In the late 80s, young San Francisco thrash-metal act Death Angel seemed poised to become the future of the genre.
Metallicas Kirk Hammett produced their 1986 demo when they were just teenagers, and the groups 1988 single Bored became a staple on MTVs Headbangers Ball. Its 1990 album, Act III, was a career milestone beloved by critics and metal fans. Yet when the band embarked on its first full-scale U.S. headlining tour since the early 1990s, it often found itself playing to barely 100 people, as it did at Tremont in January 2011.
Was Death Angel the band metal forgotten?
It certainly wasnt forgotten by peers Anthrax, who tapped DA as an opening act (along with Testament) during its recent comeback.
By the time we were at the height of our career in 1990 we were headlining the same size places were playing with Anthrax, says guitarist Rob Cavestany as the group began its third and final run with Anthrax.
Death Angel launches its headlining tour this weekend, revisiting its album The Ultra-Violence in its entirety to celebrate the long out-of-print debuts 25th anniversary. The tour stops at Tremont Monday.
Cavestany and company are hoping the exposure on Anthraxs tour translates to a rise in Death Angels audience. Of the 1,500 or so Anthrax and Testament fans who saw Death Angel at The Fillmore last November, at least some should want more of DAs brand of metal, which is complex, refined and still brutally heavy and old school.
We find a lot of people are rediscovering and actually just discovering us, although weve been around almost as long as Anthrax and certainly as long as Testament. There was a huge gap in our career. Its a weird thing. Its hard for us to swallow sometimes, he said.
Death Angel didnt necessarily choose its fate. Its career was derailed at its height because of a tour bus accident in the Arizona desert that left drummer Andy Galeon seriously injured. The group splintered as Galeon recovered.
We just disappeared from the face of the metal world in one moment and didnt come back for another 12 years, Cavestany says. We got stuck in a middle zone, a purgatory.
Members formed other moderately successful bands but didnt regroup until a cancer benefit for Testaments Chuck Billy in 2001. A fourth album finally emerged 14 years after the success of Act III. It focused on audiences overseas and released two more albums.
Its been 10 years strong, but we only started touring North America (in the last two years), he said.
Though its been a tumultuous journey (Galeon and Dennis Pepa left in 2008), Death Angels sound and live show hasnt changed dramatically. Cavestany and founding vocalist Mark Osegueda are beginning to write the next album while revisiting their teenage compositions playing The Ultra-Violence on stage.
Half of that album is usually a mainstay in our headlining set, Cavestany said. It was challenging to relearn the other half. The title track is an 11-minute instrumental with many parts.
A vinyl reissue will follow the remastered CD version, which he calls louder, crisper and cleaner than the original.
It was recorded in ancient times in 1986 on a minimal budget, and it was mastered for vinyl and cassette. CDs were just starting to happen. It was quiet, he said. When we first got a copy of that album on CD, I remember holding it and saying, What a joke. This small little thing you cant even see the artwork and its barely bigger than a cassette.