Death Angel – Relentless Retribution

The Bay Area Filipino brotherhood, er, cousinhood that is DEATH ANGEL are back for their sixth release, Relentless Retribution.

Five cousins formed the band in 1982: guitarists Rob Cavestany and Gus Pepa, bassist Dennis Pepa, drummer Andy Galeon and vocalist Mark Osegueda.

DEATH ANGEL disbanded in 1991 after losing Osegueda but carried on as THE ORGANIZATION, which put out two albums that didn’t fare too well. With the formation of SWARM in 1997, Rob, Andy and newcomer Michael Isaiah realized they really needed Mark’s distinctive vocals.

The Pepa brothers and Galeon are gone now. Guitarist Ted Agular joined in 2001. But Cavestany has stayed put and righted the ship, and the band officially reunited in 2001 for the Chuck Billy benefit show, Clash of the Titans. In 2004, they recorded the crushing, return-to-form Art of Dying. For Relentless Retribution, the band brought in a new rhythm section, drummer Will Carroll and bassist Damien Sissom.

All their trademarks and fierce riffs are here, but with a more-polished approach to brutality. The song structures are steeped in the band’s thrash roots, but the songwriting seems a little more adventurous, with a lot of tempo changes and challenging and aggressive vocals from Osegueda.

The dual harmony of “Opponents at Sides” is characteristic of something from Act III or The Art of Dying. It’s the most melodic song on the album, despite its heaviness. Producer Jason Suecof lends his guitar solo prowess on “Truce,” a crushing song with some good gang vocals. The acoustic segment by the Mexican duo RODRIGO Y GABRIELA in “Claws in So Deep” is an intricate piece that adds a lot of flavor to the song . It seems to be a little out of place withing the structure of the song, but it’s a good showing for the first guest musicians on a DEATH ANGEL album. “This Hate” and “Death of the Meek” have good, powerful riffs that keep the aggression high.

DEATH ANGEL are still one of the most influential Bay Area thrash bands to emerge from the late ’80s. What they prove on Relentless Retribution is that they can take their trademark sound, expand their ideas, and inject some melody and harmony into their brutality.

By Kelley Simms

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