ARTIST: Death Angel + ALBUM: Humanicide + LABEL: Nuclear Blast + RELEASE DATE: MAY 31, 2019
Bay Area thrash masters, Death Angel, are back with their follow-up to 2016’s The Evil Divide. Humanicide is their third installment of the “Wolf Trilogy” that includes 2010’s Relentless Retribution and 2013’s The Dream Calls For Blood. Not only is this the fourth consecutive release produced by Jason Suecof, it’s also the first time the band has recorded more than three albums with the same lineup of players. The value of continuity is apparent upon the first listen of Humanicide. Not only does the band sound like a well-seasoned and cohesive unit, but they also sound confident when they stretch out beyond thrash to offer some diversity of style and substance.
Don’t worry, there’s plenty of metal-up-your-ass-thrash across Humanicide’s 11 tracks. “Divine Defector,” “Ghost of Me,” and “Alive and Screaming” are everything you love about the genre and the band. Elsewhere, the band dabbles in power metal (“I Came for Blood,” “Revelation Song”), pays tribute to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (particularly the intro to the title track), and throws in some crafty tempo changes (“Agressor,” “Of Rats and Men”). Songs like “Immortal Behated” and “The Day I Walked Away” show the band bringing things down in tempo and creating dynamics around loud-quiet-loud song structures. If you thought you’d never hear a piano on a Death Angel album, you were wrong. The important thing to remember is that it works.
There’s some stand-out performances throughout the album. Notably Rob Cavestany’s guitar work, like the solos on “Humanicide,” “Agressor,” “Revelation Song,” and “Of Rats and Men,” and Mark Osegueda’s lion’s roar of a vocal performance. Indeed, Osegueda sounds as strong as ever, like his lungs are full of fire. But, the songwriting is what makes this one of the more interesting albums in the band’s catalog. The arrangements, song dynamics, and performances all gel together into a product that only a band of veteran musicians could create.
As a reviewer, I typically listen to the album several times, taking notes for each song as I carve through the various layers of the album. I could provide a review based on this system, but for Humanicide the songs don’t just stand on their own individually, but play on each other in the formation of the overall album. Some of the songs didn’t strike me as anything special on the first few listens. They’re by no means bad, but just seemed to lack the aggression or bite that I wanted to hear. But, letting the album play through without trying to break down each individual track is where I found the next level of appreciation. That said, it will be interesting to see if Humanicide will be a stepping stone to the next release where the band experiments and explores territories outside of thrash deeper or if they produce a “return to roots” effort. I’m never one to turn down classic, old-school thrash, but Death Angel has accomplished enough here to peak my interest for how much further they could explore different styles.
For Death Angel fans, Humanicide is a must-have release for their 2nd act and current upward evolution. For thrash metal fans, there’s plenty here to sick your teeth in – though The Evil Divide (or The Ultra-Violence) is probably what you’ll find yourself wanting to hear. But, if you’re a music lover who appreciates when artists take a chance and delve into uncharted waters, this is an extremely satisfying release.
– J. Kevin Lynch