Destruction @ Highline Ballroom (5/11/2011)

Logo - Destruction

Artist: Destruction
Venue: Highline Ballroom (New York, NY)
Opener: Heathen, Warbeast
Date: 5/11/2011
Label: Nuclear Blast Records

New York City are you prepared for the “North American Reckoning” Tour that will once again bring a headlining Destruction to our shores and find them doing this with Heathen and Warbeast as support? If not, then you are surely welcome to stay home with regrets but the rest of us will be thrashing like never before with indulgence. The show was originally scheduled to take place at B.B. King Blues Club up in Times Square but it was moved down to the Highline Ballroom a few months ago. In a sense this was a little better because the open floor area is a little more conducive to “crowd interaction” than we find being the case as their sister venue. Anyway, this tour featured two other monster bands of Thrash and I wanted to see what they were all about as well so I managed to arrive just as Warbeast was hitting the stage. The early start hinted that tonight might be an early night for me but I was totally wrong about that.

Warbeast: I had little background on the Texas based Warbeast coming in with the exception of knowing that they were on Phil Anselmo’s Housecore Records and that their singer Bruce Corbitt was also a member of Rigor Mortis. They deliver a brand of Old School Thrash but one that does not showcase the guys as being “retro” at it. There was already a decent crowd brewing when they began and the bodies were beginning to swirl about and obviously prepare themselves for the destruction to come. Hmm, I made a pun and didn’t even realize  Moving on I had to say that this was an impressive and heavy opening set. Bruce paced the stage with a chain link microphone holder that he held high above the crowd and gearing them up all the more. I did some digging around about them after the fact and learned that their debut album had come out last April. I think I would like to get my hands on it for site review purposes and at worst case to know more of their stuff for the next concert that I attend. Heathen was coming up next.

Heathen: I will admit that while I was there for some Destruction that I was also very interested in checking out Heathen in concert. The band was actually not originally on this tour as the support slot for the run was going to Destroyer 666. An injury or something to that effect ended up finding them off the tour but no one was disappointed when word came that Heathen would be here. For the fans of pure Thrash mayhem, Heathen’s return in 2005 was a welcome thing. The band has been active since that time and most recently released “The Evolution Of Chaos”. The band features Lee Altus (now a member of Exodus) and singer Dave White who seems adept at keeping the crowd moving. The album from 2010 is a must have and something that effectively lets you jump on to the bands fandom even at this stage of the game. I was happy to find the crowd going as crazy as they were as this had to excite the band up on the stage when they viewed the mass of movement from above. I will admit to not having any of their albums outside of the last one and if you were in my situation with this, the show would be awesome for you as well since the band played five songs from this out of their total eight. It was an energetic vibe from beginning to end and one that reached a critical mass when Exodus’ own Rob Dukes came out to help with the vocals on “Fade Away”. Dukes was a class act and didn’t remain on stage for the whole song and instead kept coming back and forth to help when it was required of him. Even though this was the case the crowd loved the surprise. I did as well, as Dukes is an incredible front man in his own right. Sadly at eight songs this set was over almost as fast as it began. Soon, Destruction would be par for the course in NYC.

Destruction: So the bands newest album is entitled “Day Of Reckoning” and it comes care of their new label Nuclear Blast Records. To be honest this is probably the best move for the band to have made at this point in their career based on their now being closely tied with the likes of Testament and many more fine bands who are of equal par in respect for this genre. Tonight would mark my second time seeing Destruction and I remembered what a force of nature they were the last time so I was hoping tonight would be much of the same. There was a decent amount of time between them and Heathen which surprised me but once the stage décor had been added and the three microphones placed in the front the action was on. The Highline Ballroom offers no photo pit area which is bad for the media but great for the fans as they are now able to be right up there close with the band. So close; the sweat from musicians like this can fly at them from the rapid movements they make. If Destruction is somehow new to you that is a shame as the band is considered one of the three titans of German Thrash Metal. They are founded and fronted by the giant bassist Marcel Schirmer who is affectionately referred to as “Schmier” and he is an imposing gent during the shows. The band is a three piece unit and one that is very active in the front while the drumming pounds behind them. Schmier is seldom in one spot and takes turns singing and screaming into every microphone in front of him.

Together with guitarist Mike Sifringer, the band blasted through killer tune after killer tune and while the new album was on everyone’s minds, they would only play about four songs from it and intersperse these selections throughout the set instead of one after the other like some bands are apt to do. Schmier spoke to the crowd a few times and after one of the crowd surfers knocked over the center stage microphone he actually appeared to be angry and said that they were his microphones and while they could surf they should stay from his gear. He continued by saying that he would rip the balls off of the next person who did that. I felt that the threat was almost an invitation to the kind of Metal heads that convene at a NYC show and with no barrier to keep them from the stage it seemed to be “on” at this point. I remember speaking to a fellow music scribe early into the bands set who wondered how we were to snap photos this evening with no space and I smiled as I mused to him about “tonight we swim in the shark tank”. Schmier dedicated a song to the recently assassinated Osama Bin Laden and said “may the mother f**ker burn in Hell” and he also stressed how the mosh pit was only good if it remained in progress until the end of the show. A brave fan made it to the stage during “Hate Is My Fuel” and actually remained at the center microphone to offer some unrequested help for the chorus. He was dispatched by the bands people and luckily avoided the wrath of Schmier. This is a big dude my friends and I viewed this like running from a bear in their own forest. I think most of the ire being in his mind this evening was his apparent unhappiness in the stage volume mix. He was almost always pointing to one monitor or another and his ear. The fans jumping up almost every tune from the early set was not helping his mood. Oh well. The price of Metal eh Marcel?

This was a long set and ran something like twenty numbers and what felt like two hours for Destruction alone, so clearly more than your money’s worth at the end of the day. Many of the tunes were considered classics among the bands fans and I enjoyed songs like “Nailed To The Cross”, “Butcher Strikes Back” and “Thrash Till Death” the most. It was surprising to me that with the tour being called the “North American Reckoning” that they did not play the new album’s title track and instead gave us the first four tunes from the new release. Oh well, I was not going to argue with Schmier because like I said – Big frigging dude. As the night drew to a close guitarist Kragen Lum from Heathen came onto the stage to help them deliver “Release From Agony” and while it would have been cool to see Rob Dukes up there one more time he did not come out. In the end this was a very solid performance from beginning to end and one that showed why Destruction is considered one of the three leaders of German Thrash Metal. If you have the chance to see them in concert I suggest you do so, but be wary of the circle pit because it can get ugly in there.

Heathen Set List:
1. Dying Season
2. Control by Chaos
3. Arrows of Agony
4. Open the Grave
5. Hypnotized
6. No Stone Unturned
7. Fade Away
8. Death by Hanging

Destruction Set List:
1. Curse the Gods
2. Mad Butcher
3. Armageddonizer
4. Hate Is My Fuel
5. Eternal Ban
6. Life Without Sense
7. D.E.V.O.L.U.T.I.O.N.
8. Soul Collector
9. Thrash Till Death
10. Nailed to the Cross
11. Metal Discharge
12. Devil’s Advocate
13. Death Trap
14. The Price
15. Bestial Invasion
16. Beyond Eternity – omitted
17. Release From Agony
18. Butcher Strikes Back
19. Invincible Force
20. Total Disaster

There is no real “marquee” for the shows that hit the Highline and while that displeases me in terms of something else to photograph, there was a cool tour poster that I have included below for your visual indulgence.

In my narrative I mentioned how the crowd was something impressive this evening in terms of movement and overall response to the band.  Here are a couple of shots of them during the all too brief lulls in the insanity.

Feeling brave?  I wasn’t…..Heh.

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