Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Death Angel: Relentless Retribution (2010)


Well, the recent poll didn't get much response. Morbid Angel is the favorite metal angel of myself and one other person (I can guess who), with no other responses.

Death Angel are veterans of the Bay Area thrash scene, and their sixth album (third since the 2001 reunion) Relentless Retribution came out in the US yesterday.

The first thing I must mention is the excellent cover art. It's the literal interpretation of the phrase "a wolf in sheep's clothing", and the wolves look absolutely feral, furious, and still hungry for more. These are excellent qualities in a metal band, especially thrash metal. And one wolf is on top of the fresh kill, asserting dominance and saying, "I will feed first." This may well be my favorite cover art of the year. The question is, do Death Angel still have what it takes to be that hungry alpha wolf?

As Metallattorney recently observed, the debut album is often the best album a thrash metal band will ever record.
It is usually released when the band is young and thirsting for attention. Therefore, the band has written some killer material and is raw and aggressive. Since rawness and aggression are admirable qualities in thrash metal, the debut album is often embraced.
Death Angel are certainly no longer young, and they only seem thirsty in a few places. "Truce" and the album closer "Where They Lay" are furious thrash cuts that make you want to bang your head. But outside of that, thrash purists will be sorely disappointed.

Much of the album is mid-paced. Often this is done to allow the melody to take the forefront, and it works on cuts like "River of Rapture" or the 8 minute "Claws in So Deep" (which has a two minute acoustic outro, for some reason). Even the thrash ballad "Opponents at Sides" seems to work very well. But then again, about a third of the album is utterly forgettable in mid-paced mediocrity ("Into the Arms of Righteous Anger" and especially "Absence of Light").

The Verdict: If you think thrash has to be played at 99 miles an hour, Death Angel's latest is not for you. It's mostly mid-paced (and frankly, radio-friendly) showing instrumentalists who are clearly past their prime. Still, it's certainly not a bad album by any means, with some real shredding moments and some decent melodies. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

1 comment:

  1. That's a shame. Death Angel's early stuff is quite good, but they went for a more melodic sound in the early 1990's, presumably due to Metallica's success at it. While they have some decent material since then, it's nothing like it was.