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Dark Angel - Leave Scars (9,5/10) - USA - 1989

Genre: Thrash Metal
Label: Combat Records
Playing time: 50:08
Band homepage: Dark Angel

Tracklist:

  1. The Death Of Innocence
  2. Never Rise Again
  3. No One Answers
  4. Cauterization
  5. Immigrant Song
  6. Older Than Time Itself
  7. Worms
  8. The Promise Of Agony
  9. Leave Scars
Dark Angel - Leave Scars

Regardless to what detractors of the style and even some of its champions may say, Thrash Metal is a multifaceted style.The reason why this is often missed is because everyone either gets hung up on the brutality, the scope and scale of the riff work, or something else that every member of the genre basically shares in common. After the climax of the scene in 1986, several lines were drawn and several different schools within the greater umbrella of Thrash emerged, the two most notable being the Death/Thrash hybrid that SLAYER and POSSESSED (with some help from several notable German acts as well) brought into being which began brutal Metal as we know it today, and the other being the progressive/epic road that METALLICA took which even less resembled the original style and came to dominate 90s Groove Metal. 

 

Less remembered due to its near complete disappearance in the 1990s was the technical, riff happy, extreme approach that DARK ANGEL set forth on their magnum opus “Darkness Descends”, which became the rallying cry for an onslaught of Bay Area bands such as DEATH ANGEL and VIO-LENCE in the later 80s, as well as inspiring SEPULTURA’S lone pure Thrash release “Beneath The Remains”. But in spite of the influence that the album had in many circles, DARK ANGEL itself saw fit to leave the perfected archetype of extreme Thrash entrenched in 1986 and opted for a less extreme and more epic approach when putting forth their 3rd full length work “Leave Scars”. Perhaps it was for this reason that this album is often shelved in favor of both the one that preceded it and the one that came after it, though I’m sure that replacement vocalist Ron Reinhart sounding even closer to James Hetfield while not doing those high Tom Araya wails on here than Don Doty would have on his worst day might have helped.

 

One should not mistake an epic approach to songwriting within the Thrash genre at it exists here with the softball, pseudo-epic approach that was “Master Of Puppets”. There’s no half-ballads, emotionally driven acoustic sections, or anything else that departs from the character of the style to be found here. Instead, what emerges is a band that isn’t afraid to stretch things out past the 7 minute mark on several occasions, and utilizing a style of riff varying that fits together smoothly and gives the songs a sense of transition rather than the violent jolts and twists of having every riff contrast completely from the next. What results is something that is aggressive and furious throughout, but also something that comes across as a collection of organized songs with a fairly melodic character rather than a group of riff sets that pummel the ears with their ferocity and quantity.

 

Any of the longer songs on here could be used as an example of the contrast that this album has from the last. My personal favorite is “No One Answers” as it marries one of those really epic as hell minute and a half intros at a lower tempo where things develop slowly and gradually before exploding into a blazing fury of speed and mayhem. You could perhaps draw comparisons to the title track of SLAYER’s “Hell Awaits”, but with greater clarity in the tone of the guitars and more riffs loaded into the middle to ending section rather than having them all frontloaded into the intro. In fact, when you take the extended solo section before the last chorus, what emerges is an epic interchange of riff breaks and lead trade-offs that was heard first out of MAIDEN’S “Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son” and then married to the Thrash style on here, and later on MEGADETH’s classic epic “Hangar 18”.

 

Naturally this pioneering Thrash outfit hasn’t forgotten the necessity to write wicked, hard-edged, go straight for the jugular Thrashers without all of the epic buildup to keep things varied. Between Holgan’s digitally precise, warp speed beats and the equally mind warping blur of SLAYER inspired riffs, “The Death Of Innocence” just does nothing but shatter bones and break teeth for almost 4 minutes straight. The album’s title track and closer “Leave Scars”, although one of the longer songs on here, mostly goes for the straight up approach of speed and attitude rather than elaborate idea development. There are a lot of ideas on here, make no mistake, but the presentation lacks the interludes/interruptions/buildups typical of an epic Thrash number.

 

Although the title of the album is intended to depict music reflecting the state of being scarred by some traumatic experience, it also carries an unintentional meaning that contrasts it from its better known predecessor. While “Darkness Descends” offers a perfect sonic storm that would topple the greatest frost giant of Jötunheimr, “Leave Scars” has enough catchy elements woven into its complex overall presentation to invoke a recall of what was heard, similar to the stories told explaining where one got a scar on his body. I still prefer the former album because of its uniqueness, because it didn’t quite derive as many ideas from SLAYER and MEGADETH as this one did, and that I just prefer Doty’s rawer vocal approach to Rinehart’s. Be this as it may, this album should not be overlooked, as it too often has been.    

(Online January 25, 2009)

Jonathan Smith



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