Album Review: Death Angel Make Bender’s Dream Come True on Humanicide
Considering how prolific they’ve been since their 2001 reformation, it’s easy to forget that Death Angel weren’t a thing for around a decade. For a while, it seemed like their legacy would paint them as a curiosity, a band of teenagers who put out three minor thrash classics and then disbanded after a tumultuous experience in the major leagues. Starting with 2004’s exceptional The Art of Dying, however, mainstays Mark Osegueda and Rob Cavestany have knocked out six more entries in the band’s catalog. Their reunion has lasted twice as long as the original incarnation! It’s been a consistent run, even though they’ve had some member turnover. Their ninth overall release, Humanicide, proves they’re still capable of channeling that youthful anger.
Despite the cute puppies on the cover (apparently their part-time post-reunion mascots), this is just as fierce as their early work. Maybe a little too much so — the diverse stylistic touches that enlivened Art and the underrated Act III have been mostly relegated to mid-paced groove tracks like “Revelation Song” and some piano at the end of “Immortal Behated.” It’s definitely a step up from 2016’s The Evil Divide, where the mid-paced groove tracks dominated a little too much. Now, after maintaining the same lineup for three albums in a row, the musicianship and songwriting feel locked in.
The usual caveat applies to this as applies to most late-period releases by ’80s thrash metal acts (unless they throw a curveball into the mud like Megadeth did with Super Collider): you know what to expect if you’ve heard, well, anything else they’ve done. Osegueda continues to possess one of the more versatile thrash throats, leaping nimbly from Joey Belladonna shrieks to Chuck Billy snarl without losing his trademark deadpan. Cavestany continues to write some of the sickest thrash riffs in the business. And boy, if you like the clickety-click of triggered double-kicks, you’re in for a treat (it’s a Jason Suecof production job, so it’s polished to a fault).
Even if it’s all a bit familiar, if you’re looking for pit-friendly rippers, this delivers in spades. “I Came For Blood” brings the crossover mayhem, “The Pack” extols the importance of brotherhood through bodily impact, and “Aggressor” doesn’t really require much explanation beyond its title. Thrash records get real old real fast, but Death Angel keep the songs varied enough that you’re bobbing your noggin the whole time.
It’s easy to take this level of consistency for granted. Considering how many times other major thrash acts have fallen on their faces both trying to experiment and trying to “return to their roots,” you gotta give these road mutants respect.