Friday, March 25, 2011

Dark Angel - We Have Arrived (1984)

In lieu of the concussive, speed limit battering material Dark Angel would concoct for their later albums, We Have Arrived seems but a humble statement. An average speed/thrash metal album for its time, with obvious parallels to California locals Metallica, Slayer and Abattoir, but also to Canadian acts like Anvil and Razor, the latter in their purely speed metal incarnation up to Evil Invaders. Fast based, raw power guitars with wrenching and shrieking vocals circa Show No Mercy era-Slayer, only Don Doty was not quite as charismatic or memorable. The placement of his screams here can feel forced and awkward, and I'd much prefer his lower, snarling register on this debut.

Despite its age, We Have Arrived actually still sounds fairly brazen today, with that authentic, natural tone so redolent of the mid 80s which bands simply don't use today under the banners of modern studio engineering. "Merciless Death" is without a doubt the most punishing track here, so aggressive that the band would re-use it on the followup Darkness Descends, where it better suits the environment, but otherwise fans who know only their more popular efforts might be a little shocked by the more subdued compositions. Not that they necessarily lack for aggression. "We Have Arrived" and "Welcome to the Slaughter House" both writhe along with a promise of agony (haw haw), but the riff patterns are simply not all that memorable. "No Tomorrow" fares better, with a big of grooving swagger to the notation which recalls early Slayer; "Falling from the Sky" the most solid, dirty speed metal licks and gang shouts, and nice air raid siren intro; both "Hell On Its Knees" and "Vendetta" open with clean guitar passages before exploding to some of the finer guitars on the album.

Ultimately, though it feels fresh and potent, the debut just lacks for the memorable velocity and technically demanding riffs that dominate Darkness Descends and Leave Scars. Dark Angel have never exactly penned the most glorious of chorus elements into their tracks, but here they are at their least interesting. As I've mentioned, the screams can occasionally feel out of place, as if they were simply adding them because they thought it was 'cool'. They are managed far more fluidly on the sophomore album, which has already destroyed We Have Arrived in its entirety by the time you get to the bridge of "The Burning of Sodom". If you're not too demanding, and simply long for the sincerity of filthy speed/thrash smack dab in the central 80s, then this album does not leave a painful impression, but there were far more poignant efforts out there (Ride the Lighting, Executioner's Song, Strength of Steel, Show No Mercy) and this doesn't exhibit a songwriting finesse on a comparable level.

Verdict: Indifference [6.75/10]
(the final damnation ahead)

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