On this site we speak fairly frequently about the concept of nostalgia; what it is, what it means and whether it’s good or bad for music and culture as a whole. This decade in metal has seen a surge in nostalgia like we’ve never seen before – a genre that was always so proud to break ground and embrace the punk ideal of leaving the past behind is suddenly turning back on itself as the first generations of fans come into their mid-life and want to embrace their youth again. Whether or not this has been a good turn (and there are arguments to be made on both sides,) it is irrefutable that no band has benefitted more from the desire for yesteryear than Death Angel, who are more popular now than they’ve ever been.
The typical arc for a band resurrected by wistful memories of days gone by is that they can only continue for so long until people realize that there was a reason that band has been lost in the sands of time and they sink back into relative obscurity (AnvilAnvilAnvilAnvil.) Death Angel is the rare exception that bucks the trend, reunited and releasing powerful new material that’s making the adoring masses regret ever forgetting the band’s impact in the first place. With that as the backdrop, the band has released a new record, “The Evil Divide.”
Where many bands try to recreate their past magic through a modern lens, reinventing themselves for a new generation, Death Angel for this record has instead doubled down on what got them here. The entire record is almost like a time capsule of the late eighties in thrash, when the genre ruled through a distinct combination of creativity and common sense. “The Evil Divide” trades in chug riffs and highly artistic solos, using the junction of those roads to create the multiple phases of “Father of Lies,” one of the album’s no-nonsense thrash pounders.
For all of that though, the album’s best and most memorable track is “Lost,” an old-school thrash lighter-raiser that surges with power but is tempered by something resembling introspection. What makes the cut work so well is the memorable riff – it’s the kind of thing that you may not actively notice at the time, but upon reflecting on the record later, it’s the first sound you can remember, and that usually coupled with a subconscious nod of approval.
As has long been the case with Death Angel, their music functions as an examination of the interplay between Rob Cavestany and Ted Aguilar on guitar. The duo shines in this outing, able to craft variances in pace from mid-tempo to up-tempo without losing any sense of direction or purpose. “It Can’t Be This” and “Hell to Pay” stand as opposite hallmarks of Death Angel’s deep understanding of the music they’re trying to make.
Mark Osegueda’s vocal performance, in the midst of all these other marvelous exhibitions, is going to be largely overlooked, which is a real shame, as he drives whole sections of this record in the same way that Tom Araya did for the best days of Slayer. Osegueda is measured but sharp, crafting his voice in such a way to carry the narrative and tempo of the album with some menace, but not overpowering or distracting. It’s true that he utilizes a very limited range, but Death Angel doesn’t require more than he can offer, nor does he attempt to step outside his capable role.
There’s really nothing bad to say about “The Evil Divide,” except perhaps that it doesn’t evolve the genre. In some cases that’s a real detriment, but when a record is this well-crafted, and stands as perhaps the best pure thrash record in the last five or six years, it doesn’t need to be more than it is. If you’re a thrash guy or girl and have been wandering through the quagmire wondering when your rescue ship will come, “The Evil Divide” is that record. Worth an immediate acquisition….and then get your friends in on it, too.