Released: 2008, Nuclear Blast Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
When Death Angel emerged after a fourteen-year hiatus with 2004’s THE ART OF DYING, that record’s restrained take on the band’s thrash imprint caught many people off-guard. “Thrown To The Wolves” gave an incorrect first impression of where the band was going as “Land of Blood” and “Word To Wise” threw many for a loop. Fourteen years is a long time and picking up right where 1990’s ACT III left off would have been untrue to the band and its fans. THE ART OF DYING was a more mature album that evoked the influences of the members of Death Angel’s musical forays in the interim such as The Organization and Swarm and was never meant to be a “pure” thrash album despite what people expected.
Skip ahead to Death Angel’s new album, KILLING SEASON, and once again, the band is essentially asking its fans to set any pre-conceived notions aside. Admittedly, this record took a few spins to really sink in but after softening the blow with THE ART OF DYING, it took a little less time than that record did. The thrash roots are still there but in their midst are some cool mid-tempo and groove-laden tracks that seem to be the direction Death Angel circa 2008 is moving towards. Produced by Nick Raskulinecz (Rush, Foo Fighters), KILLING SEASON sounds really good. The deep, rich guitar tones and heavy bottom end lend a new angle to Death Angel’s sound and it suits them well.
To the fickle haters out there, Death Angel proves they can still deliver a ripping thrash song reminiscent of their earliest work. The one-two punch of “Lord of Hate” and “Sonic Beatdown” are fast, aggressive songs powered by the riffs of Rob Cavestany and Ted Aguilar. Mid-tempo thunder like “Buried Alive” and “Steal The Crown” run on big, groovy rhythms and the choruses are unforgettable. “Soulless” and “God vs. God” sort of fall in the middle with tempo shifts and chunky sections that are thoroughly modern in their delivery. Perhaps the most experimental track, though, is album closer “Resurrection Machine.” At nearly seven minutes, it twists and turns through a dark, moody intro before launching into a multi-layered, gang-style chorus driven by a forceful riff. Cavestany lays down a brilliant solo here, too. It’s great to hear Mark Osegueda back on vocals full-time, as well. Cavestany and drummer Andy Galeon took the mike for a few songs on THE ART OF DYING and while the dynamic presented may have seemed like a good idea on paper, Osegueda is THE voice of Death Angel. His snarls and high-pitched screams are irreplaceable to the band’s sound and he wisely takes the reins once again on KILLING SEASON.
It might be a little tough for fans of THE ULTRA-VIOLENCE to sink their teeth into Death Angel’s post-reunion work but that album was recorded over twenty years ago when the band were still teenagers. It remains my favorite Death Angel record to this day ("Evil Priest" and "Thrashers"!!) but taken in a different mind-set, KILLING SEASON is a strong album from the Bay Area veterans. One has to give the band credit for not jumping feet first into this whole thrash revival and trying to craft THE ULTRA-VIOLENCE PART 2. It would cheapen that record and the band’s legacy, so without completely forsaking their still-evident thrash roots, Death Angel continues to get comfortable in their skin by writing a record based on where they are today. Fans can choose to take or leave it but KILLING SEASON is a smoking record once it gets some time to settle in.
KILLER KUTS: “Lord of Hate,” “Sonic Beatdown,” “Buried Alive,” “Soulless,” “God vs. God,” “Steal The Crown,” “Resurrection Machine”