Angel Dust - Of Human Bondage
Century Media
Progressive Heavy Metal
10 songs (47'29)
Release year: 2001
Angel Dust, Century Media
Reviewed by Marty
Archive review
The pressure was on Angel Dust to deliver another killer album after the double punch of the band's two previous albums, Enlighten The Darkness and Bleed. Those albums still rank as two of my favorite metal albums from the 90's. Long-time guitarist Bernd Aufermann left after the Enlighten The Darkness album and has since joined Running Wild. American guitarist Ritchie Wilkison was brought in as his replacement. Fans and critics were skeptical seeing how much of a role Bernd had played in the sound and overall success of Angel Dust. Of Human Bondage was released in late 2001 to a mixed response. Some fans liked it, others loved it and some even went so far as to say that they hated it. I personally think it's a great album. It may not be of the same caliber as Bleed and Enlighten The Darkness but they showed a progression and only glimpses of the sound of their previous albums.

The title track opens the album and we are treated to a classic example of the trademark Angel Dust sound; killer, exploding heavy riffing with sprinkles of keyboards which add a great dramatic flair to their ultra-heavy sound. With a slightly more modern heavy guitar sound, this one is similar to the material on Enlighten The Darkness and comes off as a solid opening track. Inhuman uses some punishing heavy modern style riffs, great speedy drumming and has the trademark melodic pre-chorus style that is such a staple of many of their songs. Unreal Soul uses a more old-school thrash metal style with some repeat death metal style vocals and features great charging riffs, cool dissonant guitar interludes and a big classic Angel Dust chorus. Disbeliever is big power ballad style song that has the sort of soaring lead vocal work that we heard on the Bleed album. It's a great building track that gets pounding heavy for the last segment of the song. Forever is another soaring melodic and heavy song that has a killer mix of solid pounding heavy guitar riffs and keyboards. The balance between heaviness and catchiness is played almost to perfection here with the chorus having an almost "pop" like feel to it. Unite sees the band infusing more of the modern heaviness and it has an arrangement much like the material on Enlighten The Darkness. The energy level gets stepped up a notch with Got This Evil. This one's a pounding heavy and solid track with quality arrangements and a great chorus. The band shifts gears a bit with The Cultman. Beginning with just acoustic guitar and voice, it gets heavier and uses orchestrated keyboard sounds and features another passionate vocal delivery by Dirk Thurisch. Freedom Awaits again uses atmospheric keyboards and heavy guitar riffs to produce a very catchy and melodic song, topped off by some great melodic leads by Ritchie Wilkison. The last track Killer, is actually a cover of a Seal song. It's a cool metal-style arrangement that gets the full Angel Dust treatment.

Although there are many solid songs on this album, there really aren't any that are destined to be future Angel Dust classics. The band has expanded on the direction they took with Enlighten The Darkness into an even heavier direction, added some modern metal influences and still kept the melodic sense to their music. Most of the keyboard passages that used to be a large part of the band's sound along with the heavy guitar, are kept to a minimum here. Fans of the more progressive styles of the band may not like the heavier and sometimes reckless sound that they opted for on this album.

The future of Angel Dust seemed to be in jeopardy with the recent departure of founding member Frank Banx but the band has made plans to continue on. No replacements have been announced yet for him and for the vacant guitar slot due also to the departure of Ritchie Wilkison. Dirk Thurisch's other band, Mercury Tide released a pretty solid album last year called Why? that was similar in style to Angel Dust but lacked the heaviness and atmosphere. Plans were announced to enter the studio earlier this year but nothing has been confirmed and there's no news about any progress at all. Angel Dust are one of the more unique bands on the metal scene and were real pioneers in fusing piano and other keyboards with crunching heavy riffs combined with a great sense of melody and catchiness to produce a very fresh and original melodic heavy metal sound. Of Human Bondage is a great album and although it may be far from their best, it still stands up as a solid release. Band's can't make a classic album every single time nor should they be expected to. I hope we hear more music from them as I'm sure we all had the feeling that Of Human Bondage may be Angel Dust's swan song with all the turmoil and personnel problems over the last several years. It would be a shame if it ended now for they are (or were) truly an outstanding band.

Killing Songs :
The Human Bondage, Unreal Soul, Forever, Got This Evil and Freedom Awaits
Marty quoted 82 / 100
Mike quoted 60 / 100
Danny quoted 92 / 100
Alex quoted 64 / 100
Other albums by Angel Dust that we have reviewed:
Angel Dust - Into The Dark Past reviewed by Marty and quoted 84 / 100
Angel Dust - Bleed reviewed by Marty and quoted 92 / 100
Angel Dust - Enlighten The Darkness reviewed by Chris and quoted 93 / 100
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