Full Album Stream: Destroyer of Light – “Degradation Years”

Austin doom crew Destroyer of Light have been one of the most consistent and reliable doom bands over the last twelve years, releasing six albums, three EPs and more, but all things have an expiration date and Destroyer of Light have reached theirs. Degradation Years, the band’s new full-length, shows a considerable growth for the long-running band. It’s also their final effort, with Destroyer of Light going on indefinite hiatus when they complete their final tour later this month.

Steeped in ’90s influences in both sound and visual style, Degradation Years is a more-than-welcome breath of fresh air in an ocean of poor man’s Sabbath and Electric Wizard imitators. Album opener “Cruel World” is an emotional tribute to the late Chris Cornell, one of guitarist/vocalist Steve Colca’s favorite singers and songwriters. Second track “Waiting for the End” tips its hat to ’90s alternative in its sparse guitars and hazy production, segueing nicely into the heavy “Perception of Time.”

Fourth song “Failure” and sixth song “Blind Faith” are two of the heaviest on the album, containing the big, moody riffs and melodic solos one expects from a doom band. “Man With No Name” is rather stripped back, with parts of the song resembling Alice in Chains or Screaming Trees more than a traditional doom band. Destroyer of Light put a neat bow on things with ambitious album closer “Where I Cannot Follow,” an eight-minute melodic doom song that slowly builds to a crescendo before fading out.

If it’s the last thing Destroyer of Light release, Degradation Years is a powerful farewell. The seven songs on the album reflect the band’s core sound and look toward the direction they’re headed in their other projects, something Colca discusses in depth with Decibel. Listen to Degradation Years below and keep scrolling to read an interview with Colca.

Degradation Years is out via the band on April 5.

Degradation Years is your sixth record and it’s also the band’s last record, at least for now. Why are you guys hanging it up after this album?
Me and Keegan [Kjeldsen, guitar], who write the songs, have been talking about it for the last year or so. We both have started other projects and I think we’re kind of at a place where we feel like we’ve done a complete thing. We thought it would be cool to make our last album our most experimental, to show the direction our songwriting is going.

We worked, did that for 12 years and did it pretty hard DIY and we just felt like, independently, this is the most we could do for the time. That’s why we said indefinite hiatus because that doesn’t mean it’s over, it just means we’re going to take a little break, focus on our other things and maybe when we come back, we’ll have a drive to do something again.

It takes a lot of self-awareness to be able to realize that maybe things are at their natural end. You guys made six records in twelve years—that’s a hard pace for guys who are touring regularly and have regular jobs.
Exactly, and throw three EPs in there too. For us, being a DIY band, we did it super hard and during the pandemic, I wrote a lot of my stuff at my house, Keegan wrote his stuff at his house. When we felt safe we could get together, we started recording drums at our rehearsal space and I’d take them back home, I’d record my guitar parts, I recorded my vocals. We did all the production work on Panic and Degradation Years during this two year timespan and so that was a fun process, but it felt like that was a completion.

To me, [2022 album] Panic is a culmination of where we started to where we’re ending and Degradation Years is where we’re heading individually right now in our music. It’s telling a story in a way.

On Degradation Years, you can really hear a lot of alternative—Soundgarden, The Cure—on this record. What other stuff were you guys trying to bring in?
I’m a ’90s kid. I grew up on Soundgarden, I grew up on Alice in Chains—they’re some of my favorite bands. I love The Cure. The stuff I was writing, I wanted to show my ’90s influences. When I wrote “Cruel World,” I was thinking about Chris Cornell and when I finished it, I kind of teared up. Chris Cornell was one of my favorite songwriters and I was really sad when he died. I wanted to do a dedication to him. “Man With No Name” was kind of my dedication to Mark Lanegan and I wrote that before he died, but I kind of had him in mind when I wrote “Man With No Name.”

There’s some vocal harmonies that I did on “Failure” and “Blind Faith” where it was like I’m a big Nothingface fan and Matt Holt was another influence of mine. I wanted to do some vocal harmonies that he would’ve done, so I’ve kind of given an homage to some of my favorite vocalists of the ’90s.

You can definitely hear the other influences you and Keegan have.
We’ve always taken left and right turns. All my favorite bands have kind of teetered outside their genre; they’d release an album that was kind of the oddball. They were always not afraid to experiment and try different things. With me, Keegan and Penny [Turner, drums] being together for 12 years, it was cool to be able to do that with these guys. Do what our favorite bands did, not afraid to explore new territories.

You guys put out Panic in late 2022. Were you already working on Degradation Years when Panic came out?
We wrote and did pre-production on both at the same time, then we went in the studio and we recorded both at the same time. We recorded both albums in a week. We did solid pre-production for two years in the summer of 2022.

The cool thing about this record, we used Matt Meli who did all the Destroyer of Light recordings. We ended up having my brother in law mix it, who did the Hopeless EP for us and I’ve been working with Chris Frankhauser at Raygun Studios since before I moved down here and I love the sounds he could get. With the direction with the songs, I knew he could capture sonically what we were going for. It was cool to use two producers we really love and combine them to make the sound what we wanted.

We used James Plotkin, we’ve been using him for mastering forever.

There was a point where I almost wanted to do a double album but I was like “We’re not that big, we can’t do a double album” so we decided to break it up and release one in 2022, one in 2024.

And now Degradation Years is like a cap on your career to date.

Did you have any idea as you were recording the two records that it would be the last time for the band?
We hadn’t hit that crossroads yet. I think right after we released Panic in 2022 and did a couple tours. I’ve been trying to get my other band Temple of Love going, Keegan’s been trying to get Slumbering Sun going and it was 2023, we were already talking about it. We did a tour with Temptress last year and we were still talking about it, then when Mike [Swarbrick], our bass player, said he was moving to Atlanta, the three of us got together and were like, “This is the catalyst to call it.” Mike’s our fourth bass player in a twelve-year period. We love playing with Mike and we can still do stuff with him in Atlanta, but we don’t want to find anybody else. We reached this point where we have a whole ‘nother album to release and we were just like, “This is it.”

Tell me about the album artwork.
Since it was such a ’90s-influenced album, photographs were used a lot and the cover that I was trying to emulate without ripping off was Placebo’s Without You I’m Nothing. That was the vibe I was trying to create with the cover art on that. It almost looks like I’m writing a suicide note and giving up on life.

With the back, song titles and the band picture, I was going for a Soundgarden Down on the Upside vibe where you don’t know what’s happening. Do they still like each other? Are they OK? What are they going through? What’s on their mind, are they breaking up? Are they not getting along? I was trying to give off that kind of energy.

What will your focus become after Destroyer of Light?
Last year, we were finally able to finish our EP for Temple of Love and I’m looking to get that out. I’ve been writing new songs for that band too.

Keegan and Penny have Slumbering Sun and I know they just finished recording another EP. Penny’s also in the band The Flood and they’re working on new stuff too. Mike’s got Cortége, so basically just us focusing on our other projects.

Destroyer of Light Tour:
April 10   El Paso, TX @ Rosewood
April 11   Tempe, AZ @ Yucca Tap Room
April 12   Las Vegas, NV @ The Usual Place
April 13   Oceanside, CA @ The Pourhouse
April 14   Palmdale, CA @ Transplant Brewing
April 16   San Francisco, CA @ Knockout
April 17   Portland, OR – High Water Mark
April 18   Seattle, WA @ Substation
April 19   Boise, ID @ Realms
April 20   Salt Lake City @ Aces High
April 21   Denver, CO @ Black Buzzard
April 23   Lawrence, KS @ Replay Lounge
April 24    TBA
April 25   Tulsa, OK @ Whittier Bar
April 26   Somewhere, AR @ TBA
April 27   Little Rock, AR @ White Water Tavern
April 28 – Arlington, TX @ Growl