s hard to see why they wouldn’t fit on the bill.
Sure, they have a slightly less Thrash look about them, all leather and bare chests, more of a Mötley Crüe on acid at times, but they are damned entertaining. Until they hit Nostalgia, the only ballad of the night, and somehow all the excitement and energy that they’ve built in the preceding six songs dissipates.
Thankfully, the Swedes hold an ace and quickly recover momentum with Mesmerised By Fire, which is as high in intensity as anything else played all evening.
They are most definitely the lightest band on the bill, with Olof Wikstrand’s sugary high-pitched vocals an acquired taste, but like the vibrancy of UK retro Metallers Tailgunner, Enforcer knows their market and exploit it to the full.
Overall, it’s one of the most enjoyable sets of the night, and when the band second on the bill have the brass neck to go off before coming back for an encore, you know they have some balls.
With four of their five-man line-up having been there since day one, it’s no wonder that Spaniards Crisix look well organised and up for the challenge of kicking things off. It’s a short set, but in terms of energy, these boys win the trophy.
You can’t help but love a band that kicks off with World Needs Mosh, followed by Macarena Mosh, and simply, well, loves to mosh! The early arrivals on the barrier and in the pit are in full appreciation as Crisix race through their set.
It’s fast, faster than anything you’ll hear all evening, and comes with a slightly comedic element, whether it be intentional or not. What is intentional is the fun the band are having on stage, which transfers to the audience, who are quickly nodding along.
On stage, it’s movement from right to left, left to right, as all band members, except for drummer Javi Carrion, race back and forth. With gang chants, Anthrax style and thick, chunky riffs, there’s no doubting who the band’s biggest influences are.
But it’s great fun, and as opening bands go, there’s nothing to complain about. These guys live Thrash. Maybe you should, too. The smiles seem pretty good.