American metalheads Fifth Angel were truly one of the ones that got away in the eighties; Their sound, antithetical of the entire US power metal movement, was seemingly perfect for its time, a swoonsome melange of Dio and Iron Maiden shot through with a melodic suss later to find it’s rightful home in acts as seemingly diverse as House of Lords and Leatherwolf; the band’s eponymous anthem is one of the great US metal tracks of that decade… It shouldn’t have foundered, but somehow it did.
Will Fifth Angel make a better fist of things in 2019?
It’s hard to honestly say yes. There are so many bands extant these days that sound like Fifth Angel, that they find themselves seriously in danger of having missed a boat that they had a huge hand in making. At times on new album The Third Secret – most notably the quasi-titanic title track – they sound once more like genuine contenders. Muscly – but not musclebound – axes squall and grind, grandiose keyboards give epic flesh to cinematic intention, and the glorious vocals of Kendall Bechtel soar above the battlefield, issuing a clarion call to all those ready to heed it.
However at other times the band drift far too deeply into Dio-infested waters (particularly on the propulsive We Will Rise), an especially unfortunate state of affairs given that Craig Goldy’s Dream Child project would appear to have that particular niche market sewn up for the rest of 2018 and possibly beyond should they so desire it.
The greatest injustice done here to Fifth Angel is that there’s nothing on The Third Secret that isn’t actively stimulating for those of a trad metal bent. The material is uniformly strong. Have a listen to the stomping (but, once again, undeniably Dioesque) Queen of Thieves and deny your basic, primal urge to bang your head – you won’t be able to. It’s just that at least half of the songs on offer could have been written by at least one of half a dozen other metal bands currently doing the rounds, or indeed by a long list of other US metal acts, from Warrior, through Crimson Glory to anything involving Jack Starr, in the last thirty years.
Album closer Hearts of Stone is quite superb, too, and ends things on an undeniably high note, the whole band pulling out all the stops to send the listener away feeling good about the band. But for this reviewer this high water mark isn’t reached often enough for The Third Secret to be regarded as truly essential stuff. Let’s hope the band sticks around long enough this time to really fulfil their undoubted, world-devouring potential.
The Third Secret will be released through Nuclear Blast on October 26th.