Originally Posted by El Gordo
Alright, back to our regularly-scheduled programming, that is, until I rate one of JRA's favourite albums lower than Master of Puppets!
Dark Angel - Darkness Descends - November 17, 1986
Albums like Dark Angel's Darkness Descends are few and far between. The third of the 'unholy trinity' of brutal thrash albums from 1986, Darkness Descends is easily the best one. While Reign in Blood thrashed just as brutally as this, it didn't have the song development and variety to make it a genre-definer. Pleasure to Kill on the other hand featured some great songwriting, but didn't have the same emphasis on RIFFS that its American counterparts did, and it was just too sloppy overall. Darkness Descends succeeds because it combines the best parts of the other two. Great riffs are shoved in everywhere, Gene Hoglan's drumwork is exemplary and Don Doty's strangled vocals strike a perfect balance between melody and aggression.
The one problem with Darkness Descends is that the pummeling the listener endures is so constant, it's hard to pick out standout tracks -- there's really little room to breathe. Outside of the intro to "Merciless Death" and the slower parts of "Black Prophecies", the brutality comes at the listener in waves, so much so that it can be an almost painful listen at times. Regardless of that, Darkness Descends takes thrash to a logical extreme without stepping into territories reserved for death or black metal as bands like Possessed or Sepultura did before. No, this is thrash in one of its purest forms. Unadulturated violence, pummeling riffage, expert drumwork, frenzied barking vocals -- a true classic.
Standouts: Merciless Death, Darkness Descends, Death is Certain (Life is Not)
If I were as hard-nosed as people made me out to be I'd be pissed that you ranked this classic equally with Master of Puppets (and .5 lower than Peace Sells).
I used to think Darkness Descends was the best of the "unholy trinity" as you did, but I came to like Pleasure To Kill a bit better. Everything you wrote in your write-up is a hundred precent spot on though. Even the fact that the with the first couple of listens a listener will be confronted with a blur rather than stand out spots. I will also say that in terms of the drumming, it does feel like Gene Hoglan has a much stronger control the drum time whereas Pleasure To Kill has more of a runaway train feel.
There is one thing you forgot to mention though, and that's the fact that Darkness Descends did the machine gun double bass part before "One."