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Album Review: DEATH ANGEL The Dream Calls for Blood

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It's fitting that the resurgence of both Death Angel and Testament coincided with dual supporting slots on the Anthrax comeback tour two years ago: both are Bay Area thrash acts of the 80's who have consistently given fans some of the greatest bang for their buck over the years, each group largely sticking to a core sound with occasional excursions into funk (Death Angel) and death metal (Testament). For the most part, any permanent change to the Death Angel (or Testament) dynamic has been more a matter of quality control rather than aesthetic.

The "comeback" mantle no longer rests comfortably atop the skulls of the Death Angel hydra, the band having released a full three albums and a live DVD since The Art of Dying announced their return back in 2004. With The Dream Calls for Blood, the Mach II version of Death Angel now has more albums under their belt than the classic lineup.

Arguably, it wasn't until 2010's Relentless Retribution that the reconnoitered quintet "got it right"; in spite of brilliant moments on The Art of Dying and 2008's Killing Season, both albums were hampered by the lingering hangover of The Organization and Swarm, two post-DA projects that found ex-members branching off into other forms of alt-rock.

Well, as Dave Mustaine has frequently discovered – yet refuses to this day to admit – sometimes the public indifference to artists branching out into other forms of music is reflective of the actual quality of material, and not just some ingrained prejudice or stubborn fanboy pigeonholing… so the presence of full blown alt-rock material on The Art of Dying and Killing Season came off not so much as a multifaceted band celebrating their diversity, but rather a confused group of individuals who had lost chemistry and focus somewhat during their estrangement (the wah wah on Art of Dying's "Famine" is seriously straight out of Bon Jovi).

Relentless Retribution cut all the fat and offered 57 minutes of exactly what the fan base wanted: unfiltered 80's thrash metal. This year's Dream Calls for Blood trims ten minutes off of that running time, but the effect is an even leaner collection of anthemic speed metal that shows a reinvigorated Death Angel swinging for the fences in a manner not dissimilar to Testament's recent Dark Roots of Earth.

"Left for Dead" is right out of the gate a stronger, more memorable track than anything from Relentless Retribution – good as that album was – and it's all uphill from there. Mark Osequeda's blood curdling wail sets the tone for "Son of the Morning", serving advance warning that the band have lost nothing performance-wise since their late 80's heyday.

Now I personally have a deep affinity for the experimental aspects of 1990's Act III – even as I resent the more half-baked fooling around on the 2000's comeback material – and would love to be able to say that, following the back-to-basics success of Relentless Retribution three years ago, Death Angel have assimilated all their previous strengths, offering bits of acoustic guitar and funky bass albeit in a stronger iteration than the misguided alt-rock alchemy of recent… but that's not really the case here. The Dream Calls for Blood picks up precisely where Relentless Retribution left off and simply improves on that template.

And who can blame these guys, really? The truth is that the band have attempted to retool their sound multiple times in the past (even "Bored" foreshadowed the funk experiments on Act III), but it's the dyed-in-the-wool thrash that we all remember – that we all insist dominate their live setlist – so it's hard to fault Death Angel for playing to their strengths. We may not clamor for endless replays of "Confused" or "A Room With a View" but we'll sure as hell keep returning to the well for "Fallen" or "Left for Dead".

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