Monday, February 14, 2022

Devastation - Signs of Life (1989)

The difference between Violent Termination and Signs of Life is like night and day. That album was an insipid junkyard of dead-end ideas, with only its heart in the right place, and this sophomore is a record so bloody fast, fun and violent that it will literally remove your heart from your chest and grind it up in its teeth. In just two short years, Corpus Christi's Devastation had become pretty goddamn great, a natural signing for then-extreme Combat Records, and festooned in a damn cool cover by Tommy Pons (who also created the mascot for fellow Texan hard rockers Dangerous Toys). For a 15 year old autothrall, this was the sort of underground thrashing that buttered my bread, I must have nearly chewed through the cassette of this one along with Forbidden Evil, Leprosy, Leave Scars and Uncertain Future. Just an uncompromising good time, and one of the more 'extreme' albums in the genre, sort of a midpoint between Darkness Descends and Sacred Reich's Ignorance.

That's not to say it's perfect; it's wild but it does occasionally suffer from a sameness to the faster tracks that begin with the explosive "Eye for an Eye", one of my faves on the album, and the hardcore-like tint to the vocals definitely gives this a partial crossover feel, albeit with the more structured riffing. But almost all of the mid paced parts or evil Slayer-like breakdown riffs are pretty awesome, and there are a few good riffs in the more frantic passages too. Leads here are still not so memorable, but they freak out much better than on Violent Termination and sound far better in the mix. The drumming is far more coherent and intense, and the bass remains nice and thick to pulverize alongside the rhythm guitar madness. The vocals here are the biggest improvement, like I said they've got a punkish/hardcore feel to them but unlike the debut, the patterns he is spitting are far more aligned with the energy of the instruments, and he's mixed just right against them. Really, though, the whole band had leveled up and the one lineup change was well worth it.

Signs of Life also has my favorite production of their three albums, angry and fresh but still pretty clear, and comparable to other fast and nasty thrash records like Swallowed in Black by Sadus. This is the one which feels the most timeless to me, even sitting here writing this, I'm feeling the same affection for it as I did in those critical teenage years. It's no masterpiece, but one of those perpetual cult classics that deserves its spot in your tape/CD/record rack. And while it's not as short as Reign in Blood, it's only about 33 minutes, so it never ever gets the chance to wear out its welcome, the band just shows up, destroys and dizzies you to your thrashing satisfaction, and then takes a bow. One of the biggest turnarounds in all of thrash metal; they came up to bat, took their first strike, and then hit a home run, or at least a triple, and carried the bat with them, smashing all the basement in the face as they hurried on past.

Verdict: Win [8.25/10]

No comments: