Released: 2004, Nuclear Blast
Reviewer: Luxi Lahtinen
Without a slightest doubt, one of the most anticipated and wanted comebacks of the year 2003 had to be the news concerning the Bay Area thrashers Death Angel´s decision to return back to the metal scene after being away from amongst us nearly a decade. "First Exodus and now even Death Angel...", I was joyfully running around like a maniac and repeating those two fine band names in my mind silently back then. I even remember reading from somewhere that Death Angel´s new songs were somewhere in between their absolutely most classic album THE ULTRA VIOLENCE and a very different, but still great follow-up album, FROLIC THROUGH THE PARK. Even more cream on the top of the cake for me...
It´s 16th of March and I arrived exhausted from my work to back to home and a mailman has been god to me today: There´s a little package lying on the floor and when my fingers start ripping the package wide-open, my hands start this shaking movement for a somewhat good reason as I realized little by little what was hiding inside this nice and little package. A promo-CD for Death Angel´s new album titled THE ART OF DYING has just arrived to me today in the mail. It´s gonna be a great evening for me today...
I threw the disc into my CD –player very anxiously and right after a half minute acoustic intro, the first, may I even say, ´magical´ Death Angel –guitar riffs fill the air of my ´music room´. The opening track off from the album, "Thrown to the Wolves" rips through my ears with some totally crispy sounding Thrash -riffs, Mark Osegueda sounding really damn good with a relatively aggressive tone in his voice; his voice being supported by some really catchy "Wo-oo-ooo...!!" backing vocal yells by courtesy of the rest of his band mates. What a fuckin´ fire starter of a song it is really as this album´s opener!! The rumors that I had heard/read concerning the new Death Angel stuff seemed to be true after all... and I cannot say I´m complaining about it a bit. A new classic Death Angel song has seen the light of day, yes sirs...
Up next, "5 Steps of Freedom" which sounds very much something like what they did during their FROLIC –era. Kinda cool song with a relatively simple and straight riffing, Mark doing nice work once again on his vocal department. Not much complaining about the song. It sounds like Death Angel after all, the FLORIC –era vein.
"Thicker than Blood" follows next with a happy up-tempo Rock type of riff, reminding me Motörhead in its all simplicity and causing some conflicting thoughts in my head as I´m not sure what to think of the song?! This sounds ´okay´ish´, but it damn surely doesn´t sound like a Death Angel –song in my opinion. It sounds like a bastard child of both Motörhead and some of the guys´ previous band Swarm to me more than anything else really. I honestly have to say I didn´t expect to hear a song like this on these guys´ comeback album as "Thrown to the Wolves" already promised something else for all of my expectations about the album. Oh well... right to the next song: "The Devil Incarnate". Hmm..., this just cannot be a Death Angel song; the song sounds like a Swarm song instead. The uttermost feeling that covers your thoughts is that why in the world they never released this song on any Swarm album, but decided to put the song out under the name of Death Angel? Well, next song...
"Famine" starts off with a bass riff which is soon followed by Andy´s drum parts and then... (!) we get a chance to hear something that should be done using Death Angel as a moniker. Most of the song has been built around some heavy Rock -type of riffs that made Swarm sounding like Swarm and only the last 20 seconds of the song are something that gives us a reason to believe that Death Angel is actually that band that is, after all, responsible for making this song.
"Prophecy" brings us back to the band´s FROLIC/ACT III –era as far as some certain type of riffs, somewhat familiar rhythms, etc. in this particular song are concerned. I have to say that I happen to like the song quite much indeed and could have wished there had been more songs on THE ART OF DYING into vein of the first song "Throwing to the Wolves" and this one that make Death Angel Death Angel and not any of its previous incarnations or anything alike. "Prophecy" is absolutely one of the album´s biggest highlights in my opinion – even quite thrashy as a song, too.
"No" sounds like Death Angel wants to rock´n´roll a bit more again, having this strange tendency to remind you of some cover song of a punk´ish Rock band. To me it represents nothing, but a lack of ideas and should have left done for this album. The main riff in this song is so happy that it makes me nearly cry for disappointment toward the album content-wise. And I guess I won´t be the only one...
"Spirit" kicks off with a hell of a catchy and most importantly, a very thrashy riff of what Death Angel has become known for in their early days of an undivided glory, but then the song turns to something totally different when kinda annoying vocal parts decide to join the party. The occasionally repeated thrashy riffs in this song just cannot save the whole song drowning into oblivion, but at least the song does try to stand out as a Death Angel –song which helps at least a bit my positive thinking about this long-awaited comeback album.
"Land of Blood" doesn´t receive any applauses from me as the whole song itself would better fit in on some Swarm –release than on a Death Angel album. In "Land of Blood" Offspring shares the same altar with Swarm musically (again!) and a marriage between an absolute boredom and weak ideas can be declared officially. Listening to the song makes me ask from them: Why?
"Never Me" brings back some of that old Death Angel –style again... for a few rare moments, unfortunately. It´s got a couple of heavy moments that unfortunately aren´t enough to leave you a ´so-so´ -feeling after you have heard the song ´til its end. Cannot tell you whether it´s sort of a ´filler´-song or not, but it didn´t do much for me either, I can tell.
"Word to the Wise" starts off with an acoustic guitar and a couple of seconds I was thinking that they were trying to imitate some Nick Cave –song ´til the song burst into... ´something´? Again I have to say if I heard this particular song from the radio for the very first time, I would never guess it´s a Death Angel –song. It´s just too far from any Death Angel –stuff musically that we have heard from them doing back in the day. Oh, the song ends almost the same way as it started and yes, now I´m convinced enough that it´s Death Angel´s own attempt to sound like this Australian dark rocker Nick Cave. But unfortunately they fail badly in this particular ´attempt...´.
So, and what this leaves me as a conclusion? I guess maybe I really should stop listening false and twisted rumors about albums in general in order to not have any too big expectations running in my mind toward anything at all.
Yep, the legendary Frisco thrashers Death Angel are back... (So what...!? One might sarcastically add...).