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The Sky Turns Black When I Exhale - 90%

Twisted_Psychology, December 28th, 2011

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...

Current Highlights:
Claws In So Deep, Truce, Absence of Light, Opponents at Sides, and Volcanic