Death Angel

Live at The Key Club

Los Angeles, CA

February 22nd, 2011

Review and photos by Travis Baumann

Death Angel exude metal from their name, their logo, their imagery, and most importantly, their sound. Hailing from the San Francisco area, a region known for its thrash influences on the modern metal scene, this group of musicians adhere to that sub genre's principles in speed and ferocity but also inject a heavy dose of the classic metal sound as well with the singer's vocal styles.

I would liken them to early "Kill Em All" era Metallica mixed with Megadeth but with a higher pitched vocal style. To me, thrash metal is the closest to the Punk and Hardcore movement in the mid to late eighties in terms of angst and expression.

Their latest album "Relentless Retribution" on Nuclear Blast carries this fist in the face and finger in the air attitude with a smashing metal structure, that while having throw backs to the early thrash albums of that same era, definitely bring a new edge and sound to the arena.

Death Angel have been making music for nearly three decades. While getting a start at a super young age, they drew the attention of Metallica stars Kirk Hammet and Cliff Burton so it is fitting that they are compared on that level, but while Metallica lost their soul and become pop monsters, Death Angel remain true to their origins and maintained an unwavering musical legacy.

The band was excited to be headlining this tour after a number of supporting runs and the lead singer spoke to the crowd between songs as if reuniting with long lost friends. They played a long set which moved around their back catalog but put the new material in an appropriate spotlight.

They started off the set with "I Chose the Sky" which got the mosh pit going from the first riffs and maintained it through out the entire set. "Evil Priest" was up next, followed by "Buried Alive" and then moved into a real crowd-pleaser, "Mistress of Pain".

Death Angel definitely have a fanatical following with the audience ranging in ages from the very young to those quite past middle age. There were fathers and sons enjoying the music together and being smashed around joyfully in the chaos near the front of the venue.

They continued the set with "Claws In So Deep" followed by "Seeming Endless Time". The lead singer introduced each member of the band and talked about the new album, the cover of which was projected on a giant screen above the band the entire show. The went into "This Hate" off the new album and then did the awesome title track "Relentless Retribution" which had the audience singing along.

Keeping the set moving with another new track, "Truce" was up next and it is definitely a perfect example of what these guys do best. The band mostly left the stage but the guitarists emerged first and they did an instrumental excerpt of Iron Maiden's "Purgatory". This quickly lead into "Veil of Deception" which reignited the pit's frenzy.

They did "Opponents at Sides" next leading into "Bored". This song transitioned into one of my favorite moments of the night as they did "Heaven and Hell", a fitting tribute to the late great Ronnie James Dio. This was an awesome cover version of the old Sabbath tune and the singer really did a great job.

They concluded the main set with "Thrashers" and left the stage until the chanting and clapping brought them back out. The encore began with "Lord of Hate" and continued with "River of Rapture". To finish up the extensive set they chose one of their legacy hit songs, "Thrown to the Wolves" which brought the house down and the fans to near exhaustion.

It was a great set and a lot of fun to watch them perform all these songs live. The sound was superb as per the usual at the Key Club.  It is a great intimate venue with a large enough space to have a sizable turn out but small enough to put you right in front of the band and not only have crystal clear sound but as clear a view of the players as well.

The highlights for me were definitely the title track "Relentless Retribution" and the "Heaven and Hell" cover version but I also really enjoyed the lead singer's banter with the audience. The crowd, while being crazy fans and moshers, still had a lot off respect and interaction with each other in a way that added to the entire evening.

You can tell when a band is really enjoying playing for the crowd as much as the crowd is feeding off the music and this builds a reciprocal energy in the venue, which is for me what seeing live shows is all about. Glad I made it out on this Tuesday as it was exactly the experience I was hoping for.

"Join us, or Step aside".

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