Archives and Artifacts
posted on 2/2005 By:
Death Angel unleashed their hugely impressive debut album, The Ultra-Violence, in 1987, and immediately made a considerable splash in the metal world. An amazing accomplishment given the caliber of the other albums released that year, a list that included thrash offerings from big names like Anthrax’ Among the Living, Exodus’ Pleasures of the Flesh, Overkill’s Taking Over, Testament’s The Legacy, Destruction’s Mad Butcher, Kreator’s Terrible Certainty, and Coroner’s RIP, plus non-thrash releases by Celtic Frost, Possessed, Venom, Bathory, and Death. It was a feeding frenzy for metal fans, and Death Angel more than held their own among the fray. The barrage of rapid fire riffs and face peeling screams made The Ultra-Violence an album that demanded attention even in a year with so much quality metal. The music certainly spoke for itself, but part of what made Death Angel so interesting was the story of the band—before the days of the internet we had to figure this shit out from word of mouth and Circus Magazine--but for one thing, the guys looked different, and two of them had the same surname. Then there was the age thing—they were clearly young. Turns out, the members of Death Angel are Filipino and all blood relatives. On top of that, they were all between 14 and 19 years old when their album debuted, and drummer Andy Galeon was only 11 when he joined the band. So not only was Death Angel kicking major ass as a new band during the thrash explosion, but they were also no older than the kids buying their records. They were doing what those kids wanted to be doing, and if the kids couldn’t, then they hoped the band would do well. It was an amazing album during amazing time, and that’s what the band hopes to revisit with Archives & Artifacts, a four disc collection made up of remastered and expanded versions of their first two albums, a rarities disc, and a DVD. The band really emptied the vault (or the box in the basement, as the case may be), compiling demo and garage-made tapes spanning from 1982 to 1989. Unfortunately, these songs don’t add much value to the collection, which leaves the original albums having to carry most of the weight for this set.
Disc one is made up of a remastered The Ultra-Violence, and three bonus tracks listed as the band’s Kirk Hammett produced Kill As One demo, which contained “Thrashers”, “Kill As One”, and “The Ultra-Violence”. The three tracks on my copy don’t include any of these songs. It’s possible that these songs were later scrapped except for the titles, but I’ve heard a copy of what I was told was the Kill As One demo, and it was early versions of the songs that appeared on The Ultra-Violence. Not a good way to start the collection. I’ll be contacting Rycodisc to ask if a pressing error has been made. I’ll update my review with their response. Aside from the bonus track issue, the rest of the album sounds great. The songs have been cleaned up and the levels raised, and the album sounds better than ever. I’m not going to get into the overwhelming evidence of the strengths of this album. If you’re a thrash fan and you don’t have it, go get it today. It’s a classic. The disc is packaged in a full sized jewel case with the original artwork. The only way to know it is part of this collection is that the disc is labeled with the Archives & Artifacts title.
Disc two contains the band’s second effort, 1988’s Frolic Through the Park, and adds three more unreleased tracks, plus “Devil’s Metal”, which wasn’t on the original album but added to later pressings. Again, the remastered audio sounds great. This album hasn’t aged quite as well as the first one, but still has some strong material. The songs are heavy enough, but lack some of the raw ferocity of the first album, and the tone, although angst ridden, is not as dark. The best known tracks are probably “Bored”, which received some play on Headbangers Ball, and “Road Mutants”. The three bonus tracks have better production than the other rarity material, but are nothing exceptional. The first of the three, “Dehumanization”, is the best of the trio, as it is the most dynamic, containing slower moments and some of the heaviest riffs found on the non-album material.
Disc three is labeled Rarities, and contains eleven songs. Unreleased material from a band’s creative high point is one of the major selling points for a collection like this, and the reason people will be willing to shell out between $35-$45 for cleaned up versions of albums they already own. Unfortunately, these songs should probably have stayed boxed up in the basement. The material isn’t homogenously bad, but it’s obvious that most of it is from a very young band made up of high school kids, and the recording is mostly lousy. Rob Cavestany wrote in the liner notes (which you can peruse at your leisure, after you’ve laid your money down) “I’m sure there will be moments where you will find yourself laughing your ass off (we sure as hell did when we heard this stuff after all these years)”. Cavestany also promises we’ll also be blown away by some “sick ass metal”. I didn’t hear any. I only listened to this disc once, which is not the way I usually prepare for a review, but this stuff just isn’t very listenable, and I feel a bit taken advantage of as a fan.
Disc four is a DVD containing the original fourteen minute video press kit for The Ultra-Violence, an interview, and music videos for “Guilty of Innocence”, “Bored”, and “Voracious Souls”, giving the disc a combined runtime of about 30 minutes. The promo for The Ultra-Violence is the most interesting content, and it’s funny and somewhat endearing to see the band so young and enthusiastic. Clearly, they’re regular kids who are thrilled just to have made an album, and are anxious for people to understand their band and give them a chance. Nice, in an age of posturing and indifference.
Archives & Artifacts contains some great material. Unfortunately, it’s the “archives” part that delivers while the “artifacts” portion fall flat. Consequently, what you get is: improved versions of one classic album and one solid one, a disc of amateurish material appealing only to completists, and a DVD that isn’t exactly packed with content. Hopefully, the remastered versions of the first two albums will be sold separate from this collection. If so, that’s the better way to go, unless you can find Archives & Artifacts for considerably less than the $45 retail price.
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