Style: Hard Rock
Release Date: 4 Oct 2019
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The 2019 trend of old or established bands releasing new product after many years away from the studio continues with Angel, the Washington, DC rockers who were discovered in a nightclub in 1975 by Gene Simmons and built quite a reputation over a few albums in the seventies. They split up in 1981 but got back together in 1998, releasing a new album, In the Beginning, a year later which happened to be twenty years after its predecessor, 1979's Sinful.
Well, this closely duplicates that feat, the current incarnation of the band getting together in 2018 with this album coming one year on and twenty years after In the Beginning. I wonder if that was a deliberate choice by the two current founder members, singer Frank DiMino and guitarist Punky Meadows. If so, I wonder if we can expect a fresh breakup and another reformation twenty further years down the road. These guys aren't going to be young in 2038.
They certainly seem to have got the bit between their teeth this time out. I have to point out that Risen has a pretty ambitious running time, lasting an hour and a quarter. There are no less than seventeen tracks on offer, two of which are re-recorded songs from their first album, the bookends Angel Theme and Tower. This is too much material and I could see it succeeding better as two separate albums, but it's still surprisingly solid.
In fact, it's fantastic for a while. Under the Gun, Shot of Your Love, Slow Down and Over My Head are strong rockers that could easily have been singles back in the seventies. 1975, an ode to the year they were founded, is better still because it includes a glorious keyboard intro of the sort that's sadly not done very often any more. It lasts a couple of minutes, which give way to soft guitar and reminiscing lyrics. Eventually we get vocal harmonies and a patient but tasty guitar solo. Production aside, this song feels like it's 1975 through and through and it's surprising to hear something like this in 2019.
What follows is a mixture of decent songs, weaker songs and surprising songs that betray not merely Angel's influences but who Angel influenced. For the latter, check out (Punky's Couch Blues) Locked, Cocked and Ready to Rock. It owes a great deal to AC/DC, a band who aren't namechecked in the lyrics of 1975, but it also helps to show how Angel influenced the eighties and bands like Y&T. Kiss were far more successful but Angel were one of the bands that all the other bands listened to and they seeped into their bones.
The majority are decent but there are so many of them that it gets too much. There's nothing particularly wrong with Don't Want You to Go, for instance, but it suffers by showing up fourteen tracks in. If it isn't as good as Turn Around and Desire, and they're not as good as Under the Gun and Shot of Your Love, then we start to wonder how bad it must be. It's actually a good song and it loses out only by comparison; on another album, it could have been a highlight.
The lesser songs for me are the more ballad oriented ones. I didn't want to stand up for Stand Up and I.O.U. is a notable step down. It's a sentimental love song that's wildly overdone and it reminds that, as much great material came out of the seventies, there's a lot that we'd like to leave there too. Even if these two had been cropped, the album would still have lasted over an hour and it would have been better for it. Trying to maintain the pace of the first four tracks is wildly ambitious and it trips Angel up in the end.
The most surprising song for me was Our Revolution as it has a really nice heavy riff. I don't think of Angel being a particularly heavy band but they do it with style and I wonder how this album would have played had they done it more often. As this song proves, you can be heavy and still have hooks to die for.
I really hope that Angel don't drift back away again because this is a good album that could have been truly great with some judicious trimming. I feel like I have to give it a seven but, cut down to the best ten tracks, it would easily have been an eight and very possibly a nine.