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Darkness Descends (The Black Edition)
(Century Media Records)

After their successful (albeit not spectacular) debut album "We Have Arrived", the "L.A. caffeine machine" returns in 1986 with their second full length. It is possible that the menace in those days of a thermonuclear war has something to do with the sound on this release, but they appear as a complete different band. Whereas their debut was a mixture of traditional Heavy Metal and Speed / Thrash Metal, "Darkness Descends" with their simple, yet great cover art, has almost none Heavy Metal sound, and defines in a very brutal way what we know about Thrash Metal. The first thing that strikes is in the production. They were able to create a massive, yet clear guitar tone, that to me, it sounds like the buzz of the wings of an angry vengeance-thirsty angel, with Jim Durkin and Eric Meyer as the leading troopers of vengeance. Then, it comes with a hellish rhythmic section with Rob Yahn on bass (although on the back cover appears Mike Gonzalez who became a member after the recording of the album) and the war-drum performance by the soon to be legendary skin basher Gene Hoglan. Add to that, the demonic vocals of Don Doty. Whereas in the debut album he used a more melodic approach, with some slight touches of raspy-aggressive singing, here, he goes for a completely different style. Gone are the melodic lines, and most of the time he goes for the aggressive-almost-spoken fast style of phrasing. Then he adds in a couple of places some deadly high-pitched screams in such a way, it fits the music in a perfect way. Every time I listen to this album, I just cannot think of any other vocal style that might go as good with the music as the one Don does here. Then, we have a very important issue in the lyrics. Most of them written by drummer Hoglan, they go on about doom, perdition and the decline of the human race. At times, there are way too many lyrics, but the again, without them, the full effect that the band was aiming for, would be falling short. From minute one, when the title song 'Darkness Descends' sets in, it shows us that we have not heard what fast was meant to be, without making noise. In all that massive sound attack, DARK ANGEL were wise enough to add many hooks, many riffs that caught the attention of the listener, besides showing us a complex song structure, the final delivery comes out sounding very straightforward. Although not all the songs are full Speed Metal attacks, it seems like the band has a very high stamina through the entire album. 'The Burning Of Sodom' continues in a high speed face-melting riff-o-rama followed by 'Hunger Of The Undead', which is more in a mid-tempo approach, yet full of hatred and despise. They were clever enough to re-record 'Merciless Death' from their previous release, and it does sound deadlier than the original version. It is hard to compare the band to any one, although maybe SLAYER with touches of VENOM would be a loose way to describe them. 'Death Is Certain (Life Is Not)' is not only a statement of truth, but also a skull crushing song. 'Black Prophecies' is a long, over 8 minutes song, with a constant bass-drumming, which I think very few drummers will be able to keep the pace and for that long, without using computer drum tricks nowadays. It all ends in the fire-storming assault of 'Perish In Flames' which is now to be considered a hymn of obscure Thrash Metal. The album itself, the seven songs, is just around 35 minutes, which is the perfect time for such kind of monumental offering. There is no weak song here, and it does feel like truly darkness has descended upon the weak mortals. The atmosphere achieved in this album is a real triumph for doom, death and perdition, played all at high speed. Very few bands have been able to do such as this quintet once do. Now, this one has been re-released a couple of times, this being "The black edition" in a digipak king-size edition (which, again, looks fine, but where the hell do you put this one in a normal CD collection?) It contains all the lyrics, with no less than 8 bonus live songs (five from a show in Philadelphia October 23rd, 1988 and three from a show at the Country Club, Resada on April 22nd, 1989) . The bonus songs really add few values to this (as if it needs it). For those who were too young to catch this one when it was released, this is a chance to listen to one of the big pillars in extreme music. This is DARK ANGEL at their best, and up to this day few have ever come near to the intensity shown here. May Darkness arrive upon us all...

Julián Núńez

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