Article By: Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker ‡ Edited By: Leanne Ridgeway
A name like TOTAL FUCKING DESTRUCTION leaves very little, if anything, to one’s imagination… which, if I were to surmise, is the desired outcome when taking such a name.
For twenty years now, Philadelphia’s finest grinders have defined the implications of their name by creating some of the most abhorrent metallic noise known to man. TOTAL FUCKING DESTRUCTION was founded by drummer and vocalist Richard Hoak, a dynamo of flailing human limbs that has served time in Brutal Truth, Exit-13, Old Head, Trained Attack Dogs, More Fiends, and NineFinger (with Corrosion Of Conformity’s Mike Dean), among others. In April 2020, he and the other members in the current incarnation of the band – bassist and vocalist Ryan Moll and guitarist Pingdum – released their fifth official studio album (amid a sea of splits and EPs) via Translation Loss Records.
Make no mistake, as much as this band’s name reveals its innermost intent, the title of their latest album revels in the age at hand. The 10-song “…to be alive at the end of the world” is as much of an in-general statement as it is a celebratory rallying call. Simultaneously it is an exclamatory “Attaboy!” for the collective masses having made it this far. Let’s face it, contemporary times are a shitstorm, they are manic and they are panicked… and with damned good reason.
Mankind is a few months into a global-wide viral evisceration of biblical proportions, the planet’s earnest plight to forcibly rid itself of humans. Amid the masses melting down in confusion over whether to shelter-in or not to, Americans were thrust face to face with our latest race-oriented struggle. This is where some of us find ourselves, smack dab in the middle, so TOTAL FUCKING DESTRUCTION have come to show us the error of our ways. Based on past experiences, the band usually does this with fervent audio fury served at a most frantic intensity.
Alas, TOTAL FUCKING DESTRUCTION are not “usual” in any sense of the word, so how dare you think you can anticipate anything. Just to prove this point, the title track “…to be alive at the end of the world” saunters in as a lulling slice of psychedelia. On a soothing wave of feedback and fuzzy tones, wispy vocals waft aloft in this lysergic haze of Sixties-style psychedelia. This proverbial calm before the storm is really quite hypnotic, winding its way along where it will briefly build ever so slightly in pressure and, for some, perhaps become a cause for concern.
Is this a kinder, gentler TOTAL FUCKING DESTRUCTION, or what? I fully expect to hear applause clicking; you know, the light finger-snapping done at spoken word outings and hipster events. Instead, what we get is a sense of familiarity that induces a swell of nostalgia, as the 00:42-second blitz of “Violently High” strikes. Speaking of strikes, and strikes, and strikes again, Hoak has his inhuman side on display here, his kit-work is practically not of this Earth. With the caustic vocal accompaniment and Pingdum‘s abominable guitar discharging intrusive, abrasive buzzing, this is damn sure more like it!
More and more like it, really, as we get further embroiled in these dizzying tempests disguised as album tracks. Finding ourselves subjected to “Light/Pain“, this blunt force drama continues to unfurl, as instrument rendered batteries barely surpassing the one minute mark are now at hand. They happen to be two of the more eclectic numbers and the first of them, “A Demonstration Of Power“, almost immediately brings to mind a band from Hoak‘s past, Exit-13.
The jazzy, funk emitting guitars would be right at home in a 1984-’85 era Red Hot Chili Peppers song, or fit right in on any of the early Mordred releases. They provide a modicum of levity but don’t get too happy-go-lucky there, pal, because things are going to collectively one-eighty in a moment. The music then careens like a car losing control, crashing at an unusually high speed, amid an accompaniment of screams.
Quirky works continue with the twangy and cleanly vocalized, “Sound On Sound“, a song where the music and vocals briefly take on Butthole Surfers-like nuances at points. It is a rather feel-good song, though, no denying that with its overall upbeat nature and lighter feel, but it is apparently a cover song. I am not familiar with it in its original version from a band named Big Boys, but things made total sense once I investigated. The Big Boys are listed as a Texas-based skate punk band. Texas is also where Butthole Surfers call home. However, I have yet to figure out whether the song’s lyrical tale is one describing stalking a woman or not.
We now reach a point in this record where T.F.D. will put their collective past on full aural display with a no-holds-barred dive into unfettered extremity. This is not just some hollow claim on my part, no, not at all, seeing as how the next four songs are each under one-minute in length. Truth is, three of them are under one-half-minute, beginning with the chugging punch to the gut that is “Attack Of The Supervirus 1138“. It tears ass right from the start, this characterization of metallic speed is a dizzying blur at times, to be sure.
Though to be sure, any band seeking to make their point in thirty seconds or less better make every nanosecond count. These guys do, with simplistic, yet stern aplomb, as they detonate the agate “Stone Bomb” with a delayed fuse-like start. Blatant refusal to pontificate and wax self-righteous in some lengthier, drawn-out song of mundane filler never quite sounded so damned good.
Neither did presenting what sounds like varied, careening musical chaos; mayhem compacted into an audible discharge. People might mistake this type of music for mere noise, a type of undisciplined disorder and utter instrument-rendered confusion. Nothing could be further from the truth, though. Despite what you think you might hear, there is most definitely a method to this manic madness. “Doctor Butcher” is actually a fine example of this; a song with poignant lyrics, an underlying message, and structure within its compositional makeup.
Ultimately, things will wind down (figuratively speaking) with two tracks remaining, the first of which is entitled as self-explanatory as it gets. For all intents and purposes, “Yelling At Velcro” is exactly that, or what it becomes after one second of intro music. From there, a breathy, long, and well-drawn out screaming yell (at velcro, we can assume) is carried out.
The last song is a slight surprise with “The Star Spangled Banner (Traditional)“… traditional? In what sense of the word? Lyrically? Yes, for the most part, but musically? Not even close to traditional, as this onslaught of patriotic sentiment is served in a bun of discordant noise with rather angsty, hollered vocals for relish. Oh, it is an acquired taste for certain, rife with blast beats, and you can feel a palpable air of uncertainty resulting from its two minute-plus meltdown. When it is over… it ain’t over, for, after about five minutes of silence, the song reprises amid a piece of acidic aural manipulations.
Viral pandemics, homicides at the hands of militarized police, peaceful protests, sporadic mayhem, open revolt, and occupation; halfway through the year 2020, this is where we are at in America. It sure seems like TOTAL FUCKING DESTRUCTION all over the place, so why not have a band and a recording embodying that very vibe? Exactly. You do, right here, and it provides the most fitting, listenable accompaniment to what we are witnessing (or perhaps participating in). Play it now and play it loud as you reel from the ridiculousness or revel in the rebellion, it’s your choice just as long as you are rejoicing… “…to be alive at the end of the world“!