(Pure Steel 2016)
If you’re reading this review, there’s an excellent chance you’re already familiar with Cleveland metal stalwarts Destructor. As well you should be. A cornerstone of the famous Auburn Records label, Destructor set the U.S. metal world alight back in 1985 with the release of ‘Maximum Destruction,’ a savage, uncompromising exercise in U.S. power/thrash metal at its very best. If you know that, you probably also know that Destructor remain a going concern today, with founding members Dave Overkill (guitars/vocals) and Matt Flammable (drums) soldiering on with new recruits and bringing down the hammer wherever they go, pounding evil all the way.
What you might not know is what the deal is with ‘Back in Bondage,’ a newly released Destructor opus out on Germany’s Pure Steel Records. There are some confused reviews making the rounds, so let’s set the record straight. ‘Back in Bondage’ is *not* an album of new tracks or new recordings. (Not to worry, Destructor do in fact have a new album in the pipeline, and previewed a couple of killer tracks from it at their performance at the Defenders of the Old Fest in Brooklyn in March 2015.) Most of the ‘Back in Bondage’ material was written back in 1986-1987 by the band’s original lineup, including the late Dave Holocaust (R.I.P.) and Pat Rabid, and was intended for Destructor’s second album; however, those unfinished recordings were shelved when the band split in 1988. After reuniting in 1999, the band decided to record these unreleased 80s songs properly, along with three post-reunion songs (“Fight,” “N.B.K.,” “Powerslave”). Thus was born the ‘Back in Bondage’ album. For some reason, ‘Back in Bondage’ didn’t see the light of day back in 2001 when the recordings were completed, at least, not in official form (the album was heavily bootlegged). Two cuts from these sessions (“G-Force” and “The Triangle”) surfaced on the superb 2003 EP, ‘Sonic Bullet,’ but the rest remained hidden, until now. In 2016, Destructor have finally seen fit to share the official version of the ‘Back in Bondage’ album with the world.
This historical background places the record in its proper context. What you’re listening to is, for all intents and purposes, Destructor’s “lost” second album, with a few extra tracks (now 15+ years old themselves) added into the mix. So if ‘Back in Bondage’ sounds akin in spirit, aggression, vibe and feel to ‘Maximum Destruction,’ there’s a reason for that. It is and always was conceived as the successor to that landmark opus. The power, the intensity and the magic of ‘Maximum Destruction’ is readily apparent on the likes of “G-Force,” “Tornado,” “Fight” and the more epic stylings of “Pompeii.” Subtlety has never been Destructor’s calling card; rather, they traditionally take command of the listener with an overdose of bludgeoning chainsaw guitars and rapid-fire drums, with Dave Overkill’s clean expressive vocals over the top. Hell, Destructor sound like some kind of unholy Exciter / Motorhead / Venom hybrid, but with a better singer. Many of these tunes would sound right at home on ‘Maximum Destruction.’ That said, it is frankly fascinating to hear Destructor striving to spread their wings in a few spots, most notably on the sprawling, 9-minute semi-ballad “The Shedding of Blood and Tears.” Does the experiment work? I’m not certain, but you could hear what the band were going for and understand their desire not to be constrained within the narrow stylistic boundaries they’d painted for themselves on ‘Maximum Destruction.’
Ultimately, ‘Back in Bondage’ is pretty much mandatory listening for Destructor fans, as well for people interested in hearing a historical document from the glory days of U.S. power thrashing metal. Does it stand toe-to-toe with ‘Maximum Destruction’? Well, no, but that’s not really a fair comparison. Does it stand on its own merits? Absolutely. I’m pleased to have added ‘Back in Bondage’ to my music collection, and am especially eager to hear Dave Overkill and Matt Flammable smashing skulls again on their (hopefully) forthcoming album of brand-new material.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~