With their reunion already producing two solid albums (“The Art Of Dying” in 2004 and “Killing Season” in 2008), DEATH ANGEL is looking to not only make a comeback, but to be better than they were before. With Thrash in full swing once again, things are looking up for the band. Even though this band has had a few line-up changes, they barely lose a step with “Relentless Retribution” and give us perhaps their Thrashiest effort since the reunion came about.
The initial reaction to “Relentless Retribution” will be one of shock and awe. If you thought “Killing Season” was a band pulling in their Thrash roots, then this one will blow you away. The band takes a lot of their other influences back from the forefront and focuses on that Thrash foundation and it makes this album stand out from their last few. The riffs are in full-blown triplet-favoring glory here, the soloing and melodies shred, and the bass/drums are energetic bursts Thrash fury. Even Osgueda seems to raw up his vocals for a Thrashier sound (some of which the production helps on) and his Punk-like screaming partners nicely with the instrumental work. All in all, this is the most Thrash we’ve heard from DEATH ANGEL since the earlier 90's.
Of course, the Groovier tracks and Osgueda’s clean catchy singing make their appearances, but its far more rare here. You get more of it in the middle of the album with their focus on churning out some more diverse guitar work and adding in more melody with his vocals. Compared to the last few albums though, it's rather minute. The band also experiments a little with acoustic work on the album with the ballad “Volcanic” at the end of the record and the appearance of RODRIGO Y GABRIELA on “Claws In So Deep” to outro the track. Both of which are nice balances to the rather intense rest of the album.
Honestly, there is only one reason that “Relentless Retribution” didn’t receive a 10 out of 10 like its predecessor. That is the missing element of Denis Pepa. Now, in the band’s defense, the new guy that replaced long time bassist is pretty damn good and shows off his chops on this record, but there was this funky sound that Pepa brought to DEATH ANGEL and it was one of the main reasons I came to love them so much. That is basically missing from this record, and it's felt. If you are a fan of the band’s back catalog and listen to them regularly, it's instantly noticeable and rather disappointing. Its expected with his absence and the band does an admirable job filling that void, but the hole is still there. Not as gaping as it could have been, but there nonetheless.
DEATH ANGEL certainly strikes again with their Thrashiest opus since the early days of their career. “Relentless Retribution” is a band finding its own weight in Thrash once again and focusing down on it. They never lose their sense of melody or diversity on the album, both of which is a bonus for the fans. Although it is missing Pepa in the end, this album is still one of the best of the year and another highlight in this classic band’s repertoire.
Songs to check out: “Relentless Revolution," “Truce," “Death Of The Meek."
(Online November 8, 2010)