Death Angel – The Art of Dying – Review

deathangel200Death Angel

The Art of Dying (Nuclear Blast)
by Tim Den

Stick a stake through my heart: The one disc that I’ve invested all of my hopes and dreams in has struck me dead with disappointment. Indeed, Death Angel – that luminous quintet who thrashed harder, artier, prettier, more inventive, more effortlessly, and more gorged with youthful energy than any of their Bay Area forerunners – have returned after 13 years of retirement. But they haven’t brought with them the glories of old. The Art of Dying is the sound of a creative entity so far beyond rudimentary thrash, that they can’t even fake their discomfort in “returning to roots.”

deathangelphotoAs stated by several band members in separate interviews, Death Angel had a tough time “thinking like ’86” in writing The Art of Dying. Can you blame them? After all, these were men who, at barely drinking age, transformed themselves from bashing lunatics to funky rhythm-smiths in four years. Four of these men were also responsible for one of the most overlooked and most talented soul rock bands of the last decade, The Organization, where heart, hooks, and muscle fused to produce two transcendentally powerful albums. Did the public really expect them to be able to “go back to the beginning” and think like teenagers again?

Either way, what we’ve got in The Art of Dying are stiff drumming (drummer/vocalist Andy Galeon, one of rock’s most gifted skinsman, sounds like he’s holding back the entire time), repetition for repetition’s sake (“Thrown to the Wolves,” “The Devil Incarnate,” “Famine”), and safe coloring within the lines. Only a few times does the band let the tidal waves spill over (the hectic single “Thicker Than Blood,” the middles of “5 Steps of Freedom” and “Land of Blood”), and even then we’re reminded of why The Organization were always better than Death Angel (although vocalist Mark Osegueda is now light years ahead of his former performances, Galeon and guitarist/vocalist Rob Cavestany still steal the show when they open their pipes). With the exception of the aforementioned “5 Steps of Freedom,” The Art of Dying tore my expectations down to the ground. Whereas Act III tracks such as “Seemingly Endless Time” and “Stop” were able to emote as much as slay in their wild flailings, nothing here conveys any sort of emotional investment. You never feel like the record’s sweeping you off your feet with power, momentum, or enthusiasm: Only five extremely talented musicians trying to dumb down for the masses.