Let’s face it; when Heavy/Power Metal icons Fifth Angel unleashed their long-awaited ‘comeback’ The Third Secret (2018), many were unsure of what to expect. As a long-suffering enthusiast of their quasi-indescribable t-onalities, the group (now led by guitarist Kendall Bechtel) appeared destined for the recognition they so rightf-ully deserve. However, it ’twas not to be as the frontman would unexpectedly depart shortly thereafter, leaving their future again very much in doubt. Desperately clinging–metaphorically, at least–to my battle-scarred copi-es of Fifth Angel (1986) and Time Will Tell (1989), I quietly hoped for yet another reunion or reconfiguration. If it had happened once before, it almost certainly could happen again, right? Fortunately for all parties involved, with multi-octave frontman Steven Carlson (Color Of Chaos and the Mötley Crüe tributes (!) ‘The Crüe’, among others) now officially and quite firmly at the helm, they’ve unleashed the often blistering gem When Angels Kill.
On the stellar When Angels Kill (2023), an expertly assembled ten song collection of Heavy/Power Metal, each track, beginning with the relentlessly pummeling ‘statement of intent’ “When Angels Kill” and the breathl- ess, hook-laden “On Wings Of Steel”, immediately commands the rapt and undivided attention of all parties involved, myself most definitely included. Driving home each key focal point with a justifiably renewed swagg-er, the already well-documented intensities of Time Will Tell (1989) as well as the previously-discussed gem The Third Secret (1988) are on display early and often. Proving that some artists do actually improve with age, the initial onslaught(s) are on par with the crème de la crème of the genre’s elite as they drive home each key focal point with near-lethal precision. Effortlessly obliterating the few misguided souls still doubtful of their ability to persevere despite the less-than-amicable nature of the genre as a whole, the group flexes their ‘creative muscles’.
Continuing with the gritty, thought-provoking lamentation “Empire Of Hate” and the maddeningly infectio-us “Blinded And Bleeding”, the newly-rejuvenated combination of vocalist Steven Carlson, lead guitarist Jim Dofka (Necrophagia, Leather Leone, Psycho Scream), guitarist/keyboardist Ed Archer and guitarist Steve Conl-ey, bassist John Macko and drummer Ken Mary (Alice Cooper, House Of Lords, Impelliterri) steamroll ahead at what can only be described as a carefully-calculated pace. Fueled, in part at least, via Carlson’s soaring, multi-octave histrionics and an astounding array of razor-sharp riffs and solos, the group’s distinct sonic stamp is sho–wcased throughout as they flex their more than considerable creative muscles. Rife with a staggering array of c-onceptual interludes, the resulting sonic excursions, while not necessarily groundbreaking and certainly not rev-olutionary, effectively encapsulate the true ‘essence’ of the Power Metal genre without sounding forced or dated.
A delightfully exhaustive affair throughout (When Angels Kill ‘clocks in’ at nearly seventy minutes), other st-andouts, including the oft-thunderous yet entirely thought-provoking battlecry “Five Days To Madness” and the equally impressive closer–and apparently Primal Fear-influenced–“Light The Sky”, are seemingly guaranteed to further cement the group as a bona fide creative and commercial force not to be ignored. Most definitely not for the faint of heart or weak of constitution, much of what the group has accomplished, both here and over the course of nearly four decades, are worthy of the highest of critical and commercial praise and deserve to be trea-ted accordingly. Despite this, even with the undeniably mighty Carlson now firmly at the helm vocally and per-haps now symbolically as their new permanent frontman, it still remains entirely unclear if the group’s attempts to recapture the magics of so long ago will ultimately prove successful or even sustainable for a long-term basis.
But is it Time Will Tell, Vol. II? Absolutely not. But then again, that’s really not the point, now is it? Perhaps the improbably resilient group’s most thoroughly-enjoyable effort to date, the majority–if not all–of the lasting-ly memorable wares contained herein are seemingly guaranteed to leave both clueless newcomers and die-hard completists alike only wanting for more. While not necessarily for everyone (particularly those without a genui-ne and sincere interest in all things Heavy Metal-related), the end results of their more-than-considerable efforts are nothing short of extraordinary. Even if you find yourself less than enthralled with their tendency for sporadic releases, one must, at the very least, sincerely admire their ability to persevere amid a not necessarily friendly environment. Accordingly, if you have once again found yourself in search of an arguably ‘Old School’ fix, then this, my friends, might just be the high octane cure-all for what ails you. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.