It is a shame that I did not discover Destruction until long after I had already immersed myself into the early records from Venom, Bathory, Kreator, Sodom, Possessed, etc. Recordings such as Sentence of Death and Infernal Overkill failed to make the kind of impact that they would have and my initial impression was one of disappointment, mostly because this band just did not sound like I wanted them to and lacked the darkness and evil of many of their peers. However, once getting past these shattered expectations, it turned out that there was a lot to appreciate.
Musically, this release is quite impressive. The level of musicianship is far beyond what many others were capable of, especially as it regards the other German bands. Perhaps, that is one more reason for the more primitive approach taken by Kreator and Sodom, as there was no way to compete with the technical proficiency of Destruction. The riffs are far more intricate and the solos were miles ahead of a good number of their contemporaries. There is still a solid NWOBHM influence heard here, with an epic atmosphere similar to Kill 'Em All or Melissa. Even the most primitive track, "Devil's Soldiers", features a solo that would make an early-'80s Kirk Hammett jealous. Most of the riffs convey a sense of urgency and possess an intensity that is absolutely lethal. The vocals are the one real weak spot; that is, Schmier's voice takes some time to grow on you, sounding less serious than the likes of Angelripper or Mille Petrozza, for example. There is an upbeat kind of vibe to his vocal patterns, accentuated by the rather comical emphasis that he puts on certain syllables. Once you get used to this, however, you are in for some great Black / Thrash from the First Wave.
The production is surprisingly clear, on this E.P. The guitars possess a razor-sharp tone that cuts through you like a cold surgical scalpel and the drums pummel away until your ribs are crushed and broken. The frigid guitar sound suits the precise riffing very well and allows the listener to really appreciate the skill that is on display. The overall sound is kind of weak when compared to some other albums from this time period, but it has become part of the character of Sentence of Death. Besides, one of the great things about the 1980s was the fact that so many different bands had their unique way of doing things and also obtained various different sounds instead of everyone sounding the same.
Sentence of Death is an essential release for fans of early Thrash, as well as those more into the First Wave bands. This does not have as dark and evil of an atmosphere as some others, but it is filled with memorable riffs, haunting solos and a character that is 100% metal. If you do not like this, you might as well trade in your leather jacket for your grandfather's sweater-vest. In other words, get your hands on this A.S.A.P.