Sunday Old School: Bay Area Thrashers Death Angel
"Keep It In The Family" may be a song by Anthrax, but for another American thrash metal band it means something else entirely. The band in question would be Death Angel, who were formed in 1982 by four cousins, vocalist and bassist Dennis Pepa, guitarist Gus Pepa, drummer Andy Galeon and Rob Cavestany, who also played guitar. The cousins went through a number of names before deciding to settle with Death Angel, after coming across a book by the same name. The original lineup of the band recorded a demo entitled, "Heavy Metal Insanity," which sounded alot more like New Wave Of British Heavy Metal bands such as Tygers Of Pan Tang, than the thrash metal style of which the band would later be known. In 1984, the band decided to recruit their roadie, Mark Osegueda (also a second cousin of the band members) to take over the role of vocalist, allowing Dennis Pepa to focus on his bass playing and the new lineup made their live debut supporting Megadeth (which was one of only four shows to feature Kerry King as Megadeth's guitarist.) The band continued to slug it out in the clubs and refine their live show, as well as musicianship, before recording a new demo in 1986 called, "Kill As One," which featured Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett as producer. The demo proved to be extremely popular in the tape trading community, earning the band a solid fanbase and eventually leading to a deal with Enigma Records. Through, Enigma, they released their first full length album, "The Ultra-Violence," which found favour with many thrash metal fans, as well as the impressive fact that all of the band members were under twenty years old at the time, with drummer Andy Galeon only fifteen years of age at the time of release. The group also filmed a music video for the song, "Voracious Souls," but it found little airplay, owing to it's lyrical nature, which refers to marijuana.
The next year, the band released their second album, the comical sounding, "Frolic Through The Park," which saw their popularity rise signifficantly. The album received largely positive reviews and garnered a minor hit with the song, "Bored," which was inspired by the unlikely influence of U2 and was eventually featured in the movie, "Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III." The record was also praised for it's diverse range of influences, which no longer confined Death Angel's music to straight forward thrash metal, and for the band's excellent cover of the Kiss song, "Cold Gin." The success of the album allowed the group to tour the world for the first time, finding particular success in Japan, where they sold out two tours in support of the record. Following the release of, "Frolic..." the band's contract with Enigma was bought out by major label, Geffen, who released the band's next album, "Act III" in 1990. Once again, Death Angel expanded their musical range, incorporating elements of funk and making greater use of acoustic guitars and backing vocals. The album featured two singles in the form of, "Seemingly Endless Time" and the ballad, "A Room With A View," which was sung mostly by guitarist Rob Cavestany. The album didn't give them the mainstream breakthrough which they deserved, but saw their popularity as a live act remain intact, selling out famous venues such as London's Hammersmith Odeon and The Warfield Theatre in San Francisco.
Things took a drastic turn however, while the band was travelling from Arizona to Las Vegas they suffered a devastating road accident, which saw Andy Galleon critically injured, taking over a year to recover. Other members of the band escaped with minor injuries, but were pressured by their management and Geffen to continue with a new drummer. They decided to do a few shows in Japan but felt that without Galeon, the chemistry was no longer there, and they were dropped from Geffen after refusing to recruit a new drummer, with a split occuring soon after. Following the band's breakup, the members explored other interests, both inside and out of music, with the most prominent example being, The Organisation, which featured the four founding members of the band and focused more on alternative rock and funk music. The band released two unsuccesful albums but toured with the likes of Motorhead and Rob Halford's post-Judas Priest band, Fight. Following The Organisation, Cavestany and Galeon reunited with Mark Osegueda to form, Swarm, who released two EPs and a compilation album before calling it a day.
In 2001, Death Angel finally reunited, though this time without guitarist Gus Pepa, who was out of the country at the time but gave his blessing for the band to find a new guitarist. The reunion was originally planned to be a one-off as part of the Thrash Of The Titans benefit concert for Testament frontman Chuck Billy and Death leader Chuck Schuldiner, which also featured the reunions of many other thrash metal veterans. Death Angel received a hugely positive reception and decided to perform a few more shows in California and before long embarked on two European tours. Eventually, the band released a new studio album, "The Art Of Dying" in 2004, with the title being inspired by martial arts legend, Bruce Lee. A box set followed the next year, along with extensive touring and another studio album, "Killing Season" in 2008. After this release however, bassist Dennis Pepa and drummer Andy Galeon left the band, being replaced by Sammy Diosdado and Will Carroll respectively. This new lineup continued to perform worldwide, as well as recording a new studio album named, "Relentless Retribution," which was recently releaseed to a mainly positive reception, cementing their place as one of the best bands from the Bay Area thrash metal scene.
Death Angel - Voracious Souls
Death Angel - Bored
Death Angel - A Room With A View
Death Angel - Dethroned
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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