Review Summary: An inconsistent but occasionally great album by the veteran thrash band that ultimately falls on its face too many times to be an essential album for thrash fans.
Death Angel's 21st century work has been pretty variable in overall quality, with the largely passable thrash n' roll Killing Season being the valley to the solid and modernized The Evil Divide's peak. Relentless Retribution isn't as noteworthy as the latter but manages to indicate at some of the strong material to come later and offers a reasonably decent take on the modern metal infused thrash formula that defined their following works.
Opener Relentless Revolution
states the basic blueprint of somewhat more mid paced thrash metal that dominates the album's sound. The somewhat overly tidy production job nevertheless has a degree of girth that helps to provide aptly heavy moments at times, such as on album highlight Death of the Meek
. The lack of truly gung-ho thrash moments does hold the album back somewhat, with most of the more noteworthy segments instead being the firm grooves of tracks like the Death of the Meek and Where They Lay
and the NWOAHM-esque clean vocals and melodies of Claws In So Deep
and I Chose the Sky
. Said mid-2000s popular metalcore influences aren't too intrusive or irritating, but unlike a band like Trivium
, Death Angel doesn't really go for melodic builds into catchy choruses, making them seem somewhat lacking as a diversion from the repetitive thrash elsewhere. The vocals throughout also don't really do any favours to the more melodic sections of the songs, not quite keeping in key consistently enough.
If there is anything that Relentless Retribution does succeed in, it's building heavy, no nonsense riffs. This Hate
opens with a groovy riff that simply bulldozes its way to a relatively catchy and upbeat verse riff that certainly hints at some crossover influences not really found elsewhere in the band's material. The song does unfortunately suffer from some vocal issues, but largely succeeds instrumentally. Some of the more standard thrashers manage to outperform the others as well, such as Truce
and River of Rapture
, simply through the band's combination of refined musicianship and catchy songwriting. However, tracks like the pretty awful ballad Volcanic
do heavily obstruct the listening experience with some cringeworthy lyrics and bad clean vocals. Had the songwriting been more diversified tempo wise, rather than stylistically, it'd likely be a considerably better experience.
Not achieving quite the level of consistency of the following Death Angel efforts, Relentless Retribution nonetheless is a pretty decent effort from the veteran band. The strength of tracks like This Hate would perhaps been better served without the deviations into more NWOAHM-ish territory, but the modern metal influences that seep in aren't so bad that they spoil the experience. Further refinement thankfully clearly occurred with later releases, and as its own piece Relentless Retribution has plenty of great riffs and leads to keep it largely interesting.
*Review re-written 19/09/17*