Review: Fifth AngelWhen Angels Kill

Fifth Angel - When Angels Kill album

Your move, Angel Witch.

(This review was written by Jake)

Born out of the Seattle music scene in the mid-’80s alongside other influential heavy metal acts like Metal Church and Queensryche, Fifth Angel rose to prominence with their 1985 demo and 1986 self-titled debut with producer Terry Date. After their second album, Time Will Tell in 1990 the band fell dormant. Aside from reuniting briefly in 2010 all was quiet among the Fifth Angel camp until their revitalized lineup burst onto the scene in 2017 and have been going strong ever since. After their third release, The Third Secret in 2018, the group dropped their long awaited 4th full length When Angels Kill on June 19th 2023 via Nuclear Blast Records.

When Angels Kill boasts some serious firepower; Fifth Angel shows that they aren’t just legendary and influential, but show they still have a lot more to offer to the scene. Similar to Metal Church (who also dropped an album this year), their familiar blend of classic heavy, speed and thrash metal isn’t anything necessarily new or nuanced, but is written, played and produced with such conviction that I can’t help but be sucked in. There is a noticeably heavier tone and conceptual structure to this record which does make it stand apart somewhat from prior releases. While the album is admittedly a little overly cramped and the interlude bits don’t add much, the musicianship really connects and continuously impresses throughout the albums runtime.

Every member of the group gives arguably career best performances. With the modern heavier sound, the dueling guitars from classic shredder Ed Archer and Flotsam and Jetsam‘s Steve Conley form a strong partnership and drive much of the energy on the record. The rhythm section as well is equally as effective, with long tenured bassist, John Macko and classic drummer Ken Mary both show how they are two of the best in the game.

Ken Mary‘s one of the most underappreciated metal drummers in history. His storied career behind the kit include performing with the likes of Alice Cooper, Impellitteri, and Flotsam and Jetsam and he also handles a chunk of production, recording and mixing along with Conley. Vocalist Steve Carlson does a fantastic job and sets himself apart from past Fifth Angel mouth pieces. He is equal parts melodic and powerful and holds the record together while the rhythm section anchors the ship from the rear.

There legitimately isn’t a single bad track on this album. It’s no masterpiece by any means, some overstay their welcome and have a little fat but the power and presentation of the material surprisingly does justify the double album length. The album starts strong with two of the highlights of the entire project, “When Angels Kill”, and “Resist the Tyrant both are killer cuts and the next set of songs that follow are pretty solid as well. “Seven Angels” might be the highlight of the record overall, and the final few cuts are ballistic rippers, “Kill the Pain”, “Five Days of Madness”, “Ashes to Ashes”, and “The End of Everything” left me thrilled and satisfied yet excited and wanting more. The guest vocal spot from Crystal Viper frontwoman Marta Gabriel on track 12 “Ashes to Ashes” is a welcome surprise as well.

Fifth Angel delivers an expansive, enthralling and subversive record that will please longtime and new fans. It will most likely be overlooked in the grand scheme of releases over the course of 2023, but it wholeheartedly deserves some attention and recognition. Hats off to Fifth Angel for still being here and still doing what they did best all those years ago—writing great music.

Top Tracks: “Seven Angels”, “When Angels Kill”, and “Resist the Tyrant”

4/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell

When Angels Kill is out now via Nuclear Blast Records.

Did you dig this? Take a second to support Toilet ov Hell on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!