By: Justin Donnelly
San Francisco’s Bay Area music scene is synonymous for producing the worlds greatest thrash acts of all time.
From out the thriving scene of the area in late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s came bands such as Vio-Lence, Defiance, Lääz Rockit, Heathen, Forbidden, the recently reformed Exodus, and of course, Testament.
But it was also the home to another act known as Death Angel.
The five-piece act (Who were originally vocalist Mark Osegueda, guitarists Rob Cavestany and Gus Pepa, bassist Dennis Pepa and drummer Andy Galeon) quickly recorded a demo (Produced by none other than Metallica’s Kirk Hammett) entitled ‘Kill As One’ in 1986, which in turn gained the attention of major record label Enigma Records.
It wasn’t long after signing with the label that they released their landmark thrash debut ‘The Ultra-Violence’ in 1987. Hailed as a huge influence by many years down the track, it helped spread the Bay Area name with its relentless speed and innovative riff structures, and with the bands average age of around fifteen no less!
‘Frolic Through the Park’ followed soon after in 1988, and again brought the bands name further into prominence with a progression in sound, as evident in tracks such as ‘Bored’ and the opener ‘3rd Floor’.
Geffen Records decided to try their hand at the growing thrash scene, and not before too long, signed Death Angel onto their broadening roster. And it was on that label that Death Angel brought forth their crowning masterpiece, and highly successful and influential ‘Act III’ album in 1990.
Enigma Records, upon hearing the bands plans to release a live album to follow up ‘Act III’ saw the opportunity to jump the gun on their competition and released the dreadful live recording ‘Fall From Grace’ in the same year to fans dismay.
A bad live recording was the least of their worries when Death Angel’s tour bus crashed mid tour in the Arizona desert, leaving drummer Andy Galeon critically injured. Taking over a year for him to recover, vocalist Mark Osegueda decided to leave the band, bringing Death Angel’s meteoric rise to the top to an abrupt halt when the band decided to split.
The remaining members (Guitarist/vocalist Rob Cavestany, guitarist Gus Pepa, bassist Dennis Pepa and drummer Andy Galeon) forged on to with a new band called The Organization, and released two albums (1993’s ‘The Organization’ and 1995’s ‘Savor The Flavor’), but with the bands more rock than thrash vibe, they had very little commercial success, and again disbanded.
In 1999, Osegueda, Cavestany and Galeon (Along with bassist Michael Isaiah) released a four track E.P. from their new band Swarm, followed by their posthumous debut album ‘Beyond The End’ in 2003, but like the other members musical endeavours (Such as The Past, Big Shrimp (Who also released two albums), Smokestack and Silver Circus), it failed to generate much interest.
However, in 2001 Death Angel reformed (With new guitarist Ted Aguilar replacing Gus Pepa) to perform at a cancer benefit for Testament’s front man Chuck Billy called ‘Thrash Of The Titans’, leading to a full fledged reunion, and along with it, Death Angel’s thrash comeback album ‘The Art Of Dying’ some fourteen years after their initial split!
I caught up with guitarist Rob Cavestany at home in San Francisco to chat about Death Angel’s reformation, re-releases, touring and the incredible thrash comeback of ‘The Art Of Dying’.
Reformations are always something of a letdown more often than not, but in the case of Death Angel’s ‘The Art Of Dying’, the band has lived up to expectations across the board by both fans and critics alike.
“The reaction to ‘The Art Of Dying’ has been mind blowing! It’s excellent. We’re digging it, and we’re very happy about how it’s been received. You know we really didn’t try and have any expectations per-say. We just basically hoped for the best and had as much fun as we could have while creating and recording the album. We just put it out there, and just hoped fans would like it. If there were expectations, I would hope to think that we probably surpassed them.”
Of course, any band that returns after a fourteen-year absence like Death Angel would have to be selective as to which record label they would sign to. And after much consideration, Nuclear Blast Records won the deal with the promise of plenty of promotion for the band.
“That has been excellent as well. We expected that Nuclear Blast Records was going to get to work on this album and get some promotion and some press going. So far that’s exactly what they have done. So it totally kicks ass. And the fans have just been digging the album too. We’ve done a handful of shows here on the west coast of the U.S. since the album came out, and we’re already seeing people singing all the words to the new songs. There’s also lot of people buying the new merchandise with the new artwork on it too, so all is doing really good. We’re very excited.”
The projected track listing for ‘The Art Of Dying’ originally had twelve tracks to offer, however, the track titled ‘IV’ (Which the album was also rumoured to have been titled) didn’t make the cut.
“It’s basically a track that we’ll put out some other release at some other time. Once we got to see the total running time of the whole album, we just felt that we didn’t want to make it too long. We also wanted the album to have a certain feel from beginning to end, and basically that was the song that got cut from the album.”