Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Death Angel - The Dream Calls for Blood

Death Angel is an interesting band. When I first started listening to them, everyone in the band except for the vocalist was related. Not even months after I discovered them (I didn’t find out about this until years later), two of these members dropped out for reasons I honestly couldn’t give less of a fuck about. If you know the predictability of the thrash metal community, you can already correctly guess that this was a big blow to Death Angel’s reputation and caused a lot of thrashers to basically slide the band into the “no longer relevant” category. But for me, because my first time seeing these guys live was after this had already happened (plus the fact that I didn’t know it had happened at all), I was blown away by the performance of all of the members; so I don’t have any negative thoughts toward the band at all regarding that infamous lineup change. The reason why this is so relevant right now is because their 2010 album, Relentless Retribution, was really a major hate-target for the old school thrash metal bigots because it wasn’t the same Death Angel they had been listening to since the early 1980s. If there’s anything more important than the first effort, it’s the follow-up to show that they can still hold together. But in all honesty, I couldn’t care any fucking less about the lineup as long as their lead guitarist and vocalist stay in the act.

People that have listened to Death Angel more than once already know that innovation and progression is not something that should be expected from these guys. If you’re looking for the progressive thrash bands, you’re barking up the wrong tree. These guys deep it raw and traditional, but in no way are they a band that resorts to the bare minimum. Death Angel know the thrash metal style well enough to be able to be unique, new, and interesting without stepping too far out of the boundaries. This is probably because they don’t see any boundaries and that they know that pure thrash metal is what they do best. And to be honest, I’m glad that they’re sticking to that plan because they’re standing as one of the top dogs and examples to look up to. They’ve been around long enough, they haven’t grown progressive, they don’t have their heads stuck back in the 80s; they have evolved with the genre while at the same time still having the Death Angel sound, and they haven’t gone down the borefest of tremolo picking, ridiculous shredding solos, and blast beats that many have gone down.

Relentless Retribution was a perfect example of that, and really showed a lot of experimentation with slower, less “thrashy” speeds. This new record is obviously making up for the speed and brutality that its predecessor lacked. How soon is this apparent? 25 seconds into the first track, it’s instantly brought to your attention that The Dream Calls for Blood is NOT a record that will leave you fully intact afterwards.

The main highlight that I would like to bring up first is the number of guitar solos. Compared to most of their discography, The Dream Calls for Blood has A LOT of guitar solos, and they aren’t the typical randomized over-the-top shredding solos you may be used to hearing. The way in which the solos are presented is very traditional; the whole entire band suddenly shifting into overdrive in order to intensify the first squealing notes of the solo. But these are the big solos, the memorable ones. There are A LOT of shortish solos at act more as filler during major transitions within a song. The reason why i say “shortish” is because although it’s obviously being used as a filler, it’s a lot longer than usual; it’s not just a simple blasting 3-second riff, but at the same time isn’t long enough for me to consider it a full-blown guitar solo.

It’s easy to cover up not being tight with speed. If you have the guitar distortion sounding just right and the cymbals are louder than anything else, it just sounds like grinding speed and...well...who doesn’t love grinding speed in their thrash metal? Death Angel never does this. They have their guitars sounding very pure in the sense that you can hear precisely what they’re doing and they can palm-mute easier. You can hear the exact speed they’re tremolo picking (the title track is a perfect example of this). It’s the same deal with the drums, you can hear everything, and if you have a good set of subwoofers, you will be very glad with how the drums and bass guitar are mixed. And you can probably assume from what I said earlier about Death Angel being tight that the drummer is top-notch in terms of both technicality and never falling even a LITTLE bit out of time.

The other thing that Death Angel has always been very good at is avoiding monotony. They always have a good mix of different-sounding songs on every album. This is where I think they’ve fallen a bit short this time around. Although every track is immensely brutal and always filled with the best headbang-worthy breakdowns and catchiest solos, the song’s don’t differ from each other nearly as much as they have in previous efforts. So by the time the 8th track comes on, the euphoric feeling feeling the first few tracks gave me is still there, but isn’t nearly as intense. The only major turning points being a short interlude acting as the first part of Don’t Save Me. But although the monotony this album has is noticeable by most, it’s minimal and most likely won’t be an issue for you due to the things this album DOES have to make up for it. For me, it’s not so much that I get irritated DURING the record after a while, but the lack in variety doesn’t make my hand move towards the replay button. It leaves me feeling less satisfied than I would want to feel after listening to Death Angel.

So if thrash is your thing, I would HIGHLY recommend you pick this up. If you’re into thrash but really hate the new wave of boring bands that have risen out of the USA recently, chances are you’ve either already heard this album or at least Death Angel. If you haven’t, you’re missing out on one hell of a fucking band. This album has offered up some of the best guitar solos I’ve heard in years, and that’s saying a lot because I haven’t even been listening to extreme metal for 10 years yet, most of the bands I know are ones I’ve discovered sometime within the past 3-5 years or so. Despite a lack in creativity and variety, The Dream Calls for Blood is enough to prove that the Oakland thrashers are FAR from going downhill. Death Angel has still got it and gets a 16/20.