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Leave Scars (The Black Edition)
(Century Media Records)

The third attack form this long running Thrash Metal band finally arrives. There was a lot of expectation for this album, especially due to the fact that with their previous one "Darkness Descends" they have done a monumental achievement in obscure Thrash Metal. A few changes have occurred since their last album. Don Doty is gone, which was a shock for many fans. He was replaced by the newcomer Ron Rinehart. And this time, the band decided to produce the album by themselves. This was a big, major mistake. On the verge of becoming a force in the Thrash Metal scene, in a time were Death Metal was on the rising (and in fact the brutal style of DARK ANGEL was more than enough to compete with any Death Metal band, that ferocious it was...) all they needed was a powerful production. And damn, did they fail on this one. I mean, it is not a total failure, but the sound became too noisy for their own good. If there was a "muddy" sound, "Leave Scars" got it, and believe me, it was not the right way. This was a major set back for the band, as the music itself was almost in the same league as their former album. One thing that was, let's say "weird" was the cover art. While not bad, the image of a little girl on the cover art is not exactly what we expect form a band named DARK ANGEL (and do not start me on the cover of "Time Does Not Heal"). The lyrical content, done by big drummer Gene Hoglan is now more based on troubled minds, dealing with things like paedophilia, physical abuse and mind torture. Passing by the awful mix, is a shame that such brilliant Thrash Metal anthems as 'The Death Of Innocence', the magnificent 'No One Answers' and 'The Promise Of Agony' were almost buried under a lousy sound. They kept their speed almost intact, and they also deliver more mid-tempo attack like in 'Never To Rise Again' or 'Older Than Time Itself'. Another thing I do not understand is the inclusion of LED ZEPPELIN's cover 'Immigrant Song'. Gene and Mike once told me that they were a Thrash Metal band influenced by old rock bands, rather than influenced by other Thrash Metal bands. Yes, I suppose that it is true and that gives them a sound of their own, but to be honest covering some of those bands was not a good idea, as the cover, in any form you want to take it, sounds way poor and out of context. 'Worms' is the first instrumental song the band has ever delivered, and it is quite morbid, yes, and goes along with the overall concept of the album, but has little to do with Metal, so let's say it was used to complete the picture. Also, to be noticed again are the long songs and lyrics. Speaking of them, let's refer to the vocal performance by Ron. He is in a different league than Don, and while maybe having a similar approach, he falls short and at the end sounds a bit uni-dimensional in his approach, as he basically tries to sing / speak the words (with a bit of Hardcore edge to my taste) and does a bit of screams here and there, but never reaching the level of the previous vocalist. The rest of the musicians keep their level in a very good shape, just are not able to show it properly, due to the production. It really pisess me off that almost 20 years from the release of this album, that the record label was not smart enough to ask them to re-record the thing again or at least invest something in a new mix or something. This "Black edition" comes again in a big sized digipak format, with all the lyrics, new graphics and layout besides 4 live bonus songs (two from a show in Philadelphia October 23rd, 1988 and two from a show at the Country Club, Resada on April 22nd, 1989) . It is also re-mastered, but to tell you the truth, when the original mix is that muddy, a re-mix can't help that much. Still, even of all my disappointment with many things here, this is a very good Thrash Metal album, and at least it does sound a bit more decent than the original vinyl edition I used to love / hate back in the day. If I was able to summon Cronos (the time god not the VENOM vocalist) I would change a bit the cover art, disregard the cover song and re-record the whole thing. Then, this band would destroy anything in its path. They still came to release a final album (which is also a great piece of Thrash Metal with a proper production) but I think the wounds caused by these one, were so deep, that even this once great DARK ANGEL was not that strong to survive. Still, the riffs are there, the aggression is here, and for newer generations, a jewel to discover.

Julián Núńez

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