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Dark Angel has perplexingly built up a reputation as the pinnacle of thrash brutality around these parts, and it's something I'll never understand. Honestly, of their four albums, only two of them ever seem to get their names dropped in conversation. The two I speak of are obviously the undeserving classic, Darkness Descends, and their final album, 1991's Time Does Not Heal. The promise of a thrash record with a mind boggling 246 riffs by a name as notorious as Dark Angel may seem tantalizing today, but let me assure you that it doesn't live up to the expectations you are inevitably building up inside your head. Imagine me, a young lad delving into more extreme forms of metal. This was back from a time when I took everything written here at the archives as gospel, a time when I held albums that I had never even heard in the highest regard as absolute masterpieces purely because the humble reviewers at the good ol' Encyclopaedia Metallum claimed them as such. The promise of an album chock full of 246 riffs, by the fabled Dark Fucking Angel no less, was a wonderful dream. But that's all it ended up being... a dream. It was like having a magnificent dream of eating the greatest chocolate pudding of all time. It tastes like heaven, the best thing anybody has ever tasted. You shovel spoonful after spoonful of the gooey deliciousness into your maw, moaning in ecstasy after each bite. But when the bowl is done, you wake up in your bed with a spoon in your ass.
I'm sorry, but it doesn't take a nuclear physicist to gander a grand total of one listen and draw an accurate parallel to Metallica's ...And Justice for All. The generally midpaced and repetitive riffing with the droning vocals and stupidly overlong songs warrant the comparison in my eyes. I have no problem with long tracks, I mean I'm a post rock fan for fuck's sake. But this ranks as one of the more annoying cases of this phenomenon considering every song has oodles of potential. I hear the chorus of Pain's Invention, Madness or the opening riff to The New Priesthood and all I hear is misguided potential. In all actuality, a lot of the songs are made up of really solid riffs and ideas, but they never manifest themselves in an effective way. Maybe Ron Rinehart's uninspired and piss boring vocal performance is what really mars the record, but I can't bring myself to place the blame solely on his shoulders. The instrumentals themselves are quite mediocre. Having a below-par vocalist can hinder a band's overall quality, but when the band has virtually zero personality of their own, it's all you find yourself focusing on. Take a minute and step back to realize that I just said that Gene Hoglan, one of my all time favorite drummers, has no personality or flair. Usually he has the ability to stand out over a mediocre record (see Strapping Young Lad's The New Black), but here he seems content to play simple thrashy back beats, rarely breaking out his mind blowing double bass or filling skills.
Don't get me wrong, Time Does Not Heal isn't necessarily bad, just incredibly pedestrian and boring. Every once in a while the band really gets their shit together and delivers a memorable chunk of really fast or above mid paced thrash like the chorus of Psychosexuality or Pain's Invention, Madness, but otherwise it's either decent-but-not-great thrash with really awkward and forced vocal melodies (I say "melodies" loosely considering Ron's range spans maybe four notes) like the chorus of An Ancient Inherited Shame and the title track. Hell, the last half of The New Priesthood sounds like every member is playing/singing a different song in the same room. When it isn't plodding along fairly quickly, it's awkward. Trauma and Catharsis takes it's sweet fucking time to actually get going, noodling around with a silly doom part for nearly the first two minutes before it actually picks up steam and rips out a memorable riff. We hear this riff for exactly four seconds before the uninspired and lazy vocals kick in again. Singing with very little or no range isn't a big deal if you aren't singing a part that requires it. But judging by the large amount of held notes and weak vibratos, he is definitely trying to sing melodically. To be frank, he fails extremely fucking hard.
I'm not sure how much more I can drool out before I feel I'm repeating myself too much, but it's extremely frustrating. This could be so much more than it is. Dark Angel could've stuck to what they were known for, but instead they tried to expand their sound and experiment a bit. I applaud them for the effort, but the fact remains that they've taken to the trend of writing overly long songs purely for the sake of having long songs and the riffs and backbone of the band do absolutely nothing to divert attention away from a lazy vocal performance. In the end, this whole deal turns into a collection of rejected Heathen songs robbed of any fire and intensity they could've possessed. It's humorous considering I find Darkness Descends to be the most over rated thrash album in history, but Time Does Not Heal would've actually worked better if it was sped up and accompanied by a more unrestrained and charismatic frontman. In short, Dark Angel should've perished the thought of trying out the newer style of thrash that they attempted here long before production started, and just said "Fuck this, let's just take these riffs, speed them up and essentially rehash Darkness Descends". On the whole, it would've been more enjoyable that way. Instead, we are stuck with this mediocre offering with bits of greatness sprinkled conservatively between grating bullshit like Sensory Deprivation and completely unmemorable dreck like Act of Contrition. While the good bits are indeed incredibly good, I'd rather just search for some diamonds at the local jewelry store than dig around in pig shit for them.