Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Destruction - Alive Devastation (2002)

Destruction's 1989 offering Live Without Sense remains as perhaps my favorite single live thrash album of all time, proving the Germans could do a great job with the format; and coming off their studio masterpiece in The Antichrist, I had accumulated some rather high hopes for Alive Devastation, despite the fact that it would only initially be coming out only in Japan (US fans can acquire it within the Live Discharge: 20 Years of Total Destruction DVD package and avoid the steep import price). Unlike it's predecessor, this album was recorded as a 3-piece, so I was a bit curious to see how the guitars would sound in the setting, and since the band had recently swapped out Sven Vormann, it would also be interesting to hear how the new guy Mark Reign would perform (he'd played in some obscure death and black metal acts prior to Destruction).

Well, this is no Live Without Sense, but I am satisfied that the band has at least done a decent job of shuffling their older and new material here, and the stage sound doesn't seem to suffer from the lack of an extra guitarist whatsoever, since Schmier's frenzied presence and the material is simply too strong not to succeed. The tracks from both eras seem to flow seamlessly into one another, and there are a number of favorites to be had. "Nailed to the Cross", "Bullets from Hell" and "Thrash Til Death" are naturally included from their most recent studio offering, The Antichrist, and they've also summoned up "Machinery of Lies", "Tears of Blood" and "The Butcher Strikes Back" from the prior effort, All Hell Breaks Loose. The remainder of the set is rounded out by essential classics like "Mad Butcher", "Eternal Ban", "Curse the Gods", "Bestial Invasion", "Invincible Force", "Life Without Sense", and of course "Total Desaster". It's an extremely safe selection, and granted all of the older material was incorporated on the 1989 album, but the riffs still feel fresh and visceral, and the performances of the entire trio are commendable.

What's interesting is that there are some technical difficulties in the set, Sifringer's amp cutting out, and the band chose to just leave them all on the recording. It's a fairly honest maneuver, and seems to do nothing to dissuade the Wacken 2002 crowd, who merely shout and encourage the band patiently from off-stage. Schmier also drops a lot of f-bombs on stage, perhaps too often that it feels cheesy, as if he's got a serious profanity problem (despite the guitar malfunction), but this doesn't have anything to do with the actual songs being hammered out. His voice isn't as peak and surgical sounding as it might have been in the late 80s, but it's still executed very well, and I'm sure there are many who prefer them on the more recent releases. Alive Devastation is not exactly a fan's dream; I would never choose it over Live Without Sense; but it's good for what it is, and certainly worth owning if you can snag it along with Live Discharge. Just don't bother importing the original live-only album unless you're a glutton for punishment (it's probably about $40 US if you can find it.)

Verdict: Win [7/10]

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