I'm a writer, musician, DJ, & artist living in Taipei, Taiwan. Float this, mo'fos.
When any entity naming itself Death Angel calls you out, you would be wise to pay heed.
The dream calls for blood and you have not spilled enough!
Emerging from an oft-times brutal 2013, I’ve been in the realm of self-evaluation and transformation. Clarion calls are most welcome. Does this dark spectre sing me a new anthem? Am I really not doing enough to fulfill my destiny? (Yes, Mr. Angel, I am really not doing enough…) And if I play it loud enough, will I get my phoenix on?
Much has already been written on the new album, and 99.9% of that appears to be praise upon praise. That activated my inner-skeptic. I’m not an automatic contrarian – it’s not my nature – but I do wonder a little when the Internet starts sucking anyone’s dick en masse, even if it involves one of my favorite bands ever.
Is the Metal world all drinking Kool-Aid or have we really found a cask of golden whiskey?
Besides, wasn’t the preceding album, Relentless Retribution, already awesome? (Yes, it motherfucking was!) And where was the same onslaught of gush for that? And didn’t they use wolves on the last album cover? Are they just retreading old ground? Should I believe the hype?
So here I am, deep into my ownership of The Dream Calls For Blood, finally giving the finger to all distractions and carving out some quality time for my dear Death Angel. It’s time for a proper listen after months of personal chaos and cursory efforts.
I’ll be the judge of this. I’m settling the score.
Oh god. This album is a fucking rampage. Urgent and furious, someone’s ass is getting kicked, and that ass is mine. I concede, I yield, I submit. And no, that didn’t take very long, did it?
Hyper-caffeinated riffs stampede throughout. Glorious, burning riffs, deftly arranged not to celebrate themselves as an end in itself, but thoughtfully constructed for the greater good of the song. These are unselfish, master riffs. And when they appear isolated from the collective onslaughts, they shred. Take the magnificence that begins at the 2:32 point in the opening number Left For Dead: I started crying. For reals. They were the kind of tears you release for the Northern Lights, epic sunsets, or your daughter’s smile. Beauty is beauty. Behold, the beauty of thrash!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again and again: Rob Cavestany is an under-heralded, top-tier riffmeister. Need more proof? The beginning , middle (2:37, yo!), and end of Son of the Morning, the wicked mosh at 2:00 in Fallen, or the ambush that begins Empty.
And so kudos to Ted Aguilar for keeping pace with his ax-mate. And (jealous) respect that he gets to play all this stuff and help bring it to life. The stutter steps on the chorus of the title track or the trudgy gallop-turned-fret-frenzy on Territorial Instinct – Bloodlust must be either the most fun to play or the most maddening. I’m guessing it’s the former.
And what else have we got, non-riff division?
Battle cries to the left me, battle cries to the right.
You buried the hope/ but you can’t kill the man (Left For Dead)
Don’t cross me now / Be warned (Fallen)
Son of the morning / And I demand respect / Son of the morning / And I defy death (Son of the Morning)
These are the days that crush your soul / These are the days that make you whole (Fallen)
TDCFB crushes with its maturity, tight and efficient. Five years into their Death Angel tenure, Damien Sisson (bass) and Will Carroll (drums) are no longer newcomers. The band is, to quote old-school DA, a Kill As One venture. Death Angel likes to summon wolf pack imagery and you can hear how they’ve jelled as such. But perhaps Cerebus would serve as a better model, ‘cause they clearly exist as a singular entity with vicious, autonomous heads all capable of going off on you. Damien gets cool & flashy at the end of Empty and his rolling bassline in Detonate is a pleasure. And Will… He’s. A. Monster. Listen to him on Caster of Shame. Dayum. Dayum? DAYUM!!!
As I noted in my review of their 2011 Taipei gig (http://www.gigguide.tw/article-32), vocalist Mark Osegueda has become a force to be reckoned with. His voice could get wild on the earlier albums, but one could hear it growing more and more powerful and controlled over the years, especially by the arrival of Killing Season. With Relentless Retribution, Mark had arrived. And in the here-and-now, may I refer you once more to Caster of Shame? Jesus.
Then check out Detonate. How do you go from those biting melodic growls to the high shriek at the close? It isn’t quite a King Diamond pitch, but it demonstrates an impressive agility and underscores my argument: his voice is a weapon to be feared and respected.
And as if all of that weren’t enough, we get this deathblow: a Ronnie James Dio tribute in the form of Heaven And Hell from his Black Sabbath days. Oh, it’s like they love me or something. Without a doubt, they love RJD, because this is simply stunning. Beyond who loves who, a better, more certain explanation for such majesty is that we’ve got a band at the top of their game, who, instead of letting up to catch their breath, went straight from several years of hardcore touring directly into the studio. With no decompression time and no stage as an outlet, all of that energy unleashed itself into the wires, cables, computers, and recording devices, and ultimately, all of my pleasure zones. So yeah, maybe they love me. They absolutely love what they do. This album is proof of that.
And that love is complete and focused. Just as the band re-enlisted Jason Suecof from the previous album to oversee the recording, they re-recruited Brent Elliott White to paint the new album art. Yes, he is the talent who rendered the incredible Relentless Retribution cover, and No, they ain’t ripping off their own ideas, as I worried above. Not only is this painting beautiful in its own right, it totally makes sense, as in my mind The Dream Calls For Blood is a direct extension of Relentless Retribution. To me, these are sibling albums. A left hook and a right uppercut. An atomic bomb and then a hydrogen bomb. Awesome and more awesome.
Back in high school, with The Ultra-Violence cranking in my Walkman, I’d air-drum, air-guitar, and headbang wildly as I mowed lawns. It was a dangerous and dorky endeavor, looking back, to rock out in someone’s front yard with sharp rotating blades spinning underfoot. But I was a teenager, so it was, “Fuck The World, I’m listening to Death Angel!”
Decades later, I think we’ve both grown up a little. Death Angel have way more muscle and refinement. You can hear it on TDCFB. And me, I believe I’ve wisened up a bit, as well. I still indulge in the same exact public air-riffing and headbanging, but this time I do it as I jog through the city. Do I look just as foolish? Probably. But Fuck the World, I’m listening to Death Angel!