Merciless is probably the best word to describe DARK ANGEL’S sound as of 1986 when their slaying classic “Darkness Descends” placed them amongst the gods of Thrash. In many respects, said album could be seen as the massive body of a grand palace. Likewise, its successor “Leave Scars” functions as a set of golden minarets and the final slaughter of the band’s somewhat short career “Time Does Not Heal” would be all of the various statues and ornamentations that turn a simple castle into an artistic statement via architecture. But in the midst of all of this, many are quick to forget the unseen part of the structure, known technically as its foundation.
“We Have Arrived” is the foundation, though perhaps one could also liken it to an SRB booster, in that it serves a function that fades after being replaced with superior works. It isn’t fully functionless in the face of the band’s subsequent works, but it listens almost like a rough draft of the band’s sound. There are heavy tendencies towards other bands at work here, particularly METALLICA and SLAYER, which just bleed through entire riffs of several songs. The production is just shy of demo quality, with a really dry and hollow sounding drum mix, and all of the other instruments at play sounding very distant from each other. In short, this is not in the same league as every other studio offering out of this band.
Nevertheless, in spite of being a bit low-fidelity and derivative, this is a reasonably solid Thrash album on its own merits. It’s about on par quality wise with some of TESTAMENT’S later 80s albums, though with a wilder and rawer character. Bits and pieces of early Speed Metal and NWOBHM influences via both “Kill Em’ All” and “Show No Mercy” are mixed in with the beginnings of the band’s extreme sound as heard on later albums. “No Tomorrow” is probably the most blatant example as it carries several direct variations on riffs heard on “Hit The Lights”. As a whole, stylistically this could be seen as akin to ANTHRAX’S “Fistful Of Metal”, but with less high notes out of the vocalist and a little less focused.
The detailing of this album is largely what makes it succeed in avoiding the generic sound that some might attribute to it. Don Doty’s vocal delivery is rough and screechy, perhaps not as much so as on the band’s legendary follow up, but the amount of attitude oozing through his voice on here rivals both Hetfield’s garbled shrieks and Blitz’s sleazy wails. A quick listen to “We Have Arrived” and “Merciless” confirms as much, not to mention the signature Steve Harris bass intro in the latter, which lacks the evil atmospheric affects of the remake heard on “Darkness Descends”, but is near equally as effective. There is also a noteworthy acoustic intro to “Vendetta”, which is a bit more elaborate than what you’d hear out of ANTHRAX or METALLICA, though perhaps less so than what would be heard a little later out of ANNIHILATOR.
Ultimately “We Have Arrived” doesn’t venture far from what its title suggests, which is announcing the arrival of a mainstay to Thrash’s grand 80s tradition. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do justice to what would follow, though to be fair there wasn’t much precedent to really go on circa 1984, when the style was just starting to separate itself from Speed Metal. It has good historical value for those who are specifically interested in this sub-genre of Metal and it is a pretty solid listen, but it doesn’t set any standards, and is down the ladder several rungs from most of what was put out during the same year by the accepted mainstays of America’s Speed/Thrash scene.
(Online April 30, 2010)