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FIFTH ANGEL When Angels Kill

By George Mihalovich, Pittsburgh Contributor
Friday, July 7, 2023 @ 11:06 AM


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FIFTH ANGEL
When Angels Kill

Nuclear Blast




Seattle metal veterans FIFTH ANGEL need little or no introduction to the initiated, as the albums Fifth Angel (Shrapnel, 1986; re-released on Epic, 1988) and Time Will Tell (1989) remain influential to this day. Unfortunately, they broke up in 1990 before they were able to reach the next level of notoriety.

FIFTH ANGEL reformed for a few shows from 2009 on with various lineups, but didnít return to the studio until 2018's The Third Secret. Ken Mary (drums) and John Macko (bass) were still on board, with lead guitarist Kendall Bechtel notably taking over Ted Pilot's role behind the mic. His vocals are equal to his six-string prowess, and the self-produced effort met with strong acclaim from the fans and media. Unfortunately, Kendall departed before they were able to tour or follow up.

Their latest, When Angels Kill, features Ken Mary (drums) John Macko (bass) and Ed Archer (guitar) as the core of original members. The newest additions to the recording lineup are Steve Carlson (lead vocals), Jim Dofka (lead guitar) and Steve Conley (FLOTSAM and JETSAM) contributing additional guitar. When Angels Kill is a concept album with 14 tracks, each with a spoken word/soundscape introduction. View the press release on KNAC.COM for an overview of the story from FIFTH ANGEL.

When Angels Kill is a concept record, but one if its strengths is that the songs stand on their own - even though they are intended to be part of the larger whole. The official videos for "When Angels Kill", "Resist The Tyrant" and "We Are Immortal" establish the overall tone and high quality of the disc (no weak tracks to be found) and add a visual tie-in to the story. When Angels Kill is consistently aggressive, but there are tasteful and subtle mood shifts/dynamics/orchestrations blended in, including "Ashes To Ashes" and "The End Of Everything".

Guitarist Jim Dofka (DOFKA, PSYCHO SCREAM, BRICK MISTRESS) contributes all lead guitars. It's a key role due to the foundation built by James Byrd and Kendall Bechtel, who made high-energy, neoclassical soloing and harmonized melodies an integral element of the band. Fortunately, Dofka is a veteran with his own established style - featuring speedy harmonized runs and a distinctive vibrato - which echoes the work of his predecessors without sounding derivative or forced. In other words, he respects and pays homage to the legacy of FIFTH ANGEL's tradition of stellar lead guitar work while being true to himself. Those familiar with his previous work will find it easy to recognize his sonic trademarks and top-notch playing. Fans of technical modern melodic metal guitar should take notice, and "Light The Skies", "Run To The Black", "Seven Angels", and "Blinded And Bleeding" are all great examples of what he brings to the table.

New vocalist Steve Carlson's melodic and edgy vocals are a highlight, and he finds a nice balance between the clean tenor of Ted Pilot and the more Ronnie James Dio-esque singing of Kendall Bechtel. Specifically, Carlson can be smooth when required with plenty of grit when needed. He definitely has his own approach - distinct yet familiar - and was a great choice that elevates the album. Ken Mary lives up to his reputation as a premier drummer, and was also a significant contributor and driving force in the songwriting and production departments. Last but certainly not least, John Macko and Ed Archer round out the rhythm section and leave their marks as players and songwriters. Their presence also helps add to the continuity of a band ("Five Days To Madness" and "Empire Of Hate" are reasonably close links to vintage FIFTH ANGEL) that has evolved its core sound on their last two discs.

When Angels Kill is in a similar vein to The Third Secret in that it's a modern and darker take on their original style, but in a more expansive and ambitious format. If you appreciate high-quality, polished heavy/melodic/power metal from a classic act with a history of quality songcraft and outstanding musicianship, When Angels Kill delivers.

4.65 Out Of 5.0


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