By Crystal Kentzell
Death Angel is celebrating the silver anniversary of their 1987 debut album, The Ultra-Violence. As part of that celebration, D.A. hit the road in Europe in June, playing the classic album in its entirety. The band has extended that tour in the U.S., for a two-week run in October.
As a prelude to those October dates, D.A. headlined The Redwood Metal Fest on Sept. 1st. Nestled in the redwoods of southern Humboldt County, this event was brought together by promoters Bryon Stiky-tips and Jacob King as a benefit for the area’s cultural hub, Mateel Community Center, in Redway, Calif. The promoters hand-picked some of the finest up-and-coming metal bands in Northern California, including Iron Assault, C.V.A., Infex, Aftertayst, Shreadead Metal, STRYK9, Whitetrash SuperStars, and Embryonic Devourment.
We weren’t able to catch all the acts, but the ones we did see were amazing. Aftertayst from Sonoma County rocked the place. Bassist Gabe Ramos took a little stroll through the crowd while he played, giving people a more personal performance. Singer Miguel Martinez called out to the girls in the pit to “show the place how it’s done,” causing the floor to erupt with new vigor. I’ve seen these guys quite a few times, and as usual, they brought it. Good job, guys!
Shreadead Metal from Mendocino presented their own brand of funky metal. Like Primus meets Fungo Mungo meets Infectious Grooves, and sprinkled with the theatricality of GWAR, they wear outrageous masks and throw out plastic fingers and body parts into the crowd (which the youngsters at this all-ages event definitely enjoyed collecting!).
The opening bands had done their jobs well, but now it was time for the main event of the evening – Death Angel, presenting a gift to their fans to celebrate their 25-year legacy that is The Ultra-Violence!
The band formed back in 1982 when they were all in their teens, growing up together as cousins. They played high school gigs and, even though they were under-age, they sneaked into the Bay Area clubs and played them, too. They have been through some line-up changes since then. Original members Gus Pepa, Dennis Pepa, and Andy Galeon are no longer with the band, having been replaced by current members Ted Aguilar (rhythm guitar), Will Carroll (drums), and Damien Sisson (bass). Two founding cousins still remain: Rob Cavestany (lead guitar) and Mark Osegueda (vocals).
I have witnessed quite a few metal bands go through various line-up changes, and Death Angel has embraced these changes better than any other I have seen. They haven’t allowed the change in musicians to take away from the original sound. Instead, they pushed themselves harder, evolving into the relevant metal band they are today, 30 years after they originally formed. And this year, they acknowledge that long history with a special performance of the record that introduced them to the world…
When Death Angel exploded onto the stage, ripping through the tracks of The Ultra-Violence, they played harder and tighter than I have ever seen them before, live or on video–and that’s saying a lot! At one point, singer Mark Osegueda and guitarist Rob Cavestany were joking about the last time they played the Mateel Center, back in 1987, and how extremely young they were back then. I found this amusing, considering that the energy these guys play with now in 2012 is equal to the energy they had in their 20’s! It was truly a magical evening. It was awesome to watch and hear them play the instumental title track, “The Ultra-Violence” in its entirety. Another tune off the album that hasn’t been played live since the 80’s was the song “Final Death,” during which they even broke out in an 80’s classic move: Cavestany, Aguilar, and Sission, standing side-by-side, swinging their axes back and forth in unison. They clearly got a kick out of it…and I got a kick out of it, too!
After whipping the crowd into a frenzy with TUV songs, they weren’t done yet! As the crowd chanted “Death Angel, Death Angel!” the band came out for an encore. They started with three songs from their latest release, Relentless Retribution–“Relentless Revolution,” “Claws In So Deep,” and “Truce”–truly showcasing the magic of their new lineup. The chemistry between the band members is undeniable–they are a solid metal machine! Next up was my personal favorite, a medley of their 1988 single, “Bored,” and Black Sabbath’s “Heaven & Hell.” Honestly, that “Heaven & Hell” cover–I can’t describe the goosebumps I get from that one! Ronnie James Dio would be proud!
They closed out the show with “Thrown to the Wolves,” amazing me with the level of energy these guys still put into their live shows, no matter how long they have been around. Death Angel is one of a very small handful of bands where every band member is so animated, it doesn’t matter which one you are watching–they will definitely put a smile on your face. And this night, they were ON FIRE!
We caught up with guitarist Ted Aguilar earlier in the day and talked about Death Angel performing the complete Ultra-Violence album, their new material, the upcoming DVD, and BAM…
BAM: I’d like to congratulate you on the 25th anniversary of The Ultra-Violence.
Ted: Thank you.
BAM: Have you played all the songs off of The Ultra-Violence before?
Ted: I’m sure the band did back in the ’80s. Since the band reformed, we’ve played everything off that album except for “Final Death.” But when we started to do this 25th anniversary run and had to play the The Ultra-Violence instrumental, that was a task, having to relearn everything. It was challenging, and it was also fresh, because we haven’t done [the songs] in a very long time, and “Final Death” was so new to everyone. It’s getting us more into that thrash vibe. We’re ending the Relentless cycle, and having to do TUV is getting us into that THRASH, which is also going to transpire into the next record. And it’s starting to sound like we’re playing faster on these newer songs we’ve been writing.
BAM: Is it the first time that Death Angel has played an album in its entirety?
Ted: Ever since the band formed, it’s the first time the band has done the album in its entirety like this. So, it’s cool. It’s been challenging and fun to do TUV.
BAM: I love that a lot of metal bands are celebrating their 25th and 30th anniversaries now. Metallica just did the Black Album in its entirety, and they did Master of Puppets. You guys have been writing for a new album while on tour?
Ted: Yeah, we’ve been writing for a while, when we’re on the road, and riffs have been written. At least, ideas have been getting recorded. When we go home during any gaps in-between tours, we start piecing them together. We have songs, no lyrics yet, eight skeleton songs. And Mark’s gonna start trying to put some lyrics to them. So, hopefully, by the end of the year, we’re looking at probably having 16 songs, maybe more. We’ll start picking out the best ones and start recording.
BAM: Killer! And you guys have a DVD coming out?
BAM: Any time soon?
Ted: We thought it would be in the fall, but a lot of things started to come up. We started to see the final cuts, and we wanted to add more. First it was supposed to be a live show with behind-the-scenes footage. Then, when we saw it–it was killer, and our minds started changing. Like, “No, let’s just do a documentary.” It’s a “thrashumentary”! So we had all these ideas: “Let’s push back the release date and start doing this…” We hoped to get it out by the summer…but summer came, and we got busy, and our video guy Tommy got busy with other stuff. Right now, I can say it’ll be before the end of the year. We just turned in the final edit notes, and hopefully by the end of next week, we will see the final edits. It’s looking good. Basically, it’s going to give you a little history of D.A., from the beginning, until the band broke up, and all the side projects in-between, the band reforming, all the way until now. It’s really good. And it’s going to be a pretty long one, but it’s going to be worth the wait!
BAM: I’m looking forward to it!
Ted: I am, too!
BAM: Thank you for doing an interview with us.
Ted: Thank you, everyone from BAM! I remember everyone from back in the day. I’m glad you guys are back together, not as a print but an online thing in today’s world. I remember all the cool stuff, having to pick up BAM, and looking at all the ads from The Stone, The Omni…looking at all the ads people would put out, all the interviews in the back. “Raw Power” was a column by Steffan Chirazi, and Sara Tassione would do all the local band stuff. I’m glad BAM’s back together!