Fifth Angel - Beginnings

Fifth Angel was formed in the suburbs of Seattle in late 1983, specifically, in the Bellevue area. The band's initial lineup consisted of Ted Pilot (vocals), James Byrd (lead guitar), Ed Archer (rhythm guitar), Ken Mary (drums) and Kenny Kay (bass). Pilot and Archer had been in a project/band called Glass in the early 1980s. Glass featured slightly distorted guitars and was a very different musical style than Fifth Angel would eventually feature. During Pilot and Archer's time in Glass, they wrote songs together that were too heavy to be used in the band, so they developed a backlog of heavy songs/ideas. Byrd, having heard Pilot sing live in the band Ridge (Ridge was a cover band that Pilot, Archer and Mary were also in that toured throughout Washington, playing songs by Judas Priest, AC/DC, Rush, Angel City, Led Zeppelin, etc.), liked the sound of Pilot's voice and asked him to sing on a project he was doing.

Byrd, originally from Seattle, moved back to the Emerald City from Los Angeles to work with Pilot and Mary. When Pilot heard some of Byrd's ideas, Pilot told Archer that they might have an outlet to use the heavy songs/ideas that they had a backlog of, and the four members - Archer, Byrd, Mary, and Pilot - got together, later adding Kay on bass. This was the beginning of Fifth Angel.

Wings of Destiny

Following the model utilized by Queensryche, another Seattle-area metal band that had recently been signed to a major label (EMI Records), Fifth Angel concentrated on songwriting and perfected their original songs, instead of extensively playing the club circuit looking for a record deal. The band's work resulted in a four-track demo at Steve Lawson Productions with engineer/producer Terry Date in late 1983/early 1984, consisting of the songs "Fifth Angel," "Wings of Destiny," "In the Fallout" and "Fade to Flames."

The plan proved fruitful, as Mike Varney of Shrapnel Records, an independent label, signed Fifth Angel for the release of its first record. The original 1984 demo tracks were included on the album, along five cuts recorded in 1985: "Shout it Out," "Call Out the Warning," "The Night," "Only the Strong Survive" and "Cry Out the Fools." Mixed and delivered to the label in 1985, Fifth Angel's self-titled first album was officially released in 1986.

Over the course of two years, a number of high profile rock magazines interviewed the band, including a glowing review from Kerrang in Europe - a magazine that launched the career of the aforementioned Queensryche just a few years earlier. Fifth Angel was touted by the media as "the next big thing" in metal and a loyal underground fan base quickly developed. Despite the positive reviews, a line-up change occurred, however. Bassist Kenny Kay departed the band and was replaced by John Macko. Although information on the departure is scarce, Pilot mentioned in an interview that Kay simply "lost interest" in playing music. Guitarist James Byrd also wrote in with a few lines about Kay, revealing that he never played on Fifth Angel's first record:

"Kenny Kay, although pictured on the album, did not actually play bass on [it]. The bass performances on the debut album were done by Ed Archer on the original demos, and the bass tracks on the subsequent five tracks recorded to complete the album were performed by Hendrix impersonator Randy Hansen."

A 1986/1987 "Riding on the Wings" tour was planned to support the debut album, which included an opening slot for Iron Maiden, and a string of headline East Coast dates. Unfortunately, the tours never materialized due to a variety of band-related and external factors. In fact, Fifth Angel never played a public gig. The only two shows the band ever played was a label showcase for Epic Records and a rehearsal/photo shoot at the Paramount Theater in Seattle.

Fifth Angel Signs With Epic Records

After hearing that Fifth Angel's initial album received such critical acclaim, CBS/Epic Records took notice and negotiated a seven-album deal with Fifth Angel and its new management team, Derek Simon and Concrete Marketing and Management. Fans of progressive metal giants Dream Theater may recall that Simon managed them as well, for Dream Theater's debut release (also produced by Terry Date). Epic re-released the band's debut album in 1988, to set the stage for a follow-up recording. But as the money and publicity arrived, the band lost another original member - founding guitarist James Byrd.

In an interview with Rock Reunion, Byrd revealed that the original agreement between the three principal songwriters in Fifth Angel (Byrd, Pilot, Archer) was that no matter who wrote what song, each would receive one-third of the publishing money. But prior to signing with CBS Records (Epic's parent company), there was disagreement among the trio about continuing that arrangement. The deal was signed, with Byrd being dropped off the publishing agreement, and ultimately departing the band shortly thereafter.

Time Will Tell

Seattle guitarist Kendall Bechtel replaced Byrd in the band, joining them as writing and recording began for Fifth Angel's follow-up album, Time Will Tell, which was released in late 1989. Although Terry Date was originally slated to do the engineering and production on the record, he was bypassed in favor of Terry Brown. Bassist John Macko wrote in with some details on that issue:

"We did want Terry Date to do it but he was too busy at the time and was booked up for months. We probably should have waited, but we were afraid to much time would pass before recording started, so we opted for Terry Brown."

A solid follow-up, the 11-track Time Will Tell featured brilliant guitar leads in the powerful, melodic style found on Fifth Angel's debut release - a testament to the skills of Bechtel. While the band's heavier, fast-paced style was retained with cuts such as "We Rule" and "Midnight Love," a mid-tempo, progressive style was also explored in a number of songs, including the lead track "Cathedral," "Angel of Mercy," and "Seven Hours." A blistering cover of UFO's "Lights Out" was also on the record, and to the delight of fans, a music video for the title track, "Time Will Tell" was released.

With fan and media support behind them, Fifth Angel seemed primed for a successful tour, but the band fractured and dissolved before they could get on the road, right after Time Will Tell hit the shelves. In a nutshell, the record label merged, personnel changed, and the support and financing Fifth Angel was promised when they signed never materialized, leaving the band at a crossroads. Having worked for the better part of a decade, only to find the band being an afterthought, the decision was made to disband.

Post-Fifth Angel (1990-2008) Activities

After the split, Ted Pilot went to dental school and inherited his father's dental practice. Pilot is an endodentist (a root canal specialist) in Seattle. Ed Archer remains in the Seattle area, working for a technology company, while John Macko left the Pacific Northwest for Florida, where he owns a small computer consulting firm and has a family. As for Kendall Bechtel, he's in the Seattle area still, and James Byrd commented a bit on his relationship with him:

"Kendall Bechtel and I first met shortly after I was out of Fifth Angel. I was in Steve Lord Productions recording my first solo album (James Byrd's Atlantis Rising) when he popped in and we met. He wanted me to show him how I had played some of the solos I'd played on the first album. The poor guy had absolutely no idea what had gone on.

Kendall and I became good friends over the years, and Kendall pursued becoming a vocalist. I had known him for years as a friend and guitarist and had no idea he could sing. One day I was writing a song in the studio before I had chosen a singer, and I needed the vocal line sung (I can not sing to save my life). I called him up and asked him 'by any chance can you sing?' He said he'd 'give it a try.' Turns out that he was being modest in the extreme. He laid down a vocal line for me, and it wasn't long before we ended up working together. He is in fact the lead vocalist on my Atlantis Rising album Crimes of Virtuosity. He chose to record under his surname of 'Torry' to avoid any confusion about his role on the album, him also being an ex-lead guitarist from Fifth Angel. Kendall writes and records prolifically, but as far as I know, hasn't pursued music as a career for sometime."

Bechtel went on to form his own band, ATOM, which while unsigned has two full-length albums out. Categorized as the best of the 1970s guitar influences melded with modern hard rock, ATOM was composed of Bechtel, Andy Nordyke and Tim Osbourne. Bechtel also played in the early 1990s band Sweet Sister Sam, which opened for Queensr˙che in the Pacific Northwest from Nov. 1991 through Feb. 1992.

Ironically, the two people most disconnected from the band's second album, Ken Mary (who was a touring drummer with Alice Cooper and doing other gigs, hoping Fifth Angel would get off the ground) and James Byrd, are the only original members still fully vested in the music industry other than Bechtel. Byrd has gone on to record a number of solo albums and other projects over the years, details of which can be found at www.jamesbyrd.com. Ken Mary is quite a successful recording engineering and owns a production business. His company, Sonic Phish, has offices in both Los Angeles, Calif., and Phoenix, Ariz. His web site is www.sonicphish.com. Mary resides in the Phoenix area.

There were false rumors about a reunion in 2000, but those rumors were denied by the band. In 2007, the Time Will Tell lineup briefly discussed reuniting for some European festival shows, but the reunion never got off the ground.

Fifth Angel Rises Again

Although many thought the band was permanently shelved after the 2007 reunion didn't materialize, Fifth Angel roared back in 2009 with plans for a new studio album. Featuring the Time Will Tell lineup of Pilot, Archer, Macko and Bechtel, the band announced it was hard at work writing material for a potential release. Although things were fairly quiet except for a few updates throughout the year from Archer, 2010 looked positive, with Fifth Angel hiring Jeffrey McCormack to play drums and scheduling a gig, on April 24, 2010, at the Keep it True Festival in Germany. The performance would the band's debut live show outside of the two 1980s-era record company showcases in Seattle.

As 2010 began, however, Fifth Angel announced that while it is continuing work on a new record and will play the Keep it True Festival, singer Ted Pilot will not be a part of the group. Pilot, who has a busy dental practice and various other ventures, parted on good terms with his former bandmates. Fifth Angel soldiered on, however. For a brief time, they worked with vocalist Tim Branom, who stepped down due to throat problems in April 2010. Peter Orullian, who was the lead singer for Heir Apparent during that band's highly successful 2006 reunion tour, filled the vocal slot for Fifth Angel at Keep it True 2010. To his credit, Orullian learned the Fifth Angel set in four days, enabling the group to perform.

Following Keep it True 2010, Fifth Angel once again dealt with turbulent times. Orullian's professional commitments at the time made it difficult to work with the band on a consistent basis. He stepped away, leaving Fifth Angel to search once again for a vocalist. For a time, the band worked with Firewolfe singer David Fefolt, going so far as to take promotional photos with him. Fefolt stepped down, along with McCormack, in 2012. Fefolt pursued a career in the Christian music genre, while McCormack, who remains on good terms with Fifth Angel, is the drummer for Q5.

2017 Reunion

As of 2017, Fifth Angel is active once again. Original drummer Ken Mary rejoined the group, and vocalist Peter Orullian has resumed his post as Fifth Angel's lead singer. The band booked two shows for the year, playing Keep it True in Germany once again on April 29, 2017. In addition, Fifth Angel will play live in Seattle for the first time in 30 years, as it headlines a gig at El Corazon on April 22. The band also has a huge slate of demos that it plans to work on following the Keep it True Festival, in hopes of finally putting together a new record.

Time will tell...

Editor's Note: A great deal of thanks goes out to Ed Archer for his notes on the beginnings of the band and to James Byrd, who took the time to review this bio and contribute to it. Please contact me with any corrections, clarifications, or additions.