Monday, December 19, 2005

Dark Angel - Darkness Descends

It was whilst listening to some new, sub-standard attempt at recreating the traditional thrash ethos that I began to feel a juddering in my iron-clad heavy-metal-infused jowls. They started to beckon back and forward forthwith, with no slacken of intent coming. What could I do as I listened to this below-par wannabe schlock? Fuck, my head is stable in solitary motion with no hint of manic convulsions, this is no good. I glanced about the room in vain hope for some deistical wonder to catch glimmer in mine pupils. And there it was shining in the ambrosia of sneering attitude, peering from the darkness right through me. I snatched it immediately with quivering hands stained with blood and semen. Upon reaching the CD player, I wrenched that banal monstrosity in residence and cast it out into the pits of destitute, only to replace it with the holy mecca of ferocity that had unveiled itself to my inner soul. And thus I hit thee play button and was bludgeoned with ecstasy of sonorous eruption, for that album was Darkness Descends by Dark Angel.

1986 will probably be remembered as the high-watermark year of thrash metal, a pinnacle of creativity, invention, and energetic assembly (thanks Watchtower). There were the seminal releases of Metallica’s Master Of Puppets and Slayer’s Reign In Blood, Anthrax’s third album Among The Living, Megadeth’s Peace Sells...But Who’s Buying, teutonic ragers Kreator’s Pleasure To Kill, Watchtower’s Energetic Disassembly, Bathory’s Under The Sign Of The Black Mark, Nuclear Assault’s Game Over, and finally Dark Angel’s Darkness Descends. It shames me to admit that I was only a one year old during the majority of this wonderful year, mightily affluent of classic releases as it was.

If you thought Slayer were the height of brutality and speed in this subgenre, well you need to carry out some deep psychological pondering, perhaps a trip to a local shrink, a purchase of some Freud writings, exegetical examinations of Lacan and Reich, and THEN a listen to these proponents of intense metal. This album, the band’s second, unequivocally takes your outer extremities and proceeds to rampage them with relentless precision.

First song, the title track, opens with the dissonant chimes of armageddon itself, the fall of the heavens and voiding of all existence caused by the dominating rapture of the drumming onslaught and trilling guitar mechanics. I’m sure in certain editions of the Bible there are illustrations featuring man-beast drumming legend Gene Hoglan sitting in the sky behind a gargantuan drum-kit, no, actually the entire sky is his drum-kit, or the sky is the high-hats, mountains are the snares and toms, and the ground is the bass drums.

I remember reading a review back in the day that was generally complimentary of the album, but the only flaw as they perceived it was the production, and that causes the guitars to deteriorate into nothing beyond a blur. I wouldn’t disagree, the production is pretty rough, but I see as only a good thing, it’s ragged as nails and is out to hurt. You think this album would have the same effect were it all Pro-Tooled up? Fuck no. The raw production is integral and paramount here.

The guitar riffs blister along at alarmingly high speeds with the aggression factor souped straight up to ninety. The aforementioned drums power the aural assailment from its core with perpetual rigidity and constant menace. Hoglan would go on to play with a lot of other bands after this (Testament, Death, Strapping Young Lad etc), but the punishing dynamism here is as good as anything he has ever done. Don Doty’s manic, visceral screams just add another layer to the vigorous frenzy this album possesses.

Each song is a classic, a standout, worthy of inclusion on any hypothetical Best Thrash Album Of All Time’s track-listing (I’d guess we’d get Steven Seagal’s Favourite Jazz-Fusion Hits of 1976 even before that were to happen). It’s a shame that this album is often overlooked, aww yeh some people hype it, but too few people look beyond ‘the big four’. Whether it was the highlight of 1986 is to be discussed and warred over, I won’t make any proclamation as to its possible rightful place on that mountain-top (probably because I find it hard to see anything due to Master Of Puppets’ ethereal illumination blinding my corneas with divine lush). But anyway, brilliant album this here is, recommended for anyone who likes Slayer, or German thrashers like Sodom and Kreator.

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