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The name Destruction will always be spoken with due reverence. Hailed as one of the mighty ‘big four’ of German thrash metal, Destruction have been levelling monster anthems of rage since their debut album Infernal Overkill in 1985.
This year heralds not only a new album for these titans of thrash, but also a thundering new lineup, with Swiss guitarist Damir Eskić and Canadian drummer Randy Black joining Destruction’s iconic founding duo Marcel ‘Schmier’ Schirmer and Mike Sifringer. Thirty-five years into their career, vocalist and bassist Schmier opens the book on Destruction’s most powerful album yet, Born To Perish.
“You know,” Schmier begins, “we’ve been doing this for thirty five years, but every album is an exciting new chapter, you know, and this time we had a lineup change of course, we have a new drummer and we added a second guitar player to the lineup. That was very exciting for us, so this will always be a special album for us because we made some changes, and I think it’s turned out really good. We’ve had some fresh wind for songwriting, we’ve found it good together, the chemistry of the band, when we were in the studio, and I think you can hear this on the record. The record sounds fresh, as fresh a band for as old as we are, we don’t sound like an old band, we still sound aggressive, so hopefully people will like it.”
Most of the wealth in the world today is based on the pain of other people.
[ Marcel ‘Schmier’ Schirmer ]
With a second guitarist, how did this develop Destruction’s sound on Born To Perish? According to Schmier, it has revealed a wealth of new possibilities. “We wanted to have a second guitar”, he says “so we can also make the compositions a little more directing and also we added a second guitar player early in the songwriting so we can add some more harmonies, some more lead guitar, some more shredding to the album, I think in order to make thrash metal, exciting guitar music. And that’s why also there’s a big overdose of guitar on this record. At one point, my producer said to me, ‘Schmier, don’t you think we are overdoing the guitar? So many solos, so much happening?” But I said, ‘man, people will enjoy it because this is metal of Destruction and people want to hear the new guitarist, they want to hear the difference.” We have upgraded the band and put two guitars, and you could finally compose an album with no handbrake.”
The difference can certainly be heard on Born To Perish, in particular songs like We Breed Evil, which sneak in a few melodic elements, “Yeah you’re totally right” laughs Schmier, “that song is relentless but of course has some, ah, guitar melodies that stand out and lift up the chorus in order to do something different, and that’s something that we can do now as we have a second guitar, some stuff that we tried on this album for the first time, there’s potential with a second guitar, you can create a part like this, that stands out, or that stuff that we couldn’t do when we were just a trio.”
I had a Dutch friend who was on board. Actually, they were flying from Holland back to Australia, where he lived, and he had gone to a Slayer show at the end of his holidays back in Holland, and he kind of pushed his flight date back to be on the ‘fatal flight 17’ and so he basically went to the Slayer show, got on the plane and died.
[ Marcel ‘Schmier’ Schirmer ]
Other tracks, such as the quite sinister sounding song Filthy Wealth, showcase Schmier’s vocal diversity. On whether he approached the vocals differently with Born To Perish, Schmier assures us that every track is its own beast. “I try to give every song a bit of different note”, he says. “I am very spontaneous when I sing. When I sing a song I try to dive into the lyrics and the meaning and meld with the music. This song is about people who become wealthy and rich off the back of other people. This is basically how our industry works. This is how our politics works. The rich people become more rich, while abusing the poor people in many ways. The bank system we have in the world today, all the money that the bank makes is filthy money. Most of the wealth in the world today is based on the pain of other people. It’s a system that doesn’t work for me. If other people have to suffer, it’s not a very nice wealth, is it? Yeah, Filthy Wealth maybe has a little more of a sinister touch, and that fits really good with the dark thoughts, and I always try to be emotional when I sing, because that’s the way it becomes most real.”
One song that really stands out on the album is Fatal Flight 17, which appears to tell quite a personal story, and as Schmier informs us, this is true. “The song is about the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17,” he states, “that crashed over the Ukraine [on 17 July 2014]. It got shot down by a rocket, that nobody knows where it came from. I had a Dutch friend who was on board. Actually, they were flying from Holland back to Australia, where he lived, and he had gone to a Slayer show at the end of his holidays back in Holland, and he kind of pushed his flight date back to be on the ‘fatal flight 17’ and so he basically went to the Slayer show, got on the plane and died. It was very tragic, and one of my good friends from Holland made an announcement on Facebook, and when I read all the stories I was destroyed, I mean, already this plane crash was already really bad, so I thought, I will write lyrics about it, in the way of Gary Moore’s classic 80s hit Murder In the Skies [from Victims of the Future, 1983] because that was also a song about a fatal plane crash, a Korean airplane got shot down over the Sea of Japan, and this was a very similar thing and I read about the investigations for two years, and they never came to the conclusion, who was in charge. But I wanted this song to stand as a memory of these people, and I think music has the gift to make people remember and make a statement.”