Sound — 8
When Death Angel announced their comeback in 2001, after a reunion set for a benefit show, many metal insiders were skeptical of their intention. After all, at some point or another, many of the classic metal bands of the late '80s reunited to cash in on lucrative European festival appearances. While Death Angel did perform on the fest circuit shortly after they got back together, they also promised to write new material and eventually release a new studio record. A few years later they managed to unleash The Art of Dying to an eager audience. While the album did have it's highlights, ultimately, it fell short of the group's glorious pedigree. But more importantly, it did prove that the band were no less fervent about their love for metal than when they were when they were young hot shots. Their intent wasn't in question anymore and they toured the album like true Road Mutants (look it up young blood) and returned to their San Francisco headquarters with a renewed sense of vigor and confidence. The quintet now armed with a fresh batch of songs, headed back into the studio last fall to begin work on what would become their fifth album. But instead of going with the metal producer du jour, they chose Nick Raskulinecz who while well-known, has made a name for himself in more mainstream rock circles. His production work with Foo Fighters, Rush and Velvet Revolver has rightfully earned him the reputation as a go-to-guy in the music business. Picking him to steer the record was a brilliant move by the veteran thrashers! Instead of the usually mechanical and ultimately lifeless sound of many of the modern metal recordings that come across my desk, Killing Season is bursting with energy, fervor and a level of aggression that we've haven't heard from the band since their salad days.
Lyrics — 7
Along with Eric AK of Flotsam & Jetsam, Death Angel's Mark Osegueda is one of the most criminally underrated vocalists in hard rock. His acrobatic style exudes character and an authoritative quality that is mostly absent in most of the front-men in his field. He delivers the harder lines like blows to your windpipe and when the moment calls for it, he croons like a young Chuck Billy (Testament) at the peak of his powers. He handles the lyrics with an expert eye for detail and clarity throughout the album. The conceptual arc of the material is threaded by a theme of tyranny, anarchy and ultimately, justice. On the Motorhead styled stomp of When Worlds Collide, they speak out on the oppressive state of the U.S. government and the misguided treatment of it's citizens. During the conclusion of God vs. God, the entire band chant out, Don't wanna be your slave! in a classic gang vocal style. These rebellious ideas go hand in hand with the heart and soul of this facet of music. The against-the-grain mood of the lyrical work is in made from the same mold as greats like Sacred Reich and Vio-Lence.
Overall Impression — 8
It's something truly surprising when a band can come out of retirement and not only be able to hang with acts half their age but actually beat them at their own game. This almost never happens. What Death Angel has done with Killing Season is take a baseball bat to the face, figuratively speaking of course, of any naysayer who doubted the band's relevance. What impresses me the most is that they didn't do it with a barrage of over-complicated arrangements or an attempt to alter their sound to fit a current trend. Instead, the band mined from the core of what inspired them to play metal in the first place. Every riff, tempo shift and vocal melody is a tribute to the days when no-frills metal, free of gimmicks and posturing, sparked a movement. But make no mistake; the songs don't sound dated and are every bit as vital and as anything bothering the metal charts right now. The towering riffs on Resurrection Machine alone are proof enough of that. Rob Cavestany's guitar solos are fluid, economic, fiery and always memorable. Some of his runs reminded me of Michael Schenker's solos during his UFO years while the rapid-fire scaling harked back to Kirk Hammet's earliest fret board workouts. The band's lean arrangements and Raskulinecz's vibrant production is a lethal combination and one that will be a touchstone for the entire genre. Expect the producer's name to show up on more often in the credits to metal records from this point on. The band has also melded classic rock flavored hooks into their more traditional thrash leanings. In the process, they've created some of the most striking songs of their career. Lord of Hate is the kind of anthem that bands would sells their souls for just to have on their set list! While tornados like Soulless and God vs. God are filled to the brim with exhilarating performances from drum dynamo Andy Galeon. I would have liked to have heard more of the left-of-center vocal harmonies that they visited on their remarkable Act III album but their bare-bones assault probably wouldn't have mixed well with them. But there's not really any need to complain with the rest of the treats here. A meat and potatoes metal record is always appreciated in my collection, especially if it's of this caliber. After living with the album for a couple of weeks, I'm still having trouble pulling it out of my regular music rotation. If you ask me, that's a problem I could live with.