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So I suppose I'd better add to the already brimming pile of Darkness Descends reviews, but what to add that hasn't already been drooled over?
Well even a cursory glance over the review titles below will convey the reputation of this album, and musically this is wholly worthwile. Certainly the cherry on the cake of the legendary thrash releases of '86 (wow what a metaphor!), and yes that does mean over the mediocre Master of Puppets, and undoubtedly one of the genre's crowning acheivements.
What needs to be said of the sheer riff madness crammed in to this record can be read at length in several other reviews, and I would echo every word in that this is perhaps one of the most flattening bludgeons of metal riffage that will ever invade your ears.
It should also be reiterated, if said before, that combined with the sheer ferocity of the songs instrumentally, they are also deceptively catchy and memorable, both in the riffs department and the vocals as well. Of course, it would be enough of a gift to have a non-stop battering ram of brutality, but I prefer to listen to things that have some melody and catchiness also, even in the area of raw thrash metal, and thankfully this is another marked attribute here - after just a few listens you will be able to remember a lot of the vocal lines as well of course as some of the legendary riffs, like the opening riff of the title track - how much more iconic can you get? So surprisingly enough there is melody and memorability fused with the aggression, which for me and I'm sure many others is important.
So all this being said, I should mention my only gripe with this record, which is actually quite a significant one. That is, I really cannot get used to the production! I've tried to convince myself that its "raw" nature is to be expected from the genre, and yet I don't get half the same disappointed feeling when listening to other albums like Pleasure to Kill, whose rough and raw production I love.
On Darkness Descends however, there is a certain lack which I find it hard to get used to, and it actually damages the amount of plays this record receives, which is a big shame. The guitar tone is not eye opening at all, indeed little short of flat and distant, the vocals are ok but sometimes lack power, and overall the whole seems too much of a blur of echoy sound to convey the full riff mayhem that deserves to be conveyed. Even though the brutal aggression might differ, I would prefer more crisp production like that on Bonded By Blood or Coma of Souls, if only to fully appreciate the amazing guitar work. Even so, my point about good raw production regarding Pleasure to Kill suggests that this isn't the issue.
My main dissapointment production wise is the drums, whose bass drums I can rarely discern - a big flaw because again Gene Hoglan's performance deserves to be enjoyed in full in-your-face battering ram style, not buried somewhere between the bass and the fuzzy guitars.
Now most people will probably tell my to stop whining like an In Flames pussy, and largely I agree - I try not to let the production affect my appreciation of this album, as it is one of the best thrash metal releases of all time. I would only ask that other people try to do the same, and enjoy the songs and the riffs and the utter THRASH FUCKING METAL regardless of any perfectionist production gripes.
I suppose I really have shamed myself by chipping at this album's megalithic surface, and for that I only hope that more Dark Angel headbanging will be my redemption! Enjoy the album, enjoy it in its entirity, and try to ignore the sloppy production!