There’s something to be said for bands who completely eschew the new and worship the gods of old. I’m not talking about the bands who shamelessly rip off and clone the sound of past bands, such as every local stoner band ever trying to be Sleep or the wave of 70s retro acts aping Black Sabbath. I’m talking about bands who basically pretend nothing has happened musically since a certain style or era and put their own spin on it. Currently, there’s a burgeoning mass of death metal bands exploring ideas left behind by bands like Demilich, Immolation, Incantation, Timeghoul, and very early Bolt Thrower. Power metal is no exception, with a resurgence of the 80s USPM style manifesting itself in many acts not only in the US, but also in Europe, particularly England and Finland.
Angel Sword started off on the wrong foot with me. I made it about half way through the album before dismissing it as garbage. Due to my obsessive desire to listen to albums fully before rating them on rateyourmusic.com, however, I returned to complete the album start to finish so i could drop that 1.5 star rating and clear it out of my charts. I am SO glad I came back. It’s currently my favorite album of 2016.
If you told me this album came out sometime between 1979 and 1982, I would believe you. The guitars have that lovely warm Marshall amp sound with maybe an overdrive pedal and nothing else. The tone is, for metal, light and pleasing. The bass is audible and supportive in that 70s style, similar to the bass on Riot‘s first few albums. The drums sit comfortably balanced in the mix. Basically, this album sounds like heavy metal from the late 70s. The vocals are where I got thrown off originally. This guy takes a weird Venom/Cirith Ungol/Motorhead/Manilla Road take on singing, with a seemingly forced rasp. The first couple times I listened, it was absolutely a negative thing for me, but with the dozens of repeated listens, they’ve since become extremely endearing to me. As much as I enjoy highly trained singers wailing impossible notes, dirtier and more primitive heavy metal bands like Angel Sword need that gruff, untrained style to pull off the sound, and this guy NAILS it. Raw and earnest, the vocals add another layer of authenticity to the music.
As far as songwriting goes, Rebels Beyond the Pale abandons the punkier speed and aggression of their previous EP, Ripping the Heavens (do yourself a favor and look at that artwork!) As fun as that EP is, the new direction is unquestionably superior. Angel Sword takes more from Thin Lizzy, Riot, and Iron Maiden this time around. Rebels Beyond the Pale is LOADED with feel good jams, mostly because of how often they utilize major keys versus the typical minor keys favored in metal. The songs follow a simple structure, with a typical verse / chorus format broken up by the odd bridge, solo, and/or guitar melody. Every chorus on this album is anthemic, catchy, and practically begging for a room full of sweaty dudes in vests to sing and shout along to. There’s plenty of creativity despite the simple style in which they play, such as the clean guitar on the verses of “Lords of Thunder”. The lead guitar is exceptionally well written, guiding us through every solo with melodic precision, often accompanied by the rhythm guitar to form wonderful harmonies. The album climaxes on “Heavy Metal Night”, with a magnificent chorus and guitar solo. The album closer, “Witches Never Die”, even pulls out some old school doom vibes.
Rebels Beyond the Pale does have a learning curve, which is probably the only negative point I have against it. Like I mentioned earlier, I was immediately turned off by the vocals before I became used to them and started to enjoy them. Angel Sword are playing a very niche style of heavy metal that isn’t really for everyone. For those of us who do enjoy this style, Rebels Beyond the Pale is a huge triumph for old school metal. Angel Sword very clearly adore the legends of the 70s and 80s, and it brightly shines through their lyrics and music. References to Riot, Sarcofago, Manowar, and others are littered through the lyrics. Some songs are bleeding with Riot and Thin Lizzy influences, while Jerry Razors’s vocals are plainly shaped from a devotion to Manilla Road’s Mark Shelton. If you enjoy anything about heavy metal from the 70s and early 80s, you would be making a grave mistake to skip this album.
5 out of 5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
If I haven’t sold you yet, Dave from Nucleus has this to say about Angel Sword: “If you don’t like Angel Sword, fuck you.” You heard it here first folks. Jump on the Angel Sword train now. Support them here on Facebook and Bandcamp.