Nuclear Blast - 2004 - 55 minutes

Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth were known as the 'Big Four' of thrash metal back in the 1980s, but San Francisco's Death Angel were among the most promising of the pack that followed in their wake. Here was a band that championed U2 and The Sisters of Mercy while others refused to move their ears outside the genre and who, over the course of three blistering records, offered hints as to where heavy music could head in the next decade.

They were barely out of their teens when they released the style-jumping landmark 'Act III' and should have spent the 1990s enjoying plaudits like their Bay Area brethren Metallica. Instead, they were involved in a near-fatal bus crash in 1990, lost momentum afterwards and broke up.

But their legend continued to grow and now reunited, 14 years later, 'The Art of Dying' will hopefully act as a springboard to the success that should have been theirs. With thrash experiencing a massive revival - and legions of thirtysomethings in the throes of a nostalgia high - Death Angel stick to their trademark sound and that is both this album's greatest strength and weakness.

As the brilliant opener 'Thrown to the Wolves' shows, Death Angel need fear nothing from today's coolest, but with such a long layoff came the expectation that more progression was in the offing. Riff-for-crunchy-riff, solo-for-shredding-solo 'The Art of Dying' does exactly what any Death Angel fan would expect, but any fan also knows that this is a band with a far greater sense of adventure than this album suggests.

Harry Guerin

Tracklisting: Thrown to the Wolves - 5 Steps of Freedom - Thicker than Blood - The Devil Incarnate - Famine - Prophecy - No - Spirit - Land of Blood - Never Me - Word to the Wise