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Death Angel

The Enigma Years 1987-1990

Review by Gary Hill

I have to admit that I never heard this band before I got this box set. Sure, I had heard of them, but I never actually heard them. I always thought, based on the name, that they were a death metal band. Well, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they were  a thrash band.

This set is made up of two studio albums from 1987 and 1988 that make up the first two CDs. Both have bonus tracks added. Disc three is a live album that was released in 1990 in Japan. The fourth disc includes a lot of rarities.

This music really brings back the magic of an era where thrash, and a lot of metal, was largely underground and under-produced. That was part of the charm of it, I think. It takes us back to a time where the boundaries between hardcore punk and thrash were being muddied, with the two sounds really converging on one another. I really enjoy this set. It's a great blast from the past. I have to say that this has turned me into a Death Angel fan. I need to check out more music from this band.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2021  Volume 1. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2021.

Track by Track Review
CD1: The Ultra-Violence (1987)
                     
Thrashers

This fires out fierce and frantic. The cut is a seriously screaming stomper. This is very typical of the early era of thrash, and it's very strong. I love the scorching instrumental section. It has some almost Lemmy heavy bass and killer guitar soloing. When it comes back into the song proper from there it's intensified further. The bass and guitar really go nuts at times.

Evil Priest
Now, this definitely makes me think of Diamond Head and early Metallica. It's another fast-paced thrash tune. It has some elements that call to mind hardcore punk, but then again, thrash and hardcore are closely related. The heavy bass and drum movement later is another part that feels a bit like hardcore. As the guitar joins they gradually increase the tempo, turning this into a seriously furious thrasher.
Voracious Souls
As strong as the first two cuts were, this is one ups the ante. It's so meaty and heavy, while also firing forward with a frantic intensity. Yet, they drop it to a short melodic movement at a couple points, too. This is such a shining example of early thrash. The musicianship on this is amazing as they take through some killer changes and frantic riffs.
Kill As One
This screamer is mean and meaty. It is literally a screamer at times, too. I love the staccato sort of element to it. It's another powerhouse.
The Ultra-Violence
At over ten-and-a-half minutes long, the title track is the epic of the set. It's also epic in terms of its scope, running through all kinds of varied movements, really tearing through the changes in rapid succession. This instrumental is so strong.
Mistress of Pain
Heavy, frantic and crazed, this is another powerhouse thrasher.
Final Death

This might actually be the best track of the whole first disc. It has some seriously dramatic, dark and heavy moments. Yet, it maintains the thrash and fury throughout. It's a killer tune.

I.P.F.S.
This opens with an extended intricate acoustic guitar movement. About half-a-minute in we are taken into some powerful metal zones with a killer riff driven section. The cut explodes into pure thrash along the road at times, but this other sound that's almost like a metal version of "Peter Gunn" music is in the driver's seat for much of the song. The cut has quite a few changes along it's short instrumental run. There are some weird spoken bits in another language (German?) at the end.
Bonus Tracks:
                 
Thrashers

This demo works pretty well in a slightly rougher presentation. Honestly, I think that sort of lo-fi treatment suits this kind of music.

Kill As One
Here we get another demo. Again, that lower production value suits this kind of sound. There is some tape drop-out on this one that detracts from it a bit, though.
The Ultra-Violence
This version of the title track is actually about half-a-minute longer than the final version. I'd say that the recording quality impedes this a little because it tends to muddy some. Still, the song is fierce, dynamic and scorching hot.
CD2:
                    
Frolic Through the Park (1988)
                           
3rd Floor

Sound effects bring this into being before it screams out into crazed thrash. This is frantic, fierce and a bit psychotic.

Road Mutants
I love the riff that brings this into being. The cut has a lot of fire, passion and energy. This is thrash at its best.
Why You Do This
They haven't reinvented anything here. Instead, we get another scorching tune with some hardcore merged with the killer thrash.
Bored
The opening guitar riff on this feels like more mainstream hard rock. The cut threatens to fire out from there as other instruments join. There is a real potential energy that seems ready to explode. There are some hints of almost a Red Hot Chili Peppers thing that show up in some of the guitar work later.
Devil's Metal
Coming in with a more mature thrash sound, this has some intriguing twists and turns. It screams out to more of a raw NWOBHM meets thrash sound as it continues. This is a dynamic and potent cut that really works so well. I'd consider it one of the highlights of the whole set. It has some really technical portions. The section with vocals that are like short jabs is so tasty.
Confused
The tune starts off as something cut from the same cloth as the rest of the disc, and that kind of fierce metal concept holds much of the tune. It pushes the envelope a bit on the later sections. It has hints of that Red Hot Chili Peppers angle on some of the guitar sounds. Yet, there is also a real progressive rock explorative concept on hand. Still, this is all metal. I really love some of the drama and tones they put together on this later movement. It's not as fierce as some of the rest, but it's so classy.
Guilty of Innocence
Fierce and potent thrash, this is fast, angry and mean. It's a real screamer. I can hear hints of things like Suicidal Tendencies on this at times. The cut has some great changes and variants built into it.
Open Up
Here we get another slab of smoking hot old school thrash. This is suitably heavy and fierce. This has some great changes. The instrumental movement later almost works into prog rock zones at times. It has some killer guitar soloing. I can make out hints of early Rush in that movement.
Shores of Sin
Weird music that feels like the soundtrack to a horror movie begins this. There is a growing sense of anticipation, even as metallic elements are heard but remain restrained. The cut eventually screams out into pounding, thrashy metal that is dramatic and powerful. It's about three minutes in before vocals emerge. The cut has turned into more of a typical metal stomper by that point, but the changes continue, driving forward.
Cold Gin
They cover Kiss on this song. The tune gets a bit of a raw metal transfusion. It's not thrash, but it works really well.
Mind Rape
This raw thrash powerhouse is a real monster. It's fierce, driving and gritty. It's also mean and so cool. It has some intriguing twists and turns, too.
Bonus Tracks
                   
Dehumanization

This reminds me a lot of Megadeth. It's fierce. It does earn a definite  parental advisory. This is tastefully raw.

Silent Killer
More screaming hot thrash brings this into being. This is fairly short, but doesn't like power and fire.
Witches of Knave
The recording on this is rawer than that on the previous two cuts. The song is a killer early thrasher with a real underground texture.
CD3:
                 
Fall from Grace (1990)
                    
Evil Priest

After a bit of stage banter, they scream in with this powerhouse raw thrasher. It's a real stomper.

Why Do You Do This
They waste no time firing out into more fierce thrash.
Mistress of Pain
Here we get another smoking hot live thrash performance.
Road Mutants
Bass brings this into being, and the cut fires out from there with power and passion.
Voracious Souls
Here we get another killer live performance.
Confused
I really love how this cut comes across live. It seems to gain emotion and immediacy.
Bored
This loses some of the more unusual aspects of the studio version here, but it gains some points for ferocity.
Kill As One
No surprises here, just another powerhouse thrash performance.
Guilty of Innocence
Again, this is just another killer live telling of the song. There are no real surprises, but it works really well.
Shores of Sin
This is more direct and rocking than the way it starts on the studio album. It's a killer live stomper.
Final Death
A killer thrash number, this has a particularly incendiary closing section.
Bonus Track
              
3rd Floor

Raw, frantic and angry, this screamer works really well here.

CD4
                         
Rarities (2005)
                    
Vulture's Nest

The grinding, pounding trash metal sound on the opening this definitely makes me think of Metallica to some degree. The cut shifts to more of an almost hardcore punk concept further down the road. A mellower, dropped back movement is a nice twist.

The Hurt
Fierce and frantic, this is a screaming hot thrasher. It is full of energy and an underground metal edge. It gets really intense.
Conflict of Interest
This is a punky kind of tune. In fact, it's not far removed from some hardcore punk. This gets even further into hardcore zones when it speeds up later. The guitar soloing brings more metal to play.
A Passing Thought
The mellower opening movement of this definitely makes me think of Metallica. Intricate picked guitar creates a dramatic melody along the bottom as a hotter guitar sound solos. Weird vocals eventually come in over the top of that. After this introductory movement, a more pure thrash grind takes control. The mellower movement eventually returns later.
Elergy

I love the fierce hardcore meets thrash concept of this screaming hot tune. It is a different angle. It also works pretty well.

Aspirations
This has a cool underground metal concept to it. That makes it stand apart from some of the rest. It feels like a call-back to an older time.
Dismal
Hardcore punk and driving metal merge on this screamer. The combination makes for an effective tune.
The Morrow's Memoirs
Underground metal drives this with a dark and gritty arrangement. It has a punky edge to it.
Samson
After a strange introduction, we get a pretty standard metal screamer. It's tastefully raw, but also catchy.
Frolic Through the Park
This recording is raw and lo-fi. The cut is very hardcore like in this format.
Betrayed
Fierce, driving and downright mean, this is a real screamer. It's one of the highlights of this fourth disc.

 

 
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