Right or wrong, there was a time when those with using "black metal" and "elite" in the same sentence were referring to bands of a Scandinavian heritage, while those same folks snickered at the idea of a legitimate U.S. black metal world presence. Regardless of the questionable validity of the original statements, attitudes have changed. Oddly enough, some of the same bands lumped in with a supposed inferior scene are now revered the world over. With scads of U.S. black metal acts on a multitude of underground labels, the question now becomes where the hell to start should one desire a representative taste of America's rich crop of baleful black metal bands. On the third release from young Texas label Killzone Records, "Destroyers from the Western Skies [As Night Devours the Sun]" offers the discerning fan a 17-track (76-minute) cross section of U.S. black metal.
Eschewing anything symphonic or trendy, "Destroyers…" consists only of the most primal and often ideologically true (in several senses) bands. Mindful that not every one's favorite band is represented, in the words of the label itself, "a broader mandate was chosen to reflect the depth of styles and influence and creativity that is making U.S. black metal a vital and relevant force". Personally, even at 17 tracks, I found none that didn't offer value. At the same time, there isn't much in the way of redundancy here; the representation of styles is diverse and, for the most part, no two bands sound exactly alike. The gamut runs from the noise terror of LEVIATHAN ("Hissing and Sullen"), XASTHUR ("Maane's Natt"), and DRAUGAR ("Running from Us") to the churn 'n' burn (and one of the few times the band slows down) of KULT OV AZAZEL ("Trampling the Cross") to the blackened thrash of SUMMON ("Beating of Christ"), and all points in between. Adding more value for the dollar, most of the bands contribute tracks exclusive to this compilation, including exclusive re-mixes and previously unreleased songs. In the case of "Destroyers from the Western Skies", the lack of a singular standout track does not translate into mediocrity, but instead is indicative of how well the album works as an enthralling journey into the U.S. black metal underground. More than likely, you'll not feel the need to press the "skip" button at any point along the way.
Finally, the album contains commentary — usually ideological in nature — from most of the participating bands, as well as liner notes from extreme music journalist and black metal guru Nathan T. Birk. Should you break down and buy it, odds are that "Destroyers from the Western Skies" will be one of the more important heavy music compilations you're likely to ever own.