DARK ANGEL-DARKNESS DESCENDS
I joined Dark Angel in December, 1984, after having done their lights for a few months around the LA area. I was a senior in high school, and earlier that summer, I had spent some time on the road with Slayer.
Jim Durkin, whom I'd met through Kerry King, was their leader, and he was a super-cool, extremely metal dude, and we both shared a love for all the underground metal that was out there.
I was palling around with the guys earlier that same summer, and even whipped out a few lyrics for the song "No Tomorrow" from "We Have Arrived."
We gigged pretty solidly for a year-and-a-half before we started our sophomore output, Darkness Descends, writing songs at a good clip. Now, I really dug Dark Angel before I joined 'em, but I tell ya, Slayer, from a fan's stand-point, really had their shizz together. The tunes, the aura, the evil riffs, etc. That is, until October of '84, when I heard Dark Angel's two brand new tracks, "Perish in Flames" and "The Burning of Sodom." Holy Christ, now this was what I was talkin' about! Jeez, two MONSTROUSLY ripping, monumental slabs of mighty riffola! As soon as I heard them both, any fence-sitting I might have had about Dark Angel's future went right out the door. I knew right then that I had to join this band. I don't really remember exactly how it came about, but with my well-known penchant for getting what I want, we made it happen.
I know I've touched upon the whole ‘early days' of DFA elsewhere on this site, so I'll just get right to it.
Upon joining the band 3 weeks before their upcoming New Years Eve show, we started tossing around riffs, and I'm pretty sure that the first thing we came up with was what was to become the intro to "Darkness Descends," which I titled "Harbinger of Doom." We used that as a cool little intro to the set throughout all of '85, pretty much.
The first tune we wrote from front to back was "Hunger of the Undead," which Jim wanted to be about zombies. As I had already written some lyrics for the boys, on the aforementioned "No Tomorrow," Jim asked me if I wanted to take a crack at the lyrics for our new one. I was down with giving it a shot, but I wasn't sure I had enough first-hand experience with zombies. We were locked in to the title, so I played around with the term "Hunger of the Undead" in my brain for a bit. I was pretty darned agnostic at the time, just trying to figure out what the afterlife might be, so with the title in mind, I constructed some thoughts around the concept of karma, retribution and reincarnation. Just asking the important questions; what happens after we die? And there ya go, one song lyrically down. That was also the first tune where I wrote some riffs for DFA, too.
At rehearsal one day after 3 or 4 months worth of gigs, I'd asked Don Doty (it's pronounced 'Dough-ty,' by the way, not 'Dotty') what the lyrics to "The Burning of Sodom" were. He looked around sheepishly and explained that there were none. He just pretty much ‘tasmanian devil-ed' it this whole time. I thought that was pretty hilarious, and set out to write some lyrics for it. At that time, I would finish some lyrics, turn them in to my English class' obligatory weekly poetry assignment, get an 'A' on them, because my Creative Writing teacher Mr. Hollis wasn't a tool, and could deal with dark subject matter from a 12th grader, unlike the rest of my high school, and then we'd be off with another DFA tune. This was no different. My good buddy Mark Fields once pointed out to me that "The Burning of Sodom" jumped confusingly between the New and Old Testament, to which I replied, "Do I look like I've read a bible that wasn't in a motel room?" What did I know?
"Death is Certain (Life is Not)," "Darkness Descends" and "Black Prophecies" all came after that. "Black Prophecies" being the last song we wrote, the day before we went in to record.
On April 14th, 1986, I woke up to the fact that the US had just bombed Libya. "Great," I thought to myself, "what a groundbreaking day." We start recording the soundtrack to the Apocalypse the day the Apocalypse starts. Yet, we'll probably blow the planet up within the next couple of weeks, and this album will never see the light of day.”
Under the helm of Randy Burns, who had just tracked Megadeth's Peace Sells the month before, and Possessed's Seven Churches a year earlier, we trooped into LA's Music Grinder Studios. What a great name for a metal studio! Only, it wasn't a metal studio, it was a major hit factory, with gold records from the likes of Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Dionne Warwick and others adorning their walls.
Randy had advised me that we weren't using my kit for the recording, which was fine by me. We were using a Gretsch kit from a company called Drum Doctors, run by the fine Ross Garfield. The same kit Gar Samuelson used a month before on Peace Sells. So, why did it sound so different? I always wondered. I liked my tone waaay better. Big, fat and meaty! Just like me, and boy, I've never been able to reproduce it. Boo. I suppose that session's where I started my whole, 'Get in, get off, get out' philosophy of recording. I tracked 6 tunes the first day, and left "Black Prophecies" for the next day. To this day, I've maybe played that tune 5 times. 2 the day we wrote it, 1 the day we tracked it, and I think we've done it live twice. We also recorded “War Pigs” from Sabbath, but, in true Dark Fuckup Angel fashion, we forgot to record it with the 3rd verse, so we couldn't use it. Figgers.
We then moved to a rats-ass studio in the Venice/Santa Monica area called Mad Dog Studios, and yes, one had to be mad to record there. We tracked the guitars and vocals there over the course of the next week. I remember Mr. Burns giving me the boot from the tracking room on the vocal days with the admonition of, "Dude! You just can't treat your singer like that, dude!" Remember Don's performance on We Have Arrived? Remember the difference on Darkness...? Well, Mr. Durkin and myself would like to say, “You're welcome”, because he and I pulled that performance out of Don. We berated, insulted and broke the man, all to get the most godly performance out of him. Because, “Hey Don, that was great, but could we put a little more balls into it next time, please?”, just didn't work on Don. Randy Burns was flabbergasted at my shabby treatment of our singer, and heaved this Ho' right out the tracking room door. That's alright, I'd gotten my point across, plus I kept a close watch from just outside the control room, all while writing the lyrics to “Black Prophecies”.
On May 4th, 1986, we walked out of Mad Dog Studios with the final mix under our arms, and I tell ya, I thought Randy Burns did an amazing job. All told, we spent $11,000 on the recording, which was chump change even back then.
Y'know, the cover to Darkness... was our second choice. Sean Rodgers (pronounced 'Seen' for some reason), our artist who drew the b&w We Have Arrived cover, which relied heavily on “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”, had constructed a cover photo utilizing all his special-effects make-up skills, where there was a dude laying on a gurney in a hospital, and coming gorily out of his chest was a blackened arm, holding a bloodied crucifix. We saw that, and said “Fuck YEAH!!”, to which Combat Records replied hastily, “Er, umm...no. You guys can't use that. There's no way we can get a release for this album with that cover. You gotta come up with something more palatable”. As this was waaay before any death metal, we relented, and went with what became the eventual Darkness Descends cover. We didn't mind too much, that crucifix woulda gotten us lumped in with the whole cheesy Satan-crowd anyway. I'd sure like to see that photo again though. I wonder if it would be as hardcore as I remember it.
Odd asides and trivia-
Released-November 11, 1986
Initially released on vinyl and cassette format. On cd in 1987.
Re-released in 1999 by Century Media
Re-released in 2009 by Century Media in the "Black Series." New, black packaging, in dvd-type case.
Sticks- Promark DC10's.
Pedals- Slingerland Yellowjacket (left), Ludwig Ghost (right)
Guitars- Eric- Dean Explorer, Jim- Jackson Randy Rhoads Flying V
Band ages at recording- Eric-22, Jim, Don, Rob Yahn-21, Gene-18
Tours-Megadeth, Motorhead/Cromags, Possessed.
Well, there's No.1 down, forty-something to go.
Christ, what was I thinking when I came up with this idea?
Jan. 7th, 2010. Los Angeles, CA.
Dark Angel - Darkness Descends