Talking Thrash with Destruction

It’s violent, angry, noisy and may sound like a complete racket, but most importantly, it’s some of the fastest shit ever laid to record. That’s right, it’s thrash metal! In the early 80s, bands from the US and Europe (specifically Germany) all pulled from the same influences—mainly the New Wave of British Heavy Metal—and created two distinct forms of thrash metal, American and German. While the chicken-or-egg argument can be debated forever between America and Germany, a German thrash trio first calling themselves Demon Knight became Destruction, and was the first of the German thrash-metal bands. This year, Destruction celebrated their 25th anniversary as a band. The trio also released their newest record, D.E.V.O.L.U.T.I.O.N., last fall and will be embarking on a US headlining tour soon.

Marcel “Schmier” Schirmer, the band’s frontman/bassist, was humble during my interview with him, despite being in a band that has been thrashing it up for so many years. (An aside: Those familiar with the band’s discography and evolution know Schmier was asked to leave in roughly 1989, returning in 1999. During that time, the band recorded three records that aren’t considered part of the official Destruction discography—the records have been dubbed as Neo-Destruction. Point being, one could say Destruction wasn’t thrashing for those 10 years.) But screw the technicalities. Let’s get into the thrash.

So what exactly is the difference between American and German thrash metal?

“The American thrash bands are/were a little bit more technical and ahead production wise, the European style is more loose and rougher in production and very dark,” Schmier describes.

Schmier also admits that many of the American bands played a major role in the evolution and popularity of thrash. Even though he wasn’t a big fan of the US bands, he admits that without Metallica’s Kill em’ All, thrash wouldn’t be what it is today. Destruction’s influences, aside from the NWOBHM bands, drew from some of the classic European early punk acts like GBH, The Exploited and Discharge.

“The mix of the speed of the punk bands and the fineness of the heavy metal riffs of England went into creating our style at the time. We didn’t really think about what we wanted to do, it just happened,” Schmier says.

For any thrash fanatic, Destruction’s early albums are mustown records. Since the records came out when I was a mere kindergartener, I discovered them as a teenager and fell in love with the style— Infernal Overkill, Eternal Devastation and The Mad Butcher EP are all definitive thrash-metal albums. And there is definitely something to attribute to Destruction’s longevity and relevance in the modern metal world.

When asked how the band has remained successful, Shmier said that “for musicians, it’s good to stick to your guns and defend your style, but if you stand still and play the same song again and again on different albums, it’s kind of boring and not very innovative.

The fact that we’re now one of the forefathers of thrash is a nice thing, but does that mean we always have to sound like the 80s or not to develop our style? We’re still trying not to copy ourselves or copy other stuff. We’re trying to evolve our music into the new century and we still have something to say.”

Also in the metal scene today, there is an abundance of new blood with the desire to play classic-sounding thrash metal. While Schmier stated that all these newer, younger artists playing classic thrash is great, he also gave some advice: “A lot of the bands have some good riffs and some good ideas, but a lot of them are lacking originality––they’re just copying the Bay Area style or the styles of other bands that came before. I think if they want to be successful over time, they have to get their own sound. All of the bands that have survived over the years have their own styles. If you compare the big three German [thrash] bands: Destruction, Kreator and Sodom, we all sound really different because our styles are so different.”

Though the band has their fans and their following, Schmier notes, “We never made this music to be successful––we made this music to clear our minds and be different, and it saved my life.”

Destruction’s style of thrash or the genre itself may never be the big thing in metal, but it was great to hear from one of the guys that helped create the sound and scene about his huge respect for the band’s fans old and new. The fans can always count on Destruction to do what they’ve always done.

In ending, I think Schmier’s summation of why the band is called Destruction says it all.

“The name Destruction comes from the destruction of music,” he says. “We didn’t want to be mainstream, we didn’t want to work with nice melodies. Technically, when we started the band, thrash metal wasn’t even created … we wanted to be one of the most aggressive bands around––nothing mainstream. We wanted to fight the mainstream.”