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Marah's well-deserved reputation as a smokin' live act has always been slightly undercut by the outfit's spotty track record in the studio. But the Bielanko brothers (founding core band members Serge and Dave) are nothing if not dedicated, and their fervor and determination appear to be paying big dividends.

Following on the scuffed heels of 2005's consistently inspired If You Didn't Laugh You'd Cry (Yep Roc), Angels of Destruction! is a blood-spattered, exhilarating set that pierces the chaotic heart of uncompromised rock 'n' roll. Once characterized, not unkindly or entirely inaccurately, as savvy aficionados whose reach occasionally exceeded their grasp, the Kids From Philly (now Brooklyn based) are finally dialing in a truly authentic voice and kicking serious ass in the process.

The dozen-track collection ignites on contact with "Coughing Up Blood" and "Old Time Ticking Away," a pair of ramshackle throb 'n' grinders that lock in the record's prevailing mood with torrents of fever-dream, visceral imagery rooted in the ageless language of trial, tribulation, and redemption. "Angels on a Passing Train" and "Wild West Love Song," a muscular roots rocker and a careening, roadhouse paint-peeler, follow in kind with all due fury; if the album ended right there, everybody would go home with their money's worth. Call it a bonus that the best cut, the exultant "Santos De Madera," still lays ahead.

Throughout, densely layered tracks (voices, bagpipes, banjos, fiddles, accordions, horns and the whole kit and caboodle) add to the sense of urgency and barely contained turmoil that drives the record. New band member Christine Smith contributes big time with rich textures and flourishes on various keyboards, and Dave Bielanko's lead vocals never sounded more full of conviction and thoroughly owned.

A band forever on the brink (to borrow Paul Westerberg's phrase), Marah clearly will not go quietly or compliantly.  Angels of Destruction! is a triumphantly original statement that makes no undue concessions to the marketplace or anything else. It's not too much of a stretch to call it the group's Exile On Main Street, a scratching, clawing celebration of everything worthwhile in the grip of internal struggle and external pressure. Now that their skills and execution have caught up to their lofty aspirations, how can you not root for these guys? • Mike Thomas

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