Death Angel was one of the premiere bands from the "Bay Area" Thrash scene of late 1980's. What was even more amazing about them was that they were all teenagers and cousins.; their drummer was only 12 years old when they started! After three studio albums, and one live album vocalist Mark Osegueda quit and the remaining members of Death Angel continued on as The Organization.
Death Angel - The Ultra-Violence (Enigma) 1987
A legendary debut, considered a classic by many. There is not a single slow moment to be found here and every track is tight and furious. Amazing drum work, especially considering their drummer is barely a teenager. The only real negative I have to say about this one, is that the lyrics are a bit on the silly side, but were not any different from most of the Bay Area bands at the time. Violence was the theme of the scene. Opening song "Thrashers" is sung by guitarist Rob Cavestany and bassist Dennis Pepa, giving a sneak preview of The Organization...well sort of.
Death Angel - Frolic Through the Park (Enigma) 1988
OK, any band that would cover Ace Frehley's (Kiss) "Cold Gin" has got to be ok. "Frolic" is a nice slice of technical thrash with hints of the genius that would come next. While I really dug this disc, especially when it first came out, their next studio disc is so awesome, this one kinda pails in comparison. However, just about every song on "Frolic" rips through at break neck speed. There are a few slower numbers like "Confused" and "Shores of Sin," but for the most part the music is fast. My favorite song is "Bored," which contains hilarious lyrics put on top of a mid paced groove! Love it! Somebody ought to cover this one. Oh, and I love the album title-great name for a thrash album!
Death Angel - Fall from Grace (Enigma) 1990
1. "Evil Priest"
I've heard that the band didn't want this live recording to be released, or that it was released without their permission, or whatever. Point is, it came out and it is a collectors item for fans of the band. It's not the best sound; actually it sounds more like a high quality bootleg, but their performance isn't that bad, so I am not sure why the band didn't want it released. It's not something I would spend too much time listening to due to the sound quality, but still a nice collector's item. Recorded live in Amsterdam at the Paradsio, July 9, 1988. I think this album came out shortly after "Act III" but I'm not positive.
Death Angel - Act III (Geffen) 1990
1. "Seemingly Endless
This is a masterpiece of speed metal. "Act III" is more musically diverse than their previous albums, but still contains some speedy numbers as well. The all-acoustic pieces "Veil of Deception" and especially "A Room with a View" are fabulous. The entire album is a great listen from beginning to end. It makes me wonder what their next album would have sounded like...oh, wait, it would probably sound like The Organization.
Death Angel - The Art of Dying (Nuclear Blast) 2004
Whenever I hear of a classic band reuniting it's always mixed emotions. I mean, I am psyched that a band I like so much is back together and working on new material, however, there is also that long gap between releases where people grow, change and move away from former things. With Death Angel I feared they would go for a more "modern" approach. Basically many reunited bands become a joke. However, after a short acoustic opening as that thrash riff came in andI knew this album was no joke and that Death Angel were not bastardizing their name and sound. These guys have managed to maintain their guitar style ever since The Ultra-Violence, while at the same time progressing and molding their sound. "The Art of Dying" could really have been the follow-up to the excellent "Act III". Perhaps there is a bit less of that groove/funk vibe that Act III had, but other than that this CD features dynamic songwriting with sweeping acoustic moments and full throttle speed metal assaults. "Thrown To The Wolves" riffs are reminiscent of early Metallica/Exodus. Everything that Death Angel had always been known for, but with a better production and more mature songwriting. Stylistically I would probably label this more speed metal with hints of thrash and an occassional punk leaning, than pure thrash metal. "Land of Blood", for instance, has some punk-influenced riffing and vocals. However, this is not to say that "Art of Dying" is confused. This is a solid CD from beginning to end.
1. "Lord of Hate"
Death Angel is back after a four-year hiatus to deliver a "Sonic Beatdown" on a generation of musical slackers! (Sounds like it should be the first line of the band's press release.) While Death Angel have not reached back for a retro-thrash sound, they also have not opted to really follow any trends in music either. Rather, they have taken their own classic thrash metal style and combine it was a more modern production and some slightly more modern riffing to create something that is quite unique and fresh. In the distant past Death Angel may have been concerned with cramming as much speed and double bass into each song as humanly possible. Nothing on "Killing Season" would rival the band's infamous '87 debut for youthful speed and aggression. While there is still some of the speed and aggression present here, they offer a bit more variety than that. Each song possessed it's own unique character, sometimes moving into funk and acoustic passages, sometimes hitting the listener with some big grooves and other times pulling out the full metal assault. The albums opening tracks, for instance, are some of the heavier songs on the album, yet aren't full throttle thrash metal either. Both tracks offer heavy, aggro-punk riffing and metal grooves.
The production is excellent and features a pummeling, bottom-heavy sound. One interesting note about the production is that while it sounds very modern, with a lower guitar sound, the drums sound very natural. In an age when digital recording has replaced natural drums sounds, this is quite refreshing. If the drums were recorded using triggers or something similar, they sure fooled me. I'm sure much of this has to do with producer Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Velvet Revolver).
I am sure this album will be disappointing to those who were hoping for another Bay Area thrash metal release. "Killing Season" is certainly not that as Death Angel moved past that sound long ago. Much like "Act III" or "The Act of Dying", Death Angel have chosen to vary their sound to avoid getting stale. Death Angel have managed to inject their aggressive sound with a heaping helping of hook and whole lot of melody. If those things don't scare you off, then you might actually enjoy this album.
Death Angel - Sonic German Beatdown-Live in Germany (Nuclear Blast) 2009
Despite some major line-up changes, Death Angel return in 2010 with a solid thrasher or a record in "Relentless Retribution". This CD is the band's first without founding members Dennis Pepa and Andy Galeon, which means that this is the first Death Angel album to have an entirely new rhythm section. However, despite this change, "Relentless Retribution" sounds more like classic Death Angel than anything the band has recorded since reuniting in 2001. The album has a bit more of a classic thrash vibe. Both "Truce" and "This Hate" are short spurts of thrash metal that will make long time fans wonder if it is 1987 all over again. However, Death Angel haven't really released a pure thrash album since "The Ultra-Violence" or arguably "Frolic Through the Park". As such there is a lot going on throughout this album. The lengthy "Claw in So Deep", for example, starts off as a thrasher but ends up with a lengthy acoustic jam. Had something like this been recorded for "Act III" I think it would have fit in perfectly with the vibe of that record. Other tracks have that same dark vibe the band have been doing since 2004’s "The Art of Dying". "Death Of The Meek", "River Of Rapture" and the opening track are all more mid-paced metal numbers partially given life by a solid production. The title track features a wicked opening riff. "Opponents At Sides" really has a vibe similar to the last couple Death Angel albums. The acoustic-based "Volcanic" follows in the footsteps of "Veil of Deception" or "Word To The Wise" and showcases the morel melodic side of the band. Personally, though it's not politically correct in the new age of thrash metal, I actually love the more melodic side of Death Angel as much as the thrashy side. In my opinion, Death Angel have released a string of great albums since their reunion and "Relentless Retribution" is no exception to that rule. I will say, however, that the hype surrounding this album about it being, "The heaviest album by Death Angel to date" is a bit overblown. It is indeed heavy, but really it just falls in line with what most fan expect from Death Angel. Frankly, I'd much prefer it that way.