Monday, February 18, 2008
Metal Inquisition Roundtable #2: Dark Angel vs. Death Angel
Sergeant D: The Holocaust was a shame and all, but the real tragedy of the 20th century was the fact that Dark Angel never achieved the same status as bands like Slayer, Metallica, or Megadeth. Those bands had their moments but were mostly spineless, dull, and boring. Dark Angel, on the other hand, thrashed their balls off (or in Gene Hoglan's case, thrashed their balls out).
Also, lots of people- mostly old fossils and trendy black metal types- think their best album is "Darkness Descends." It's not- in fact, that album is terrible. "Leave Scars" and "Time Does Not Heal" are much better masterpieces of thrash metal that are trumped only by Forced Entry and Believer.
Lucho Metales: Dark Angel. The name alone does little to put this band over the similarly named Death Angel. I mean, if you are going to run into an angel...would you be more scared if he's the angel in charge of "death" or of making it it "dark." I mean, if you ask me, the angel that deals with darkness will forever be second fiddle to the angel of death. In theory Death Angel should have been a more ferocious metal act, but that was not the case. Managing to move beyond their moniker, Dark Angel delivered brutal metal beatings that left us wanting more. Yes, the songs could go on and on at times. Yes, in retrospect it seems awful that in the liner notes Gene Hoglan would state the location and date for when he wrote the lyrics for each song. Yes, naming a live album "Live Scars" after having put out "Leave Scars" is dumb...but at the end of the day, the music was light years ahead of its time. More importantly, as far as metal fashion goes, they were the undisputed kings of hesher-ware. In their unforgettable appearance in the Ultimate Revenge II home video, Dark Angel can be seen rocking white high tops that were far whiter than any other metal band at the time. More importantly, look at the unabashed commitment that the entire band made to the jean vest. Even the bass player, who was a bit out of shape, went ahead and rocked the vest with NO shirt under it. Just look at the performance here, and be amazed. Just compare their fashion sense to that of Death Angel. (click to see image larger)
Gene Hoglan's Balls: I could probably write a book about all the ways in which I love Dark Angel, but this is neither the time nor the place for such a thing. Simply put, Dark Angel, AKA "The L.A. Caffeine Machine," is one of the greatest and most underappreciated thrash metal bands of all time.
Dark Angel came up alongside all the big name first wave West Coat thrash metal bands, Metallica, Slayer, Exodus, etc., but never attained the same measure of popularity. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that Dark Angel’s music isn’t nearly as accessible as that of their peers. Their songs are faster, darker, longer, and more complicated than those of their contemporaries. Their music was just too much for your average thrash fan to wrap their head around. They also had the misfortunate of releasing their masterpiece, “Darkness Descends,” the same year as “Reign in Blood,” “Master of Puppets,” and “Pleasure to Kill.” Of course all of those albums are widely regarded as classics of the genre, as they should be, but “Darkness Descends” is the best of the bunch and deserves to be mentioned in the same breath, which it usually is not. The only other thrash metal album that even approaches its level of savagery and intensity is Morbid Saint’s “Spectrum of Death.” Can you imagine Lars Ulrich trying to play the drum intro to “Death is Certain (Life is Not)?” It’d be like asking a 5 year old to play “Tom Sawyer.”
As the years passed, Dark Angel soldiered on. Even as the popularity of thrash metal declined in the late 80s and early 90s giving way to the eventual rise of death metal, Dark Angel kept releasing stunning albums each more over-the-top than the last. Their final album, 1991’s “Time Does Not Heal,” is the logical conclusion of thrash metal. “9 songs, 67 minutes, 246 riffs!” An epic, monumental testament to the genius of Gene Hoglan that rendered the entire genre obsolete.
It’s doubtful that Dark Angel will ever get the respect they deserve, but if it’s any consolation we here at Metal Inquisition couldn’t hold them any higher. In the words of the Geto Boys, “you gotta let your nuts hang!”
Awakening: Leave Scars is the opus. The pinnacle of all that was Dark Angel. It challenges and defeats many a thrash album before and since. The riffs are crushing and dark. The double bass is oppressive and pounding.
Often times people in the metal scene are so quick to say that output a few records into a band’s career are never as good as the demos or the first album. That is retarded. Sure Darkness Descends is a great album, but it sounds like so many others of that time. This is the record where Dark Angel got their groove. And then promptly lost it shortly thereafter. From there we have Time Does Not Heal, which is great, but slightly too perfect. The drums sound better, as do the guitars, a little too perfect though. This was the plague of so many bands in the 90s thrash scene. Death metal was taking over and they were trying to remain relevant. Which they did well, but man…Leave Scars was the shit.
Sergeant D: Maybe 10 years ago, fellow Metal Inquisition writer Lucho Metales and I were discussing this band, and I said I never liked them because of the gay curtains on the cover of "Act III." Basically, I stand by that comment. They were always a puss band, like the Filipino version of Testament but not even that good (and Testament were never good).
Also, aside from the gay curtains on that cover, what exactly is going on? Evil steam is coming out of the curtains?? And it looks like the artist ran out of time when it came to rendering the audience (where are they, anyway- the theater at the mall?). He spent all of his time resolving all the intricate details of the arch around the curtain, then was like "Fuck it, the audience can just look like concrete mannequins, I'm sick of this painting."
One final note... we tag lots of posts on here "male pattern baldness," but there is perhaps no better example of this in metal than Death Angel singer Mark Osegueda. Like Brett Michaels, he always wear bandanas to cover up his ever-retreating hairline. A word of advice: salvage what's left of your dignity, bro- just shave it all off.
Lucho Metales: I almost don't want to write about Death Angel. Why? Have you seen their video for "Room With A View"? It's the video that I took the stills from to make my "metal/not metal" chart above. The video is almost exactly like Extreme's "More Than Words", and the music is rather similar. For me to try to find some redeeming qualities in Death Angel after such an atrocious musical act, would be like saying "well, Hitler kept the trains running on time." I would be ignoring a huge elephant in the room, an elephant called "Room With A View".
Gene Hoglan's Balls: My gay uncle Tony has a Filipino friend named Steve. He’s a really funny and fun guy, and he just so happens to be the most flamboyantly gay person I’ve ever met. I’m talking giant diamond rings, gold bracelets, pink shirts, silk scarves. When he walks he sticks his bony little ass out and he has the limpest wrist I’ve ever seen. When I try to wrap my mind around the reality of a Filipino thrash metal band all I can think of is Steve. When I listen to Death Angel’s music all I can think of is Steve. You get where I’m going. To be fair, “The Ultra-Violence” is probably one of the better albums to ever come from a second-tier Bay Area thrash metal band, and to some people that’s even a compliment.
Awakening: You know, youth is never an excuse for shitty music. If memory serves me correctly, this band was always touted as one of the "youngest" thrash bands ever. Old Skull were at least humorous. Death Angel was just sad. The worst part about Death Angel is they are releasing a new album this year. Booooooo.