Death Angel: Relentless Retribution

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Death Angel: Relentless Retribution
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Death Angel: Relentless Retribution
Thrash Metal
Nuclear Blast Records
September 3rd, 2010
Release length: 56:40
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San Francisco-based Thrash act Death Angel continue to destroy listeners on their sixth full-length release, entitled Relentless Retribution. Originally reforming back in 2001, the group has continued to grow and mature their sound with each following record, and this release is no exception. Relentless Retribution features some of the tightest sounding Thrash from Death Angel, but also seems to bring in other influences to the style to create a rathr unique, and often almost melodic, musical assault.

While the signature Death Angel sound is still here, such as the intense music being fueled with interesting riffs that have a slight melodic hint to them with vocals that range from being rhaspy and cleanly sung, a style that has become a staple for Thrash over the years, the band really has focused more on their sound this time around to make it stand out even more. The music on Relentless Retribution does well to portray the album’s title right from the start, and manages to present a good number of memorable songs that will have the listener headbanging along every second of the album between it’s more complex musical compositions, soem of the heaviest sounding material in a long while, and additional melodic moments that push the catchiness of the material in general. The best way to look at this release is to simply say that Relentless Retribution takes from established acts like Testament and more recent Kreator efforts without being obvious plagerism while retaining what makes Death Angel a rather recognizable voice in today’s Thrash scene.

Right off the bat, the title track kicks in, and what a kick it winds up being. This track sets up the atmosphere and intensity of the album perfectly, having a great heaviness to it, as well as an anthem feel to the composition and lyrics that add to the fast paced commanding performance, that hasn’t really been heard in their more recent days, as well as a more complex sound throughout. Of course, the following track, “Claws In So Deep” is another great track, being a little slower however, but quickly departs from that first track. While the music still retains the same kind of heaviness, the chorus quickly becomes something off a more melodic or generally hook-filled genre, mostly thanks to the lighter music that becomes simplified, and the vocal performance by guest vocalist Rodrigo Y Gabriela, leading to a performance that sounds like an expanded song off Bleeding Through‘s album The Truth, except with a traditional rhaspy vocal style for Thrash then the common screaming Metalcore vocals. Of course, this doesn’t do well for the song, making this one of the catchier tracks, but also one of the songs that will be quickly written off and forgotten, especially with the acoustic introduction to “Into the Arms of Righteous Anger” that follows on “Truce”.

Outside the aforementioned “Claws In So Deep” and “Truce”, the rest of the album is a pretty solid effort and doesn’t necessarily disappoint. In fact, many of the songs that follow these are solid songs that seemlessly blend intensity and melody nicely. Some songs feature clean harmonized vocals that go well with the music, and other just bring on a fast paced blistering Thrash assault that has some headbanging melody to it thanks largely to the slight hooks utilized in the lead guitars. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t some aspects or moments that hinder the release. “This Hate” winds up standing out alongside “Claws In So Deep”, but mostly due to the more obvious Punk influence drawn into the music for the song, blending a more Modern Thrash sound with a Crossover sound that works nicely, but sometimes doesn’t quite go well with transitions throughout the song, leaving some generic passages here and there. “River of Rapture” is a punishing Thrash track that will make the most picky Thrash fans bang their heads, but there’s a noticable drop in volume around the second verse of the song that just feels awkward, as well as a little weak in the long run. Finally, there’s “Opponents at Sides”, which is honestly the only negative track on this recording, being a much more radio friendly song that seems to utilize a more mainstream Alternative vocal approach mixed with varied screaming and rhaspy vocals, as well as sounds like a heavier eighties Hard Rock ballad overall.

“Opponents at Sides” really ushers in a Hard Rock feeling to the music that seems to close out the album. “I Close the Sky” manages to blend in the Hard Rock sound with the more melodic Thrash material presented here, though winds up being nothing all that impressive and losing much of it’s bite until the song picks up near the very end of the song, and by then it’s clearly too late to have any real kick from the song. outside that, there’s the song “Volcano”, which pushes the acoustic sound of the band that was introduced for this album on the instrumental track “Truce”. While the music is decent, it’s something that just sounds very out of place for this kind of album, and sounds like a better crafted Stone Sour song in the long run, including even the vocal performance, though never really hitting any impressive powerful notes, mostly remaining within the same octave for much of the time. Luckily, the exploration of Hard Rock to the material seems to primarily be focused near the end of the album, and only lasts three songs, stopping at the end of “Volcanic”, ending on a higher note with the strong “Where They Lay”, another faster paced Thrash song that has some hard music being played, but in the end doesn’t really wind up being anything too fantastic in the long run, though worth a couple spins through at least.

In the long run, Relentless Reribution winds up being a few steps forward for Death Angel as far as the progression of their sound goes, but at the same time, this album features some experimental material that takes them a few steps back. While the more melodic modern Thrash approach to their sound is exceptional and makes for a good chunk of the album to ahve some memorable, catchy Thrash songs that can only be described as heavy, it also features some slower, forgetable, even generic material that treads along the lines of Hard Rock with a more mainstream, radio friendly appeal. This varied album is still worth checking out, as it contains enough hard hitting and well crafter material to keep fans of the band happy. Relenless Retribution will leave the listener a little worse for wear due to the downing tracks, but also will leave the listener hopeful that Death Angel will shy away from the more experimental material that appears later ont he album, but continues to explore ways to mix catchy melodic hooks with tenacious Thrash in ways that make the group stand out and just sound that much more intense overall.

01. Relentless Revolution – 4:28
02. Clawns in So Deep – 7:44
03. Truce – 3:31
04. Into the Arms of Righteous Anger – 4:31
05. River of Rapture – 4:35
06. Absence of Light – 4:32
07. This Hate – 3:33
08. Death of the Meek – 5:15
09. Opponents at Sides – 6:21
10. I Chose the Sky – 4:06
11. Volcanic – 3:34
12. Where They Lay – 4:30
Overall Score: 7.5/10
Death Angel (band)
Death Angel (logo)Digital review copy of this release provided by Nuclear Blast Records.