Death Angel – The Bastard Tracks (Album Review)

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They dialed “B” for bastard!

For the better part of 2 years the live music scene has continued to reel from the catastrophic economic impact of the Covid pandemic, but as Michael Douglas’ character in the 2007 movie King Of California (aka a movie you’ve probably never seen) put it, “Catastrophe equals opportunity”. Enter veteran Bay Area thrashers Death Angel with their own unique entry into the burgeoning live stream craze that has acted as an alternative to live concerts of late, taking the added step of delving into some of the deeper tracks within their extensive 35 year back catalog to give their core fan base something to write home about while literally being stuck at home. Combining all the years of experience they’ve accumulated touring since the late 80s with an energetic vigor normally reserved to a band in their 20s, the resulting performance would thrash The Great Music Hall of San Francisco on May 22nd to the point of registering on the Richter scale, and 6 months later the rest of the world will get a second chance to observe the spectacle via a physical release.

The appropriately named audio and video album “The Bastard Tracks” is an exercise in modern thrash metal intensity, tempered with occasional flourishes of nostalgia for the sub-genre’s golden age. Breaking with the tradition of treating the most recent studio album as the focal point, there is only one representative from 2019’s “Humanicide” in congress, while older post-reunion albums such as “Relentless Retribution” enjoy a healthy representation alongside certified 80s and early 90s bangers off “Frolic Through The Park” and “Act III.” The result is a measured combination of mercilessly aggressive thrashers at full speed, punchy mid-paced anthems with biting riff work and fairly frequent forays into smooth acoustic balladry. The versatile display of co-founding guitarist Rob Cavestany and his slightly younger six-string wielding foil Ted Aguilar though flashy lead exchanges and complex transition points is to be reckoned with, as is the solid, precision-based performance of the newer rhythm section of Damien Sisson and Will Carroll, but lead vocalist Mark Osegueda frequently steals the show with brilliant display of gritty attitude and power, occasionally rivaling Ronnie James Dio in the process.

The ordering of the set list, much like the selections themselves, presents a perfectly paced event for the thrashing masses. The expositional opener “Lord Of Hate”, which also kicked off the 2008 “Killing Season” album, provides the needed build up of energy as it flows from a humble acoustic guitar intro into a quick-paced, yet generally streamlined and catchy first assault. It proves a needed warm up device, as one of the performance’s highlight moments immediately follows in the blistering thrasher “Where They Lay”, which sees Osegueda complementing his powerful mid-ranged growl with a riveting set of shrieks out of the Halford school of shattering glass. Nostalgia hounds are subsequently treated to a set of bombastic rendition of olden day classics such as the punk-infused bangers “Why You Do This” and “Guilty Of Innocence”, and the infectious thrasher with an Anthrax-like vibe “The Organization”. There are no dull moments to speak of, and even the de facto intermission phase consisting of acoustic ballads “Faded Remains” and “Volcanic” have an animated quality to them as they paint melancholy landscapes behind a more reserved and haunting vocal display out of Osegueda.

If there is a single theme that could be gleaned from this 69 minute display of technical and artistic brilliance, it is the old becoming new once more, which is basically the story of Death Angel’s many contemporaries from the golden days of 80s thrash metal whom have been resurrected in the post-grunge, post-groove metal world with a bigger and louder sound. It carries the same spirit of embracing the new while keeping the same stylistic foundation that birthed the sub-genre decades prior. It is perfectly embodied in the most auspicious entry on this album, namely the cover of Black Sabbath’s “Falling Off The Edge Of The World”, which is perfectly melded into the more bombastic and percussive template within which this band works, revealing where this band drew much of the inspiration that resulted in their signature sound. There may not be any crowd noise to accentuate the fact, but this performance and all of the ones surrounding it are exercises in poignant art that also happen to function as fan service for any thrash or heavy metal trustee. Alongside the recent triumphs of Exodus, Testament, Heathen and Flotsam & Jetsam, this event is a telltale sign that thrash isn’t slowing down any time soon.

Released By: Nuclear Blast Records
Release Date: November 26th, 2021
Genre: Thrash Metal

Musicians:

  • Mark Osegueda / lead vocals
  • Rob Cavestany / lead guitar, backing vocals
  • Ted Aguilar / rhythm guitar
  • Damien Sisson / bass guitar
  • Will Carroll / drums

“The Bastard Tracks” Tracklisting:

1. Lord Of Hate
2. Where They Lay
3. Why You Do This
4. Fallen
5. Absence Of Light
6. The Organization
7. Execution /Don’t Save Me
8. Succubus
9. It Can’t Be This
10. Let The Pieces Fall
11. Faded Remains
12. Volcanic
13. Falling Off The Edge Of The World (Black Sabbath‘s cover)
14. Guilty Of Innocence
15. Alive And Screaming

8.8 Excellent

While the pandemic was reaping havoc upon the live music market, Bay Area thrash extraordinaire Death Angel was taking the opportunity to deliver an assortment of bangers and deep cuts via live stream with the fury of a thousand suns, and the results have now been codified in physical form for man and thrashing beast alike

  • Performance 9.5
  • Audio 8.5
  • Setlist 8.5
  • Video / Production 8.5
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