THE RECKONING, Absence of Mind (1990, demo)
Yes, it’s a blindfolded skull resting on a giant, wizened hand, but doesn’t it also look like a giant skull man with a tiny body, very short legs, and an incredibly long dick? I picture this guy capering about in New Orleans near some grim Mardi Gras float, drunk as a boiled owl and having a good ol’ time.
Most people think Anthrax or Overkill when they think New York thrash, and for sure those bands were at the vanguard of the city’s original thrash sound, but there were plenty of Bay Area inspired bands working their trade in and around the big apple, such as Cold Steel, Dead On, and, evidently, The Reckoning. The singing in this sort of band tended less toward gruff bellowing and more toward a kind of hardcore-inspired shout-singing. The riffing here is mid paced and grooving, rarely even putting on menacing airs (let alone actually doing any menacing). I like the prominent bass, but this is one of the few obvious hallmarks of the East Coast sound intruding on the demo. The Reckoning don’t offer anything new or especially interesting on this five song effort, but at the same time, they don’t make any obvious mistakes, either. I’m sure they riled up a few pits in their day, but it’s pretty clear why they failed to attract any label attention.
— Friar Johnsen
DEVASTATION, Idolatry (reissue) (2008, Forged in Fire)
A first in the skullection, a second entry for a single album (q.v. SKULL14). Why they felt the need to change the cover is beyond me, as the original was more or less the best thing about the album. But, at least they’ve stayed committed to the big dumb skull. Replacing the grim and staid original is a rather cartoonish fellow. The blindfold motif is also maintained (the true trademark of Devastation), although obviously here the cloth is torn, or at least poorly tied, exposing that one glaring peeper. The skull is ringed by some kind of occult-looking circle, chiseled with the various icons of many major religions. Idolatry, man. And some lightning, because lightning is cool.
Friar Wagner adequately spoke to the adequatulence of this album in his post, so I’ll merely add a few words about the three old tracks, freshly recorded by the reactivated band for this reissue. None of these tunes were originally recorded for Idolatry, so I can’t quite say why they chose these to redo, or why they thought this would be a better reintroduction to the band than some new songs. But, they do play their own songs well, again, so I guess they’ve got that going on. One thing that can be said is that Devastation doesn’t sound at all like the million new thrash bands plying their wares today. Its funny to think that even a third rate band from the original thrash wave has about 100x more originality and personality than the legions of fresh-faced mosh enthusiasts following the dubious lead of Municipal Waste and Toxic Holocaust. Vocalist Rodney Dunsmore is still pretty bad, a charmless barker who’s probably too old to be putting on tough-guy airs, but the band does manage a certain groove and swagger. Is that sufficient to justify their return? Probably not, but I guess they’re not hurting anyone. I will reconsider my opinion, however, if they release a new album with another excellent BDS!
— Friar Johnsen
DEVASTATION, Idolatry (1991, Combat)
This band are committed not only to skull covers, but they have a particular fascination with blindfolded skulls. Their first album, 1987’s Violent Termination, featured multiple skulls, which got them kicked out of the Skullection, but the prominent skull was blindfolded. This motif repeats here, on the original cover art for their their third album, but this time it’s a drawn cover (the first album was a photograph). The cover art resembles Pushead’s style, although it’s not him. It’s a legitimately great cover, but between cannibalizing their own ideas (blindfolded skulls), using artwork that looks like a Pushead rip-off, and never having found their own musical voice, Devastation are the epitome of unoriginality.
This Texas band’s first album was shabby death/thrash with terrible vocals; their second album was a Dark Angel ripoff; Idolatry, their third, is probably their best, but it too finds the band looking for some kind of unique identity. It sounds like Possessed in the Eyes of Horror era, only not as good. Vocalist Rodney Dunsmore sounds especially like Jeff Beccera (here’s where I say again: “only not as good”). Cool production, quality drum and guitar sounds. One can spot sonic references to Massacre’s From Beyond, just in a more thrash-oriented framework. But it all falls flat when the songs aren’t that good and the riffs are dull.
— Friar Wagner