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Perfect example of how NOT to do thrash metal - 20%

Tymell, May 16th, 2008

As most reading this should know, Darkness Descends is widely hailed by 99% of thrashers as a crowning glory of the genre, a pinnacle, a perfect example of incredible thrash. In truth, this is one of the biggest exaggerations in metal. What it really is is a massively over-rated, dull, boring, childish piece of tripe.

I listen to a lot of thrash, and I love the majority of it. But this album is an utter low point, it embodies everything that can go wrong with thrash, it’s actually the perfect example of how NOT to do thrash metal.

The primary, over-riding criticism is how repetitive it is. Every element of the music almost never varies or changes, so the whole album blends into one big mess of down-tuned, indistinguishable riffs and poor vocals. Intentionally raw production is generally a good point in thrash, but here it’s taken too far. The guitars just sound like a never-ending stream of buzz-saw noise, and however impressive those riffs might be they’re no good if you can’t hear the damn things. It’s just a constant stream of the band trying to show how fast they can play, but the end result is simply noise.

The rest is no different. The vocals are equally bad. It's to make out a single damn word being said here, and this isn't due to something excusable like the poor production: the vocalist is terrible, it’s as simple as that. Looking at the lyrics, it’s no big loss, they’re nothing special. Your basic low-grade thrash fodder, belted out at high speed in an attempt to sound extreme. The solos are reasonable, but nothing to write home about, and usually I found I’ve fallen asleep before it gets to them.

Same for the drum work too. Gene Hoglan is a true god of drums, but he’s really not put to good use here. As with the vox and riffage, it all sounds exactly the same, just a constant beat that almost never changes. All these elements together conspire to make an insipid, uninspired mess. Pick any moment of any song and you’re likely to hear the same thing: constant “Dzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz” of the guitars, constant “dc-ka, dc-ka, dc-ka, dc-ka!” of the drums, and constant yelling over it all. Totally bland and lifeless.

It may seem brutal and amazing at first, but it very swiftly wears thin. There are, in it’s defense, odd moments of awesomeness: the middle of “Burning of Sodom”, the intro to “Merciless Death”, but they’re very rare and scattered, and the only reason I gave this album any points at all. That and "Black Prophecies", which actually stands out a bit, the only real highlight. Other than that, I can’t talk much about individual tracks or sections specifically, as they all sound identical. It’s a shame really, because the band would go on to produce the absolute masterpiece Time Does Not Heal. There is a truly great thrash album, one that was vicious and aggressive when it wanted to be but didn’t rely on solely that and extremity to get it by. It had variation and intelligence, and most importantly the band knew how to write an actual song by that point, rather than an irritating stream of noise.

On Darkness Descends, sure they might thrash like fuck, but they haven’t a clue about variety, song structure, pacing or melody. Without those aspects, it comes across as stupid and trying much too hard. There are so many bands that do this brand of thrash better: Morbid Saint, Torture, Rigor Mortis, Destruction, Sodom, the list goes on.

This isn’t amazing thrash. Good thrash shouldn't put the listener to sleep. The style they use to death might work for one track, but a whole album? No thanks. All the songs follow the exact same structure, without anything to break up the monotony. It pleases many metalheads because it’s fast-paced and aggressive. But it’s also about as dull as it gets.