Monday, July 1, 2019

Death Angel - The Dream Calls for Blood (2013)

There are quite a number of classic thrash bands, both in the States and Europe, who for me really haven't survived their transitions into a more modern style and brick housed production. Okay, maybe they've survived on touring and tuning in a younger audience, but simply haven't been putting out the same caliber of material they were capable of in their fiending youth. Essentially the stuff has become 'dad thrash', competent and mixed for the times but lacking the essential soul of the 80s. Acts like Exodus and Onslaught have fallen to such a fate, but a few others, like Death Angel, make it work for them. I could level a bunch of complaints at this band's body of work starting with Relentless Retribution, but the fact is they handle their modern body of work just as infectiously as they did their seminal efforts. Nope, they haven't ever released a rival for their debut The Ultra-Violence and I doubt they will, that was such a distinct, fevered and evil slab of West Coast thrash, but when I hear their modern efforts I don't feel even vaguely like I'm getting ripped off, or that they're anything less than genuine.

Part of this is Mark Osequeda's angsty, nasally vocal style, somewhere between Joey Belladonna and Russ Anderson in strain and tone, he just injects this edge to the material which aids even the less inspiration riffs here. And riffs there are a plenty, some of them memorable and nasty, and others just seem like they're going through the motions to play with their pretty distortion, but like a modern Artillery, they keep throwing them after you and never really running out of ideas, and I think there are far more winners here on The Dream Calls for Blood than there are losers. It's also a creative record, they'll bust off into some hard rock grooves, or some floatier atmospheric section without warning, helping to round-out the majority of the meaty thrashings, Cavestany and Aguilar are legion when it comes to the rhythmic syncopation and if you're looking for some neckbreaking I think this album really delivers. Leads flurry on by with bluesy abandon, all flash and testosterone and entirely suited to the massacre going on, while the combination of Will Carroll's seamless beats and those rhythm guitars create an appreciably intense lower end to the record. Granted, I think the drums do lack a little nuance and personality, but they're not really what I focus on here.

The lyrics are all about rage, revenge and other thrash-worthy feelings, perfect for the adolescents attracted to this subgenre, but not written cheaply or stupidly. There's a cover of Sabbath's "Heaven and Hell" which is played pretty close to the vest, but due to the mix it fits right in with their own original material, and Osequeda is up to the task although some of the oohs and aah lines have a cheesy delivery (not that they didn't in the first place). So when I think of veteran thrash acts who have thrived with a new, blockbuster sort of production fitting to the loudness levels of the 21st century, Destruction's The Antichrist always comes to mind as the exemplar, and there are no tracks here which are nearly on that level of me wanting to constantly hit replay until I've worn my finger to the bone (or the CD to slag). But I think much of Death Angel's modern material certainly passes a quality check, using its tools well and not just a overproduced, overinflated bore like these enduring bands often put out with their bigger studio budgets. The Dream Calls for Blood is frankly one of Californians' best albums period, a very well balanced attack. It's no Ultra-Violence, an anomaly borne from the members' then-youthful creativity and raw aggression, but it'll do in a pinch.

Verdict: Win [7.75/10]

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