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And it doesn't hold back either. This album is thrash metal at its peak in terms of raw speed, anger, and brutality. It easily manages to outdo Pleasure To Kill and Reign In Blood and is probably the best album of 1986… and the best thrash metal album to be released until 1988 when Vio-Lence released Eternal Nightmare.
First of all, I'd like to start with the production. People criticize the production, saying that it is awful, seems rushed etc etc. I'm not going to defend the production by saying that its top notch. But you know what? What was supposed to be the biggest flaw of this album is actually one of the things that make this album what it is. The supposedly flawed production creates an atmosphere that is second to none when compared to the other thrash albums released in the 1985-1987 period. The raw, choppy, and downright filthy guitar tone creates an aura of total confusion and mayhem. And for those inbred delinquents who think that the riffs can’t even be heard need to have hot iron inserted into their ears. The riffs aren’t too audible but they CAN be heard perfectly if you just focus for a second.
Darkness Descends was a huge improvement over We Have Arrived. WHA was a decent album, good on its own but when compared to the other albums released in 1985, it didn’t quite make the cut. We Have Arrived had a juvenile and uncaring attitude as far as the music was concerned, but things changed in Darkness Descends. Yes, it’s sloppy. Yes, it’s “repetitive.” But it’s also focused and determined. This is where Dark Angel got their act together and set out to make an album that would redefine the term “fast.”
Gene Hoglan makes his presence known almost instantly. While the guitar work is praise-worthy, it is Gene Hoglan’s pounding drum work that takes the cake. The drums are a bit higher in the mix as compared to We Have Arrived, and this causes the riffs to get drowned in Hoglan’s furious drumming. 99% of the time, this alone could take the enjoyment factor away from most albums but not on this album. When the drums kick in, in the opening track, you can feel the earth shake beneath your feet. Hoglan’s drumming causes this album to have a crushing and pulverizing sound. Far more sick and twisted than everything else released in 1986. The most vivid example of the album’s trademark sound is the song Merciless Death. Just compare it to the original version of the song that featured in We Have Arrived.
The guitar work is not to be taken lightly. The riffs sound primitive and immature at first glance, but they also lend a strangely epic feel to the album. Every song seems to be leading up to a high climax, similar to most power metal albums. But unlike most power metal, the chord progression is swift and unrelenting, and doesn’t even give you room to breath. The climax I spoke of never actually comes. In fact, the entire album seems to be building up to something which never really comes. This is actually a major plus point, because it adds to the album’s replay value. A good way to describe this album would be a masturbating session (!). Every song ends just before you are about to experience an earth shattering orgasm, after which your organ shrinks and you have to start over again.
The bass is very audible in the mix, like most 80’s thrash albums. There is nothing like the driving sound of the bass guitar to pick up a song, and the bass work in Darkness Descends blends in perfectly with the music. The bass has a clunky sound which I really dig, and this adds to the charming sloppiness of the album.
The only song on the album which deviates from the album’s structure somewhat, is the imposing 8 minute composition, Black Prophecies. It has the album’s signature sound which I described already in this review, but it is not as fast. It may not be the best song from the album, but it stands out because of its length and its slightly slower tempo.
There isn’t really anything else to say other than what I’ve said and other than what the other reviewers have said. I’ve always felt that a perfect album is not that which is perfect in every possible way, but is an album which sucks you in and keeps you in its realm. And Darkness Descends does exactly that. One of the best thrash metal albums ever made, and the first thrash metal album to deserve a perfect score. Even though it isn’t as fun as Eternal Nightmare or as tight as Rust In Peace, but Darkness Descends is in a league of its own. Recommended to fans of thrash metal. Fans of early death metal might find something to enjoy too in this album.