DB HOF NO. 113
The making of Destruction’s “Infernal Overkill”
released: May 24, 1985
label: Steamhammer/Metal Blade
Though we have inducted numerous landmark thrash metal albums in the Decibel Hall of Fame over the years, very few of the earliest examples of the style have made it in there. And since Exodus’ Paul Baloff, Metallica’s Cliff Burton, Megadeth’s Gar Samuelson and now Slayer’s Jeff Hanneman are no longer with us, the opportunity to examine the genre’s origins are getting fewer and fewer. However, across the Atlantic in Germany, a trio of bands that were practically contemporaries of the Big Four (or Five) offer a pure glimpse of the origins of this style. Destruction, Sodom and Kreator (or Tormentor, as they were originally called) drew from the same influences as their American counterparts—largely the NWOBHM and, in particular, Venom—though they did so with a uniquely Euro perspective and approach.
It should be noted that there was, in fact, no such thing as thrash metal at this time. Well, the music existed, obviously, but it wasn’t called thrash metal. There were no bands purposely trying to play thrash metal. That all came later. These seminal efforts were made by young musicians who were simply taking the most badass aspects of the NWOBHM—say, the speed of Raven and Jaguar and the evil of Venom—and amping it way up. There’s also no doubt that the California contingent—Metallica, Slayer, Exodus and Megadeth—also influenced each other in this pursuit, whether consciously or unconsciously. The German contingent, remarkably, didn’t even know of each other until they had already recorded their respective demos, but they’d gotten a glimpse of some of the Bay Area bands through their first releases and tape-trading.
Destruction, the trio of bassist/vocalist Marcel “Schmier” Schirmer, guitarist Mike Sifringer and drummer Thomas “Tommy” Sandmann, hailing from a country village in southwestern Germany, arrived like a blitzkrieg with their vicious Sentence of Death EP in 1984. It was poorly recorded and sloppily played, but in the spirit of Venom, the band established itself as whirlwind force of evil and unchecked speed. The members were still teens at the time, and their transformation from that first effort to their full-length debut, Infernal Overkill, would be profound. Everything from the playing to the production would improve vastly, and the mix of thrash riffs, grim vocals and blackened lyrics would influence generations of both thrash and black metal bands to come. This is an album where literally, thrash was being invented, refined and made deadly.
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