Transfer, audio restoration and mastering by Patrick W. Engel at TEMPLE OF DISHARMONY in February 2022. The ultimate audiophile reissue of this eternal US Speed Metal classic! Cutting by SST Germany on Neumann machines for optimal quality on all levels ...
By 1985, Slayer, Exodus, Megadeth and Metallica had all released fantastic albums, speed metal had truly arrived in America. Digging a bit deeper, however, there was still a lot of great new underground talent coming through. One of these bands showing enormous promise was Destructor from Cleveland in Ohio. Their debut album »Maximum Destruction« was issued in 1985 by Auburn Records and received outstanding press reactions in North America as well as in continental Europe.
“Destructor was the first real band I played with,” explains vocalist/guitarist Dave Overkill. “Together with Pat Rabid and Paul Warhead, the original bassist and song writer for Destructor, I was active in high school bands. Us three and a drummer named Greg Kanios auditioned for senior talent night in 12th grade but we didn’t get accepted. Its was three guitars and drums, no bass and no singer. We played ‘Ides Of March’ by Iron Maiden as well as ‘Lean ‘n’ Mean’ by The Boyz and ‘Silver And Gold’ by Tygers Of Pan Tang. We all went into the boys locker room and put on leather, studs and chains. The school administrator had made all of our friends who wanted to watch go outside and watch from the other side of the window to the gymnasium. That was one of the greatest memories of heavy metal rebellion in our youth.”
Destructor proper was formed in spring of 1984. At the time, German band Destruction made a lot of waves, also over in the metal underground of the United States. Destructor sounds very similar to Destruction, didn’t this cause confusion? “We get asked this question a lot,” laughs Dave Overkill. “We named ourselves after the Exciter song ‘Destructor’. One day we were in a record store and came across the Destruction album and thought ‘wow’, this is crazy. We never heard of them up until that point. It never crossed our minds to change our name and I’m glad we didn’t. People have to remember that this was the time of underground tape trading and fanzines. There were only a handful of distributed heavy metal magazines at this time so everyone, fans and bands, were just discovering new things at this time. Destruction was a band on the other side of the planet.”
“Cleveland had a very strong metal scene at the time,” continues Dave. “Other bands were just established one, two or three years before we became a real band. There was Breaker, Black Death, Shok Paris and Sacred Few but no other band was playing as heavy and as aggressive as Destructor, so when we finally got a show people were amazed by our style. It was the bass player from Breaker, Ian Shipley, who introduced us to a wild and crazy drummer named Matt Schindelar in 1984. Matt immediately replaced the drummer we had at the time and the real Destructor was born.”
Destructor issued their first demo called »Smash Your Skulls With Power« in 1984, of which Dave Overkill says: “»Smash Your Skulls With Power« simply enough was just rehearsal recordings that we sent out to try to establish our music in other cities and countries. The demo kept evolving as we went on. After our first show we added some live recordings and then after that there was a third version as we continued to write songs. It was very primitive.”
Then there was the »Bring Down The Hammers« rehearsal demo cassette in 1984, still prior to the debut album. It was never officially released, but the story goes that the band traded it with fans. Did Destructor feel part of the world wide tape trading scene back in the first half of the 1980s? “Yes, this was an exciting time for us all,” states Dave. “We did a lot of tape trading. That was how music spread from city to city and country to country. We were as much of fans of the world wide music scene as everyone else. I discovered tons of new bands in this era. It let us know this was a huge scene and we weren’t alone in our mission to spread heavy metal around the world.”
Destructor’s eponymous debut album »Maximum Destruction« was issued in November 1985 on Auburn Records, thanks to Bill Peters. “Bill approached us after our first show and asked us if we wanted to record an EP,” recalls Dave Overkill. “We were young and hungry so of course we said yes. Bill Peters was just starting to establish Auburn Records at this time. We didn’t know anything about the record business. Auburn did a great job for us. We had no complaints.”
Some people, me included, are of the opinion that »Maximum Destruction« does not contain one weak song! Dave Overkill feels flattered: ““Thank you. These were the first songs we wrote. It’s that simple. ‘Black Night’ I wrote in 12th grade. It was the first song I ever wrote. Next came ‘Bring Down The Hammers’ which was written in 1983 by Paul, Pat and myself. Bill Peters choose not to use these two songs on the »Maximum Destruction« record as they were not his favourite songs.”
“Iron Curtain” is one of the slower, more grinding numbers on the record, with lyrics about the cold war: “That was a song that Paul Warhead, Pat Rabid and myself wrote in high school. I was just a ‘jam’ for the longest time before it evolved into the song it became in 1984. I wrote the lyrics along with Pat at the time. We didn’t really know much about this time in Germany besides what we may have been taught and learned in school. The title just popped into my head one day and we penned some lyrics. It one of my favourites still to this day.”
Lyrically the title track “Maximum Destruction” is quite similar to “Bombs Of Death” by Hirax. Were Destructor aware of Hirax at this point in time and were they an inspiration at all? “We had heard of Hirax at the time but we weren’t super familiar with them,” states the singer/guitarist “I know Katon was big in the underground tape trading world. That’s about it. Katon is a super person that I’m glad to call my friend nowadays. Pat Rabid wrote the lyrics for ‘Maximum Destruction’. War was a common topic with metal bands back then and still is to this day.“
Although Destructor were pretty popular in Europe at the time of their first album, the band never played over here during the initial phase of their career. It was hard enough to get gigs in their native country: “Destructor never really got the chance to break in America. We were working on it but as we all know things changed fast for this band. We were strictly a regional playing band at the time. Certainly we wanted to play more. Most shows were Cleveland, New York, Detroit and Chicago. Chicago with Metal Church was a stand out. That’s when I first met Barry Stern of the band Zoetrope. He came back stage and introduced himself to us. The crowd in Chicago was the biggest we had played up until this point and the fan reaction was favourable.”
After the release of “Maximum Destruction”, a cassette by the name of »Overdosed At WRUW« was issued in a limited edition of 100 copies. This was followed by two more tapes, »Decibel Casualties« (four tracks, 1987) and »Power Aggression« (nine tracks, 1988). This material was supposed to form the basis of a possible second album.
A lot of people at the time really thought Destructor would become the next big thing after Slayer. In reality, this did not happen. What have been the reasons for that not happening? “Thank you for the kind words,” says the Dave Overkill. “In 1987 Destructor were courted by Island Records to record our second record. This was a seven year and seven album recording deal, the same label that Anthrax was signed to. We started to record the second album that was to be titled »Decibel Casualties« but never got to finish it. On New Year’s eve 1987/88 we had a party to celebrate our pending record deal and bring in the new year. This was the night that changed everything we knew at this time. A person we did not know crashed the party. He started to cause trouble and was asked to leave. When Dave Iannicca (Holocaust), our bassist, went to make sure he was leaving he was attacked and stabbed in the heart with a large knife. Dave did not survive this assault. The dawn brought the most heartache and tragedy that any of us had ever seen. As the year went on we found ourselves in a murder trial and looking for a replacement. This was very hard emotionally and mentally. Dave Holocaust was a brother to us. We loved Dave. We learned that Island Records passed on Destructor and had signed another band. We were in a downward spiral that we couldn’t seem to get out of. Then the 1990’s came and metal was replaced in the States with grunge. We missed our chance. Destructor called it a day after a show we played with the band Overkill in 1992. It all seemed useless to continue at this point.”