Dark Angel is a highly acclaimed American Thrash Metal formed in 1981. Best known in their early days as "the L.A. Caffeine machine" and living by the motto "too fast, my ass", Dark Angel stood out from the wide variety of bay area thrash metal bands for taking the genre Up to Eleven in terms of tempos and musicality before setting foot on a path to one of thrash's many stories of musical maturing.
The band initially formed under the name Shellshock. Composed of guitartist Jim Durkin, vocalist Don Doty, bassist Rob Yahn and drummer Mike Andrade, they would not adopt the Dark Angel monkier until 1983. Some time spent recording demos, a second guitarist Eric Meyer and a new drummer Jack Schwartz later, the band appeared on the Metal Massacre IV compilation and released their first album, We Have Arrived, in 1985. Although seen as primitive (albeit probably moreso today than at release), the debut did bring the promise for better material in the future.
After a flurry of drummer switches cumulating in the recruitment of Gene Hoglan, the band produced a better disrtibuted second album, Darkness Descends, in 1986. This album brought about a transformation into a much crazier, completely twisted and brutal sound that thrashers still seek out today. Along with albums like Kreator's Pleasure to Kill, Metallica's Master of Puppets, Slayer's Reign in Blood and Megadeth's Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?, it is seen as one of the reasons 1986 was a landmark year for thrash.
Rob Yahn left after the album was recorded (replaced by Mike Gonzales, who was credited on Descends but did not perform) and Don Doty left after the tour. Three years, a new vocalist in Ron Rinehart, and Hoglan permanently stepping in as the band's leader later, 1989's Leave Scars was another acclaimed album that marked the band's evolution into a more complex thrash band. Jim Durkin left by the end of the year and was replaced by Brett Eriksen. 1991's follow-up, Time Does Not Heal, was a far more progressive album than even Scars with developed psychological lyrics from Hoglan and longer, more experimental songs. Sporting a memorable "9 Songs, 67 Minutes, 246 Riffs!" billing, it was highly acclaimed and seen as a pinnacle of Progressive Metal-styled thrash, but did not sell that well and over the next year, various disputes came up amongst the members.
The band split up in 1992. They have since gotten back together twice. The first reunion was in 2002 with Rinehart, Meyer, Hoglan and bassist Danyael Williams. This incarnation recorded a version of Metallica's "Creeping Death" for a tribute album. In 2005, Rinehart suffered an injury and was recommended by doctors not to sing, forcing the band to split up again. The second reunion was announced in 2013 for both touring and new material with the complete Leave Scars lineup save Eriksen, but with Jim Durkin. They are currently working on their fifth album.
Although they still have a strong cult following in the metal community, Dark Angel is probably best known these days for being the band where now-legendary drummer Gene Hoglan got his start. After their original disbanding, it became seemingly his mission to play with as many bands as possible: Death, Devin Townsend (both his solo work and in Strapping Young Lad), Fear Factory, Testament, Forbidden and even Dethklok, among many others, have all had the joy of the man at the kit.
- Jim Durkin - guitars (1981-1989, 2013-present)
- Eric Meyer - guitars (1984-1992, 2002-2005, 2013-present)
- Gene Hoglan - drums, lyrics (1984-1992, 2002-2005, 2013-present)
- Mike Gonzales - bass (1986-1992, 2013-present)
- Ron Rinehart - vocals (1987-1992, 2002-2005, 2013-present)
Members (past; only listed are ones that have appeared on some type of recording)
- Don Doty - vocals (1981-1987)
- Rob Yahn - bass (1981-1986)
- Mike Andrade - drums (1981-1983)
- Jack Schwartz - drums (1983-1984)
- Brett Eriksen - guitars (1989-1991)
- Danyael Williams - bass (2002-2005)
Discography (studio albums unless stated otherwise):
- 1983 - Into the Inferno demo tape (notably the only thing they released as Shellshock)
- 1983 - Gonna Burn demo tape (first release as Dark Angel)
- 1984 - Hell's On Its Knees demo tape
- 1985 - We Have Arrived
- 1986 - Darkness Descends
- 1989 - Leave Scars
- 1990 - Live Scars live EP
- 1991 - Time Does Not Heal
- Alliterative Name: Oddly enough, both of best-known their vocalists - Don Doty and Ron Rinehart.
- Continuity Nod: The album covers of Leave Scars and Time Does Not Heal apparently represent the same girl, transformed from a frightened child on the earlier album to a streetwalker on the later one.
- Cover Version: "Immigrant Song" by Led Zeppelin on Leave Scars and the aforementioned "Creeping Death" for a Metallica tribute album.
- Darker and Edgier: Darkness Descends, compared to both We Have Arrived and their later work; it's heavier, being one of the few Thrash Metal albums that sometimes reaches a 10 on the Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness, and it's also arguably somewhat darker lyrically.
- Early Installment Weirdness: We Have Arrived, among other things, does not feature Gene Hoglan. The pre-Arrived demos are often even weirder.
- Epic Rocking: Much of Leave Scars and practically all of Time Does Not Heal; the latter has no songs under five minutes, and only one is under six. Even before then Darkness Descends had "Black Prophecies" at 8:27.
- Harsh Vocals: Much of Don Doty's singing, as well as Rinehart on Leave Scars. Time Does Not Heal largely used clean singing.
- Heavy Meta: "We Have Arrived". "Merciless Death" too, to a degree.
- Instrumentals: Leave Scars has "Cauterization" and "Worms".
- Lead Drummer: Gene Hoglan is a highly well known drummer in the metal community due to his skill and increasingly long list of appearances in other bands and as early as Darkness Descends was the main lyrical force. In their second era, he was effectively the driving force behind the band.
- Lighter and Softer: Leave Scars has better production values than Descends and is somewhat less of a nonstop blaster musically. Time Does Not Heal keeps these traits and also had more melodic vocals than the albums before.
- Live Album: More like live EP, but Live Scars counts. Later releases added more songs to make it closer to a proper live album.
- Metal Scream: Doty in particular was a master at this on Darkness Descends, namely with the massive belt he lets out on "The Burning of Sodom". Rineheart also does a lot of this, but on Time Does Not Heal these are mostly of the type 4 variety.
- Miniscule Rocking: On the other side of song lengths, their cover of "Immigrant Song" is only 1:47 and there's the 2:15 instrumental "Worms".
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Generally around 8-9. Also on Descends, they are one of the best known thrash metal bands capable of climbing up to 10, particularly with "The Burning of Sodom" with its insane 300+ BPM speed.
- Motor Mouth: Often used for vocal delivery, probably peaking on "The Burning of Sodom".
- New Sound Album: Leave Scars, which introduced their more Progressive Metal-influenced sound. Time Does Not Heal was more melodic overall, not only due to the mid-paced tempos but Rinehart's Harsh Vocals (which were already softer than Doty's) being largely replaced with clean singing. It also took the more technical style of Scars way up with massive Epic Rocking and an endless sea of riffs.
- Progressive Metal: Leave Scars leans towards this, while Time Does Not Heal is completely unabashed about it.
- Rape as Drama: "An Ancient Inherited Shame". Hoglan was afraid that the song would be controversial, but it actually was praised by feminist groups for providing a sympathetic, psychologically accurate portrayal of a survivor.
- Revolving Door Band: In addition to the above members, they've had quite a few members who joined and left the band before recording anything. Most notably, in the three years before Hoglan they had gone through four drummers, three of those in 1984 alone. The band has also had points with no founding members in the lineup - by 1987 Durkin was the only one left, and he left in 1989 and did not particpate in the first reunion. Eric Meyer is the only person to appear on all of their albums.
- Rise from Your Grave: The cover of Darkness Descends, although what is rising out is hard to tell.
- Serial Escalation: The band's increasingly-technical approach to songwriting often ended up invoking this. Darkness Descends has 50 riffs in about half an hour. Time Does Not Heal has 246 in over an hour (to give you an idea, with 9 songs, that record averages 27 riffs a song).
- Thrash Metal: Often regarded as, along with Slayer and Possessed, one of the poster children for the American brand of hyper aggressive, evil, proto-Death Metal thrash. Later a good example of its more technical side.
- Title Track: Used on all four albums.