In looking back over 2011, I dug out some nuggets I hadn’t thought about in a while. One of them is for Chicago thrash studs, Degradation. Their debut full length self-release, Juggernaut simply crushed me when I first heard it. So I reached out to the band and asked them to give Metalholic-heads a track by track breakdown.
Degradation was formed in the Chitown suburb of Hickory Hills in 2001 by brothers Alex (vocals/guitar) and Joe Manske (drums) and guitarist Mike Hartman. The band spent much of the millennium’s first decade honing their collective chops and fine-tuning their old school thrash style. 2009 saw the band rounded out by bassist Steve Holy.
Upon first listen you’re likely to hear inspirational elements from early San Francisco thrash icons like Exodus, Vio-lence, Testament and even a touch of Death Angel. A strong foundation from which to build one’s own songcraft.
Coming from the Bay Area, I breathed those bands and it’s always appreciated to find new bands that can carve their niche while throwing a nod back to the band’s which spawned the genre.
Degradation is tight, spirited, fierce and energetic. Here’s hoping by the time the band follows-up Juggernaut, they will be signed.
Frontman Alex Manske took the time to give us his thoughts and back-story on the Juggernaut album, track by track:
1. A Necessary Evil – This song has two separate stories within them, both leading to one common fact in life. As bad as things may seem, they are in fact necessary. I actually took the song title from a speech George W. Bush. He used that phrase in a lot of speeches during his time in office. The song itself stemmed from a riff i wrote, Joe and I let it run and it almost wrote itself. Not many people know this but I give a shout out to our friends in the band Vicious Attack in this song. I jokingly put in “What is the need of this Vicious Attack?” It fit perfectly because I am questioning the thought of using war and it is a little jab at my friends. All in good fun of course.
2. Juggernaut – This song was going to be about something different entirely but I felt the words had no heart behind them. I didn’t want it to just be “another metal song.” So I threw everything out and started from scratch. I knew that with such a wonderful chorus riff that I wanted to have my lyrics live up to it. This turned out to be a difficult song for me to write, I was having a bit of writer’s block. Then one day at work it just hit me, JUGGERNAUT. God has given up on humanity and needs to start over. Who do you send? The juggernaut of course. My brother Joe and I wrote the song and the producer Jonathan Clardy and I wrote the chorus in the studio, he even helped me with the melody. This was a big step for me vocally because this was the first time I introduced “singing” into our music. I felt this chorus was begging for it and in the end it turned out to be the title track.
3. The Reckoning – Everyone one on the planet can relate to this song, we all have had one. An Ex, an ex that really turned my life upside down. Lots of people have told me that I wrote this song about their ex-wife, or ex boyfriend/girlfriend and thank me for it. Because they love singing along and giving them a big FUCK YOU! I especially love this song because it this one of Mike’s best solos and Joe is very impressive on the drums as well.
4. Rise to Fall – I touch a military side on this song. I focus on the so-called leaders of the world. It is a friendly reminder that the higher you rise, the harder you fall. I have never understood why honesty and truth was never a main policy in the governments around the world. I have one simple rule in life: Don’t be a dick.
5. Trail of Sin – This was the first song where I stood back and was really proud of what we had just written. It made me believe that the four of us can really make an impact in the music scene. We enjoyed it so much that we started playing it live before I had any lyrics written. I used to just ad lib on stage. When everything including the solos were written I was and still get a smile on my face. To me this song is perfect and nothing about it needs to be changed.
6. Executioner…Slayer of the Light – This was a last minute decision I had brought up to the band before we entered the studio. We have always absolutely loved The Crown. They are the best band the you will never hear about, completely underrated. When we meet new people, one of the first questions is “Do you like The Crown?” We have always covered songs from them since the beginning and have always wanted to start a tribute band and share the same stage as them. I e-mailed the band asking permission to record a cover on our album and was overwhelmed with joy when I actually got a response back. They said “of course you can but only under one condition. We want to hear it when it is finished!” How cool is that? Not only did they say yes but they actually care enough to want to hear it?! This was our chance to show a new generation of fans their music and our tribute to them.
7. Degradation– This is the oldest song on this record. It is one of our favorites to play. Not because it is called “Degradation” but because we feel that all of our playing is something to be proud of. This song is so old that it the words were originally written by our first singer James Rizza. We are great friends still and he has told me that he wrote this song about each member of the band. Certain lines in this song explain what each member is like. Can you decipher what member each line is about? It was the first song for Joe to incorporate blast beats into our music. I wanted this song to sound like something Slayer had written. Everything very fast and sudden to the point where you almost don’t have enough response time to know what hit you. We had recorded this song on a few demos but the quality never gave it justice. So we made sure to put on this recording.
8. Thrill of the Kill – Still one of my favorites. Though I say that about almost every song we write. This song dives deep into the human mind. I touch on how a man in the military and serial killer may be different but can be very much a like. The title is actually a funny story. While eating dinner at restaurant I look up and see “For the thrill of the grill.” I was thinking that is a very catchy phrase, I should use something like that in a song. You never know where you will find inspiration for a song kids. Be aware of your surroundings…and watch our for those serial killers. 😉 Sleep tight.
Offers Alex of the follow-up to Juggernaut:
“We are writing new music everday. We have about 5 solid songs done and are working on more. It is some very solid music that we are VERY excited to record. If money is on our side we would like to record towards the summer time.”