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Angels of Destruction!

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Album Review

Ten years and six albums on from their debut (not counting live discs and seasonal offerings), Marah are a significantly more mature and ambitious band than the scrappy Philly roots rockers of their youth, but while 2008's Angels of Destruction! is a rich, audacious set of songs dressed up in adventurous production and broadly dynamic arrangements, it shows that they're a group that has learned how to have it both ways, still reveling in the swagger and street smarts of their earliest work. David Bielanko and Serge Bielanko's songs play out on a broader musical canvas these days — check out the Russian accordion figures and no wave synth patterns on "Angels on a Passing Train," the horn-bolstered guitar boogie of "Wild West Love Song," and the loud, proud bagpipe coda on "Wilderness" — and the band makes the most of the talents of its newest member, Christine Smith, whose keyboards and backing vocals give Marah's performances a new depth. But the folks who populate David and Serge's songs have thankfully changed little over the years, and David sings their stories with a passion and honesty that make them both vivid and thoroughly believable, from the cops celebrating on a rowdy New Year's Eve to a romantic interlude played out over beers in somebody's kitchen. Marah's music has been compared to Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and Van Morrison often enough that those allusions are all but clichés, but on Angels of Destruction! (as with all their best music) Marah don't sound as if they're copying any of those artists so much as they simply draw from the same well and have the same gift to make magic of their tales of life in the city, and their music, both nimble and muscular, is as impressive as their songcraft. Simply put, Marah are one of America's great rock bands, and Angels of Destruction! is an album that brims with joy, rage, and adventure, and deserves your attention.

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Formed: 1993

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Philadelphia's eclectic, rootsy rock quartet Marah consists of singer/songwriter/guitarist/banjoist David Bielanko, guitarist/vocalist/harmonica player Serge Bielanko, bassist Danny Metz, and drummer Ronnie Vance. Dave Bielanko, Metz, and Vance formed the group in 1993; brother Serge was so impressed with their sound that he wanted to join Marah, which he did in 1995. The band found an unofficial fifth member in producer/engineer Paul Smith, who was similarly taken with Marah's Replacements-meets-Springsteen...
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Angels of Destruction!, Marah
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