With acute understanding of heavy metal rage and melancholy, Destroyer 666 went on to become in many ways the archetypal metal band of their generation. Deriving their elemental sound and technique from the neoclassical flair of Destruction‘s Sentence of Death, driving it through the epicness befitting of Homeric poetry, consistently espousing the image of the man of pride, yet managing to remain true to the law of the street, Destroyer 666, to one small pocket of metal listeners, became the embodiment of all that is great in our music.
To call ourselves, those that are fans of this music, depressed outcasts would be a caricaturish oversimplification; that is the mainstream’s lazy reading of the metalhead with a bad upbringing and no chance at life. But our essential unease eludes such convenient pigeon-holing; on the one hand, we acknowledge that there are others in far direr straits than us; our sense of pride – the same sense of pride that Destroyer 666 so strongly evoke – wouldn’t let us pretend otherwise, wouldn’t let us wallow in a pool of self-pity. No, our discomfiture arises from the lack of a truly meaningful purpose to work towards in this life; we have built a superstructure of ideals in our minds but the very first engagement with the world as it exists betrays the impracticality inherent in our idealism. We lash out in impotence, we try to circumscribe our interaction with that world, so that we don’t sully ourselves too much with its machinations; but it is an uphill struggle with our conscience all the same, leading to the occasional taint of corruption and the bouts of self-recrimination that inevitably follow. To fans, Destroyer 666 provided the soundtrack to this internal drama, both hapless and heroic by equal turn.
The impetus gathered leading into 02’s Cold Steel…For An Iron Age was tremendous, the band having lighted upon the same wellspring of inspiration responsible for the classic eras of more lauded names. But for whatever reason, the next two full-lengths were released over lengthy gaps of seven years apiece, arresting much of the momentum from the band’s younger years. Defiance, on the surface, retained the approach from the first three albums, that of a blackened speed metal filtered through a melodic sense which could only be likened to a traditionalism of the soul. But something felt lacking; be it a deterioration of that melodic sense, now used as embellishment rather than warp and woof of the composition, or an increased tendency towards atonal note progressions, Defiance, illogically, seemed less than the sum of its parts; it wasn’t quite the sound of a band running through the motions; rather, to pilfer a lyric from Kreator‘s shunned era, Defiance was a case of “the spirit willing but the flesh being too weak“. Or was it the other way around?
A chicken-or-egg-first conundrum but in any case the band took a further seven years to release Wildfire. Apparently, their idea of exorcising the ghosts of Defiance was to unabashedly acknowledge, more blatantly than ever before, their influences in hook-heavy hard rock and old heavy metal. It was a development that found little favour with me previously:
“in the twilight of their careers, Destroyer 666 have decided to give their more traditional influences free rein on separate, fully self-contained heavy metal songs, with just about the same awkward, disjointed effect. No one begrudged Destroyer 666 for their cross-pollination of styles for the better part of fifteen years; fans empathized with the band’s motives, appreciated that they led to a metal of heightened emotion, treasured it like no other, until it became hard to justify the bleedover into bouncy British Steel-like pap. Which is not a knock on British Steel itself! One can enjoy British Steel for what it is without ascribing unnecessarily nobler ideals to it, but a band like Destroyer 666, rising out of the underground, ought to have better awareness of the many gradations that have made them who they are.”
To put Wildfire in perspective, one should hear it immediately after hearing the last great Destroyer 666 album, Cold Steel…For An Iron Age; maybe even the Terror Abraxas EP, the final stop before the wilderness that would come; gone is any aspiration to the progressive writing of that era, then informed with the structural density of an origins act like Corpse Molestation, now sadly replaced with textural imitation and a style far more accessible and rooted in straightforward speed metal. Fine, it is no crime to honor one’s roots, but then the band adds to the mix a brash, self-referential parody of themselves; it bears repeating that, simpleton allegations of Destroyer 666 being a “beer metal” band notwithstanding, there was a gravitas and a steel to their style once. This was emphatically not “fun” music; they delivered their words like hammer blows through feral yet intricately wrought riffcraft. They challenged their listeners, their songs contained inherent quality checks, for both the sanity of the song and, indirectly, the sanctity of the underground at large. What metal needed from this band today was an album that respected their own storied tradition, that sowed the fear of the devil into approximately half the population of self-professed metalheads; instead we got a tepid deconstruction of that tradition into something digestible for a crowd reared on Bolzer and the new wave of thrash metal.