Released: 2010, Nuclear Blast America
Death Angel is a band that needs know introduction to most metal fans. From their raw and impressive debut THE ULTRA VIOLENCE, to the closing chapter in the first part of the band’s career ACT IIII, Death Angel have always had an eccentric and unconventional approach to thrash metal. When the band regrouped and released THE ART OF DYING in 2004 , old fans were rabid. Even though the second incarnation of Death Angel has failed to live up to the band’s stellar material from 20 years ago, Death Angel have proven they still have plenty of great material to deliver with a more modern edge.
RELENTLESS RETRIBUTION immediately signals aggression beginning with the outstanding cover art. Recorded about 20 miles north of me at Audiohammer Studios in Sanford, Florida, Death Angel enlisted Jason Suecof (Trivium producer) to produce and contribute a guitar appearance to the album. This was a wise move, as the production is face melting, everything being clearly discernible and with plenty of punch, perhaps their best produced album. The title track opens the album appropriately with a mid-paced chunky rhythm and venomous vocals from Mark Osegueda. “Claws So Deep” continues things, with a nice breakdown, an Exodus-like riff, and Death Angel’s penchant for unique backing vocals. This track also leans more to the modern metal approach, with a few nods to Trivium and hell and demons lyrics.
One thing to be assured of is that Rob Cavestany has really stepped up to the plate in terms of solos and solid rhythms on this album. While the songs are often more conventional than usual, Rob blisters on the leads and lends his vocals to several songs such as “Opponents At Side”. Back in the day, Death Angel wrote some of the most underrated metal ballads, and so on this album I was extremely excited to hear “Volcanic”, the first true Death Angel ballad since “Room With a View” and “Veil of Deception” on ACT III, with Rob handling vocal duties. Will Carroll fills in admirably for departed former drummer Andy Galeon, and ofcourse Dennis Pepa and Gus Pepa are also gone, leaving only Rob and Mark as the surviving original members. Vocally, Mark seems to get better with age and he has evolved into an excellent thrash metal vocalist.
Just to be clear, this is not a return to form of the glory days past. RELENTLESS RETRIBUTION is not as fast and heavy as THE ULTRA VIOLENCE, nor as riff and song oriented as ACT III. The band is still trying to find their identity in this new millennium, and while there is plenty to cheer about, the songs simply lack the catchy qualities and compelling depth of their earlier material. In terms of ranking, put this one about equal with THE ART OF DYING and not as good as KILLING SEASON, or any of their first three albums. Nevertheless, I am damn glad to have Death Angel still around and kicking out outstanding music. Despite that this album does not equal past efforts, and neither will probably any future efforts, this is still a highly listenable and recommended album.