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There’s not a whole lot of talk about the first incarnation of Angel Dust outside of the most devoted of early German thrash metal adherents, mostly due to the lack of any reissue to introduce said albums to the current generation. In wake of the revival of interest in thrash metal of the mid 80s variety, this could be seen as a bit perplexing, though most younger bands of today take their cues from either the Bay Area scene of the Teutonic Trio, of which this era of the band doesn’t quite fall into either yet has some elements of both in their earliest stages. Thus relegated to the realm of obscurity, “Into The Dark Past” has become one of the most rare gems in the world of original vinyl and audio cassette recordings, though the world of mp3s has made it more readily available to an audience with a thing for hidden treasure hunting.
The common ground that this album shares with other releases is a bit less obvious than their locale would suggest, and boasts a bit more of a direct, mainline early Metallica and Exodus influence, not all that far off from the contemporary Tankard debut “Zombie Attack”. But at the same time, this album doesn’t go into full out party mode, and definitely takes a few hints from the more serious side of the German metal paradigm. It’s character of sound involves an outright avoidance of overt tradition the way Talon and Tyran’ Pace had been exploring up to this point, and actually leans a bit more in a thrashing direction than a straight up speed metal one as some might suggest. Nothing on here gets quite as aggressive and heavy as Slayer’s “Chemical Warfare” or even Metallica’s brief lean towards the extreme in “Fight Fire With Fire”, but particularly when listening to “Atomic Roar” and “Marching For Revenge” is definitely reminiscent of several factors at play on “Show No Mercy” and “Kill Em’ All”.
Granted, at the same time that this album cooks away and reminds of why the mid 80s was an incredible period for the development of faster metal sub-genres, there are some subtle hints at Angel Dust moving towards the place that they ended up in come 1998 when they came back into the picture. Perhaps the most overt example is the slower parts of “The Gambler” which definitely show a more mainline heavy metal character that is indicative of several bands in the Accept school. “Victims Of Madness” is a similar story and features a main riff set that comes off as a faster version of Dio’s “We Rock” and a vocal display out of guitarist Romme Keymer that has a few more high pitched screams that average for the album. What actually keeps this album somewhat in line with the broader German thrash sound is Keymer’s mostly harsher yelling vocal sound which is somewhat reminiscent of Schmier, though also in line with Tom Araya’s sound on the first couple of Slayer releases.
While this album is among the more difficult to track down these days from the mid 80s German scene, it’s well worth the effort and loss of money if there’s a vinyl loving fanatic in your blood. It’s not quite the cream of the 1986 crop and easily bends the knee to the likes of “Pleasure To Kill” and “Eternal Devastation”, which were a bit edgier and overtly trailblazing the style rather than reaffirming and only slight expanding what had been established a year prior by Agent Steel and Iron Angel. But it’s a high quality album from a band that is less known for its thrashing madness than for its more mainline metal friendly progressive power metal style nowadays, but does a solid job of it.
Don't you love it when you find these hidden, minor classic's, this is speed/thrash ecstasy, What's funny is how the album starts out with a short intro which is the title track featuring some slow piano. It then emerges into a monster of a track called "I'll Come Back." This song is pretty straight forward speed metal but the riffs are classy and effective, the only time the intensity let's up is in a short twenty second break during the solo, then straight back into to the speed insanity, great start.
"Legions of Destruction" is next track and is pretty much an instant classic in it's class. Again the song structure uses the same basic speed principles, but the guitars are a touch more melodic and the riffing and soloing is even more stylish here. "Gambler" follows pretty much in the same vain with some slight tempo changes, It does have some great riffs and it's also the longest song coming in at seven and a half minutes, but it's just not quite as effective as the first two though, their ideas seem to shine most on the shorter tracks. The next song is another great track with a nice headbanging chorus: "This is the Fighter's Return!" This song has a more generic feel, but it's still a very effective track and in the end the unrelenting, pounding chorus sticks in your head and wins you over easily.
Each song is a fun listen, a couple of songs shine more than the rest, I have my personal favorites, you might find that yours differ as there is a consistent quality throughout this album and it's only natural that certain songs might stand out and appeal to the individual listener. The vocalist in this album is also a personal favorite compared to their more power metal oriented vocalists later on, his rough and raw style of barking out the lyrics adds to the appeal of this great debut.
The whole album uses the same formula of song writing and successfully avoids monotony, even the next two songs are great, "Victims of Madness" is probably another classic, it seems when the band try a more varied approach in songwriting and combine this with their fast tempos, they come out with something really special. "Marching for Revenge" is another good track, but the same speed and repetitive riffing in this one does take it's toll, there is only so far you can really get with this kind of thing until the repetition starts to effect you in a negative way. Still, everything is far from tedious which is surely a good sign, luckily this was the last track and there is no harm no foul in the end.
Though Angel Dust is perhaps best known for the progressive power leanings of their later years, they once dwelt on the same cusp as bands like Iron Angel and Vectom, performing a hybrid of speed and thrash that was borne more of melody and velocity than the barbarism of the more popular German thrash acts. While I've found myself getting into a few of their more recent albums, such as Bleed from 1999, I think overall I prefer this earlier phase. They had a more uplifting tone to them than Kreator or Sodom, and you could see their power metal transition from a mile away, but there's still enough savagery in position here for the fan of harder edged thrash, and the vocals on this debut were performed by original guitarist Romme Keymer, with a very down to earth, blunt tone that is wildly different than Dirk Thurisch's meaty melodic presence in the 90s and beyond.
"Into the Dark Past" is an eerie piano piece that ascends into a brief, synthesized choir, and then the storming speed metal of "I'll Come Back", Keymer and Andreas Lohrum weaving the riffs through a proto speed/power metal grinder that would thrill fans of old Helloween, Rage, Iron Angel or Scanner. Romme's voice casts a tinny glow over the surge, not unlike Kai Hansen from his Walls of Jericho days, only lacking the same nasally high tone. Great bass and a great lead switch offer a lot to the bridge, and Frank Banx gets another chance to shine as he propels along below the early melodies of "Legions of Destruction", another well written piece with some superb guitars throughout; possibly one of the best Angel Dust tracks through their entire career, with enough aggression that you could compare it to Vendetta, Destruction, and the first few Deathrow records.
"Gambler" drops to a mid pace for its opening volley, but ramps up speed to provide a verse very similar to what Scanner would be dropping a few years later. Rinse and repeat for both "Fighter's Return" and "Atomic Roar", and herein lies one of the few flaws of Into the Dark Past: several of the songs do seem to blend together, without much to distinguish them individually. Add to this the other weakness, the lack of any truly memorable chorus parts, and you come up with an album that's very good, but well below the masterpiece margin. Granted, "Victims of Madness" is one of the better songs here, with Romme adding some shrieks and a slew of blazing guitar work, and "Marching for Revenge" doesn't disappoint either, with a crazed thrust to the verses, but even these fail to muster a chorus sequence that stands to attention.
A pretty strong argument can be made that Into the Dark Past is Angel Dust's best album, but I think I'd have to give the edge to To Dust You Will Decay and Bleed. Neither has such a purist hard-on for the reckless speed of the time period, but both ultimately succeed where this is lacking, in sticking with you longer. Other albums like Border of Reality and Enlighten the Darkness have some choice moments through to their poppy prog devotion, but are both littered with less appealing filler. In fact, if you compare Into the Dark Past to their most recent album from 2002, Of Human Bondage, it's quite difficult to recognize them as the same band outside of the logo. But if you're seeking more along the lines of Rage's Reign of Fear, Iron Angel's Winds of War, Scanner's Hypertrace, or Vendetta's Brain Damage, this is highly likely to please.
Firstly, I'm going to start with laughing at the apropos that while this LP was quietly derived from the mid 80s, Metallica had just released their "Master Of Puppets", which is, to anyone with remote taste in “Heavy” Metal (not seed-to-weak-angst-mall-pop) can easily point out that that particular LP is the most dire, overrated, worthless Thrash LP of the 80s (shame it's taken nearly 20 years for people to quasi realise that). But not this LP I'm about to review.
The LP Starts off with a typical piano intro track, bit of a typical and pointless LP starter, but some of the best LPs ever have worthless intros, so who cares? Not me. Especially when I heard the fade into the next track over the top of a choral effect (which goes well). I always thought you know a good Thrash/Speed LP by that first riff. Well, the first riff is good, but it's the drop onto the drums that is absolutely excellent. And the vocals soon meet perfectly, too. Decent drop mid song, with an interesting solo part. Nothing excellent, but still consistently good. The song lasts a decent 5 minutes, emphasizing non-appreciation for Metal songs that just drone on and bores the hell out of you.
Next track is much the same consistency, another 5 minute song. If it was a Metallica LP of the same year, by now some tosser would be screaming "MAAASTER MAAAAAASTER" and sending you to sleep over the top of mid-paced, overrated Thrash riffs, designed for accessible-CD-grabbing kiddies.
The next song 'Gambler', is fucking great, the intro riff is good, drops well after 0:10 or so, vocals soon to follow. But, the impressive part is the early break on the 0:50 mark and the fast technicality displayed on the riff work, brilliant 30 second teaser of brilliance shown there that isn't really repeated on the LP again. Don't think the solo soon to follow after the 3rd minute does the song justice, but the general tempo isn't bad at all. Not too fond of this song being nearly 8mins long, and the 2nd solo nearer the end is confirmation of that opinion. But the way the song ends is amusing, heh.
The next few songs are pretty much along the same lines, nothing special or mind-blowing, but the emphasis being to competently write consistent good 80s Thrash/Speed, with good tempo. Which they do very well. The song ‘Atomic Roar’ starts off nicely, good song.
Then we get to the last track 'Marching For Revenge', this song is very good. Great sounding riff work. Great tempo throughout.
Overall, I’m not going to negate the review with negativity about this release not being inspirational enough, or not baring enough ‘importance’ on Metal History, simply going to mention that it’s a decent and consistent LP, nothing awe-inspiring just great Metal to bang your head to. While other crap was being hailed as “genius”.
If you've heard one German speed metal LP from the mid/late 1980s, you've heard all. Okay, maybe not all, but most. This definitely falls into the "most" category... no surprises to be found here, it is pretty much the sound derived by bands like Running Wild, Iron Angel, Grave Digger, etc. There is hardly any thrash to be found here, unlike a band like Paradox, but it isn't as overly melodic as a band like Helloween, nor does it have the over-the-top choruses of the first Blind Guardian or second Iron Angel. It's very fast, being almost completely speed metal (as opposed to thrash and power) and the closest comparison is maybe Grinder, or - from the other major land mass - the first Agent Steel.
The album doesn't have any cringe-worthy moments, which separates it from the dregs of the genre (Vectom, Tyran Pace), but is not incredible memorable for the most part, with the vocal delivery a general fast yell, and only an occasional scream. No real absurd choruses to be found here, and the riffage is lots of the single-note stuff with the occasional fast counterpoint. In fact, if I had to pick an album to sum up the "typical" speed metal sound, this very well may be it.
The real highlight is the power-metal-based "Victims of Madness", which has that one awesome simple three-note riff (it's the first one, and comes back a lot) that's very similar to Toxik's "Count Your Blessings", and more variation in melody than the other songs on here. "Atomic Roar" is probably the fastest song on here, and also has the coolest solo. The rest is a lot of very similar-sounding matter that could be one very long song for all I can tell. Oh yes, the little bass intro to "Legions of Destruction" is total "Killers" (Maiden, of course), but only for like three seconds.
It's not bad, but there really isn't much to differentiate it from the pack. One really brilliant song, a kinda cute intro, good production, and a whole fucking shitload of single-note hyperspeed riffage. If you're a German speed metal freak, go for it.