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Relentless Retribution

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Album Review

Throughout their long and distinguished (albeit temporarily interrupted) career, Bay Area thrash icons Death Angel have always practiced an unusually cerebral approach to the genre (even on their somewhat misleadingly named first effort, The Ultra-Violence); but the striking cover art chosen for their sixth studio album, 2010's Relentless Retribution, suggests that an about face toward wanton savagery is at hand. Well, appearances can be deceiving, because the recently reconstituted group — only lead guitarist Rob Cavestany and vocalist Mark Osegueda remain from the original lineup — actually reveals itself just as lyrically considered and musically meticulous as ever here. Perhaps even more so, in light of new drummer Will Carroll's machine-like precision, which is both a positive and a negative turn of events. After all, early thrash was largely about strong "feel" and stronger feelings, so there's a certain amount of humanity sacrificed by the disciplined musicianship and, yes, still very cerebral subjects tackled by otherwise finely crafted Relentless Retribution highlights such as "Into the Arms of Righteous Anger," "This Hate," and the retro-fitted thrasher "Where They Lay." Other forceful tracks like "Truce," "River of Rapture," and "I Chose the Sky" never muck up the works, but don't impress all that much, either, and they all curiously contain odes of self-empowerment penned by Osegueda, like a 12-step program to rebuild one's confidence. Or perhaps his own? In any case, Relentless Retribution isn't without its surprises, including the doom-like grind of "Absence of Light," the half-lame/half-sublime "Volcanic," and the delightfully exotic and impossible to pigeonhole "Opponents at All Sides." But the real wildcard in this deck is most definitely the problematic "Claws in so Deep," which features a game-changing coda provided by popular Latin guitar duo, Rodrigo & Gabriela, but also sees Death Angel tragically transformed into Trivium by that band's producer, Jason Suecof — a win/lose proposition that will surely divide fan opinions. What can't be questioned is the fact that Relentless Retribution does mosh harder than Death Angel's more song-oriented prior effort, Killing Season (a jack-of-all trades metal album, that one), and that should counter some of the dubious choices and modernizing risks taken within. Time will tell.

Biography

Formed: 1982 in San Francisco, CA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

San Francisco's Death Angel were a product of the bustling Bay Area thrash metal scene of the 1980s. Combining serious guitar crunch and speed with a fair amount of technical expertise, they created complex thrash metal filled with time changes and tricky arrangements that, although generally loved by critics, usually failed to translate beyond a very specialized buying public. But Death Angel weren't just a band, they were family. Formed in the early '80s by cousins Mark Osegueda (vocals), Rob Cavestany...
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Relentless Retribution, Death Angel
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