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I'm not going to give you a history lesson in Bay Area metal here, but just in case you are not familiar with Death Angel, here is the CliffsNotes version of the band’s history:
Back in the early days of Bay Area thrash metal, there was one band in particular whose name I would see more and more on all the flyers promoting metal and punk shows at legendary venues such as The Stone, Ruthie's Inn or The Rock on Broadway. No, it wasn't Metallica, Exodus or Legacy. It was Death Angel.
While originally making a name for themselves due to their young age, Death Angel soon started gaining attention of metal heads everywhere by way of their live shows. Although they were all still in their early teens, the band found themselves sharing the bill with everyone from local punk bands such as Attitude Adjustment and D.R.I. to more established metal acts such as Megadeth and Slayer. And as the Bay Area thrash metal scene got bigger and eventually exploded, Death Angel kept pace with albums such as The Ultra-Violence, Frolic Through The Park and Act III. Unfortunately it just wasn't meant to be for the band, and after years of touring and just not being able to make it to the next level, as well as tragic bus accident while touring in late 1990, which ultimately lead them to being dropped by their label, the band sadly disbanded.
Fast-forward to 2001, and the legendary "Thrash Of The Titans" benefit show for Testament vocalist Chuck Billy, and Death Angel were back, with original members Mark Osegueda (vox), Rob Cavestany (guitar), Dennis Pepa (bass) and Andy Galeon (drums). Joining them was guitarist Ted Aguilar, who was replacing guitarist Gus Pepa. The show was a huge success for the band, and led to both a European tour and a new album in The Art Of Dying, which was released in 2004. After even more touring, the newly energized Death Angel went back into the studio, and the result was Killing Season, which was released in February of 2008, and has been their most critically acclaimed album to date. After two wild sold-out record-release shows at Slim's in S.F., the band embarked on a U.S. tour before heading over to Europe for a summer full of festival dates. After returning from Europe and taking a few months off, the band returned to the stage for a one of show with DevilDriver, and it was announced the day of the show that it would be the last for bassist Dennis Pepa, who has decided to pursue other musical interests.
After hearing the news of Dennis' departure from the band literally an hour before my scheduled interview, I'll admit that I went in having no idea what to expect. But I was pleasantly surprised when I sat down with singer Mark Osegueda, who might very well be one of the nicest and most genuine people in all of metal. I had met Mark a few times over the years, and talking with him seemed more like just hanging out and talking shop rather than an actual interview. Here is how it all went down...
RA: So I just read about the news today, and is it cool to talk about...
MO: (Interrupts) Ask anything...absolutely...
RA: Alright. Well, I just read that Dennis Pepa has left the band?
MO: Yeah, Unfortunately this is Dennis' last show with the band, which is...sad, but, you know, when one reaches the end, one reaches the end. I know I've done it before (laughs). I wish him well, we all do, and he wishes us well. We are going to carry on and start auditioning new bassists, but we are going to keep writing until we find one, and we will continue when we find one and start doing some shows when they come our way.
RA: So what have you guys been up to since the summer European tour ended?
MO: Man... so the tour was four months straight, and since then we all decompressed (laughing), tried to get use to each other, and everyone definitely took some down time to get re-excited again. We just started rehearsing again about a month and a half ago. Rob has already started writing riffs and working on some stuff for the next album, which is where our focus is right now. We are doing this one-off show with DevilDriver, who asked us to do it and we said hell, why not. It gives us a chance to kick some of the dust off.
RA: Any highlights or standout-shows from the tour?
MO: Well, we did a lot of festivals. Standouts would have to be Hellfest in Paris, which was our first festival ever in Paris. We have played a lot of indoor shows there but never an outdoor one, and that was incredible. We played a festival in Bilbao, Spain, and that was really special for all of us. Kiss and Dio played it the same day we did. Kiss was our first concert, and we got to meet them and take pictures with them that night, and by the end of the night I was pretty hammered. It was a blast, and also got to talk to [Ronnie James] Dio for a while, and get some pictures with him. I think that was probably the favorite show for everyone.
RA: This question obviously may not apply anymore, but I'll ask it anyways. Has this been the tightest you guys have felt, together, as far as ‘gelling’ as a band?
MO: Definitely on tour. You know, we've known each other for so long, and when we come home we are all really good at doing our own thing, but when we are on tour and hit the stage, it’s is inevitable that we all explode, and it’s just second nature playing off of each other.
RA: Well let's talk about Killing Season a bit. I know it's kind of old news by now, but can you give me your overall thoughts on the album?
MO: To tell you the truth I couldn't be more proud of any album we've done. I've got such an attachment to it because it's the most I've ever contributed to any Death Angel record. The feeling we all had going into the studio with the material we had, and then the feeling we all had BEING in the studio with producer Nick Raskulinecz was probably the best working relationship we have had with a producer. I think we hold a special place for it. It's been received very well critically, a lot better than The Art of Dying was, but that record had to happen for this one to happen. I couldn't be more proud of Killing Season.
RA: Looking back on the old days, with all the shit you guys went through with the accident, management, record labels, etc., do you feel vindicated, or have an extra sense of satisfaction now that Death Angel is back and just as big now as you were back then?
MO: You know, I'm definitely excited that we have been getting a lot of attention, and to a certain degree want more (laughing) and we seem to be on the right path for that. We are definitely happy with the attention and reviews we have gotten lately, but it just makes us hungrier to get music out there to more people, and to play more places.
RA: I think the first time I saw Death Angel live was at The Kabuki here in San Francisco way back in 1983 opening for Mercyful Fate. Looking back, when you guys were just kids, did you ever think you would be here twenty-five years later still doing this?
MO: Absolutely not! (laughing) Absolutely not! I love the fact that we are still here, but even if we were to end today, which is definitely not the case, just knowing that back in the day that we did play with the original Mercyful Fate, Metallica with Cliff, Megadeth, Slayer, and all the bands of the time, while they were at their peak so to speak. It's been an incredible ride, without a doubt.
RA: I know we have already touched on it just a bit, but tell me what the future holds for Death Angel. You have started to tinker around with some new material.
MO: Absolutely we have. Rob and I feed off of each other very well, and I am definitely looking forward to continuing. Rob is hungrier than ever to create some new stuff, and we are both biting at the bit...
RA: So I take it Death Angel is going to be around for a while?
MO: Absolutely, without a doubt... yeah, we aren't going anywhere.
RA: Well before we wrap things up here, tell me about everyone's side projects. I know you also front the All-Time Highs, Ted has Mudface, and Rob released a solo project not too long ago?
MO: Yeah Rob's album kind of fell right when we were about to start recording Killing Season so he hasn't really had time to play out live for it. I think all of our projects have gathered a little dust on them. Ted and Mudface are playing live again which is good, but once Death Angel starts going again all of our projects tend to get a bit dusty (laughing). And as far as the All-Time Highs, you know we haven't played live in quite some time. The other guys in the band all have other projects as well, but, you know, never say never. You might see us rear our ugly heads again.
RA: Alright man, I think that should about do it. I thank you for your time, and I am looking forward to the show tonight.
MO: Right on Raymond, definitely!
Looking back on this show, it would be hard for me to review it, because what could I possibly say that I haven't said before? Death Angel quite simply put on another show for the ages, and although it was Dennis' last show with the band, there is no doubt in my mind that Death Angel will continue on, and I am glad that I will be around to see it. I wish them nothing but the best.
“Sonic Beatdown” from Killing Season
“Dethroned” from Killing Season
Death Angel w/ God Forbid - [Live: 5.25.08]