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Death Angel 

The Art of Dying (Nuclear Blast)

Bay Area thrash bands of the past, rise from the grave! First it was Exodus, with Tempo of the Damned. Now the same label, Nuclear Blast, has shoved Death Angel out of the retirement home and back into the studio. But age means nothing when you're making metal as timeless and crushing as The Art of Dying.

It begins with a 30-second acoustic guitar intro, just as every thrash album from the '80s did, before launching into the breakneck "Thrown to the Wolves," a song with more torture metaphors than a Cannibal Corpse ditty. The rest of the album has the same kind of propulsive, bottom-heavy groove as the classic offerings of contemporaries like Exodus and Possessed -- even vintage Death Angel. Does metal need Death Angel in 2004? Yes. Metal's technical arms race, with each band trying to outpace and outshred the one before it, is exhilarating, but eventually inspires listener burnout. Reminders that thrash can be melodic and brutal are always welcome.

More by Phil Freeman

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