Killing Season (Nuclear Blast)
By Martin Popoff
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’re 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.