It’s funny how life goes in circles, in 2018 we have new releases by legendary bands like FIFTH ANGEL and HEIR APPARENT, which both had released absolutely nothing new since 1989. I grew up listening to bands like these and they had already disbanded and vanquished into the mists of heavy metal legend by the time I first listened to their music. But against all odds they are back and it’s a really strange feeling listening to their new albums.
Given the fact that the first two FIFTH ANGEL albums had a vastly different musical direction, the first one rooted in US heavy power and the second leaning towards melodic hard rock, it was a matter of debate and assumptions how the new album would sound like. Well, that can be answered very easily. The new album is 100% heavy metal. On the other hand Bechtel’s guitar playing reminds of the heavier moments from “Time Will Tell”. So what we got here is what “Time Will Tell” would sound like if it was a heavy metal album. Or maybe what the debut album would sound like if Bechtel played and sung on it. Hope you get the meaning.
FIFTH ANGEL never enjoyed a stable lineup, one of the reasons they disbanded in 1990. The third album has been recorded by a once again different lineup, mixing members that played on the first two albums. The rhythm section of John Macko and Ken Mary is the only constant in all three albums. Kendall Bechtel, who replaced James Byrd and played on 1989’s “Time Will Tell” took over all guitar duties and vocals too. For those who are not aware, Bechtel is a very talented vocalist and the funny fact is that he recorded lead vocals for James Byrd’s solo album “Crimes of Virtuosity”, the same James Byrd that Bechtel replaced as a guitarist in FIFTH ANGEL.
Bechtel is definitely the star of the album. Not only does he perform all guitars and lead vocals, but he does it in great style. I knew he was a great singer (just check out ‘’Crimes of virtuosity’’), but I didn’t expect he would still be able to perform so well. If anyone thought that we would miss Ted Pilot, I can assure him we won’t. I mean Pilot was a quite good singer, but Bechtel is better in my opinion and probably has a wider range. As for his prowess on guitar, it was well documented on ‘’Time will tell’’, so that’s no surprise. Still I have to say I really enjoyed his skillful playing and especially his riffing and his rhythmic parts, an aspect of guitar playing that is very overlooked by newer generations of guitar players who only care about shredding. And as if that was not enough, Bechtel is also the main songwriter on the new album, so if the album is any good it’s mainly due to this guy.
So is the album any good? Oh yes! All songs are high quality heavy metal, no fillers. The playing by all members is superb and the production is totally killer. Most of the songs are fast paced and heavy, there are also a couple of mid tempo songs and a couple of semi-ballads (not the typical romantic power ballad stuff). It’s really hard picking favorites, almost all songs are on the same level, so it’s up to each listener’s preferences. ‘’Stars are falling’’ opens the album in spectacular fashion, up tempo 80’s heavy/power at its best, catchy as hell. ‘’We will rise’’ is a bit slower, it sounds a lot like DIO stuff and has a big chorus. ‘’Queen of thieves’’ on the other hand is a much heavier and darker mid tempo track with great riffing that reminded me of LEATHERWOLF. Definitely a highlight. ‘’Can you hear me’’, the ballad that was released as a first sample and had people confused about the albums direction, is nevertheless a great song. Fantastic vocals and a mindblowing solo by Bechtel. ‘’This is war’’ sounds like something out of DIO’s ‘’Dream Evil’’ given a power metal treatment, Bechtel gets dangerously close to Ronnie’s grit and vocal style on this one. “Fatima” is another song worth mentioning, the haunting vocals underline its religious theme and the short solo is fantastic. Wish it was longer than just 3 minutes. The title track has a great galloping rhythm, oriental overtones, a dark atmosphere and even some strings, like a mix of Dio/Martin era BLACK SABBATH and RAINBOW. Closing track ‘’Hearts of stone’’ is one of those songs you could easily add to the tracklist of FIFTH ANGEL’s debut without anyone noticing the difference. Every song, even those few I didn’t mention, is really enjoyable. I can’t remember the last time I got to listen to an album that grabbed my attention like that from start to finnish.
Well, at this point I think this review has gone way too far. If you are into 80’s heavy metal just go grab this album and play it loud.