There were a number of bands in Germany attempting to ride the same wave that saw success for Kreator, Sodom and Destruction, but few of them were a more complete composite of the three as the simply named Darkness. Bands like Necronomicon and Assassin had their leanings towards one of the more influential acts' sounds, but at least on the debut Death Squad, Darkness sounded like a jam session between Mille Petrozza, Tom Angelripper and Mike Sifringer. Now, on any random day, that might very well be a huge compliment, and today is no different. Darkness might not have had an original idea in their heads, but after about five demos, the band managed to secure a deal with the painfully obscure Gama Records (also home to Necromonicon at this time), and the Death Squad arrived...
And there is a lot to be said for it. The roster of songs is fairly well balanced here, shifting from the mid paced meatiness of the instrumental "Tarnsman of Gor", which is in tribute to the super cheesy and semi-obscure fantasy book series by John Norman (how cool is that?); to the more rampant and shit digging atrocities like "Death Squad", "Critical Threshold" and "Iron Force". Personal favorites include "Faded Pictures", which sounds like a more advanced evolution of the first few Sodom records, with a little more melody to the gravely vocals; "Burial at Sea", a 7 and a half minute epic with some killer mid paced rhythms that really stand out here; "Staatsfeind" and "Phantasmagoria", both of which have the same complex, killer riffing curves as Sodom's Expurse of Sodomy EP or Destruction's Eternal Devastation album, a crisp blitz of potential.
There aren't many memorable chorus parts here, and the individual note patterns aren't always up to par with the band's influences, but Death Squad is still a pretty good album. The interaction of solid bass with a great old German guitar tone creates a fresh buzz for any nostalgic thrasher, and the filthy slathering of Oliver Fernickel's vocal presence has enough charisma to somewhat overlook the obvious comparisons to Tom Angelripper and Mille Petrozza. This is primarily going to appeal to fans of that time and place, and even the undead heshers on the cover seem to be beckoning the listener in a tribute and celebration to the dirtied form. Fun, generic, and full of fury, it's the best album of Darkness' career, which continued for another pair of albums, Defenders of Justice being the second and next best.
Verdict: Win [7.5/10] (terrible dues they had to pay)