Saturday, November 2, 2013

Death Angel - The Dream Calls for Blood (2013)

Bolstering a string of excellent records starting in 2004, Death Angel continues to breathe fire with their latest effort, The Dream Calls for Blood, even after the loss of their original rhythm section. The personnel change has--for the better--introduced a shift in sound, in part due to a fresh drummer and bassist entering the fold. But compared with Killing Season, an album predating the line-up swap, The Dream Calls for Blood feels heavier and inspires confidence for future releases--something hit or miss in the past, particularly in the eighties.

Stylistically, The Dream Calls for Blood is very much in the same vein as Death Angel's previous album, Relentless Retribution: a production-polished, blistering assault focused on distortion-heavy guitar riffing and pounding drums. Even so, something appears to be missing when placed match for match against the record. For instance, while commendable, the quality of a number of guitar riffs seems kicked down a notch, bordering generic, palm-muted chugs, which, for a thrash fan, isn't desirable in the slightest.

Yet, in the grand scheme of things, the songwriting, as a whole, is still very good, leaving this reviewer torn. In no way is The Dream Calls for Blood a complete disaster because, in reality, it's the farthest thing from being the disappointment that was Frolic Through the Park. Moments of brilliance certainly surface in the track listing--the most notable being "Execution / Don't Save Me," thanks to its various tempo changes and devastating introduction--and the overall trend in songwriting leans a bit more toward melody during choruses, which is a welcome addition to the Death Angel portfolio.

The melody is what makes The Dream Calls for Blood worthwhile, too. While the vocals predictably carry many of the hooks, the guitar's lead work is a blessing from above, in terms of keeping listeners occupied. The closer, "Territorial Instinct / Bloodlust" in particular, is a godsend; the opening holds some of the attractive lead work on the record and makes the track one of the best among an already appealing roster. But, again, much to the dismay of hardcore thrash fans, the occasional chugged riff pushes the overall album down a few notches. The soloing, as good as it is, can't cover lazy filler placed in a number of the tracks, where uptempo guitar work would fit more fluidly. 

But in spite of efforts like The Dream Calls for Blood, Death Angel is still known for releasing one of most surprising debuts of the eighties, and their recent material tends to be under appreciated, fair or not. 2004's The Art of Dying and beyond is easily labeled as a rebirth for the band, in that they consistently offer up quality music in a timely manner, which can't be said for other--who shall remain nameless--well-respected acts. Make no mistake: The Dream Calls for Blood is another enjoyable release. It just isn't Relentless Retribution. 


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