DEATH ANGEL – “RELENTLESS RETRIBUTION”

DEATH ANGEL – “RELENTLESS RETRIBUTION”
NUCLEAR BLAST (2010)

Metal Church - The Present Wasteland

Death Angel is a band I have been supporting from the bottom of my heart for the last twenty five years, as a) their music was always very intelligent and highly enjoyable to my ears, and b) I always felt that there amongst the few second wave US Thrash Metal outfits which had the balls to follow a musical course more diverse and challenging than the one that even their most loyal fans would feel comfortable in digesting. So far in their turbulent career, the San Francisco giants have not managed to disappoint me, having said that though, their previous effort “Killing Season” (2008) was not the opus that I expected these resurrected and highly energised noisemakers to release. Would their latest effort under a new line up, namely “Relentless Retribution”, finally manage to set the records straight?
A month prior to the end of the mixing process, Ted Aguilar (guitars) felt quite keen to convey to me the band’s determination of unleashing to the world a varied and challenging album that would be both modern and traditional sounding – balances that are pretty difficult to master, but as I write these very words I have to admit that the Death Angel axeman was true to his word. Check any of the twelve compositions on offer and what you will find is that they are a product of a band which honours its past but is not afraid to push the boundaries of its creativity on the next, and for some bands inconceivable, level. More importantly, however, “Relentless Retribution” is an album that, though it takes a few spins to get used to, will eventually become so thoroughly enjoyable, that you will find it pretty difficult to stop investing in it – a very dangerous condition for music journalists such as myself to find themselves into.
Massive riffs and solid rhythm section support is what this album is all about and no song better conveys this musical approach that the opening opus “Relentless Revolution” – a song whose catchy band vocal chorus and lead guitars are second to none. “Claws In So Deep” is a modern sounding up-tempo composition with a few hidden surprises while “Truce” will bring a smile on the face of every old school Thrasher, especially fans of late 80s Metallica. If you don’t believe me when I say that you don’t have to play fast in order to sound heavy, then simply listen to the groovy/haunting guitar riffs of “Into The Arms Of Righteous Anger” – by far the best composition of the album! It is in between up-tempo Thrashers such as “River Of Rapture” and “This Hate” that one finds the vocally driven monster that listens to the name “Absence Of Light” – a composition whose grooviness openly competes with the Pantera-sounding riffs of “Death Of The Meek”. Being a real sucker for atmospheric heavy riffs, I immediately surrendered to the six minute “Opponents At Sides” – a song whose angry lyrics and haunting refrain stroke a deep chord with me. More classic Death Angel material can be found in “I Choose The Sky” and “Where They Lay” whereas the three and a half minute acoustic guitar gem “Volcanic” provides a great chance for founding member Rob Cavestany (lead guitars) to impress us with his vocal abilities!
Some bands will look for any little excuse to blame their lack of inspiration and overall inability of releasing good quality albums, but Death Angel is certainly not one of them. Having survived yet another line up change, the San Francisco quintet has emerged stronger than ever, something that is clearly audible in the twelve compositions that are on offer here. I know a few people who cannot accept the fact that this band is any more capable of creating albums that can compete with classics such as “The Ultra-Violence” (1987) and “Act III” (1990) and it is the same people that will eventually fail to connect with “Relentless Retribution”. Is that important in the grand scheme of things? Not, as long as it does not affect the band’s ability in releasing more albums – albums as impressive and highly addictive as this one!
John Stefanis

Rating: **** ½ (4.5/5.0)


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