Metal Band Death Angel Reminisces on the '80s and Prepares for Their Upcoming Annual Christmas Shows

For metal heads living in the Bay Area in the early to late '80's, the thrash scene here was unrivaled. Metal act, Death Angel, was formed in 1981 by a handful of Filipino cousins, and today still includes founding member and guitarist Rob Cavestany. The band had a very successful run of albums (The Ultra Violence  and Frolic Through the Park) on Enigma Records and Geffen Records (Act III). However, lady luck was not on the band's side when original drummer, Andy Galeon, was severely injured after their tour bus crashed en route to a gig in Las Vegas. The crash eventually led to the band's break-up, as tragedy often does.

Thankfully, the band reunited in 2001 for the legendary Thrash of the Titans heavy metal benefit concert for Testament singer Chuck Billy at San Francisco's now-defunct Maritime Hall. Alongside a handful of other bands who also joined in the cause, Death Angel learned that very night just how much the metal scene wanted and missed them. Since their Art Of Dying comeback release in 2004, they've been active and are now drawing larger numbers at home and abroad than ever before.

[jump] All Shook Down caught up with singer Mark Osegueda who had just returned from recording their next album in Florida. He talked about the new problem, the '80's thrash metal scene and, of course, the hilariously dubbed “2nd Annual Another Death Angel Christmas Show” happening at Slim's this weekend.

All Shook Down: Word has it there is a new album looming. What's up with that?

Mark Osegueda: We just finished recording at Audio Hammer in Sanford, Florida with Jason Suecof again. It's the third time we've used him, and we couldn't really be happier. This time, all the music was written and lyrics were written with the exception of one song which I purposely saved to write on the spot. Sometimes you can get a great vibe from a studio and draw inspiration from that. That song came out great. We're looking at an April 2016 release date and songs include “Father Of Lies” and Lost.” I can't tell you any others just yet, though. It's got the aggressiveness of the last two records, but our songwriting has improved dramatically. Really, it sounds like Death Angel should.

In light of the recent massacre at The Bataclan in Paris, have you ever thought Death Angel might also be targeted simply because of your moniker?
That's a tough one. Of course, I don't want anything to happen to musicians or the fans at our concerts. Live shows should always be a sacred place that should not be messed with. Am I scared? A little, of course. I try not to let it get into my psyche. We're in a band to record and then play music live. We can't be preoccupied with what could happen.
What did you end up doing after the band's breakup following the untimely bus accident?
When we officially called it quits in 1990, I ended up moving to New York to clear my head and get away from everyone and the scene. In 1993, I moved back to San Francisco and managed a vintage clothes store for many years called Wasteland on Haight Street. I slowly started getting back into music and then formed Swarm with Andy [original Death Angel drummer] and Rob. We ended up going on tour with Jerry Cantrell [of Alice In Chains].

Who thought up the idea to have annual Christmas shows? How many have you done to date?
The initial idea came up mid-way through last year. During the '80's, we also did a couple of shows around Christmas, and they were always a blast. We do some odd covers by groups like The Beatles, Elvis Presley, and more. If The Beatles did it  before in Liverpool, we can do it here. We hand-picked the bands. On Friday night, we have Flotsam & Jetsam and Holy Grail, and Saturday we're keeping it local with our friends Mordred and Ghost Next Door. This is unofficially the second one.

The Big 4 of thrash metal (Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax) was always based on popularity rather than influence. As a fan of Death Angel for nearly 30 years, I would consider Death Angel way more important than Anthrax ever was. Where do you think the band stands?
You know, we were definitely growing before we took a big break from 1990 to 2001. I can't argue that the Big 4 bands were really established and deserved to be there. And while it makes sense, you can't forget bands like Exodus, and you definitely can't rewrite history. We're enjoying a big resurgence in our music and we're gonna keep coming out with strong albums, like The Dream Calls for Blood (2013) and Relentless Retribution (2010). If there was a Big 8, I would think we might be in the running.

What do the members do for a living in between tours?
Our bassist Damien Sisson is a delivery driver, lead guitarist Rob Cavestany teaches guitar lessons, rhythm guitarist Ted Aguilar does musical instrument repairs, and I bartend on occasion. Our drummer Will Carroll just plays drums and goes to lots of shows. I am also involved with a touring group of big metal musicians called Metal Allegiance. I've done a couple of shows with them already in New York and Mexico City. We're going to Australia next year, and will be doing even more shows since the album came out recently.

Will there ever be a period as exciting as the late 80's was for thrash metal?
I'm having such an amazing time right now living in the moment and loving everything that has come our way. Of course, you can never duplicate the intensity and camaraderie of the '80's thrash scene. It was a magical time when Death Angel would play out and you'd see Cliff Burton (former bassist of Metallica) hanging out and banging his head along to the music. Exodus were the kings of the Bay Area back then.

Death Angel headline the 2nd Annual Another Death Angel Christmas Show with Flotsam & Jetsam and Holy Grail at 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 18 at Slim's, and again with Mordred and Ghost Next Door at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 19; $24-$48.95;

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