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The Art of Dying

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Album Review

Leave it to Bay Area thrash metal pioneers Death Angel to name their recording rebirth, 14 years in the making, The Art of Dying. Oh, the irony! Never ones to play it straight, Death Angel, like their first wave of thrash inspiration, Exodus, shocked their aging fans when they courageously shrugged off the years of rust and returned to active metal duty in 2004. And because they were merely teenagers during their first run, most of the band are amazingly still in their early 30s! More importantly, they've done so in style. The Art of Dying, even while bypassing the often Byzantine arrangements heard on the group's first two albums, manages to maintain the songwriting focus of their third (and heretofore last) effort, Act III, while arguably providing a better all-around thrash experience than the latter. The race is a close one, but there's no denying that everything about The Art of Dying's frenetic, scratchy-riffed first track (requisite acoustic guitar intro notwithstanding) "Thrown to the Wolves," as well as the brilliantly concussive highlight "Thicker Than Blood," positively screams "old-school" thrash. In fact, except for a few very discreet trad-metal tricks, and the odd hardcore vocal or two snuck into "Five Steps to Freedom," "The Devil Incarnate," and "Prophecy," so does everything else on display here. The reasons are clear for all to see: as in their previous life, Death Angel's sound continues to be anchored by the intense drumming of Andy Galeon, and the absolutely sterling lead guitar work of Rob Cavestany, who's so damn good throughout, it's almost easy to overlook his always eye-popping contributions. Curiously, Galeon tackles lead vocals (with moderate success) on the sprawling "Spirit" (featuring an uncommonly bluesy bridge section), while Cavestany takes over — and we mean takes over — on spectacular closer "Word to the Wise." Not about to be left out, bass player Gus Pepa jumps in with his own lead vocal for the hit-and-miss "Land of Blood," but it's unquestionably lead vocalist Mark Osegueda (often singled out as the band's weak link the first time around) who's benefited the most from the onset of age. Except for sporadic relapses to his irritating past ways during "Never Me" and the wobbly-paced "Famine," where both he and the band get a little lost in the slower momentum, Osegueda's performance on The Art of Dying is stronger, more confident, and more versatile than ever. And while we're taking a roll call here, let it be known that new guitarist Ted Aguilar acquits himself perfectly well in his first outing with the group. In summary, for a band whose potential had seemed disappointingly unfulfilled at the time of their original breakup, Death Angel have ensured that The Art of Dying serves as an act of speed metal closure.

Biography

Formed: 1982 in San Francisco, CA

Genre: Rock

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

San Francisco's Death Angel was 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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The Art of Dying, Death Angel
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