Most of the time when you catch glimpse of a sticker glaring at you on the cover of an album it is either: A) A snippet of a review lauding the album as a return to form, or B) The genius marketing ploy of “featuring musician X from band Y”. Neither usually hold much water and amount to anything reliable. With DARK ANGEL’s last release before breaking up, they have provided one of these sticker bearing albums. However, their message is quite unconventional. Instead of a marketing ploy consisting of half-truths and erroneous information, Gene and company present us with a haymaker to the jaw. "9 songs, 67 minutes, 246 riffs!" I repeat, "9 songs, 67 minutes, 246 riffs!"
246 riffs does not necessarily equate to gold you say? Well that is of course quite true. Even if OPETH quadrupled the amount of riffs on their next release, Mikael Akerfeldt still would not be able to write a song to save his life. However, this is DFA and we both know DFA is not capable of doing wrong. From the excellent tantalizing acoustic intro to the furious 246th riff closing the album, we are hit with relentless top-notch Thrash cuts which solidify this band’s position in the “YOU WILL LISTEN TO US AND YOU WILL LOSE CONTROL OF ALL BODILY FUNCTIONS” category.
As soon as that heavy as hell riff cuts in over the acoustic guitar you know you are in for a hell of a ride. The guitar tone has been taken up one hell of a notch and listening to Meyer and Eriksen’s squealing leads and riffage is breathtaking. The speed is intense here but not quite up to the MACH 3 assault of “Darkness Descends”. Gene’s drumming is furious as always and well above par. We are also treated to a bit more variety than on DD and it does help add a level of texture to the overall sound. The thick guitar tone and sound drumming is emphasized nicely with an excellent production job which manages to clear up what dragged the aforementioned album down while still maintaining that old-school sound.
Ron Rinehart made his first appearance on the previous album, “Leave Scars” and has returned once again to terrorize the listener. His approach is relatively solid and bears its own unique sound. With that being said, I cannot help but miss that punch which Don Doty injected into the mix. Rinehart sings his heart out on this release and is quite enjoyable, but is stuck in the shadow of someone he will never be able to replace (much like Jason Newsted). Let us all be glad Gene had not hooked up with someone of far less calibre and suffered the fate of MEGADETH.
Besides the over-the-top riff madness and mind-blowing drumming, DFA offer something else quite unique. The lyrics found on “Time Does Not Heal” are up to the usual standard and Gene lets no one down. Killer chorus’ like, “Time does not heal/The torture struck upon my past/Time does not heal/The scars that were left and meant to last!” are found in abundance. Intelligence seeps in during lines such as, “When written words are now legible/The story can be told/But when they're thrust too close to my eyes/They become a blindfold”. The whole album is like wading through the persistent ever-evolving murky swamp of a neurotic mind. Give in wholesale and revel in the violence.
What this album has sacrificed in speed it has gained technically. This is by far the outfit’s most adept moment behind their instruments and displayed aptly in the emotional riff gallery and intricate song structures. The 9 cuts found here are somewhat longer than what we have been dealt in the past and prove all the more technical. This is maturity and progressivism done right, in which the Thrash element is not altogether sacrificed. At times this reminds me of CORONER and then all of the sudden you’re hit with that esoteric riff at the beginning of “Psychosexuality”, which reeks of “Symbolic” era DEATH. Ultimately the album returns to its roots with the head-bangable maelstrom that is “A Subtle Induction” closing in a chaotic and nasty fashion reminding you that this is DFA and they will rip out your goddamn spine.
It comes down to the fact that this is DARK ANGEL and this is Thrash. It may not be as intense and life-threatening as “Darkness Descends” but it is miles above mediocre and is guaranteed to keep your head-banging. So keep on rocking and hopefully this will help cope with the anticipation of “Darkness Returns” and DFA’s reunion. "9 songs, 67 minutes, 246 riffs!" (Online June 11, 2005)