Artist: Fifth Angel

Album Title: The Third Secret

Label: Nuclear Blast

Date of Release: 26 October 2018

The last time Seattle-based heavy metal band Fifth Angel released an album, I didn’t know what heavy metal was. I was about eight or nine years old and obsessed with football and the original Transformers cartoon series. That was nearly three decades ago but here we are in 2018, faced with album number three, aptly-titled ‘The Third Secret’. And, having spent the past 20-plus years exploring and devouring this glorious music in all its various forms and subgenres, I’m now know all about the magic of heavy metal.

Back in the day, Fifth Angel, who were spawned from the same heavy metal hotspot as Queensryche, Sanctuary and metal Church, were signed to a seven-album deal worth $21m but they disbanded in the early 90s as the grunge movement threatened the very lifeblood of heavy metal. Their talents have not gone unnoticed however because Fifth Angel managed to turn the heads of those in the know at Nuclear Blast and were signed on the basis of just a three-track demo having decided to reform in 2010 to headline the Keep It True festival. These guys must have something about them, regardless of the relentless passage of time it seems.

As is the way of things, Fifth Angel v2018 is a little different in the personnel department than they were in the early days. The original members of drummer Ken Mary and bassist John Macko remain but they are now joined by guitarist and lead vocalist Kendall Bechtel in the place of vocalist Ted Pilot and guitarist Ed Archer.

I was persuaded to give this album a listen because of all of the positive comments that I read from several quarters on the Internet, from those unknown and those trusted alike. Given these comments and given their initial success in the early days, I didn’t want to miss out again.

However, I’m not sure whether it is because of my lofty hopes for this release or what because I cannot avoid the feeling of being a touch underwhelmed by ‘The Third Secret’. It isn’t a poor release and anyone who suggests such a thing is being more than a little disingenuous. The fact remains though that for my tastes, this record lacks the ‘wow’ factor that I had expected to hear. Or, as the French might say, it is devoid of a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’.


From the opening notes of ‘Stars Are Falling’, with its thunderous, urgent drumming, expansive lead guitar dexterity and lung-busting cry from Bechtel, it is clear that Fifth Angel still have what it takes to make powerful and well-honed heavy metal in the classic vein. The chorus gallops along with unrestrained glee and it is undeniably catchy. Indeed, when you then factor in a commanding vocal performance from Bechtel, plenty of lead six-string histrionics, it is very easy to get swept up in the nostalgia of it all.

Follow-up track, ‘We Will Rise’ continues the trend as it explodes out of the blocks with a cheeky swagger, where the riffs are both chunky and vibrant and where the rhythm section of Macko and Mary lays down a forceful, if uncomplicated, backbone. If anything, the chorus is even better than its predecessor, a hook-laden affair that will have you throwing the horns an punching the air like it’s 1989 again.

Unfortunately, from there, my attention starts to wander and I begin to lose interest. The music on ‘The Third Secret’ becomes a little formulaic, a little pedestrian and lacking in real stand-out moments if I’m being entirely honest.

The chunky, mid-tempo stomp of ‘Queen of Thieves’ becomes a bit of a plod, whilst I’m hard-pushed to remember very much of tracks like ‘Dust To Dust’, ‘Fatima’ or the title track which is really mediocre fare at best.

The quasi ballad-like ‘Can You Hear Me?’, with a strong chorus and the introduction of some rich acoustic guitars is sufficiently epic-sounding to rouse me from my general malaise. ‘This Is War’ also has a muscular charm as it happens. However, with a few too many missteps along the way, it means that by the time we reach the final duo of ‘Shame On You’ and ‘Hearts of Stone’, I find that I am no longer fully engaged and invested in the music.

All that being said, I want it to go on record again that ‘The Third Secret’ is not a bad album, far from it. You have to consider the context in which the record sits for a start – to produce an album as solid as this after being out of the game for such a long period of time is an impressive feat and should not be overlooked. I just feel that too often, Fifth Angel fall into a bit of a rut where things get a little safe, comfortable and slightly stale. If the quality had remained at the level of the opening two tracks, then ‘The Third Secret’ might have been a rip-roaring success. As it is, it’s not essential listening as far as I’m concerned. But let’s see what’s next, as I join with most lovers of heavy metal in hoping we don’t have to wait another 30 years for a follow-up.

The Score of Much Metal: 7.25

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3119Fnjzgbg&w=560&h=315]

If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from 2018 and from previous years right here:

2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

Ashes of my Memory – Raptures /// Disillusions EP
Anathema – Internal Landscapes
Samskaras – Lithification
Seventh Dimension – The Corrupted Lullaby
Hate Eternal – Upon Desolate Sands
Witherfall – A Prelude To Sorrow
Northward – Northward
Seventh Wonder – Tiara
Warrel Dane – Shadow Work
Haken – Vector
Beyond Creation – Algorythm
Ultha – The Inextricable Wandering
Amaranthe – Helix
Ghost Ship Octavius – Delirium
Decembre Noir – Autumn Kings
The Odious Construct – Shrine of the Obscene
Fauna Timbre – Altering Echoes
The Moor – Jupiter’s Immigrants
Revocation – The Outer Ones
Riverside – Wasteland
Ethernity – The Human Race Extinction
Dynazty – Firesign
Deicide – Overtures of Blasphemy
Brainstorm – Midnight Ghost
Krisiun – Scourge of the Enthroned
Kingcrow – The Persistence
Cast The Stone – Empyrean Atrophy
Omnium Gatherum – The Burning Cold
Helion Prime – Terror of the Cybernetic Space Monster
Madder Mortem – Marrow
A Dying Planet – Facing The Incurable
Árstíðir – Nivalis
Mob Rules – Beast Reborn
The Spirit – Sounds From The Vortex
Aethereus – Absentia
Unanimated – Annihilation
Manticora – To Kill To Live To Kill
Rivers of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name
Halcyon Way – Bloody But Unbowed
Michael Romeo – War Of The Worlds, Part 1
Redemption – Long Night’s Journey Into Day
Distorted Harmony – A Way Out
Tomorrow’s Eve – Mirror of Creation III – Project Ikaros
Atrocity – Okkult II
Lux Terminus – The Courage To Be
Kataklysm – Meditations
Marduk – Viktoria
Midas Fall – Evaporate
The Sea Within – The Sea Within
Haken – L-1VE
Follow The Cipher – Follow The Cipher
Spock’s Beard – Noise Floor
Ihsahn – Amr
The Fierce And The Dead – The Euphoric
Millennial Reign – The Great Divide
Subsignal – La Muerta
At The Gates – To Drink From The Night Itself
Dimmu Borgir – Eonian
Hekz – Invicta
Widow’s Peak – Graceless EP
Ivar Bjørnson and Einar Selvik – Hugsjá
Frequency Drift – Letters to Maro
Æpoch – Awakening Inception
Crematory – Oblivion
Wallachia – Monumental Heresy
Skeletal Remains – Devouring Mortality
MØL – Jord
Aesthesys – Achromata
Kamelot – The Shadow Theory
Barren Earth – A Complex of Cages
Memoriam – The Silent Vigil
Kino – Radio Voltaire
Borealis – The Offering
W.E.T. – Earthrage
Auri – Auri
Purest of Pain – Solipsis
Susperia – The Lyricist
Structural Disorder – …And The Cage Crumbles In the Final Scene
Necrophobic – Mark of the Necrogram
Divine Realm – Nordicity
Oceans of Slumber – The Banished Heart
Poem – Unique
Gleb Kolyadin – Gleb Kolyadin
Apathy Noir – Black Soil
Deathwhite – For A Black Tomorrow
Conjurer – Mire
Jukub Zytecki – Feather Bed/Ladder Head
Lione/Conti – Lione/Conti
Usurpress – Interregnum
Kælling – Lacuna
Vinide – Reveal
Armored Dawn – Barbarians In Black
Long Distance Calling – Boundless
In Vain – Currents
Harakiri For The Sky – Arson
Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets And Dead Messiahs
Tribulation – Down Below
Machine Head – Catharsis
Bjorn Riis – Coming Home EP
Twilight’s Embrace – Penance EP
Bloodshot Dawn – Reanimation
Rise of Avernus – Eigengrau
Arch Echo – Arch Echo
Asenblut – Legenden
Bleeding Gods – Dodekathlon
Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse