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Originally published at http://suite101.com
With the release of their sixth studio album, it could be said that Death Angel is no longer a family affair. Founding rhythm section members Gus Pepa and Andy Galeon each departed from the band in the last year, effectively leaving guitarist Rob Cavestany and vocalist Mark Osegueda as the band's only original members and cousins.
Fortunately, the band hasn't really missed a beat since the release of Killing Season in 2008. They've recruited a new rhythm section and picked up Jason Suecof of Charred Walls of the Damned to handle production duties for a new album.
Like some of the other albums that I've reviewed, the sound of this album isn't too far removed from that of its predecessor. Despite the lineup changes at hand, the guys at Death Angel seemed to have settled into a niche with their particularly sludgy brand of thrash metal.
Having said that, there are a few moments where the band sounds heavier than they have since their reunion. It never quite gets into The Ultra-Violence territory, but there are particularly nasty moments on tracks such as Claws In So Deep and Truce.
Even weirder are the moments where the band picks up a few softer sounds than usual. In addition to the mellow sounds of Volcanic, the violent Claws In So Deep gets an acoustic epilogue thanks to a surprise cameo made by flamenco legends (and noted metal die-hards) Rodrigo Y Gabriela. Oddly enough, exposing this side of the band more might have made this album even better...
But for what's it worth, the band still sounds great and tackles everything that they try out with skill. The new bassist and drummer adhere to the standards that their predecessors had placed on them with the drums standing out on several occasions.
Predictably, Cavestany and Osegueda stand out the most, especially since they've written everything on here. The latter is still reliant on his high-pitched shrieks and the former manages to provide some Cantrell-esque backing on a few tracks in addition to his usual riff packing duties.
As expected by Death Angel's eclectic nature, the songs on this album are more or less evenly divided between the fast-paced thrash numbers and more mid-tempo songs that appear to be inspired by bands such as Alice in Chains.
The thrash tracks will more than likely go down better with seasoned metal fans due to the band's established place in the genre. In addition to the previously mentioned Claws In So Deep and Truce, Relentless Revolution starts the album off on a pretty good note while River of Rapture and This Hate respectively provide some solid riffs and rapid fire vocals.
Yet, at the same time, the slower tracks on here are still worth noting. Absence of Light is the most memorable of the lot due to its serpentine groove and solid guitar/vocal trade-offs. I also like Death of the Meek's interesting verse/chorus contrasts and the uplifting sound of Opponents At Sides. In fact, the latter track really reminds me of DC4 for some reason...
Volcanic is also a track worth mentioning, as it is the most unique songs on this effort. Being the token ballad, it is driven almost entirely by Cavestany's vocals and acoustic guitar playing. It isn't as awesome as Veil of Deception, but it is a pretty good ballad that may be better than the last few.
All in all, I think this album might be one of the most consistent releases that Death Angel has ever put out. It goes into some neat stylistic melding and shows off some great songwriting all the while.
However, I would still class this as being just a step behind Killing Season. While it is more consistent, it lacks a truly amazing track such as Lord of Hate or Sonic Beatdown that would make a sure-fire hit.
Nevertheless, this album is still worth getting for fans of the band and thrash metal in general. Hell, this might not be a bad gateway album to get for grunge listeners that are unfamiliar with the genre...
Claws In So Deep, Truce, Absence of Light, Opponents at Sides, and Volcanic
Modern thrash is a concept that is difficult to digest, mostly because it exists mostly in how it avoids a lot of the best aspects of the older sound. For the most part, it seems to want to compromise between the dull, uninspired repetition and down tempo drudgery of the groove scene that was ushered in by Machine Head and Pantera, and the slightly earlier, not quite as slowed down version of it that came right before in the late 80s and early 90s (think "...And Justice For All" and "Horrorscope"). The better albums in this style tend to be the ones that reach back into the earlier of the two ingredients in the mixture and only resemble the later one in the general character of the production, rather than the limp riffing style or over-emphasized vocals.
Old guard Bay Area extraordinaire outfit Death Angel have tended towards the better version of the modern format since their return to the style in "The Art Of Dying", allowing for plenty of speed and fury, but tempering it with a more repetitive and chunky modern edge that is somewhat reminiscent of the melodic approach Anthrax was taking on "Persistance Of Time". They differ in that vocalist Mark Osegueda has a nastier, shout prone vocal style that is, interestingly enough, reminiscent of Blitz Ellsworth. The comparisons with Overkill and the recent output of this fold doesn't end with the vocals, as a good amount of said New York thrash pioneers' post-90s sound can be heard in the riff work and lead activity as well, and it really shows through on this, Death Angel's 6th album "Relentless Revolution".
In a sense, the term relentless is a good one to employ in describing this album, given that the aggression and attitude level on here is comparable to Pro-Pain, though the feel is mercifully much less mechanical. Even when things rest in a mid-tempo stomp as heard on "Into The Arms Of Righteous Anger", a song that probably could have been heard on "Necroshine" or "From The Underground And Below", things are kept animated and interesting. But the band shines their brightest when they bring home the speeding carnage in a manner more reminiscent of "Killbox 13", such as heard on "River Of Rapture" or "I Chose The Sky", oozing out the irreverent rage like vapor from a nuclear meltdown. The only places where things get a bit lame and contrived is the quirky acoustic ballad "Volcanic", which literally flirts with pop/rock territory, and the 2 minute acoustic guitar noodling outro that closes out "Claws In So Deep", an otherwise powerful neck-ruining thrasher.
Of the past 3 albums to be put out under the Death Angel name, this is the best, though only because it distills the stronger elements of the modern formula and doesn't revert back to the groove and balladry mush that has, nevertheless, remained in some form from the 90s. But this is a band that has consistently kept its act together since reforming and has yet to show signs of the disastrous fiasco known to many as The Organization. A good example of another recent studio effort that hits similar stylistic territory is Heathen's latest creation "The Evolution Of Chaos", which presents a clearly modern, though somewhat conservative take on what thrash metal has become outside of the growing number of revivalist acts dubbed "re-thrash". It's heavy enough for the present, yet also PH balanced for the enjoyment of those looking to the past.
These past two years have certainly been a breath of fresh air within the thrash metal community, it has made up for the early 2000's, which I found for the most part to be a stale era of thrash metal, maybe save aside a few albums, but Death Angel have joined the ranks of Overkill, Heathen, Forbidden and a few others who have recently released albums that simply kicked ass, and to my surprise, Death Angel bought into it, now don't think this will be 'The Ultra-Violence' all over again, because we all know, that will never happen again, no, this is something completely different, and it WORKS!
Beginning with one of the best songs on the album, the opener 'Relentless Revolution' fading in with a riff that, yeah, you know this will thrash, and that's just what it does, and the double bass kicking will further prove that point, Mark comes in, and this song and album takes off, this song is very catchy, from the verse's to the pre-chorus, to the chorus, and those awesome shout vocals, Mark deserves a mention here, because his vocals are awesome here, aggressive as well as melodic at times, a nice solo is found here as well, this will set the tone for the album, 'Claws in so Deep' starts the thrashing right off, just to let you know, that the first song will not be the only aggressive song on the album, but this song is quite different, especially the pre-chorus with those strange vocals, and it fucking works to a T, as it keeps it interesting, lots of awesome riffs found here as well, and even some beautiful classical guitar work, very nice touch.
'Truce' follows, and this song just plain rules, starting with the thrashing right off again, awesome double bass, catchy as hell riffs, and awesome vocals again, and a chorus that will be stuck in your head for days, very well written, 'Into the Arms of Righteous Anger' which yes, I partially stole the name for the title of my review, this see's a nice change of pace for the album, more of a mid-paced song, with riffs that will stick, love the chorus here, and a killer solo, we have another winner, I am completely vowed at this album so far, 'River of Rapture' is just fucking awesome, a favorite of mine right now on the album (I just got it last night) but this song is fucking aggressive as all hell, beginning right off again with the thrashing, and it does NOT let up, this is more comparable to the opening track, with catchy vocal lines, especially around the pre-chorus and chorus, works very well, and the break is just fucking heavy as hell, will keep your head thrashing!
'Absence of Light' follows and slows the album down again, but fear not, this is another awesome track here, with a crushing mid-tempo riff with excellent leads underneath, I really can't say much else about it, it's just awesome, 'This Hate' gets the album thrashing again, and with a song title like that, I hope so, it deserves it, and once Mark comes in with the vocals, you know you will be thrashing around, with excellent leads underneath the vocals during the verse, works very well, another catchy chorus that will stick in your head for sure, another killer solo here as well, yes, this album caught me off guard, I was not expecting this AT ALL, 'Death of the Meek' begins with the double bass, so yeah, this album keeps on thrashing, the song remains pretty fast and thrashy throughout, which is what most thrash fans will be looking for anyways, and should be pleased!
I'm going to skip to the album closer which is 'Where They Lay' and if you listen to this album, you may be laying down from fainting from what you've just witnessed, this song closes the album off in a FINE thrashing manner, for sure one of the most aggressive songs on the album, excellent verse, excellent catchy chorus, oh fuck yes, I think it's safe to say that Death Angel have been paying attention to the likes of Overkill, Forbidden, Heathen amongst others, because this band has returned to thrashing, so bottom line, if you want some excellent modern thrash, that is done right, you MUST get this release, I was hesitant at first, because the last album I heard was 2004's 'The Art of Dying' while certainly not a BAD album, but this album takes the crown.
One of many who couldn't survive the treacherous waters metal faced in the early 90s before since reforming in Y2K era, Death Angel typified the original 80's period when all the main bands sounded different and unique through their adept usage of funky heavy metal influences, killer classic thrash riffing and a knack of writing softer yet equally enjoyable softer songs but now, on the third post-reformation album, "Relentless Retribution" on the home of the alive-again band Nuclear Blast, sights the Californians falling closer into the trap of identical production and increasingly similar sound to their contemporaries of today. Of all which is a pity cos 1987's "The Ultra-Violence" is simply one of the best 80s thrash albums and while the following "Frolic Through The Park" and "Act III" were no bad albums themselves there was an undoubted edge to the Death Angel that no band matched, an edge that has rarely, if ever, shown its face on the band's subsequent albums as I'm sure the band would be the first to admit.
It took the aging of the bands at the heart of the 80's thrash climate to realise that the youthful anger and exuberance that spawned so many classic albums in such a short period was an essential element in their work, something few unsurprisingly seem to be able to conjure up in the same potent mixtures in their mid 30s when a family and mortgage await them back home after touring. "Relentless Retribution" sums up this situation to a tee as many of the album's 12 songs hit hard and clean with choppy galloping riffs and catchy melodic leads yet to classify any of it as music that sounds like a band possessed with the urge to rip off your face with the power of THRASH! is no longer true about Death Angel (admittedly it hasn't been since "The Ultra-Violence"). The title-track which serves as opener feels akin to Destruction, another veteran proponent of the overly-clean modern production technique, aptly meets the requirements of a 'good' thrash song, as does the "Master of Puppets"-like "Absence Of Light", "Truce" and any number of others but you'll soon learn not to expect any 'greats' as for all they try the magic ingredient of 'urgency' that is at the bedrock of all timeless thrash has got lost somewhere on route to Death Angel's approaching metal-middle-age. In the act of moving steadily towards 'veteran' status Rob Cavestany's lead guitar work now feels far more restrained than what earlier efforts show what he is capable of and Mark Osgueda, the possessor of perhaps thrash's most charismatic set of pipes, sounds his usual punchy self one moment and bewilderingly muted the next.
A 56-minute album of scything thrash metal would in most cases be much too much but with the beautiful acoustic guitar work of Rodrigo Y Gabriela late on in "Claws In So Deep" and the Cavestany-played balladry of "Volcanic" Death Angel are here to remind you that when it comes to making thrash emotional and 'soft' there is noone better for it. Their willfully displayed external influences have for long saved Death Angel from the trappings of a 'pure' thrash band, allowing them much greater freedom of expression than Exodus for one example, though it is by this very token that the potential of another 'classic' has long since disappeared from view. Fans of the band's post-"Ultra-Violence" material will lap up "Relentless Retribution" as the band's best post-reformation album; the classic thrasher may disagree. Where do you sit?
Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net
First I should state that there is but one Death Angel album I find essential in the band's history, and that would be the debut The Ultra-Violence, a brash and savage effort that was impressive if one considers the age of the band at that time and their comparative quality to other acts of 1987. Frolic Through the Park and Act III were both interesting efforts, with a small handful of memorable tunes, but they simply do not stand up to the 'seemingly' endless decades that have since transpired. As for the ensuing, 'reunion' albums The Art of Dying and Killing Season, those quickly went in one ear and out with others. Its clear the band took their time writing these records, as opposed to their intervening and awful projects The Organization and Swarm, but there was a clear dearth of headbanging might and almost all of the band's feral tendencies from the 80s were long past castration.
It is with great surprise that I find Relentless Retribution to my liking. Not because it's a Death Angel effort, because aside from a few vague similarities in surging rhythms and a blend of viciousness and melody that might have been characteristic of Act III or The Art of Dying, it doesn't much sound like the band's earlier years. No, this is a good album simply because of its careful composition, a modern thrash effort which knows when to expand into accessible chorus territory and when to simply flatten you with polished, hammering rhythms. No, you will not find "Mistress of Pain", "Voracious Souls" or "Evil Priest" level mayhem here. The band is still exploring the balance of thrash and acoustic, calm geography that it's been advocating since Act III, in particular through tracks like "Claws in So Deep", which has a lush sequence of acoustic guitars, or the late track "Volcanic" which is a fluid experiment in "Planet Caravan" like angst.
However, so much of this material is positively enforced, head banging fury that we can perhaps forgive the band for having their heads in the clouds for these many years. "River of Rapture" is truly vicious, with Mark Osequeda channeling a little Schmier into his youthful fervor for a powerful blend of melodic chugging and brute, grooving chords, with spry leads twining through. "Truce" will also hit you like a fist to the gut, balanced and intricate notation rifling over a peculiar and venomous verse delivery where the bass is featured loudly and the vocals get all tough and splattered."This Hate" seems scattershot between roots thrashing, grooves and an infusion of accessible melody, but its nonetheless effective, and even the more rock influenced fare like "Death of the Meek" and "Opponents at Side" feel as if they've something to offer the more open-minded fan of the heavier end of mainstream rock ala Alice in Chains, Skid Row etc.
Relentless Retribution is not pure thrash metal, not by any means, and its expansive nature might find the jaded and loyalist fan of the band's first two records twirling his/her ears in utter confusion or frustration, but as a whole piece of work, it delivered approximately 45 minutes of enjoyment and another 11 minutes that I might toss out ("Into the Arms of Righteous Anger" and "Volcanic" did not exactly tickle me) if given the choice. DO NOT expect raw and virulent 80s thrash metal when you listen through this, it is clear the band have abandoned that long ago to develop themselves into sounds that incorporate the groove metal of the 90s and the outside influence of rock and roll, grunge and other formats. Death Angel are never going to release The Ultra-Violence 2.0, and they will never top that debut. So take this for what it is, not what it lacks, and you might just be entertained more than you would have thought possible from this inconsistent but persistent unit.
I've been waiting for this album for a long time now, and yesterday, it finally came! I knew that I was in for a great album, but I didn't know how great, untill I heard it. In my opinion, this is the best album of 2010 so far! Maybe you want to know why? Well then, keep reading...
This album has many different songs, and many different good qualities to them. What I enjoyed a lot was the fact that this album is thrashier than their previous one, Killing Season. It sounds as dark as Killing Season sounded, but not as heavy as this! The first song is a mid tempo crusher. Even though it's not fast as hell, you will still bang your head like I did when I heard it. You get a really catchy intro riff, followed by Mark's amazingly strong vocals, which also seem to have improved over the last album. The second song is actually my least favorite of the album. It's just that the riffs aren't as catchy nor headbangable as the other songs. There's a somewhat cheesy riff going on, as the drums keeps banging, but then it all gets lame when another vocalist jumps in, and tries to sing a melodic part. It could have worked, but since this vocalist can't even sing, that's where the problem is. Why couldn't just Mark sing that too? He CAN sing melodic if he want, which brings us to another song on the album where he does that.
The song is called Opponents At Sides, and it is the most melodic song on the whole thing. However, melodic does NOT mean bad, for that's the opposite of what this song is. The song opens with a catchy riff, and goes on to a part where Mark gets to show his melodic skills. He does this very well. In fact, I got shivers down my spine when I heard it! It's sad that he doesn't do it much. You hear it sometimes though, like in the little bridge before the big bridge in River Of Rapture, which was the lead "single" of the album, and an awesome thrasher.
We've got other thrashy songs here as well. Those that should be mentioned are: Truce, This Hate, I Chose The Sky, Death Of The Meek and Where They Lay. All of these songs are top notch old school thrashers. For some reason, they put a ballad here as well. I love when bands do that, but not if they can't play ballads, and Death Angel doesn't seem to be able to do that. It sounds like the same vocalist that sung on Claws In So Deep, which was the second song on the album I mentioned earlier. I actually believe that this vocalist is Rob Cavestany, who is the guitarist. Again, I have to say that I really don't understand why Mark can't sing these songs. He is the godamn vocalist!
The production is fantastic! It's pretty much the same as their last albums, but it's wonderful even though. It's like hearing old school thrash with crystal clear production, and that is a great feeling! Other bands like Vektor also has the same type of production, even though Vektor sounds much more new, and got some other influences as well. This shit is pure thrash, at least on the thrashy songs! But hey, we all need some songs to mellow out too, so don't complain!
I think this band has really came back to the metal scene in these few years. A lot of bands do that, and that's why I believe it can feel like we're back in the 80's for the people who could experience that. Unfortunately, I wasn't around then, but I think I'm lucky to be around now, and be able to listen to everything thrashy from the 80's, and everything that is modern thrash. This album should give Death Angel the attention they deserve, and make them an even bigger band!