THIS WEEK I’M LISTENING TO...FIFTH ANGEL When Angels Kill (Nuclear Blast)THIS WEEK I’M LISTENING TO...FIFTH ANGEL When Angels Kill (Nuclear Blast)

If ever a band was short-changed by lady luck, it’s Fifth Angel. Striking out from the independent metal scene with their self-titled debut in 1986, the Seattle-based band were swiftly spotted ‘n’ signed by Epic, who remixed the album and gave it a health push. ‘Fifth Angel’ was followed by ‘Time Will Tell’ in 1989, but by this time though the metal scene was in meltdown as too many bands chased an ever-decreasing pot of fame and fortune. It also seemed as though a major label had knocked off the sheen that had made Fifth Angel stand out, and perhaps signing to Epic had been a Faustian pact. By the end of 1990 they’d called it a day.

Fast forward to 2018, and a new look Fifth Angel, signed to Nuclear Blast, released ‘The Third Secret’. From the original band only drummer Ken K Mary remained, alongside bassist John Macko (an ’Angel veteran from the second album) and Kendall Bechtel who seemed to do everything else. Original guitarist Ed Archer signed on soon after, and with Mary, Archer and Macko now joined by frontman Steve Carlson, and guitarists Steve Conley and Jim Dofka Fifth Angel have unveiled their fourth album ‘When Angels Kill’.

A firm contender for album of the year, ‘When Angels Kill’ is the coolest thing you’ll find outside your fridge; the band may not be prolific, but when they have something to say they’re pretty much unstoppable. Songs like the drum-driven ‘We Are Immortal’ and ‘Five Days To Madness’, with their razor-sharp riffs, lush vocal harmonies, and top-drawer soloing, are a metal fan’s dream. There’s nothing out of place here: the songs have been meticulously composed and lovingly brought to life, and seventy minutes in the company of this album is a sheer joy. It is a concept album, but don’t let those words fill you with dread. Aside from the occasional linking dialogue the concept – roughly, a guy who refuses to conform in a futuristic society and joins forces with fellow freedom fighters – is not overbearing and, like for example ‘Operation: Mindcrime’ from fellow Seattlers Queensryche (an album which actually makes for an interesting point of comparison), the music is powerful and stands alone, loud and proud. A great album from a great band.

Video clips:
‘When Angels Kill’ -

‘Resist The Tyrant’ -

'We Are Immortal' - 

© John Tucker June 2023