Released: 2013, Nuclear Blast Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Death Angel's three studio albums since their reformation have been a pretty mixed bag. 2004's comeback The Art Of Dying had plenty of spunk, but the songs were kinda weak and the production pretty thin. 2007's Killing Season, by contrast, was thick, punchy and loaded with groove – ably guided by Rush/Deftones/Alice In Chains/etc. producer Nick Raskulinecz. 2010’s Relentless Retribution, their first without drummer Andy Galleon who helped found the band in 1982 when he was all of 10 years old, was a bit of a step back with, again, disjointed songs and somewhat sterile production by the usually reliable, and more thrash friendly, Jason Suecof.
Everything seems to have come together, however, on The Dream Calls For Blood, Death Angel’s second album with the Retribution lineup and Suecof behind the boards. The stable lineup has made for better songs and a more cohesive performance to go along with the band’s typical unbridled energy and fire, and Suecof’s more natural sounding production delivers the grit and balls that Retribution, comparatively, lacked.
Dream kicks off in traditional old-school fashion with an acoustic intro giving way to the frantic thrash in “Left For Dead” and it's classic gang-sung “Left! For! Dead!” chorus – you can take the guys out of the '80s, but you can't take the '80s out of the guys, I guess. Regardless, it's an electric opener to an album positively brimming with, well, electricity. “Son Of The Morning” follows with a chugging swagger and a bit more ebb-and-flow dynamism while “Fallen” plays mix and match with both approaches and adds a swell catchy chorus, as does the terrific title track.
The songs here are a tight, streamlined and enormously engaging bunch, relatively free of the occasional bloat that took some of the steam out of previous Death Angel albums. Technicality takes a back seat to crisp, concise riffing from founder Rob Cavestany and Ted Aguilar and the driving, and occasionally funky, bottom end of drummer Damien Sisson and bassist Will Carroll, both relatively newcomers to the band. And I don't think frontman Mark Osequeda's voice has ever sounded better – though the ear-piercing wail at the end of “Detonate” is a bit much.
It would seem the fourth time is the charm for Death Angel as their comeback enters its 12th year – which, ironically, is longer their first go-round. With the ongoing lineup turmoil – made all the more complicated by the fact that the members were once all cousins – seemingly now settled, the band are in top form and The Dream Calls For Blood is the most solid, consistent and best-sounding album they've done since 1989's Act III.