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“…falling from the heavens, angels lie decayed, burning city of Sodom, one by one the sinners paid…”
It’s the mid-'80s. The glam movement, especially in L.A., is in ultra-full swing. The smog index is about 2% hairspray. Tight cheetah and leopard pattern spandex seems to be painted on every girl and guy, fat or skinny, and songs about sex and riding really fast in your car choke the airwaves. Trapped in the glam capital is Dark Angel, a five-piece who would carve a path from obscurity to the forefront of the underground with their debut '82 demo and '85 ep We Have Arrived. This was just a rough taste of what the band was offering, and with the release of Darkness Descends, helped bulldoze glam out of the way (and hopefully off a cliff).
Produced by Randy Burns, the production has just the right amount of distortion and fuzz without sounding under-produced, and the heaviness drops like an anvil. “Darkness Descends” squeals from silence with a heavy methodical gait, almost a primordial warning until discipline collapses into savagery and the main riff, mighty chorus, and verbose lyrics flatten all around. “The Burning of Sodom”, originally presented on the Combat compilation Bullets Vol. 1 without the scream at the beginning, is hallmark; monstrous thrash with pummeling drum work via man mountain Gene Hoglan and Don Doty’s throaty vocals. The assailing “Hunger of the Undead” does nothing to diminish the fevered pace, and progressively sets the stage for vicious riff-monger “Merciless Death”. The subtle bass line leading the track is the calm before the storm, then the sky breaks and the pounding chorus rattles speakers off perches everywhere.
Side two opens with the driving “Death Is Certain (Life is Not)”, giving way to the lengthier and progressive “Black Prophecies”, a track aimed at more careful songwriting and structures than pure thrash. Pure thrash would come again with “Perish In Flames”, the blistering finale with all the delicacy of a tragic blimp accident.
It would be three years before Dark Angel releases their third offering, Leave Scars, and in that time the beefier Ron Rinehart will replace vocalist Don Doty. Though a strong lp and with several afterward, it wouldn't quite be the same, at least not for me. All in all, however, darkness had definitely blackened all the earth on that day in ’86 it accompanied my ass home from the record shop.
"...our children die clutching their dreams..."