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Ascending into legendary thrash year 1986 - 92%

Gutterscream, February 18th, 2005
Written based on this version: 1986, 12" vinyl, Combat Records

“…falling from the heavens, angels lie decayed, burning city of Sodom, one by one the sinners paid…”

It’s the mid-'80s and 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 first humbly with their debut '82 demo and then more confidently with the '85 ep We Have Arrived. These were just rough tastes of what the band was offering, and the release of Darkness Descends helped bulldoze glam out of the way (and hopefully off a cliff).

The Combat Records-released Bullets Volume One compilation of ’86 tasked Dark Angel with bolting the a-side closed with enchantingly-titled “The Burning of Sodom”, arguably the heaviest to weigh down the collection that squeaks by both Agent Steel and Possessed runner-ups, and for yours truly was a supreme exclamation point topping of my wish list should a record of theirs (at the time I had no knowledge of previous ep We Have Arrived) ever come to exist. Such existence came as its title suggests, hotly advertised via full-pagers in zines big and small much to Combat’s credit and its obvious confidence in this new signing.

The title cut squeals from silence with a heavy methodical gait, almost like a primordial warning until discipline collapses into savagery and its main riff, mighty chorus, and verbose lyrics flattened disbelievers in earshot. “The Burning of Sodom” differs slightly from its Bullets appearance, now with a harsh scream announcing its prime rhythm that doesn’t change the tune’s hallmark of monstrous thrash lead by the pummeling drumwork via hefty Gene Hoglan and Don Doty’s throaty vocals. “Hunger of the Undead” does nothing to diminish the feverish pace, yet progressively sets up vicious riff-monger and top track, “Merciless Death”, whose initial subtle bass line is the calm before a storm that pounds in its chorus the tendency to rattle speakers off their perches.

“Death is Certain (Life is Not)” is side two’s driving credo, and gives way to the lengthier progression of “Black Prophecies”, a track adorned with comparably more conscious, abstract songwriting beyond that of pure thrash, a purity that invades again with “Perish In Flames”, the blistering finale and high-rafter track known to be as delicate as a lovely blimp accident.

While Mr. Doty isn’t in the running for most aurally distinct frontman, those less equipped to handle this kind of ferocity have given it the college try anyway and ended up becoming the record’s primary injustice. Doesn’t happen here, yet he’s replaced by beefier Ron Rinehart for follow-up Leave Scars respectively.

Things for me, however, wouldn’t be same, but on that day in ’86 darkness accompanied my ass home from the record shop, blackening my own personal Earth.

Produced by Randy Burns with just the right amount of distortion and fuzz without sounding underproduced. Its heaviness drops like an anvil.

"...laughing at the holy cross, at twelve the virgin dies..."

(partially rewritten 8/12/17)