Why Destroyer 666’s Wildfire disappoints

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.

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17 Responses to Why Destroyer 666’s Wildfire disappoints

  1. JohnnyReb says:

    I’m not too well informed on Destroyer 666 music, but only because I couldn’t find it in myself to listen for an extended period of time. I tried. For me, their compatriots in Vomitor present a far more feral and passionate attempt at blackened speed metal. It really feels dangerous, and I believe their music continues to mature with each release. I’m looking forward to hearing the latest release due out next year I believe.

    • neutronhammer says:

      D666 on Unchained, Phoenix and Terror Abraxas ( to a smaller degree) aspired to a Bathory- esque melodic epicness, like on BFD and Hammerheart. Grandiose but Feral. Only certain works by primordial come close to what they achieved on the first two albums.

      Vomitor are straight up OBC worship, but they do it well. I think the comparisons are a little off in that regard.

      • JohnnyReb says:

        I got BFD, but what’s OBC? Acronyms are weak. I think we all have enough time to type full words. Reminds me of faggy corporate types who need to know more the next guy.
        But man, if Destroyer 666 were going for a Bathory aesthetic, I think they failed miserably.

      • Deathcult says:

        JohnnyReb: They were not going for a Bathory aesthetic in any way. They occasionally borrowed a sense of melody or epic feel, like on the two longest songs on Unchain the Wolves. But more immediate Bathory feel is The Calling from Cold Steel. D666 mixed various genres in a seamless way that few bands do, so they may occasionally take from various influences, but the overall mixture is what made the older stuff so potent. Now it is speed metal trying to mix in a few other things and failing… Zero inspiration at this point.

      • JohnnyReb says:

        Deathcult: that makes more sense. Whatever their attempt, I’ve always found them to be boring and uninspired. In their songwriting, I get no sense of resolution. PB describes how I’ve always felt about their music. The complete opposite of what I expected after reading interviews with KK Warslut.

      • neutronhammer says:

        @Johnny, OBC = Obsessed by Cruelty, I’m sorry if it came across that way, wasn’t my intention, was in the middle of work.

      • JohnnyReb says:

        Gotcha. I can see that comparison, and I’m fine with bands being “clones,” especially when their unique talents are evident, as in the case of Vomitor.

        On another note, I think Rainer made a good point when he said In the Sign of Evil is the better album. It deserves recognition as top class early black metal.

    • neutronhammer says:

      Lumping in D6666 with your average Black/thrash attack nifelheim clone is doing them great disservice to be honest. I’m with ODB here, when he says there is a certain Gravitas to their early works, esp. In Unchained and Phoenix, soaring melodies coupled with this simmering ferocity without ever really coming across as cheesey.

      I like In the sign better too, it’s pretty much undisputed as a classic work of early Black Metal no?

      • JohnnyReb says:

        I’m not sure. I don’t dispute that. But it seems Obsessed by Cruelty is the Sodom album noted most often when discussing their most influential and significant work. Perhaps because In the Sign of Evil is an EP?

  2. P.B. says:

    I have to admit, aside from a slicker production, I hear no difference between Wildfire and the shorter songs from the band’s previous albums. “Australian and Antichrist” is just as much of a simple-hook shtick song, if not more so, than anything on Wildfire. D666 were always the band that took a type of music where the credo was “No mosh, no core, no trends, no fun” and made it bouncy and fun for the kids who couldn’t handle “In the Nightside Eclipse”. The Municipal Waste of “black/thrash metal” as it were — the reason the new albums seem so much more transparent than the old is that the old albums came out before a decade of underground aping made everyone to look out for such nonsense.

    Absu, Ravencult, Blood Storm, or, if willing to stretch the definitions a bit, even Force of Darkness or Adorior are all infinitely better picks in this style.

    • neutronhammer says:

      Whatever bouncy bit they had, were very tastefully done. Lone wolf winter and Trial by fire, nothing bouncy there.

    • Not to knock In The Nightside of course, but I think we can all agree which band out of Emperor and D666 drew more undesirables in the 90s.

      I’ve interacted with you often enough to understand which spectrum of metal aesthetic you speak from. I, on the other hand, have always felt there is more than just one way to depict war and attrition; perhaps it is my affinity for trad metal that makes me lean more towards Hammerheart than Blood Fire Death; D666 don’t sound like either to be honest, but like neutronhammer and Deathcult say, carry much of the same feel, whatever you take to mean by that term.

      I do find it a little ironic that you lump them with the Municipal Wastes of the world. Not that I care to remember what Municipal Waste sound like, but I can surmise pretty accurately what they *might* sound like, same as how I can surmise what the average, modern black/thrash/speed band *might* sound like. However, I put great stock in true individuality, and I can confidently say neither you nor I, when we first heard songs like Tyranny Of The Inevitable, Six Curses From A Spiritual Wasteland, or I Am The War God, could’ve predicted what D666 *might* sound like. Like Motorhead, they are easy to dismiss as a schticky-boozy band if you haven’t cared to explore them more, but like Motorhead again, they have deep reserves of integrity and substance that can catch you unawares.

  3. Chuck says:

    A Michael Moorcock fan?

  4. P.B. says:

    After seeing D666 live last night, I have to walk back some of what I wrote above. Live, a lot of their material takes on a new dimension that just isn’t there on the album (I tried listening to “I Am the Wargod” this morning, it still didn’t click with me like it did live…); the extra bit of roughness makes the melodic ballad-y stuff lose the “calculated saccharine” feel a lot of it has, and just strains it into epic heavy metal. Seeing them live brought the contrast between “Wildfire” and “Call of the Wild” into very sharp focus; while “Hounds At Ya Back” came across well as a straight-ahead thrasher (“Wildfire” and “Call of the Wild” were much less fortunate), it was obvious that the new material was much more content to just rely on speed thrills and a pounding groove.

    (They didn’t play Australian and Anti-Christ, but I maintain that song is 100% terrible schlock, though.)

    • P.B. says:

      That should read “contrast between “Wildfire” and “Call of the Wild” opposed to their old material”

      • I saw them in Denver earlier in the month. They’re not a band for pensive deliberation (but then again, who knows what leads one to such a state of mind?), but as a celebration of life and its unabashedly simpler aspects, they’ve always worked for me.

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