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On The border Between Thrash and Death - 95%

brocashelm, April 19th, 2006

As awe-inspiring as Dark Angel’s second album, Darkness Descends, was and is, it’s hard not to view this release as their masterstroke. For one, it’s longer, darker, and features far more involved and developed material. Does that mean it’s less intense? No way, bud, if anything it’s a more brute experience, only this time it’s emotionally disturbing on top of being a killer raw thrash album.

First off, the lyrics, which as penned by Gene Hoglan (drummer and professional receptionist) are literate and menacing queries into the nature of innocence and the ugly results of its violation. Second, the sound is bassier and denser, the playing slightly less concerned with velocity than with crushing force. But this is Dark Angel after all and controlled but viscerally fast tempos are their stock in trade. Thus “The Death of Innocence” starts things off in manic fashion. New singer Ron Reinhart possesses a deeper register than the departed Don Doty (whose exit was partially to blame for the three year gap between albums for the band) and he delivers Hoglan’s tale of a pedophile rationalizing his own sick actions with considerable force. Over the course of the album, a few epics are unleashed, “Never to Rise Again” being the most resonant, as well as a mutilated Led Zeppelin cover (“Immigrant Song”) and a slithering, sublime instrumental (“Cauterization”).

But the two cornerstones of brilliance for this album are the savage “Promise of Agony” and the thrashing supremacy of the multi-tiered title cut which closes the album. Complex in structure, brutal in execution and lyrically smart (in the great Hoglan tradition) it’s one of thrash metal’s high points.

Hovering right on the line where the attributes of thrash cross over into the black abyss of death metal, the album and Dark Angel themselves are crafters of some metal’s most skilled examples of how brutal yet utterly musically impressive this music has the potential to be.