Many seem compelled to call The Antichrist the 'comeback' album for Destruction, but this not chronologically nor logically the case. The sound here is one lifted straight from its predecessor, All Hell Breaks Loose, but pummeled into perfection. That album was a fresh act of violence borne from a stagnant musical relationship, while this is like a freight train hitting you at a thousand miles an hour, a mushroom cloud being formed over your conscience, an instant window to everything you loved about this band in the 80s and then some. Yes, folks, it's time to dust off that trap door in the basement, stock up on canned beans and hide the children, because prolonged exposure to The Antichrist will melt your face off, and incinerate all the loved ones surrounding you. In fact, it's most likely the greatest thrash metal effort yet released in the 21st century.
This is not praise I lavish lightly upon anything, because the genre is perhaps my most beloved and I seem to take it far more seriously than most. It's not a joke to me, and it's far more than a fashion statement. It's perhaps the most energetic and relevant of all metal substrata, but it very often needs a swift kick in the ass to prove so, since so many of the younger practitioners seem to focus solely on a few of the peripheral elements like getting drunk and looking cool in clothes that were long out of style years before they had even achieved an embryonic state. The Antichrist is just such a swift kick in the ass, and though it does arguably bear one nostalgic, self-referential statement as its flagship, it is largely the product of both social and political unrest that defines most of the very best material in this genre. Destruction were older, wiser, and wicked pissed (pardon the Boston in me), and this is the ultimate, unrestrained manifestation of their wrath upon the unsuspecting, passive, sheepish multitude.
This is accomplished with a tone as hard as steel girders being lobbed from a high rise down upon the audience, crushing spines and craniums aplomb. Special credit must be given to the Abyss Studios' and Hypocrisy/Pain mogul Peter Tägtgren for producing and recording the finest work of his studio career, because the mix easily surpasses All Hell Breaks Loose and clings to the remarkable songwriting like leathery plates to a mutant armadillo, protected it across the nuclear landscape while allowing it to better impact the feral hostiles it voraciously tramples. Actually, an armadillo does not do The Antichrist justice. It's more like the bony frills of a triceratops. Truly an impressive work of engineering which perfectly places into perspective the storming payload of Sven Vormann's percussion, the unfathomable riffing riots of Mike Sifringer, and both the bottom end sewage and malicious bark of Marcel Schirmer.
All of this might seem meaningless without the songs to match the unparalleled sonic muster, but The Antichrist has them to spare. Remember when thrash metal albums had songs that you could repeat over and over in your head and to your friends until they hated your fucking guts? Remember the 80s? It seemed like such an advent was prehistoric in 2001, so the Germans decided it was time to unshelf the practice and return it to the fore, so the catchy acoustics and cheesy, endearing pitch-shifted narration of the "Days of Confusion" intro herald a track that would immediately launch itself into history, and probably every Destruction setlist since: "Thrash 'Til Death". The title had been used before, and in all honesty, if it were not one of the original 80s bands doing this, I might have felt the purpose of the track fairly sour. Thankfully, in the hands of this trio, it's simply amazing, with inspirational lyrics that pay tribute to both the loyal thrash fans and artists...
A brief flyby will reveal references in the lyrics to Exodus, Kreator, Possessed, Overkill, Living Death and of course Destruction themselves in what might be the most thinly veiled, shameless self-promotion in thrash history, and the chorus of 'Immortal soul, takes control, immortal soul, thrash 'til death!' is one that would be instantly glued to everyone's tongue. But we're only one song in, and the bastards have more in store, starting immediately with the brick laying rhythms of "Nailed to the Cross", manifest through stampeding guitars and a chorus that dwarfs even its predecessor, one of the greatest (if too obvious) anti-Christian anthems in history, even more entertaining than the bands' own "Curse the Gods". Even the admittedly rock breakdown in the bridge at about 2:00 is good, with Schmier weaving his bass lines like a barbwire fence into the pick-up riff before the final chorus. Already, within about 8 minutes of its existence, this album has propelled itself into the annals of legend, and yet rather than settle on their laurels and pad the content with a slew of filler, there is no end to the violent jubilation.
"Dictators of Cruelty" has a lot of the forward thrust reminiscent of something written for Artillery's By Inheritance or B.A.C.K., while "Bullets from Hell" creates a granite, circular, complex rhythm that makes it impossible to sit still, you just want to bang your head so hard and throw your seat into the nearest window. "Strangulated Pride", "Creations of the Underworld" and "The Heretic" all barrel through the mix like 18 wheelers on autopilot, racing straight to a stockpile of explosives, but there are also some finely executed deviations like the winding, exotic scaling course of "Meet Your Destiny", the feisty muted grooves and discordant gleams within "Let Your Mind Rot", and perhaps even greater, the tasteful, voluptuous onslaught of "Godfather of Slander", which takes yet another compulsive lunge at the Church, or rather a particular individual within its questionable eaves.
42 minutes of calculated concussion. No filler to be found anywhere. Simple and yet strangely effective lyrics. A formula of devastation so assured and convincing that Destruction have been using it repeatedly since (with diminishing returns, since few of their later songs hit home quite so hard). This album is so good that one wonders how much we'd been robbed in the 90s when Schimier and Sifringer had gone their separate ways. Try and imagine if The Antichrist had come out in 1991. It might have saved the entire genre for the next 10 years (irony intended). Then what might they have been capable of in the next century? Well, perhaps I'm sobbing in the spilled milk at such theory, but there's no question that this album at least helped spark a thrash resurgence in the past decade, even if so few other bands have been able to come close to its level of polish and hostility. If you don't own this, you are wrong.
Verdict: Epic Win [10/10] (why don't you fuckin' surrender)