Four-year wait between albums. Terrible album cover. Generic album title. A song called "Sonic Beatdown". Is it any wonder I was nervous about giving this one a spin? I shoulda known better — DEATH ANGEL are doing things on their own terms these days, for the right reasons, and they'll release another album of their classy, grown up thrash when they're damn good and ready. And it was worth the wait, because "Killing Season" is stuffed full of rousing choruses, huge chords and massive metal anthems delivered with passion and style."Killing Season" (come on… really? "Killing Season"?) comes off as more aggressive and a little more thrashy than 2004's "The Art of Dying", but without sacrificing the band's focus on Mark Osegueda's crystal-clear pipes and infectious vocal lines. The guitars of Rob Cavestany and Ted Aguilar provide plenty of big open notes and propel the songs, shining during the impressive solos and occasional acoustic interludes. It takes a few listens to really notice how cleverly these songs are put together, or how well sly little bits like the fanfare in "Carnival Justice" are worked in without seeming goofy or forced. Quality-wise, you could slot these tunes next to the best material on "Act III" without embarrassment — no mean feat for a band nearly two decades removed from their masterwork (yeah, yeah, I know, you like "The Ultra Violence" better, but you're wrong). From the soaring bridge of "Lord of Hate" to the brass-knuckled midtempo call to arms of "Soulless", this is some energetic, blood-pumping metal that's like audio caffeine. I mean, put on "Carnival Justice" and just try not to headbang in glee, especially at the twin lead part at the end of the guitar solo. You just can't. Even "Sonic Beatdown", the latest in a too-long line of rock songs about how much rocking rocks, is a scorcher that rises above its lyrical triteness. Not every song is a start-to-finish classic, but every one has something to recommend it — there are no "skip tracks" here, just an album full of high-quality, high-gloss modern-day melodic thrash from a band of guys who probably couldn't put together a bad tune if they tried. "The Art of Dying" was good, but "Killing Season" blows it out of the water, destined to carve out its own space in the destroyed attention spans of the privileged few who'll check it out. Thanks, guys, for not turning in a half-assed rehash of 1987, but creating meaningful, powerful music for this day and age, trends and nostalgia be damned.
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