Excellence in Thrash Since ‘82
There’s always a tinge of skepticism that comes when any old-school thrash band comes out with a new record in the modern age. Well, to be fair, maybe this is true for any classic band. It’s been a long time since the 80s, and for many legendary rock bands, new material doesn’t tend to hold up to the high bar set by its predecessors. This can be for a lot of reasons.
In many cases the band is simply trying to adapt to the times by adopting the sounds of newer, popular artists. This is always a failure, resulting in almost universal rejection, such as Metallica’s Saint Anger or Machine Head’s oft-mocked nu-metal era. Sometimes the band will try to return to their classic sound to appease fans, such as Slayer’s Christ Illusion or Metallica’s Death Magnetic, which is usually met with anywhere from mediocre to moderate levels of praise. Or sometimes inspiration just tends to fade out in old age. It’s a sad truth, but it happens, and many fans will often decry that classic bands should just stick to their old material. Even Twisted Sister guitarist, Jay Jay French, came out recently and said classic bands are “idiots” for thinking audiences want to hear any of their new material. And with a good collection of duds in recent years among the Big Four bands, it seems like he may have a point.
Bay-area thrashers Death Angel might not be among the Big Four, but they could definitely be teaching the metal giants a couple of lessons. Their newest record, The Evil Divide, might not be a landmark thrash masterpiece for the ages, but it’s a more than solid release that nests itself comfortably alongside their older classics. It’s loud, angry, and lots of fun, but most importantly it feels honest. It isn’t trying to fit any new mold or appease the insatiable demands of fans. Death Angel feels like a band that still has some inspiration left flowing through their bones. They understand the fundamentals that make thrash metal great but also understand the importance of improving as musicians and experimenting with new ideas. They might be older guys now, but they certainly aren’t suffering from any performance issues.
Right from the beginning, The Evil Divide comes out swinging with “The Moth,” which is a strong enough track to sell the entire album on its own. It has the perfect blend of all the right elements: evil/melodic guitar lines, aggressive thrash riffs, and catchy vocal lines that don’t feel cheesy or forced. And this isn’t a thrash record that tries to go for speed and aggression from start to finish. This is an album that moves and breathes, each song building its own themes and motifs that build up to a larger, more diverse work. “Cause for Alarm” blends melody with speedy thrash riffage and some hardcore punk elements blended in. “Lost” goes a bit more down-tempo for a more emotional ballad-esque tune. “Father of Lies” and “It Can’t Be This” sound like Slayer copulated with 90’s-era Judas Priest and spit out an unholy, Satanic lovechild.
The Evil Divide is solid proof that old bands can defy the curse of age and still put out above-par music that isn’t just a quick cash-grab. Death Angel has solidified themselves as musicians that don’t fade out as they get older, but age well with time and experience.