Sunday, 24 July 2016

Death Angel's 'The Evil Divide' - Album Review

With the possible exception of Exodus, there is no thrash band out there at the moment that is releasing albums as consistently as San Francisco's Death Angel. Despite being veterans of the original 'Bay Area' scene in the 1980s, it has been their work since their 2001 reunion that has cemented them as legends of the genre. The being said, the band still found success during the 1980s. Famously however, the band members were very young at the time (there are stories of teachers having to tour with the band so that their school work would not suffer) and this probably affected their popularity. Their 1987 debut album The Ultra-Violence is now seen as a thrash classic though, and 1990's Act III shows what the band could do on a big label with a famous producer. They split up in 1991 however, and it was not until 10 years later that they would play together again. Since 2001 though, Death Angel has been busy and constantly attracting new fans. The band's current line-up has been together since 2009, and they are a well-oiled machine. I saw the band live last year, and they are one of the tightest thrash bands I have seen in concert - something which really sets them apart for me. The band's current line-up contains two of the band's original members: frontman Mark Osegueda and lead guitarist Rob Cavestany. These two write the band's songs, and are the link between the band's original 1980s incarnation, and the newer heavier beast that Death Angel have become. Osegueda's raspy, strong vocals are one of the band's greatest asset. He is more melodic than most thrash singers, and always manages to create a catchy vocal hook. Cavestany is a fabulous guitar player too, and probably one of the fastest shredders in the business. His solos are always flashy, but they add to the bands fast sound. The rest of the band are no slouches either. Rhythm guitarist Ted Aguilar, who has been with the band since the 2001 reunion, churns out riff after riff with ease; and the rhythm section of bassist Damien Sisson and drummer Will Carroll (who both joined in 2009) are extremely tight and make the band's sound much heavier than it would be otherwise. All of the band members turn in a great performance on The Evil Divide, the band's eighth studio album. 2013's The Dream Calls for Blood is probably the best album the band have ever done and, while this album does not top it, The Evil Divide certainly carries on the melodic thrash sound forged on that album. Jason Suecof produces again, and ensures the album has a tight, polished sound. Fans of Death Angel's modern sound will love this. It does nothing new, but it carries on the band's legacy and further cements themselves as legends of the genre.

Album opener The Moth starts off with a grooving, ominous guitar riff before exploding in a real feast of modern thrash with plenty of pacey drumming and riffing that sees Cavestany and Aguilar lock in perfectly. This riff also forms the basis of the song's angry chorus, but the verses take on a slower, more methodical, vibe with heavy grooves and very prominent bass playing. The bass is often lost on thrash albums, so it is good to see it emphasised often throughout this album. The chorus here is very memorable, with Osegueda using both his usual thrash rasp and a cleaner delivery to create a call-and-response vocal style which works well. The Moth definitely picks up from where the last album left off, and sets the tone for what is to come. Cause for Alarm opens with a buzzing, waspish guitar riff before morphing into an anthemic piece of metal with real classic rock swagger. Osegueda's voice has some real grit and attitude in it here, and the choice use of gang vocal sections here enhance the power and add a slight punkish vibe throughout. Producer Suecof plays a great guest guitar solo midway through too, which focuses more on fast, but bluesy, phrases rather than the shredded style so often associated with the genre. Lost is a more methodical song that emphasises the band's more melodic end to their songwriting. It is a nice change of pace from the rest of the album, and shows Cavestany displaying some more intricate guitar passages that are different from his usual hard riffs. This style of music also seems to suit Osegueda's voice nicely, and he actually ends up sounding a bit like Anthrax's Joey Belladonna here. It is always good when a thrash band shows some variety in their songwriting. So many constantly rely on playing at 100mph and this becomes very limited after a while. Death Angel have always been better and more interesting than that, as Lost clearly shows. Father of Lies is a heavier song, but again does not really rely on speed for results. The muscular riffing here drives the song, and it is happy to steam along at a solid mid-pace and let the power of the riffs shine through. Songs like this really bring out the best in Osegueda's voice too, as he can unleash a much more powerful vocal delivery when he is not having to keep up with the speed of the music. The atmospheric, clean breakdown of this song is great and reminds me of those sections Metallica would add into their songs to create natural dynamics. This soon leads into flashy guitar solo however, and Cavestany's real talents are shown. Those who are missing some fast-paced thrash after the previous two songs will like Hell to Pay as it returns to the traditional thrash blueprint of pure speed. Other than the song's pace, it is rather remarkable and probably suffers from following the two previous dynamic numbers. That being said, the song's chorus is extremely aggressive with a masterful display in thrash vocals from Osegueda.

It Can't Be This, with it's bass-heavy intro, returns to the mid-paced groove feel that the band plays so well. Death Angel have always thrown in plenty of non-fast songs onto their albums, which is rare for a thrash band, and it works in their favour. While not as good as Father of Lies, It Can't Be This is a song in the same vein that is actually heavier due to the slower pace. The guitar solo here is another winner, and the really melodic guitar leads that are introduced during the song's second half really add some serious depth to things. Hatred United/United Hate was the first song released from the album, and is probably the best song found on The Evil Divide. Opening with a cleaner sound, the song soon picks up the pace with some fast riffing. The verses are very memorable with some catchy vocal melodies, but it is the chorus that is the real winner here. The guitars create a very inventive musical backing, while the vocals bark over the top of this with some subtle gang vocals to help amp up the power. Andreas Kisser (Sepultura) unleashes a wicked guitar solo later on during the song which features plenty of dive bombs and whammy bar tricks to spice things up a bit. Breakaway is a real piece of heads down thrash metal which kicks off at extreme pace and never lets up throughout. The song is a showcase for Carroll who uses plenty of excellent drum tricks throughout. He is a very powerful drummer, and mixes it up more than many other drummers in the genre. There is not much else to say about this song, but it will certainly blow the cobwebs away when played live. The Electric Cell is another memorable song due to it's use of slightly dissonant guitar sounds and tones throughout that give it a rather evil edge. These guitar leads really cut through the vocals and help to give the song an edge that it would not have otherwise. I particularly like the slower section part way through that starts to build up with a sinister guitar riff, before dropping out and leaving the bass to create the atmosphere, before ramping back up again into a shredding guitar solo. These little quirks of Death Angel's songwriting help to keep their albums interesting and make them stand out from the rest of the thrash crowd. The album comes to a close with the hard hitting Let the Pieces Fall which combines all the best elements of the band's sound together for a triumphant victory lap at the end of the album. The song has real bite, especially during the chorus, and the chugging sound that is employed throughout is extremely satisfying. Overall, The Evil Divide is another great album from Death Angel that shows they are currently on the best run of form of their career so far. They are most certainly a band that has improved with age, and The Evil Divide is an album that shows that thrash metal is thriving and alive in the 21st century.

The album was released on 27th May 2016 via Nuclear Blast Records. Below is the band's promotional video for Hatred United/United Hate.

No comments:

Post a Comment