All interviews conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Foreword by Dave Overkill
As Destructor reaches the 40-year mark since our band's inception, we want to take some time to reflect on the past for The Metal Crypt's Tribute to Destructor. Memories come flooding in when trying to process everything and for me personally? I'm the kind of person who always looks forward and sets goals. Onward and upward is the best motto but that doesn't mean that I don't love the past. We are very thankful for the days when everything was just starting to take off and we were young, hungry, angry, and full of passion. It's almost a lifetime ago for someone my age.
The 1980s were, and will always be, the golden years for what us old school bands were a part of and helped to establish. The list is seemingly endless that contains names of the very best metal bands that have existed since the NWOBHM and bands that came before. I am as big a fan as the next when it comes to great music and really like to try to support newer, younger bands nowadays. They are the future of heavy metal and there are some really great new bands. It's awesome to know that metal is still very much alive and doing well across this planet of ours and I am glad to be alive in these times. The organizations and festivals that are bringing us all together are the lifeblood for the metal scene and we should all support the underground today just like in the past! We are Blood, Bone, and Fire!!
Destructor wants to thank all the bands we played with over the years that we made such great connections with. Some are still standing. Of course, a big hug to all our families and especially the support from all the fans over the past 40 years has been the fuel for the fire and we are eternally grateful for all of you. Thank you for keeping the faith in Destructor.
Thanks to each of you equally who participated in this Destructor tribute feature.
When was the first time you got to hear Destructor, and did they leave a lasting impression on you?
King Fowley (DECEASED): I first saw ads for the Auburn label record Maximum Destruction in fanzines of the time. I bought the record and loved it. It had a cool speed attack in spots but also had a good power to it in general. "Pounding Evil" is my song always. A cool band from the get-go for me.
Sexumer (Sacrifizer): I don't really remember when I discovered Destructor, I'm still young, I didn't experience the glorious flame era. When you discover real metal, you realize that there are thousands of bands from that period, tons of incredible albums and killer bands that released one or two albums before disappearing, many in thrash/speed metal. In short, the sound of the window breaking and the best screams in metal history, then all you have to do is drink a lot and raise your fist screaming, "MAXIMUM DESTRUCTION" ALL FUCKING NIGHT!!!
Dee Dee Altar (BUNKER 66): I got into Maximum Destruction way too late in order to welcome it as one of those game changing albums of my youth BUT as soon as I listened to it about 15 years ago, I totally loved it. I got my copy only about five years ago, the Roadrunner press from 1986. I love the inner photo collage and online you'll find a great story in a Destructor interview about the Bruce Dickinson picture in it!
Atheon (EURYNOMOS/MEGATHÉRION): I ordered the LP sometime in the '80s, maybe 1987 or 1988, from a mailorder called "Malibu." German maniacs probably still remember that company. It was a blowout item for 5,90 DEM and I bought it just because of the cover artwork and the description that it sounded like Slayer. Reasons enough to give it a shot. It was an instant banger! I really loved it right from the start. Powerful speed/thrash metal!
Vic Stown (VINDICATOR/VOLCANA): If I'm not terribly mistaken, it was in Violent Night/Vindicator founding member Wayne Holocaust's bedroom. Wayne was always my gateway to new and exciting music and was knowledgeable beyond his years. Wayne latched onto Destructor early in his journey through metal by being active on metal forums. He was the first person to start a fan site for them, so naturally he was sure to introduce me to Cleveland's own speed metal titans early on in our career together. Sonic Bullet had just been released and he was the first of us to have a copy. I knew then and there; this was a band I was going to dig. Twenty years later and I still love hearing and seeing Destructor.
Iron Incubus (HELLISH CROSSFIRE): If I remember correctly, the first time I heard about Destructor was when reading an article about those maniacs in the legendary Matthias Herr's "Heavy Metal Lexikon" back in the mid-'90s or so. The description of the music and the band photo on the album cover made me curious, so I checked out Maximum Destruction, the one and only full-length by the band back then, and, well, it directly left a fucking HUGE impression on me!!!
Destructor was/is a group that stands for everything that makes metal so fucking great; relentless energy, fierce aggression and melodies/hooks that don't suck or soften everything but instead make the songs memorable and intense as fuck!!! Adding to this the band photos showed maniacs clad in leather and spikes, the way it has to be! Another thing that really attracted me to Destructor was the fact that you couldn't pin down their music to a certain style. I mean, of course, you could figure out inspirational sources, but there were/are elements of thrash, speed, heavy, and even power metal in their music. Mixing that together in one cauldron of pure iron, you have the finest brand of raging steel that is timeless and will continue infiltrating black souls for many, many years to come...
I don't know if Destructor influenced me as a musician, at least not consciously. I mean, I guess there's not much of Maximum Destruction on Hellish Crossfire's albums but, personally speaking, these maniacs from Ohio definitely impressed me A LOT with their 1985 masterpiece Maximum Destruction as well as with their later releases and that's the point. When Destructor got back together in 1999, they continued in the same, good old vein like in the past. There was NEVER a weak release coming from their dungeons, EVERYTHING is worth banging your fucking skull to!!! That's something that you don't have too often with reunited old cult bands and that's also one of the reasons why these maniacs will ALWAYS have my deepest respect!
Small anecdote: I remember when Hellish Crossfire was playing with Midnight once in Switzerland. We knew, of course, that Jamie/Athenar used to be part of Destructor for approx. ten years or so. What followed this evening was all of us praising this amazing band and celebrating their legacy with a lot of booze and beer...
Borys Catelani (RIPPING STORM RECORDS): It was not that close to the band's inception I have to admit, it was the end of the '90s when the Listenable reissue of Maximum Destruction came out. I got the promo version of it in cardboard cover (which I still own, because of all the bonus tracks), and was so stricken that I very soon got myself the original vinyl version, currently the European one on Roadrunner, released in 1986. It was very easy to plunge into Destructor's music, it's so immediate, a burst of energy that caught me and never let go.
Ricard (PROSCRITO): Hails, Luxi, and thanks once again for the invitation. I'm quite sure it was with the Speed Kills II compilation, one of the best ones ever. Maybe, generally speaking, that one is not THAT relevant anymore, and I already knew most of the bands featured therein, but I've always been a sucker for those old volumes, especially the ones which featured rare tracks every once in a while, like Metal Massacre or Shrapnel's U.S. Metal. Coincidentally, this one featured that alternate version of "Pounding Evil" which remains my favorite Destructor moment. Of course, they couldn't beat some of the major names like Bathory, Sodom, Iron Angel, Whiplash or Helloween's "Ride the Sky," much less the Razor track (always a plateau breaker when listening to the compilation at the Temple of Iron), but it stood out among some of the minor titles and made me discover a band really worth its salt.
David Leppen (PREDICTION): Haha, that's long ago and there were too many strong weekends in between. We think it was when we were about 20 years old. Of course, they left an impression! As fans of old-school stuff like this, it's hard not to fall in love with this razor-sharp sound.
George "IronBeast" Balios (VIOLENT DEFINITION): I cannot recall for sure, but it is somewhere around 2000. Me and the "local thrasher" squad of my small Athenian suburb, Terpsithea, were exploring the vast thrash/speed/death underground. The Internet was a joke at that time, so we were blind, listening to good and bad stuff, inevitably. One of the gems we proudly discovered was Maximum Destruction. As naive youngsters, we thought that, not only by the band's looks, but also by the band's name, that Destructor was a bad copy of Destruction. We were proven soooo wrong!
The band's debut, Maximum Destruction, came out in 1985, the same year such classics as Hell Awaits by Slayer, Seven Churches by Possessed, Infernal Overkill by Destruction, etc., were all released. How would you say Destructor's debut compares to some of those more well-known metal albums that were released in 1985?
King Fowley (DECEASED): It has its own personality and good songs. That's all I ask of a band. And all these years later, and both my bands have played multiple gigs with them since, the songs still stand up on record and on stage.
Sexumer (Sacrifizer): For me, Destructor is part of this wave of more underground, leather-burning, skull-busting, total metal bands. I like to compare them to Powerlord, Exorcist, Living Death, At War, Nasty Savage, or Hallows Eve. These are bands that have left their mark on metal, and today I have as much respect for them as I do for a band like Possessed or early Slayer. HAIL SATANIC SPEED METAL!!!!!
Dee Dee Altar (BUNKER 66): What a year! Those albums you mentioned are hard to beat and honestly, I think Maximum... and albums like Hallows Eve's Tales of Terror (which is also 1985 if I'm not wrong) are not at number one but surely deserve a silver medal for that incredible year.
Atheon (EURYNOMOS/MEGATHÉRION): Well, Slayer's Hell Awaits and Possessed's Seven Churches are truly two of the most iconic albums of the mid '80s and they set new standards in extreme metal back in 1985. Destructor's debut was more like Show No Mercy, mixed with the first two Iron Maiden albums. Destructor's debut was more old-fashioned compared to those albums. Still a great album no matter what.
Vic Stown (VINDICATOR/VOLCANA): I think Maximum Destruction holds its own against those releases because of its uniqueness. One thing that sets it apart from the aforementioned releases is Dave Overkill's vocals. Slayer, Possessed, Destruction all went for fastest riff, harshest vocal. Dave's voice is powerful as fuck. One of the best voices in the pack. It's as if Harry Conklin sang for a thrash band.
Iron Incubus (HELLISH CROSSFIRE): As I stated in my answer to question one, Destructor somehow had a style of their very own, a mixture of nearly everything that makes metal so fucking great! Compared to masterpieces like Hell Awaits, Seven Churches, Infernal Overkill or other 1985 classics such as Celtic Frost's To Mega Therion or Vulcano's Live!, Maximum Destruction was not such a dark and twisted fucker. Nevertheless, Destructor's debut was HEAVY as shit on a different level, maybe more comparable to classic legends such as Exciter or Raven. There was more of a traditional metal vibe in their sound, not mere aggression but also intense melody, without watering everything down, as stated above.
In the end, Maximum Destruction stands out as a unique piece on its own, a real masterpiece where every track is fucking insane as hell!!! NO FILLERS, JUST KILLERS! There are very few records around where this quote fits, and the debut of the Ohio squadron is definitely one of those rare phenomenons.
Why Maximum Destruction and Destructor never got that much recognition as the bands/albums you mentioned in your question is something I don't understand, but I guess one reason might have been the tragic death of their former bassist Dave Iannicca and that the band broke up after the '80s were history.
Borys Catelani (RIPPING STORM RECORDS): Exactly, it was 1985. U.S. speed/thrash metal was still in full development. Bands that would gain much notoriety, have a great impact on the genre or even develop a long-lasting career like Flotsam and Jetsam, Nuclear Assault or Whiplash were still to release their debuts. 1985 also saw the debuts of bands to become thrash metal classics like Dark Angel, Hirax, Exodus, Overkill and Hallow's Eve. Destructor were in the right spot in the right moment. Their music, still full of U.S. metal influences, had so much potential for development (compare the progress between Dark Angel's We Have Arrived and Darkness Descends, for instance). But they lacked luck and continuity, and probably a label with means and a better vision of what metal was going to be. If they kept going, they would have joined the Olympus of speed/thrash with the aforementioned bands.
Ricard (PROSCRITO): Let's be fair, as much as we all like collecting rare releases and singing the praises of unsung heroes, it doesn't hold a candle to the classics already mentioned, neither in subjective terms nor relevance or impact in the worldwide scene. Of course, that doesn't mean shit at all, for it's an album which oozes the perfect balance between the violent, aggressive and testosterone-fueled barbarity and skillful songwriting I need when in the mood of some ancient metal (which is 99% of my time).
David Leppen (PREDICTION): 1985, what a hell of a year for metal!!! So many great releases and Maximum Destruction was one of those spine-chilling albums that were released that year. It really deserves a place among the legendary releases of '85 beside Razor, Sodom, Exodus, Destruction and so on...
So, in our opinion, the album does mean a tad more compared to some other great albums released during that year and we feel very sorry for anyone who doesn't know this masterpiece of an album. Go and listen to it immediately or fuck off! Ugh...!!!
George "IronBeast" Balios (VIOLENT DEFINITION): Those are some holy BEASTS that you mentioned, and I think that the only reason Maximum Destruction didn't enjoy the recognition it deserved was the timing and the perhaps marketing it got, considering it was released by an underground company (Auburn Records) initially, unlike Slayer, Possessed and Destruction (I will also add some other 1985's holy grails like Megadeth's and Overkill's debuts and Razor's Evil Invaders). In my opinion, Destructor's debut is not inferior to these, both in compositions and audio production.
What makes Destructor such a timeless metal act, from your perspective?
King Fowley (DECEASED): Real deal guys. Original guys Dave and Matt are maniacs of metal, real deal folks and they have kept on creating good tunes and good albums since all those years ago and Matt throws one hell of a cookout, also. :)
Sexumer (Sacrifizer): Because ROCK IS INTEMPORAL. I mean, real rock, hard, wild, pounding like a hammer. These guys played it with their balls, no bullshit, no artifice, just music. That's what makes bands good or bad. Destructor is a band like that, they're just guys with an instrument, and if you've got that fucking flame you feel this band is bound to kill. Listen to "Overdose" or "Pounding Evil" and you'll know what it means to be timeless, TOTAL METAL!!
Dee Dee Altar (BUNKER 66): I think it's the huge amount of METAL itself contained in Maximum... is what makes that record so great. Yesterday, I was asking some friends what the most METAL album ever made is, you know those records that make you clench your fists and get teary-eyed and I think Maximum... would fit in a top 10 list regarding this topic.
Atheon (EURYNOMOS/MEGATHÉRION): It is their consistent energetic way of playing and they still know how to write kick ass songs which not every band from the '80s still manages to do. The power is still there, and the vocals are as good as in the '80s.
Vic Stown (VINDICATOR/VOLCANA): Dave's vocals and unique riffs keep Destructor timeless. They never overthink a song. Their writing style has always been straight to the point, and I think that has served them well. From day one to now, the consistency is there, even on the tracks Jamie helped write. If Destructor is on, you know it's Destructor.
Iron Incubus (HELLISH CROSSFIRE): In a way I answered this question already as well: Destructor take inspiration from various styles of metal, be it speed, thrash, heavy, or power metal, and melt it into one unique, awesome sounding piece of utter aggressiveness! Above that, they always manage to make their songs memorable, using melodies and hook lines that don't sound gay or soft. Instead, these elements contribute to the memorability of their songs!
And despite being excellent musicians, Destructor never showed off playing just for the sake of demonstrating how well they know how to handle their instruments. It was always the SONGS that mattered, and hell yeah, Destructor has released A LOT of awesome, legendary songs throughout their career! May they continue this way and be solid as a rock standing against all those short-lived trends and so-called "revivals" that mean just copying what was done before, without any unique approach. Destructor were and still are fucking unique and original! It's also strange but in a way understandable that there was and still is no other band out there that sounds exactly like this beast from Ohio! Destructor's sound stood the test of time, without any doubt, and, as I said, will inspire generations of metal musicians to come...!!!
Borys Catelani (RIPPING STORM RECORDS): As I said before, it's the potential of the band. Maximum Destruction was an album that stood out so much because in 1985 thrash metal was young, and every album that came out showed a potential development for a personal sound and a career to come. It's an album that leaves you craving for what would have come in 1986 or 1987. The energy of a song like "Pounding Evil" showed a band that could have become second to none. Not that they did bad when they reformed, but the momentum of the whole genre was gone.
Ricard (PROSCRITO): As stated before, the mix between savage PUNCH and mastery: You just need to look at the cover of Maximum Destruction and listen to "Iron Curtain" (my favorite track off the LP, that galloping rhythm and catchy phrasing/chorus, plus the epic solo always gets me) to picture them playing in caves and yet they delivered first-class material in terms of composition. The same could be said of Blessed Death (one of my particularly soft spots when thinking of those mid-'80s deep cuts). And yes, that's some of the best stuff to lift weights with, which is my measuring scale for metal.
David Leppen (PREDICTION): It's one of those bands that keeps the spirit alive in their own way. They don't capitulate to the mainstream like many other bands do or follow any trends whatsoever. No matter if it's the early thrash or the heavy/power metal stuff. Those guys know what they want, and they do what they want and that's the reason why Destructor is a timeless band.
George "IronBeast" Balios (VIOLENT DEFINITION): It is self-explanatory through their tracks and lyrics. I think the cold war (and war in general) could not be described more vividly and this record should be the soundtrack at elementary schools when this era is being taught. The despair and the anxiety bursting not only in their lyrical songs, but also in the instrumental gems, "Prelude in Sledge-Minor Opus 7 1st Movement," "Hot Wet Leather" and "Instrumetal."
What's your favorite Destructor release and could you also explain why you picked this particular album?
King Fowley (DECEASED): It's the debut, of course. Just the early days and got me right into them. The power of raw youth! A classic!
Sexumer (Sacrifizer): Let's be honest, there's only one fucking Destructor album. I like their 1984 demo Smash Your Skulls with Power, even if the sound is just a rehearsal recording, or the splits that came later in their discography. Maximum Destruction is the most important piece in their discography. How can you not want to smash everything when you listen to the "Iron Curtain" song and sing that infernal chorus like a maniac??? How can you not want to burn leather when you see this wild cover, like dirty animals with nails and skulls? Man, this shit is fucking great. TAKE COMMAND!! HAIL DESTRUCTOR!!!
Dee Dee Altar (BUNKER 66): Honestly, it's the only Destructor album I know and own. I was introduced to it by a friend of mine many years ago, but I've never delved into their discography.
Atheon (EURYNOMOS/MEGATHÉRION): It is difficult to say. Maximum Destruction is more like a nostalgic release to me. The newer albums are probably as strong as the debut, maybe even stronger. I could only answer this question if I heard all albums for the first time at the same time.
Vic Stown (VINDICATOR/VOLCANA): Forever in Leather is probably my favorite Destructor album. This was an album that was very finely honed with unbridled power. Every piece fit perfectly, and the band was firing on all cylinders. This wasn't so much an album as it was a statement; Destructor are very much still bringing the hammers down. Start to finish, all thriller, no filler. This isn't to say anything before or after Leather... isn't noteworthy, it's just a tremendous record. Many bands have these records in their catalog. If you're a fan you'll like everything, but there's always that ONE album that you can't get enough of and that's Forever in Leather. Having said that, when I'm in the mood for a live LP, Cleveland Was Made for Metal!!! is always in that pile. And I'd be remiss if I didn't state I own multiple copies of Maximum Destruction on various formats.
I'm a fan for life! It's why Vindicator wrote "Total Destruction." Looking forward to ALL things Destructor!
Iron Incubus (HELLISH CROSSFIRE): Of course, that would be Maximum Destruction, as it was my first contact with the band. That's quite often the case with music, I think. The records you listen to for the first time from a certain band inspire you a lot, they always tend to stay with you for the rest of your life...
Tracks such as "Pounding Evil" or "Iron Curtain" from Destructor's debut are definitely metal classics, no matter what! EVERY SINGLE SONG from this legendary record is just fucking amazing and breathes the REAL Metal spirit!!!
Having said that, I once more have to point out that Destructor managed to come up with absolutely KILLER records after their reunion in 1999 as well. Having "Pounding Evil" and "Iron Curtain" in my mind now, I also have to automatically think of the fine live versions of these tracks on the Sonic Bullet EP, another record that used to have a certain impact on me as well. I got my hands on it through trading when I used to run my small fanzine "Blood of the Ancient" back in the early 2000s. I was not aware that Destructor was back on track again and to hold this very first record after the reunion of these Ohio commandos in my hands was like a fucking dream come true!!! The title track, "Heavy Artillery" or the ingenious cover version of Hawkwind's "Master of the Universe" were fucking awesome and continued the mighty legacy of this legend in a verrrry authentic way!!!
So, apart from the rest of the discography (remember the slogan, "No fillers..."?!?), I'd mention especially these two Destructor releases that used to make a huge impact on me...
Of course, also the latest effort Blood, Bone, and Fire is a fucking intense smasher! Considering the extreme energy and passion shown on this record, we don't need to be afraid that real metal is about to die. In a world of copycats, social-media madness and half-hearted "Internet bands," Destructor holds high the flag of what real, honest metal is all about!!! May they continue another 40 years to do so, all the best to them!!!
Borys Catelani (RIPPING STORM RECORDS): It's pretty clear now that I favor Maximum Destruction. By 1985 standards it was an earthquake, and it still stands the test of time. No true thrasher can miss this album, the place on the shelves between Destruction and Détente it's theirs!
Ricard (PROSCRITO): I cannot think of a single band of the '80s whose best album was released in the following decades, so there you go. Not even At War, whose Infidel LP I love but doesn't hold my breath the same way as Ordered to Kill and Retaliatory Strike do. That's not to say any of their following albums are halfway bad, to the contrary, I'm always fond of bands that never changed style and still delivered, and they are among the select few. Still I want to pinpoint the brilliance of demo 1988, which still delivers some of the brilliance and feral bestiality of the debut by the time most of the bands were already wimping out or softening their sound (we're lucky to have it reissued as a second CD for Maximum Destruction along with some canon material like the prior Unmixed & Heavy and Smash Your Skulls demos, I live for that sound and the songs that were left unreleased live completely up to the hype). May this boring write-up serve as homage to Pat and Dave until we can toast to the timeless classic they shaped. Thanks once again for the invitation, this made me revisit some sweet stuff. I am also on the hunt for an early Auburn/Roadrunner press of Maximum Destruction for a fair price, for it always slipped my radar. I'm based in Europe so drop me a line if you have anything, you fukkers...
David Leppen (PREDICTION): Our favorite Destructor release is, of course, Maximum Destruction, period! It's the unique sound and the old-school attitude, which makes this album just a timeless metal classic. Of course, their other releases are great, too, but Maximum Destruction takes no prisoners.
Speed, violence, hell-ripping metal, that's the only way it should be... Pounding evil!!!
George "IronBeast" Balios (VIOLENT DEFINITION): No doubt it is their debut. Not only because it was my first Destructor record (enjoyed via a recorded tape format, of course) but mostly because it had a tremendous impact on my "virgin" teenage ears at that time, playing a great role on what I have become later on, as a fan and as a thrash metal singer. I am eternally "Chained by the force of the Curtain!"
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