HardReviews 2
by Martin Popoff

DEATH ANGEL
Killing Season (Nuclear Blast)

These Bay Area firecrackers have been making sparkling thrash since their mid-teens, and to even greater credit, they've experimented within the band and outside of it with non-metal ideas, many drawn from their collective love of a bunch of different musics. The Art Of Dying was a weird, cool comeback record that the band now somewhat disown. What was interesting about it was that it wasn't interesting! It was punky, stripped down, defying you to dig the band's personality without window dressing. This time around, the guys bring back the complicated thrash, but always within the context of Anthrax-core urban punk-grimed holler-along songfulness. Mark leans hard on his vocal chords throughout, coming off as angry, actorly, screechy, in a word, dimensional, which is a good change from the armies of thrash vocalists bent on sounding only tough and barrel-chested. Ted and Rob rip up the riffs and solos with razor wire, all captured in clear, punchy yet violent sonics by hot producer Nick Raskulinecz, who put the boys in orbit by putting them in a plush studio with tons of gear. Thrash has a tendency to rely on four or five great riffs per song, with much of the rest of enjoyment put to faster pasture. With Death Angel, it's all about the song first, and in that respect they are like the classic rock rule-breakers of the '70s, even if the tools of this particularly plush, surprise-filled journey are near exclusively thrash-packed.
Rating 9

THE OCEAN
Precambrian (Metal Blade)

The paperwork is almost too much. Forsooth, the album is called Precambrian, but then it's two discs, one called Hadean/Archaean (had to use that slash, didn't you?), the other called Proterozoic. Curiously, five tracks on the first one (22 minutes - sorta pressed like a CD single), nine on the second (62 minutes), all with titles like those hard to spell words above. Plus there are 26 serious brow-furrowing noiseniks in this German band, or live, five to nine, or really on the constant tip, only two. No pictures and basically nothing for graphics. But once inside the music, one is surprised by immediate, societal, understandable lyric concepts, written with a stinging Hemingway-esque slap of an economic pen. Vocals roar, the music evokes the polluted decibel wonderment of Isis and Neurosis, but again, mostly it's heavy metal with a slide rule and pocket protector forcefully moving forward, vocals on top, and really quite accessible, especially if you are reading along. New Canadian hopefuls Alpha Galates comes to mind, but mostly given a shared intense ambition. Disc two exhibits more mellowness and elasticity (and cello and piano and sorrowful doom), but I suppose you can't Meshuggah-a-go-go forever. Production is surprisingly clear and accessible with tight snare, a nice compromise against the band's two lobes of prog (agitation and listlessness).
Rating 7.5

Hard Reviews Page 3