Armageddon, humanity’s demise, religious manipulation, the demolition of the rich and mighty, suicide and bloodthirsty warriors. Humanicide paints an epic but bleak canvas of humanity and does so with hefty gravitas that allows the Bay Arena thrash legends Death Angel to delve into complex real-world issues that are just as heavy as the rollercoaster 43-minute song cycle that Humanicide is.
Four albums on the trot with their existing line-up and 37 years since their inception, Death Angel remains the same well-oiled machine that has exponentially aged like a fine wine. The screeching highs of Mark Osegueda’s youthful vocals have matured to a gruff howl remaining as articulate as it was in 1982 supported by the timeless battery of Rob Cavestany’s riffs. While the remaining members that featured since 2010’s Relentless Retribution couldn’t feel more at home, The recipe has produced an engrossing batch of brutal treats across the album.
The record has a phenomenal start as the title-track crashes through the speakers anchored on that intro of harmonious guitar licks that transports you to a frontline of some epic fantasy war zone. Track two, Divine Defector, builds on an auspicious start with a death metal inspired backing riff bringing a nice break to the endless catalogue of shotgun riffs and a devastating breakdown that unintentionally steals the show from Cavestany’s solo. Sorry Rob, but I’m not complaining.
A few miles further down the apocalyptic playground of Humanicide we find it’s crown jewel, ‘I Came For Blood.’ If ‘The Pack’ is a celebration of thrash heads everywhere banging their head for almost four decades, then ‘I Came For Blood’ is a nostalgic throwback to the glory days when bands were no more than teenage boys with no money and disapproving parents. The track takes a break from the hard-hitting issues of the present and steps back into a pair of well-worn and reliable sneakers to tell stories of hellfire, powerful warriors and everything badass under the sun.
Tumbling down from such highs, Humanicide’s midfield tracks are still worth a listen but irritable writing choices prevent them from shining as bright as others. ‘Aggressor’ for example is a good no-nonsense thrasher with a chorus ripe for a crowd singalong but is weighed down by some of the most uninspired verse melodies Death Angel has written. On ‘Alive and Screaming,’ you can’t help but think what could have been; a sensational guitar solo which is unnecessarily cleaved in two to make room for a redundant bridge. The album ends with ‘Ghost of Me’ which kicks off with an exceedingly derivative and frankly quite tedious opening riff, beholding nothing more than small issues with unfortunately strong aftertastes.
This does put the record at odds with the last three albums which boasts some of the band’s most consistent material to date, fortunately for Humanicide it trumps all three with its spotless production. Producer Jason Suecof has extracted the essentials out of the band and amplified to a peak among pinnacles. Where The Evil Divide sometimes saw Osegueda’s vocals scream over other members, this album is quintessential metal; loud, thick but finely balanced.
While this album has an undeniably huge and ravenous sound, the true devil is in the detail. Speaking to United Rock Nations, guitarist Rob Cavestany spoke about the new LP’s lyrical themes: “Humanicide’ is basically the self-extinction of the human race. It is very dark, in a kind of a dark time [with] the way that things are going around the world these days. It’s no secret — all you have to do is turn on the news, go on social media, talk to somebody on the streets.” This is not something that’s tucked away behind layers of poetic rhetoric either. Death Angel takes the issues and bludgeons them into your mind; it’s hard not to have a ponderous moment as you bang your head back and forth.
Any metalhead would be a fool to not give Humanicide a whirl. It’s a shining, yet by no means perfect, example of the unrelenting force of metal. With its memorable riffs and numerous singalong choruses, it joins the likes of Judas Priest’s Firepower and Metallica’s Hardwired to Self-Destruct in a growing list of great records from metal icons that refuse to die.
Words By Alex Mace