A howl pierces the night and the shepherd awakens. In an instant, five years of peace and tranquility are forgotten. Is that the glint of yellow eyes in the shadows? A lamb bleats in terror, and the shepherd knows the truth: Legs long shackled now run free. Fangs long un-bloodied seek tender flesh. Death stalks the night once more! The wolves have been unchained!
Five long years after the release of the Terror Abraxas EP and seven since their last full length album, the masters of black/thrash, Destroyer 666, return with Defiance. The long break seems not to have dulled the band’s predatory instincts, as Defiance features all the savage ferocity and rebellious spirit one has come to expect from a Destroyer 666 record. The opening track, “Weapons of Conquest”, hammers the listener with a three minute artillery barrage, serving notice, in no uncertain terms, that Destroyer 666 is back and not fucking around. Tracks such as the equally merciless “Path to Conflict” and “The Barricades are Breaking” further reinforce this notion. Such brute force would of course grow tiresome over the length of an entire album, and the band varies their attack accordingly. Other tracks find the band turning in more melodic and nuanced, but no less deadly performances.
Despite the band’s roots in the primitive barbarity of Bestial Warlust and the only slightly more sophisticated work on its debut, one of Destroyer 666’s greatest strengths is a keen sense of melody. The band has the rare ability to weave strong, memorable melodies into its songs which provide the hint of melancholy crucial to the band’s lone wolf ethos, yet never diminish the music’s feral violence. Defiance is perhaps the band’s most melodic work to date, with Shrapnel and K.K. Warslut swarming the tracks with leads and harmonies. This is particularly evident on the penultimate track, “Human all too Human,” wherein the band marries its trademark war-trumpet lead lines to a relentless martial cadence, bringing the album to a climax of regal devastation.
Destroyer 666 is, of course, well known for its shout along anthems such as “Australian and Antichrist,” “Satanic Speed Metal” and “The Eternal Glory of War.” While Defiance, unfortunately, does not offer anything as strong as the aforementioned tracks, “A Thousand Plagues” with its “Fuck ‘em all” refrain and the pseudo-title track “Stand Defiant” are destined to be fist-pumping fan favorites.
Defiance’s biggest flaw is its production. The album is mixed in such a way that Mersus’s mighty kick drums provide the majority of the low-end, and the rest of the instruments battle for space within a relatively narrow frequency range. This mix results in a cluttered sound that often finds the rhythm guitars choked out by the leads and vocals. Fortunately, the faulty mix can be remedied, at least in part, by hellish volume levels.
After such a long wait it may be impossible for this album to meet the expectations of some fans, my own initial reaction was, in fact, less than enthusiastic. However with each subsequent listen I find myself enjoying Defiance more and more. It will take far longer than a couple weeks to determine where Defiance ranks in the Destroyer 666 discography, but in the ranks of poser crushing, buy or die metal albums of 2009; I would put it somewhere around number fucking one. Aware! Beware! War!