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The heavenly music of Fifth Angel

By: Sjak

The music business is a tough world and as such there are many examples of great bands that have never gotten the success that they should have gotten on the basis of their musicianship and wonderful song material. One of the most prominent examples of this injustice is the American band Fifth Angel, who released two awesome albums in the eighties, which got rave reviews everywhere but didn’t bring the band any commercial success. Nowadays these collector’s items are somewhat hard to find and therefore it’s praiseworthy that Metal Blade brings these two outstanding records to market again.

Fifth Angel

The story of Fifth Angel starts in the summer of 1984 when singer Ted Pilot asks guitar player James Byrd to help him out with the recording of a demo. In drummer Ken Mary, bass player Kenny Kay and guitar player Ed Archer the necessary like-minded souls are found and under the name of Fifth Angel a four-track demo is released in 1985, which in my opinion belongs to the best demos that ever saw the light of day. The basis of the sound of the band is without a doubt traditional heavy metal, but they always keep a keen eye on the melodic aspect as well. That combination accounts for the fact that the four tunes on offer ‘Fifth Angel’, ‘Under Pressure’, the semi-ballad ‘Wings Of Destiny’ and ‘Fade To Flames’ are of an exceptional high quality level, at which immediately needs to be said that the excellent vocals of Ted Pilot and the lovely riffs of James Byrd and Ed Archer als provide a big contribution to that.

This fantastic demo awakens the interest of Mike Varney and soon a record deal with Shrapnel Records is signed. With bass player John Macko as replacement for Kenny Kay the legendary eponymously entitled debut album is recorded, which is released in September of 2016. The record (which by the way is released with two different album covers, of which the one with the angel is the remixed version) is very well received by the music press and nothing seems to stand in the way of a big career for the band. The material is of an exceptionally high quality level and especially the fast opener ‘In The Fallout’, the slowbanger ‘Shout It Out’, the anthem ‘Fifth Angel’, the semi-ballad ‘Wings Of Destiny’ and the melodic ‘Cry Out The Fools’ sound impressive, but also the other material on offer is truly fantastic. Despite of the original enthusiasm of Mike Varney the albums doesn’t get the promotion that is necessary to become really successful and therefore it is decided not to continue the deal with Shrapnel Records and to go and look for a new label. That doesn’t take anything away from the fact that ‘Fifth Angel’ belongs to the very best debut albums that were ever brought to market.

Score: 95/100

1. In The Fallout
2. Shout It Out
3. Call Out The Warning
4. Fifth Angel
5. Wings Of Destiny
6. The Night
7. Only The Strong Survive
8. Cry Out The Fools
9. Fade To Flames

Time Will Tell

For the second album ‘Time Will Tell’ (from 1989) they had to find a new label and that was found rather fast in Epic Record, who truly believed in the enormous potential of the band. Unfortunately master guitarist James Byrd decided to leave the band to start up his own project Atlantis Rising, while also drummer Ken Mary was busy with some other activities with Alice Cooper and House Of Lords. The last mentioned however still found the time to play on ‘Time Will Tell’, while guitar player Kendall Bechtel was recruited as a replacement for James Byrd. The material that is to be found on this second album, is even more melodic than what was showcased on ‘Fifth Angel’ but definitely is of the same quality level. Especially the lovely opener ‘Cathedral’, the great ‘Midnight Love’, the ballad ‘Broken Dreams’ (in which Ted Pilot truly excels), ‘We Rule’ and an excellent version of the UFO-classic ‘Lights Out’ clearly show that the band was still “on fire” and that results in the fact that also ‘Time Will Tell’ is an absolute classic album in the genre which should be part of everybody’s personal collection.

Maybe that the fans of the band couldn’t really appreciate the somewhat more commercial sound of ‘Time Will Tell’, because also this second album didn’t bring the band the success that they had hoped for, despite of the superior song material and flawless execution thereof. That caused the band to call it a day pretty fast after the release of ‘Time Will Tell’. The lack of commercial success doesn’t take anything away from the fact however that both Fifth Angel releases belong to the best material that has been released in the eighties and therefore it’s completely justified that Metal Blade once more draws the attention to these two albums. Unbelievably beautiful material…

Score: 95/100

1. Cathedral
2. Midnight Love
3. Seven Hours
4. Broken Dreams
5. Time Will Tell
6. Lights Out
7. Wait For Me
8. Angel Of Mercy
9. We Rule
10. So Long
11. Feel The Heat

Metal Archives
Metal Blade Records

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