"The L.A. Caffeine Machine"

Dark Angel Discography               

Dark Angel is an iconic American thrash band formed in the Los Angeles suburb of Downey in 1981. Considered one of the major forces in the formative period of the American thrash genre, the band earned the nickname "the L.A. Caffeine Machine" because of the extremely fast and frenetic style that defined their music. While Dark Angel did not achieve the same commercial success enjoyed by other early thrash bands like Metallica and Slayer, they are considered pioneers of the genre and their second album, Darkness Descends is a favorite of thrash fans worldwide. The band released a total of four studio albums, a live album and a compilation before disbanding in 1992. There was a 3-year reunion of the band a decade later, though no albums were released, then another breakup. The band announced yet another reunion in October 2013, and have performed at a handful of festivals since. Though several members continue to be involved in other bands, they are planning to release a fifth album in the near future.

Dark Angel was formed in Downey, California in 1981 by vocalist Don Doty, guitarist Jim Durkin and bassist Rob Yahn, initially performing under the name Shellshock before adopting Dark Angel because there was another active band using Shellshock. Drummer Jack Schwartz and guitarist Eric Meyer joined in 1982, and the lineup that would go on to appear on their first album was in place. The band quickly became a hit in the emerging underground thrash metal genre thanks to several demo tapes making their way around the scene. One demo, entitled Welcome to the Slaughterhouse, caught the attention of Metal Blade Records founder Brian Slagel, who included the title track on Metal Massacre VI, the sixth installment in a series that had previously included cuts from thrash pioneers like Metallica, Slayer and Metal Church, among others. Intent to cash in on the extra publicity, the band picked through the rest of their demos and reworking the best tracks to include on their debut album.

Dark Angel - Early Nineties

Titled We Have Arrived, Dark Angel's debut record was released in March 1985 on Metalstorm Records, a small label based in L.A. While the album received criticism from critics and the mainstream music community, thrash fans consider it a solid first effort from one of the first true thrash bands. With hardly any support from their small indie label, however, the album didn't sell well and fell short of the recognition that thrash purists believe it deserved. The band brought in drummer Gene Hoglan from a band called Wargod to replace Schwartz, and set to work writing their sophomore release. Hoglan was a more technically sound drummer than Schwartz, and his turbo, double-bass style became a signature of Dark Angel's sound. The band's popularity increased when Metal Massacre VI hit stores, and the band started getting headlining gigs at iconic L.A. clubs like The Troubador and The Whiskey-a-Go-Go. The added exposure helped Dark Angel grab the attention of Combat Records, which signed them to their first major label deal in late '85.

The addition of Hoglan not only improved the quality of Dark Angel's rhythm section, the move also had a huge impact on the band's legacy as Hoglan took over most of the lyric-writing and contributed heavily to the music on what most Dark Angel fans consider the seminal release of their career. Hoglan would provide major input on the band's final three studio releases, in fact, before leaving to join Death in the mid-90s. Death frontman Chuck Schuldiner was taking his band in a similar progressive direction to where Dark Angel's primary songwriter was headed, and Hoglan appeared on two Death releases between '93 and '95. Hoglan later joined Testament, and actually began his involvement in thrash several years earlier as a roadie for Bay Area thrash legends Slayer. The band also brought in bassist Mike Gonzalez to replace Yahn in early 1986 and headed into the studio with producer Randy Burns, whose reputation was cemented by his work on the groundbreaking Megadeth debut, Peace Sells...but Who's Buying. The band's second record was recorded in just 10 sessions, and would arrive in stores in November of that year.

We Have Arrived

Darkness Descends

Darkness Descends was released in November 1986 to tremendous critical acclaim from the handful of music reviewers that were even acknowledging thrash at the time. Considered the true debut of this important thrash outfit, the album was much better produced and the songs more polished than those included on We Have Arrived, cementing Dark Angel's place in thrash music history with its pounding riffs and breakneck tempos. The tracks "Merciless Death," "The Burning of Sodom," and "Perish in Flames" are considered true classics of the thrash genre, and would become staples at Dark Angel live shows, while the 8-minute long "Black Prophecies" served as a sneak preview of the progressive thrash style that would shape the band's later releases. While the album didn't sell as well as thrash standards such as Metallica's Kill 'em All, Slayer's Show No Mercy or Bonded By Blood from Exodus, Darkness Descends is considered just as vital a cog in the development of the thrash sound as those more celebrated releases.

On the heels of the success of their sophomore effort, Dark Angel embarked on their first real tour in early 1987, joining Motorhead and the Cro-Mags for a brief trek on the East Coast. The band also opened for Slayer and Megadeth for a few shows each before embarking on its first headlining jaunt, a split-bill assault on the US with fellow Combat thrashers Possessed. It was during this time that the band became unsatisfied with Don Doty's vocals, firing their original frontman at the conclusion of the Possessed tour. A subsequent search for a singer resulted in the recruiting of Messiah frontman Ron Rinehart, whose ability to switch from low-guttural growls to high-pitch screams provided a perfect fit for the band. The band spent the rest of 1987 and the first half of 1988 writing material for their third album, recorded at Space Station Studios in Hollywood between May and July 1988. Leave Scars dropped in January 1989 and was very well received by critics as well as the band's loyal following. The progressive style on the album also expanded the band's reach and wound up being their biggest seller, reaching position 159 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.

Dark Angel Live - 1987

While on tour supporting Leave Scars, guitarist Jim Durkin decided to leave the band for personal reasons. The band played a handful of shows as a quartet before filling the vacancy with Viking guitarist Brett Eriksen. The band got another boost when Combat decided to include them on a live Audio/Video project entitled "Ultimate Revenge II," flying them out to Philadelphia to tape a live performance for the release, which also included thrash heavyweights Death and Forbidden, plus the British heavy metal band Raven. A few months later, a Dark Angel show at the Country Club in Reseda, California was recorded and released the following year as a live album entitled Live Scars. Later in 1990, the band entered the studio to record their fourth studio album, enlisting producer Terry Date to helm the record based on his work with Metal Church, Pantera, Overkill and Soundgarden.

Dark Angel's final album, Time Does Not Heal hit stores in February 1991, furthering the band's place in thrash history. A complex arrangement of longer songs with multiple changes, the album was famously released with a sticker reading "9 songs, 67 minutes, 246 riffs." The album was well received by diehard thrash fans and Dark Angel loyalists, but sales were weak genre-wide at the time due to the emergence of grunge music. CD sales were so weak among thrash bands at the time, in fact, that even heavyweights like Exodus and Testament were having a difficult time making a living in music. The band began working on material for a fifth album, but the project never materialized as the band parted ways in late 1992. The band would reunite a decade later, though the only release from the 3-year stint was a cover of Metallica's "Creeping Death" that appeared on the 2004 compilation, Metallic Attack: the Ultimate Tribute.

Leave Scars

Time Does Not Heal

Following Dark Angel's 1992 dissolution, drummer Gene Hoglan went on to join another influential band, Death, appearing on their 1993 album Individual Thought Patterns and 1995 album Symbolic. Hoglan also joined Testament for a short time, appearing on their 1997 album Demonic, and was a member of Fear Factory for their 2010 album Mechanize. Over the years, Hoglan has performed with numerous acts, including Tenet, Opeth, Strapping Young Lad, Meldrum and Devin Townsend. Hoglan has also performed on several releases for Dethklok, the touring and recording version of the virtual band of the same name featured in the animated television series "Metalocalypse". Hoglan is widely considered among the best drummers in thrash history, and has been featured in and recognized by dozens of industry publications like Modern Drummer and Revolver magazines.

Following their 3-year reunion in the early 2000s, Dark Angel split again in '05 when vocalist Rinehart was advised by doctors to retire from singing. There were rumors of another reunion in August 2013, this time with original frontman Don Doty on the mic, though reports were varied and no shows were scheduled. Two months later, however, the band announced it was officially active again, posting a video clip of a rehearsal session on YouTube. Since then the band has appeared at a handful of festivals, including the Sweden Rock festival on June 5th. No word yet on when we might expect a fifth studio album from the LA Caffeine Machine, but there are currently a pair of dates scheduled for August and September.