Album of the Week 49-2011: Dark Angel – Leave Scars

For my first Album of the week publication, I think a short explanation may actually be in place. For this part of my weblog, I’d like to point out an album that I either played a lot in the preceding week or an album that caught my attention otherwise.

This week, Dark Angel’s classic ‘Leave Scars’ album received a lot of spins from yours truly. Partially caused by some kind of personal crisis I don’t wish to further address here, I turned to an album that helped me out so many times ever since I got it around the age of 14. Maybe it’s the unbridled, yet intelligently composed aggression of the music, maybe it’s the deep and intelligent lyrics courtesy of drummer Gene Hoglan (more on that later), maybe it’s the rapid-fire vocal delivery of Ron Rinehart and possibly Hoglan’s mind blowing take on the drum work has played a part as well. Fact is, that the appeal the album had on me mid-puberty hasn’t faded. If anything, it increased.

‘Leave Scars’ was the second album Dark Angel released with Gene Hoglan as drummer and primary lyric writer. His debut, ‘Darkness Descends’, is probably the rightful heir to the throne many people put Slayer’s ‘Reign In Blood’ on as fastest and most brutal Thrash Metal album at the time. Though thoroughly enjoyable, it pales in comparison to the intelligent Thrash fest that is ‘Leave Scars’. The lyrics have shifted from the usual horror and death towards a strong sense of psychology and the songs feature a myriad of riffs (though nowhere near as many as on its follow-up ‘Time Does Not Heal’), instead of the standard intro-verse-chorus-solo-bridge structures. In addition, new singer Ron Rinehart’s punky rasp fits the more lyric-based approach very well, above all because he is more intelligible, which is a big pro with Gene Hoglan’s five million words a song method.

For someone who usually finds lyrics of inferior importance to the actual music, I have mentioned them a lot in this post. It’s just that they’re really good. And one song in particular: the wretched masterpiece that is ‘The Promise Of Agony’. The lyrics to the song speak from the perspective of someone who doesn’t have the will to live anymore, but seems very determined and powerful when reviewing his choices. These (enormous amounts of) lyrics touched me the first time I heard them and they still do now. Especially when combined with the great riffs – check out that monumental opening riff – and the intense vocal delivery of Rinehart.

Not that ‘The Promise Of Agony’ is the only good song on the album. Opening track ‘The Death Of Innocence’ is a neck breaking, full speed Thrash monster featuring one of the fastest vocal patterns I’ve ever heard looking into the twisted mind of a child molester. ‘No One Answers’ and ‘Older Than Time Itself’ are monstrous epics that cry out for the power of the individual, a power displayed in the forceful closing title track. Guitarists Jim Durkin and Eric Meyer throw riffs around as if their lives depend on it and they’re so intensely aggressive that even the instrumental ‘Cauterization’ remains awesome throughout its epic length.

Dark Angel would continue to evolve into even more epic proportions on the brilliant follow-up ‘Time Does Not Heal’ (famously advertized as having 246 riffs, a number which is – according to Gene Hoglan – completely accurate), but the album that still captures both Dark Angel’s forward-thinking approach as well as their boundless aggression as a combination best is ‘Leave Scars’.

Standout tracks: ‘The Promise Of Agony’, ‘The Death Of Innocence’, ‘Leave Scars’

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