DESTRUCTION
"A Savage Symphony: The History of Annihilation"

(AFM)

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RATING: 9/10

It was high time that we got an all-inclusive DESTRUCTION DVD that covered the seminal band's bumpy historical ride and captured one of their ferocious live performances. "A Savage Symphony: The History of Annihilation" does just that and more in three-and-a-half hours. The quality and comprehensiveness of it befits a band consider one of the big three of German thrash, along with SODOM and KREATOR.

Comprised of two major segments, a documentary and a 25th anniversary performance at Wacken, "A Savage Symphony" leaves little to be desired. Chapter 1 of the disc is entitled "A Savage Symphony: The Wacken Inferno" and features an off-the-rails 14-song set culled from DESTRUCTION's entire career, save for the Schmier-less "neo-DESTRUCTION" phase, as one would expect. Schmier and Co. wanted to mark a quarter century of feral thrash metal with a truly awesome display from the stage and one that involved as many people as possible that were involved in the band's history at one point or another. The feat was accomplished by enlisting the help of former members like one-time second guitarist Harry Wilkens and original drummer Tommy Sandman (guest vocals only); a handful of friends; The Mad Butcher himself; and a couple of scantily clad, demonically possessed cheerleaders (you'll just have to see it). Most amazing about the involvement of former members was the flanking of current drummer Marc Reign with both Oliver "Olly" Kaiser and Sven Vormann. You got it; a total of at least five musicians were on stage, three of whom were drummers! The documentary portion of the DVD includes an interesting discussion about the logistics of making such an unusual (especially for thrash metal) situation work in a live setting. A highlight of the set, though admittedly one marred by some syncing difficulties, was when Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth (OVERKILL), Peavy Wagner (RAGE), Tom Angelripper (SODOM), and Oddlief Stensland (COMMUNIC) joined on vocals for a rousing rendition of heavy metal tribute cut "Alliance of Hellhoundz". By itself, the rip-roarin' and expertly filmed/recorded performance of DESTRUCTION classics like "Curse the Gods", "The Mad Butcher Strikes Back", and "Bestial Invasion" is worthy of high praise. When you add the aforementioned elements the Wacken show becomes a one-of-a-kind event that is essential viewing for fans new and old.

Once you've caught your breath and wiped the sweat from your brow, you can then sit back and enjoy Chapter 2: "The History of Annihilation" (Note: those unable to read German will need to turn on the subtitles option). It too is essential viewing and thoroughly covers DESTRUCTION's often tumultuous history as told through commentary from present and past members with an emphasis on the brutally honest, and sometimes philosophical words of founding members Schmier (bass/vocals) and Mike Sifringer (guitars). From the early, groundbreaking demo days through the making of classics "Infernal Overkill" and "Eternal Devastation" to the firing of Schmier when the band wanted to move in a progressive/technical direction (the "neo-DESTRUCTION" era), to the reunion with Schmier and all the personality conflicts, recording challenges, money problems, and lineup issues that one would expect from a band with such a long history. The terrific editing, which includes screen splits to show artwork and interviews simultaneously, and sheer educational value of the documentary make it a high class affair. Add to that some video clips and bonus segments "Nailed to the Road" and "Fans til Death" and you've got yourself one hell of a DESTRUCTION package. Highly recommended.

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