DARK ANGEL — Darkness Descends

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DARK ANGEL - Darkness Descends cover
4.40 | 30 ratings | 4 reviews
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Album · 1986

Filed under Thrash Metal


1. Darkness Descends (5:49)
2. The Burning of Sodom (3:16)
3. Hunger of the Undead (4:16)
4. Merciless Death (4:03)
5. Death Is Certain (Life Is Not) (4:14)
6. Black Prophecies (8:29)
7. Perish in Flames (4:49)

Total time 34:46

Bonus tracks:
8. Mercilless Death (live) (3:44)
9. Perish in Flames / Darkness Descends (live) (8:27)

Total Time: 47:11


- Don Doty / Vocals
- Eric Meyer / Guitars
- Jim Durkin / Guitars
- Rob Yahn / Bass
- Gene Hoglan / Drums

About this release

Combat Records, November 17th, 1986

Thanks to UMUR, Unitron, Vim Fuego for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

"Darkness Descends" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US thrash metal act Dark Angel. The album was released through Combat Records in November 1986, almost to date two years after the release of their debut full-length studio album "We Have Arrived (1984)". Since the debut album there´s been a lineup change as drummer Jack Schwartz has been replaced by former Slayer drum tech Gene Hoglan.

Compared to "We Have Arrived (1984)", the music style on "Darkness Descends" has changed in a significantly more aggressive and fast-paced direction. The traditional heavy metal elements from the debut are gone and "Darkness Descends" is a 100% raw and aggressive thrash metal release (not completely unlike "Reign in Blood (1986)" by Slayer or "Pleasure to Kill (1986)" by Kreator). The addition of Gene Hoglan to the ranks, has provided Dark Angel with a much more intriguing and tight rhythm section, than the case was on "We Have Arrived (1984)". His fast and precise drumming style and the powerful bass playing by Rob Yahn (who left the band right after the album was finished) drive the aggressive and fast-paced guitar riffing forward in an incredibly powerful fashion. Dark Angel were at this point a very well playing act. Lead vocalist Don Doty delivers a raw and aggressive performance that suits the music perfectly. He doesn´t have the most distinct sounding voice and his staccato delivery is pretty typical for the genre, but his performance is both passionate and convincing.

The material on the 7 track, 35:22 minutes long album is very effective and for the most part furiously fast-paced and aggressive, but tracks like "Hunger of the Undead" and "Black Prophecies" do take the pace down to a mid-paced heavy groove, so while "Darkness Descends" certainly isn´t the most varied thrash metal album out there, Dark Angel do understand the importance of changing pace to keep things at least a bit varied. So the songwriting is inspired and the musicianship strong, but that´s not always enough if you don´t pack your music in a powerful and raw sound production. That´s thankfully the case here though as "Darkness Descends" features a very powerful, raw, and organic sounding production, which suits the music perfectly.

"Darkness Descends" is arguably one of the most relentlessly aggressive and fast-paced thrash metal releases from the mid-80s and for fans of the more brutal, raw, and frenetic part of the genre this is mandatory listening. The album is pretty much one-dimensionally aggressive, so expect very little with resemblance to melody here. If you come to the album with the right expectations you´ll be met with an onslaught of great aggressive thrash metal tunes though. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.
Vim Fuego
What do you know about Dark Angel?

The only thing many metal fans know of Dark Angel is their drummer Gene Hoglan has since pounded the skins for numerous other bands like Strapping Young Lad, Death and Testament. However, Dark Angel were once the only band in the world who could scare Slayer. Heavier, at times faster and more technical, and definitely darker than the Slaytanic ones, Dark Angel missed the bus to the relative big time by being too damn difficult for most thrash fans to handle. You see, there were none of the friendly riffs Metallica and their clones produced, no soaring or sing along vocals a la Anthrax or Helloween, and definitely no power ballads like ‘Fade to Black’ or ‘Armed and Dangerous’.

With ‘Darkness Descends’, listeners are assaulted with a maelstrom of riffs, machine gun drumming and straightforward shouts punctuated with piercing screams. On first listen, it's a jarring, caustic blur, almost too daunting to consider a second airing. It's almost impossible to keep up with vocalist Don Doty, even when following the lyric sheet. So many riffs fly past it's impossible to take them all in first time. The drum patterns are what we now come to expect from Gene Hoglan- surprisingly complex for the speed he played at. And the speed is utterly unrelenting. Each track seems to be faster than the one before. Speed was also the band's undoing. While there's no doubt they were tight, they were just too fast and too heavy for 1986 production values. A lot of the riffs get lost in the mix because of a sound that is nowhere near thick enough. It gives the finished product a slightly watered down feel. While Hoglan is now a hired gun of sorts, back in his Dark Angel days he proved himself an excellent songwriter, a rare thing for drummers especially in the 80s. He had a hand in the best tracks on the album, co-writing most tracks with guitarist Jim Durkin. Lyrically, he wrote what would have been 10 minute epics for normal bands, but clocked in at around four or five minutes at Dark Angel’s tempo. At a time when the average thrash fare was comic book Satanism or over exaggerated violence, Hoglan was penning more thoughtful works. ‘The Burning of Sodom’ is a reworking of the biblical tale of the fabled city destroyed because of depravity and perversion, which would scare the hell out of your Sunday school teacher. ‘Darkness Descends’ is an account of the end of the world, seeing nuclear holocaust as the biblical version of Armageddon. Just when you start to think the album is all bible stories, along comes ‘Hunger of the Undead’. It's a simple yarn. A soul dies, but then finds out there's no heaven or hell, because there is no God. ‘Black Prophecies’ takes an in-depth look at Nostradamus' predictions, and ‘Death Is Certain (Life Is Not)’ beat Metallica’s ‘One’ to the punch when it came to a mind trapped in an immobile, uncommunicative body. If you think ‘Reign in Blood’ is the final word in thrash metal, listen to this. While it is not as immediately likable, nor as precise, as ‘Reign in Blood’, ‘Darkness Descends’ is heavy, fast, dark, and about as extreme as thrash got in 1986.
Combining spooky cover art, ferociously heavy thrash, and keeping its running time short and sweet - I'd always rather have 34 minutes of brilliance than 45 minutes of merely good music - Dark Angel's Darkness Descends presents a sound which is just a tiny sidestep away from the most ferocious work the death metal scene was producing at the time. Its style of extreme thrash makes a compelling case for thrash's continuing relevance, and stands next to the best 1980s material of Celtic Frost as a brilliant example of metal which draws from as many extreme subgenres as it cares to latch onto.

Members reviews

When it comes to thrash metal you can not just leave one of the most important albums of the entire genre. Darkness Descends, by the american Dark Angel, expresses the maximum violence, power and speed of a certain type of thrash, with sounds that wink at the German scene of Sodom, Destruction, etc.. and harded sounds, influenced by Slayer, showing that the american thrash is not only Bay Area. Consisting of seven tracks of pure sonic annihilation, the disc opens with the title track, very well made, and continues with the unique Burning city of Sodom, easily one of the best of the whole disk. The only flaw is being too short, but never mind. In songs like these we can clearly hear how powerful and technical the group can be. The rhythmic section is provided neatly from the group, that constantly keeps it cohesive and at high levels. The next Hunger Of The Undead, in pure Slayer’s Hell Awaits style, runs smooth and pleasant to Merciless Death, another piece among the best. Here we find the band at its peak, with great riffs and effective time changes. A true anthem of thrash. Death is Certain (Life is not) opens with a quick drum intro and continues in a basic riffing in the style of the band. The track runs nice, but is not one of the peaks of the album. Black Prophecies is the longest track of the and it opens with an instrumental introduction before leading to the singing. Here too we find an original songwriting while remaining fully in their compact and precise style, with slow rhythmic parts and sharp fast sections. Also here you can find the influences of the german school of Kreator and Sodom. The track, while lasting a little more than the average, is still very enjoyable and never boring. I would surely rank this among their bests. Perish In Flames ends the album very well. In this one german thrash enbraces a more american style, and the result is an ultra fast thrash gem, earning the title of the fastest track of the entire album with Burning City of Sodom. In conclusion, this is one of those albums that must be in the collection of every thrash maniac, preferably in vinyl format, and it’s certainly a perfect entry point for those wishing to learn more about the genre. Rating: 8.5 / 10

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