Wednesday 5 June 2019

Death Angel - Humanicide (2019)

Country: USA
Style: Thrash Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 31 May 2019
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Those who have followed my reviews from the beginning of the year will know by now that I discovered metal in the early days of speed and thrash and they were my go to subgenres. I bought The Ultra-Violence when it came out and played it incessantly. I wasn't as fond of the next two albums but I was sad when the band ceased to be in 1991, especially as I hadn't got round to seeing them live yet. I finally got that treat in 2012, early in the current band's line-up, which has remained stable since 2009.

They rocked on stage and so does this album, but it took me a second listen to really grasp it. My first time through, in the wee hours of the morning, was decent but not great, highlighting traditional stuff in a notably clean mix. It played at mid tempo more than I'd like, but it had some surprising textures, like the piano-driven coda to Immortal Behated. I knew I liked it and a couple of songs stood out, but it didn't knock my socks off.

This morning, I revisited it and heard a completely different album, except for that clean production which is easily my least favourite aspect. Maybe I wasn't with it last night or maybe this just isn't as immediate an album as, say, the new Flotsam and Jetsam or Exumer albums, which were obviously great from moment one. It doesn't really matter. It's good stuff and, a couple of listens later, it's very good stuff.

It starts off fast, with a double whammy of Humanicide and Divine Defector. The first is intricate and the second is blistering, firmly in the sort of territory you might expect to find Kreator, but they're both fast. While I love Death Angel for their musicianship and really miss the instrumentals they treated us to on the first album, vocalist Mark Osegueda is clearly on top form here, hurling out the lyrics like his life depends on it.

Aggressor is traditional Death Angel, but I Came for Blood really isn't and this track stands out more than any other. It's like Death Angel attempting Motörhead, which I now realise sounds rather like Midnight or early Nuclear Assault. It's different from moment one, but the chorus makes it sound even more different because it's reminiscent of Electric Six. Yeah, that caught me by surprise too! Now, if someone had floated Motörhead covering Electric Six, I'd have thought them insane, but this has real energy and power to it and it may well be my favourite song on the album.

There are plenty more fast thrash songs to come with decent solos from Rob Cavestany and wild spitting vocals from Osegueda, that highlight a slightly punkier feel than I remember from Death Angel. Old school fans will not be disappointed. However, there's more than that here.

Immortal Behated is progressive thrash, with a commercial chorus, and it's interesting stuff, even before the extended coda. Cavestany and Ted Aguilar shine, but the whole band contribute highlights. Osegueda aims for cleaner vocals on Revelation Song and the band slow down a lot too. In fact, this isn't really thrash at all, it's a hard rock song with hints that the band know how to thrash too. Of Rats and Men adds a Savatage vibe to the fray, a relatively safe expansion of sound.

And then there's The Day I Walked Away, which wraps up the album. Again, it plays slower but adds surprising elements. The verses carry a gothic feel, and by gothic here I'm talking about Bauhaus or maybe Type O Negative, not gothic metal like Paradise Lost or Lacuna Coil.

These three songs are an odd way to wrap up a thrash album, but they're not bad songs and they don't really feel out of place, just a little jarring. I applaud the band's attempt to vary their sound without leaping onto another bandwagon and alienating their fanbase in the process the way that a number of other bands have done in the past.

There's a lot here to digest and that's a good thing. The only bad thing is the production which is very capable but very clean. Humanicide should have blistered more and it's the production not the band or the songs that's the cause of that.

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