Originally written by Jordan Campbell
Last week, while hovering over an overpriced stout and an over-rocked single malt, a conversation between friends turned to the subject of film; more specifically, high-grade action flicks. Inevitably, we began to bemoan critics’ approach to the genre.
Typically, the proverbial Film Critic tends to scour The Action Film for traits that are not only nonexistent, but were never actively pursued by the filmmaker(s) in the first place. In searching for character development and twists of plot, they’ll deride it for what it lacks rather than what it boasts.
Alternately, The Film Critic could display a general disdain for the genre itself, dismissing the craftsmanship and spectacle of the action film as both fleeting and frivolous due to a lack of emotional pull. If they do happen to enjoy the film in spite of themselves, their tempered praise will be frontloaded with disclaimers. (Similar to the way Spin scribes begrudgingly tout High on Fire.)
Now, it’s a bit distasteful (and borderline ignorant) to generalize The Film Critic in such a manner, but the derision hurled at The Action Movie has been well-documented. Sometimes, you just have to appreciate something for what it is. Luc Besson’s films The Transporter and Taken, for example, are expertly executed exhibitions of get-in-get-out. do-your-job-and-do-it-well craftsmanship. It’s single-minded entertainment of the highest caliber, and to assess it as anything different is not only a disservice to the work, but a disservice to criticism itself.
As such, I don’t pine for a Blut Aus Nord or 40 Watt Sun experience when I throw on some Goatwhore or Desaster.
Metal Blade has prescribed Desaster’s The Arts of Destruction with Blood for the Master as a pair gauntlet-fortified riff-fests for ‘heads in need of serious aggression expulsion. (You can’t be an art-fuck elitist all the time, you know. Sometimes that neck just needs to get broke.) Both carry the weaponry and lethal intent of a kinetic action flick. These things are here to entertain, and thankfully for Desaster (and everyone else), The Arts of Destruction is possibly the most efficient implement of devastation they’ve ever employed.
Novices should note that the band is a long-running blackthrash act, defined by two eras: That of former vocalist Okkulto, and that of current bellower Sataniac. Though the Okkulto era has passionate proponents, Desaster didn’t really develop into a unique entity until Sataniac’s drunken hostility gave the band an unpredictable edge. (For evidence, check the leap in energy from Tyrants of the Netherworld to Divine Blasphemies; Sataniac is an outright dangerous vocalist when he’s got the proper killing machinery behind him.)
Sadly, Desaster hit a bit of a rough patch on the ho-hum Angelwhore before finding their stroke again on the carnivorous (but oft-cheesy) 666: Satan’s Soldiers Syndicate. The Arts of Destruction corrects the songwriting foibles of the past, trimming cliches and utilizing a precision heretofore unseen.
The white-hot riffing that introduces “Lacerate (With Hands of Doom)” has outright evil intentions, generating more mosh-mongering than any bullshit neo-thrash band could ever hope to muster. “Phantom Funeral” swings mid-paced kettle bells on its way to a classically fried, palm-muted midsection that’s straight built for crowd control. And the furious “Troops of Heathens, Graves of Saints” is essentially a textbook lesson on how to combine German thrash fury with Australian-style leatherburning. (Seriously, it’s a blackthrash clinic.)
While stock chops like “Queens of Sodomy” and “Splendour of the Idols” are skippable plot-pushers, Desaster makes up for ’em with the eight-minute (and not a second wasted) “Possessed and Defiled,” a slow-boiling, surprisingly melodic burner that sets the stage for Arts‘ throat-ripping ending.
The Arts of Destruction is a consistent effort with more highs than lows—even though “Troops of Heathens, Graves of Saints” might crown itself king, spinning the album isn’t akin to sleeping your way through The International just for the Guggenheim gunfight. It’s a smidge smarter than it’s supposed to be, but never crosses the line into convoluted ambition. After twenty years of activity, Desaster knows their strengths, and they’re imposing their blackened, Teutonic will as they see fit. Switch off and let ‘em drive for a while.