Album of the Week 22-2016: Death Angel – The Evil Divide

New Death Angel records are the source of some inner conflict for me this decade. Since the departure of drummer Andy Galeon, I’ve been missing the non-Metal influences in the band’s rhythmic approach that makes ‘Act III’ one of my all time favorite records. However, due to Rob Cavestany’s highly unconventional riff writing and consistently strong output, Death Angel is easily the most relevant today of all the bands that decided to give it another go after Thrash Of The Titans. ‘The Evil Divide’ is another excellent Thrash record. Slightly less aggressive than the vicious ‘The Dream Calls For Blood’, but also more creative and allround more satisfying.

My favorite post-reunion record of the band is and probably always will be the playful and surprisingly melodic ‘Killing Season’, but ‘The Evil Divide’ is the next best thing, considering the all-out Thrash Metal direction the band is taking these days. On the bonus DVD, drummer Will Carroll explains that he and Cavestany had been working on getting more variation in the rhythms without sacrificing any aggression and that actually sums up the sound of the album quite well. It’s aggressive, very energetic, but a great deal of attention has been given to giving every song its own identity, which is rare enough in contemporary Thrash Metal.

Actually, it was the video for ‘Lost’ that made me hopeful for the record. It’s the most melodic song on the record and its midtempo Heavy Metal feel makes it stand out somewhat. Excellent guitar work by Cavestany and Ted Aguilar – what else is new? – but the brightest shining star here is singer Mark Osegueda, who simply never sounded this good. It’s a bit of a departure from his almost punky aggression on the rest of the record, but a very welcome departure nonetheless. Quite possibly Cavestany’s best guitar solo to date as well.

‘Father Of Lies’ is the other highlight on the record. I love the part after the choruses where basically nobody plays the same part, but the opening and main riffs are simply killer as well. That clean middle section with excellent guitar solo is a pleasant surprise as well, as it seems to come from out of nowhere. Other highlights are ‘Hell To Pay’, with its NWOBHM vibe and awesome solo trade-off between Cavestany and Aguilar, the creative riff work of ‘The Electric Cell’ and the surprisingly brutal ‘Breakaway’. ‘It Can’t Be This’ is a slow burner; it felt like a filler the first time around, but it hides a handful of subtle songwriting secrets.

It is a testament to Death Angel’s qualities as a band that I didn’t even need to mention the guest guitar solo’s by Sepultura’s Andreas Kisser and producer Jason Suecof to point out why these songs are so great. The band doesn’t want to dwell on nostalgia or release albums just to expand their tour cycles, as many of their peers seem to do. They want to release strong, well written Metal records. ‘The Evil Divide’ is just that. And it’s evidence that there’s no need to either stubbornly cling to your old sound nor update your sound beyond recognition to stay relevant as a Thrash band in the 21st century.

Recommended tracks: ‘Lost’, ‘Father Of Lies’, ‘Breakaway’

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