How Death Angel have kept the faith for 30 years

Death Angel band promotional photo
Death Angel

Bay Area thrash kings Death Angel have just released their either studio album The Evil Divide and it’s a bona fide pummelling riff fest – as you’d expect. We caught up with veteran vocalist Mark Osegueda to talk about their formative years, their hiatus and what’s going on in 2016!

It’s nearly 30 years since you released The Ultraviolence, when you were all still teenagers. Do you look back and think ‘Holy shit, we were babies!’?

“Ha ha! Yeah, we used to get pissed off with people always saying how young we were, but looking back I totally get it now! At the same time, I look back on those days with great fondness. A lot of it went by too fast because I didn’t know anything else. I think I took a lot of it for granted while it was happening and it just passed by really fast. I will always be in love with The Ultraviolence. But after that there were some experimental years that were a little off the mark, but that’s what happens when you grow as musicians. When you stick with your craft you go through phases and people will like and dislike it. I’m very proud of the mark one lineup, the original years, that people hold on to like they’re diamonds. But I’m very proud of where we are now too. We’re much stronger, we’re better songwriters and musicians. But we laid the foundations all those years ago and it was a special time to be doing it. We knew the thrash scene was pretty special.”

The original band split in ’91 and there was a decade where there was no Death Angel… do you think that hiatus was essential for enabling you to be doing what you’re doing now?

“Absolutely. It needed to happen. Everyone needed to find their individuality and to grow as people and musicians. Everyone in the first era was writing stuff, but maybe there was a lack of respect between us sometimes. When we got older there was a whole new level of respect, but people drift away from bands over time. Eventually Andy [Galeon, original Death Angel drummer] and Dennis [Pepa, original bassist] both felt it was time to leave, after we made Killing Season [in 2008] and that’s just the way things work out. People grow up and have kids and mortgages and just because your video’s on the TV and you’re on stage, it doesn’t mean that music is paying the bills. It’s an illusion for the fans versus the reality of it, and one by one people left. Me and Rob [Cavestany, guitarist] said that we’d carry on no matter what. We found some younger fresh blood in San Francisco and we kept trudging forward and we’re proud we made that decision. We’re super proud of this new record, man.”

It must be exhilarating to play those early songs with this lineup, which is audibly heavier and tighter and all those things…

“Oh, it’s amazing. We’re getting all these young thrash kids coming to the shows and the pits and stagediving are insane. The Ultraviolence came out 29 years ago, so it’s mind-blowing that we’re still here. Playing those songs with this lineup is so cool. Just the way equipment has evolved and all that, it’s just pounding.”

What are your plans for the rest of the year? You’re not hitting the UK this summer…

“No, we’re gonna hit the European festival season hard next summer, I think. We’re doing mostly North America this summer. Don’t get me wrong, I love touring, but I much prefer touring outside of the States. The summer festival season in Europe is a magical time. I’ll miss it this summer but we’ll attack it with extra vigour next year!”

Death Angel’s new album The Evil Divide is out now, via Nuclear Blast.

Dom Lawson

Dom Lawson has been writing for Metal Hammer and Prog for over 14 years and is extremely fond of heavy metal, progressive rock, coffee and snooker. He also contributes to The Guardian, Classic Rock, Bravewords and Blabbermouth and has previously written for Kerrang! magazine in the mid-2000s.