When I was presented with the opportunity to see Anthrax, Testament and Death Angel on the 15th of October I was overwhelmed with anticipation (I know that sounds dumb, but keep reading). Individually these bands would be excellent in concert but with the option of seeing Death Angel was one of those blasts from the past. Could Death Angel meet or exceed the expectations that I had for the band? Inquiring minds want to know.
As I think back to the days of MTV and Headbangers Ball one band really comes to my mind, and that band is "Death Angel". During those formative years of musical growth (or regression depending your point of view), Headbangers Ball provided me with a Pandora's Box of bands. It seemed that with each manipulation of Pandora's Box, something new would emerge and my musical tastes seemed to follow. The thought that this TV show could have such an effect is interesting but I think justifiable as well.
As the videos would cascade across the screen with scantily clad models mixed with the wail of electric guitars and the lead singers that could hit high notes so high that I was sure that their testicles were being yanked with a log chain, I would become a bit used to the droning images. At the time that seemed as if Pandora's Box was broken, yet another movement of the box changed all of that. The first time I saw the video for the song "Bored" by Death Angel would have been at some point during 1988 but what that song did redefined my musical tastes.
"Bored" wasn't a typical canned hair band song, instead it was more like this intense speed guitar and lyrics that where being spewed out by a voice that was far from the vocal tones of the others that filled Headbangers Ball. With much chagrin I can say without a shadow of a doubt that MTV influenced my desire to purchase "Frolic Through The Park" and more importantly the album that contained the song "Bored". Sure Headbangers Ball exposed me to music, it just had never been the reason I purchased an album.
Cut to 2011, the 15th of October actually and the appearance of Death Angel at the Congress Theater, in Chicago, IL. I had never been to the Congress before, and as I wandered aimlessly through the neighborhoods of Chicago (we got crappy directions from a warm body in a CTA - 'Chicago Transit Authority' uniform), I imagined what the theater would be like and I eagerly anticipated the appearance of Death Angel. Sure I should have worried more about the route we traversed, but a young man working as a valet at a restaurant provided us with the correct directions.
As the lights dimmed, followed by the arrival of Death Angel on the stage I was transported back to 1988. As the wicked, almost violent guitar pierced through my ears I was mesmerized by the energy the band seemed to be smashing everyone with. As the band continued the assault to my ears I realized that this band really became part of the foundation of my musical tastes.
Death Angel hasn't missed a beat, and although they didn't have a massive light show or props it became apparent that they didn't need any. What they did have was this immensely powerful confluence of skill and energy. This band was incredible live and more importantly they were true to their musical roots.
The guitar that drew my attention to the band back in 1988, has become an iconic part of what I expect as guitar of a thrash band. The beginning of "Bored" as well as the musical "interlude" (it sounded better than solo) in the middle of said song are just brutally good. I was hoping that this standard was the norm for the band so as they began, so did my expectations. As the old adage "practice makes perfect" rings through my melon-like brain I realized that those 23 years that have elapsed since I first heard "Bored", it became apparent that the adage was indeed true.
The guitar was beyond amazing, it resonated with such power that it seemed the band was playing in my head (don't get scared by that statement and please don't send guys with a straightjacket). There comes a time where music heard live can become intrusive and painful as the bands guitar rips through our ears and the music is no longer enjoyable, yeah that wasn't a problem.
The bass and drums were what a metal band should be, and cannot be lost inside the guitar, crowd noise and vocals as they try to muffle the power of the music. To many people, bass and drums really aren't something to notice but in reality they (bass guitar and drums) are the backbone. That backbone was obvious as they controlled the tempo and dominated the auditory experience. As evidence I will point to the fact that although I was in a "skybox" and not in the general admission world, the back of my shirt was moving as I was pummeled by them both (and I was facing the band), thus proving that theory.
All too often "hair" bands from the '80's (as well as metal bands) and their vocals were easily compared to one another and were very similar in tone. Death Angel never has had that problem, in fact I would say that the vocals were nothing like their '80's brethren. The vocals were always distinct, and anyone that heard the vocals could easily pick them out from a proverbial lineup of those bands. Its interesting to me that after all of those twenty three years and the smoke filled venues, the incessant repetition of singing night after night and age haven't affected the band in the slightest.
Death Angel, that '80's enigma (in my world at least) proved to me that the staying power of a band, their talent and their desire to play for the masses is proof positive that this band is firmly entrenched in metal history. As I saw that video twenty three years ago, it became apparent that Death Angel was a powerhouse of talent and their appearance at Congress Theater confirmed that this band can still entertain while blowing your ears clean off in the process. The band that gave us the song "Bored", is far from boring and I would venture a guess that anyone seeing the band for the first time or the fiftieth time, will find that this band is a powerhouse.
The expectations that I had for this band exceed the level I expected and quite frankly demanded. Find some Death Angel and find our yourself!
Next up: Testament