Friday, 11 October 2013

#308 Death Angel - The Dream Calls for Blood

I've been a follower of Death Angel for quite some time now, albeit, in my career as a thrash-enthusiast, it took me a bit longer then it perhaps should have to become acquainted with their San Francisco thrash goodness. Indeed, I've reviewed the band before - a year or so a go I took a look at their first record, the classic "The Ultraviolence" in the run-up to seeing the band live. This month, however, marks the first time since I became a fan that the band have released a new record, and as such, it feels only natural to give it a listen.

With any thrash band from the eighties still in the business of making material, I'm never quite sure what to anticipate, no matter how confident I am in the band's ability to not fuck it up. For every Overkill and Testament proudly flying the flag high, there will be a Metallica or a Megadeth making a musical offering so decidedly tasteless that you really have to take a minute to wonder who... who did they make that record for? Where do Death Angel fit into this uncertain picture, you ask? I think, with confidence, I can say that the band are flying the flag high; as soon as the first track on the record - Left For Dead - rushes at you jaws agape and full-steam ahead, you know fair well that the band aren't going to distance themselves from the thrash they were born to create. The Dream Calls for Blood is a record which flies along like a locomotive, uncompromising, sharp clawed and excitingly energetic. It does what thrash is, by god, supposed to do - it hurtles ferociously, without losing sight of melody and order - it is intense, but in traditional Death Angel fashion, it isn't afraid to show off a little. Death Angel were never a generic thrash band, and every riff, every solo in this record really reassures you that the band know that - hack, it feels stronger than ever. The tempo is perhaps most striking, and it doesn't take much listening to conclude that this might be, by a good margin, one of the most consistently fast albums the band have created, perhaps since The Ultraviolence. The scything, shredding riffs really are just something else - more youthful, destructive and old-school than, I dare say, most of the band's peers.

Of course, the record has modern production, but that's very much the given with thrash records these days, regardless of who makes them. Fortunately, the cleanliness of the production-work doesn't spoil the music at all, and it would definitely be exaggerating to consider the record plastic at all. The drums, usually the area which modern production most notoriously meddles with, sound fine, with their ferocity and energy well captured indeed. From a musical standpoint, too, the percussion feels like it's reached an exceptional peak on this album; the drums alone have a lot going on to make them enjoyable to listen to, before even considering the amount of other instrumentation which join it in the recipe. In typical Death Angel fashion, the music is as intricate as it is explosive; I don't truly know the ins-and-outs of song-writing, but you can absolutely tell that the songs on the record weren't simply glued together, but were made with considerable care - engineered and distilled with precision to pack one hell of a punch. As you can no doubt tell, I'm very impressed by the album, and from start to finish, the whole work managed to reassure me that it was as solid as they come. I've derived a good dose of enjoyment from most of Death Angel's post-reformation work, but this time around, touring for the anniversary of The Ultraviolence last year seems to have re-awoken something within the band, because there is no doubt in my mind that this is the most thrash record Death Angel have made in a long while.

It's always a cheering, reassuring state of affairs when a veteran band create something with real substance years, decades even, after it all began. The Dream Calls for Blood is certainly an example of this, and has every chance of going down the same path of recognition as records like Overkill's Ironbound, or Judas Priest's Painkiller, where people listened, paused for a second, and then said "Yup, they have still got it".

This is a solid 8/10.

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