Monday, 18 January 2010

Dark Angel - Darkness Descends (1986)

1. Darkness Descends
2. The Burning Of Sodom
3. Hunger Of The Undead
4. Merciless Death
5. Death Is Certain (Life Is Not)
6. Black Prophecies
7. Perish In Flames

After pretty much flooring legions of head-bangers with the impressive and aptly named “We Have Arrived” in 1985, Dark Angel came back for another round of mind bludgeoning metal in 1986 with their monster magnum opus “Darkness Descends”, an album so brutal and evil it makes Slayer’s post “Reign In Blood” output seem like a bunch of Garth Brooks ditties! The main reason behind this is the addition of now legendary skinsman Gene Hoglan. His drumming literally leaps out of every track and beats the living shit out of you and it’s all flawlessly tight, as tight as an owl’s vagina. His fills are like death the chants to a blood soaked cannibal ritual; then add on top of that the rasping, menacing vocals of Don Doty and the over-the-top time changes and guitar riffs, like steel piranhas stripping flesh to bone in an endless assault. You have something beasty indeed. Mind blowing really, is the easiest way to describe Dark Angel’s brand of extreme thrash. You pop “Darkness Descends” onto a turntable or a CD into a stereo and prepare to be frightened by the sheer force. Those of a nervous disposition best stay away, or else you’ll be cowering behind the sofa and struggling to fight off a seizure!

Dark Angel was formed in Downey, California around 1981, when the Bay Area thrash movement was dawning and first went by the name of Shellshock playing local bars and clubs. In 1984, with Don Doty on vocals, Eric Meyer and Jim Durkin on guitar, Rob Yahn on bass, Jack Schwartz on drums. Later, the band was solidified by the addition of Gene Hoglan taking over the drum stool from Schwartz. They switched to their now famous moniker and recorded some demos before making a deal with the Azra label. “We Have Arrived” made waves in the thrash metal scene back in ‘85, with its incredibly fast tempos and partly due to the track “Welcome To The Slaughterhouse” which had been featured on the Metal Massacre VI compilation that same year. Dark Angel were yet another band that got tipped for the big time, but never broke into the media created “Big Four” of thrash metal, despite tons of unrelenting aggression that was matched with even more technical intricacy. By the time “Darkness Descends” rolled round, Dark Angel could be considered bordering on death metal stylings and were already influencing a whole host of up and coming Bay Area bands. I’ll admit it took me a few listens to truly get into this album – there is no subtle introduction or forewarning – just bowel scraping hellfire…

Granted, the production on “Darkness Descends” is very muddy, but it is still definitely a step up from the debut’s overall sound and even though it’s also lacking a track that matches up to “Hell’s On It’s Knees” from the previous album, this is still a mighty platter. I would say the biggest and baddest track on here is “The Burning Of Sodom”, which absolutely borders on the ridiculous (that’s a compliment by the way!)! My personal favourite though, and the most memorable track for me is “Death Is Certain (Life Is Not)”, who’s title and message instantly and somewhat morbidly ring true. “Merciless Death” is probably the most well known Dark Angel song here amongst thrash connoisseurs along with the excellent album closer “Perish In Flames”. The only track that lets the record down in my opinion is the actual opener and title track. It just seems messy. To casual listeners and fans of other music this whole album is going to sound horrifically messy, but to seasoned thrash nuts you can tell when a track isn’t really going anywhere and if it doesn’t have any memorable riffs. “Darkness Descends” the track, is only really impressive in its utter sonic battery rather than structure or even melody, of which there is zero. All in all, this is still Dark Angel’s best release and should be a high priority listen for fans of Slayer, Sabbat and Death etc…I would recommend picking up “Time Does Not Heal” for further evidence of this band’s punishing capabilities. Undoubtedly merciless...


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