The story of Death Angel is one of the most interesting of the US thrash movement. Despite the band being around the scene from the early to mid eighties they weren’t really known to the metal community until 1987 and the release of their debut, The Ultra-Violence. This was a heavy, angry and proficient thrash metal album that caught instant attention and accolades; despite the lack of vocals, in my opinion. The amazing thing about this release and Death Angel in 1987, is that on average they were ten to fifteen years younger than many of their thrash metal counterparts and they were essentially a band of family members; brothers and cousins. With Rob Cavestany at the helm the band went on to release two further albums by the end of 1990, Frolic through the Park (1988) and Act III (1990).
The band grew considerably upon each release, the songs became more fluid and emotional and the vocal melodies and overall musicianship improved considerably. The release of Act III and the successful single and accompanying film clip of ‘Seemingly Endless Time’ saw the band really kick up a gear with regard to market share and sales. However, whilst touring on the back of the album the band was involved in a serious accident with their tour bus on route to Las Vegas. Drummer Andy Galeon required surgery and would need at least twelve months to recover and this loss of momentum took its toll on the still quite young band. Essentially the band drifted apart over this incident and despite the brief formation of The Organization, in 1991, with a number of Death Angel members, the band disappeared.
Fast forward to 2004 and Death Angel re-emerged with the album The Art of Dying. This is an intense and hungry thrash album, dripping with power and passion. Over the last twelve years the band has released three further studio albums, toured the world on the back of each release and has solidified a line-up amidst some personnel movement. The Dream Calls for Blood, released in 2013, saw Death Angel, and its current line-up, move further up the metal echelons with tight, intricate metal songs shrouded in sincerity. So now to 2016 and the release of The Evil Divide, this new album is an extension of The Dream Calls for Blood, as the current line-up lock in to each other’s playing and seriously complement each other as musicians. I recently caught up with Rob Cavestany to walk through the new album and to discuss Death Angel past, present and future.
Rob it’s been three years since the release of The Dream Calls for Blood so how does it feel to be releasing the new album, The Evil Divide?
“It feels amazing we are absolutely excited and we are proud of the album. It is a rare moment in your journey to release a full length album and each one for us we see as an achievement. We are happy with how the album has turned up and we really can’t wait for everyone to hear it.”
With the line-up really solidified at this point, did you approach the writing of the new album differently to The Dream Calls for Blood?
“There was similarities and differences really. Every time we do an album there is always some evolution and the touring and rehearsing constantly brings in different sounds and feelings that lend themselves to the songs. I guess all of the time we spend together and all of the things that happened to us in our personal lives away from the band. I think the major difference this time though was that I had more time to spend in my home studio to really work through the fine details and think things through. This shows on the album and the depth of songs that we have produced.”
‘The Father of Lies’, the first track that I heard from the new album really blew me away, it is a real journey with the crunchy riff and guitar lick that repeats through the track, but then there’s the tempo change in the middle and the solo that flows from the light slow paced drop right through to the tempo change back to the core riff. Where did this song come from?
“How the hell do I know!! It is real adventure and a great song to play, It was the first song I wrote for the album. It was also the first time that I have composed the guitar solo at the time of writing the song. Normally I would do this later and lay the solo over the music once I have heard it back and arranged together. In this case I had wanted to do it that way and it is elaborate and extended more than what I normally would so I am so happy with it. I am glad you love the song because I do too.”
The producer of The Evil Divide, Jason Suecof, has worked with you now for three albums, now despite the obvious great sound that he gets out of Death Angel, why have you kept him in the production chair?
“Probably because we are gay lovers (Rob than bursts into laughter)!! Sorry I am just being stupid I was just talking with Jason and I said that the next time I am asked this that is what I am going to say. Look we get along great, you know personally and in a working situation. The chemistry is just right and the more we know each other the more we can anticipate what the other is thinking and that just proves that we are in sync. He really is the perfect fit for us and we get on so I can’t see at this stage working with another producer.”
The artwork for the new album, I am led to believe, was drawn by a tattoo artist who has worked on both Mark (Oseguda, lead singer) and yourself, can you talk us through the cover?
“It is an image of an exaggerated version of a death moth. The real actual moth has a natural skull pattern on its back and we have enhanced this image. The thing about this moth in some cultures is it has been known to be a sign of a bad thing to happen or omen. It sort of represents that and the concepts of The Evil Divide. A lot of the tracks revolve around all the bullshit and problems in the world today and so this image fitted that as a whole.”
In 2004 Death Angel burst back onto the scene after a thirteen year absence, why was that year, 2004, the rebirth of the band?
“We actually reunited in 2001 for a gig to support Chuck Billy and so we really had no intention after this point. It was just the personal circumstance and support of a friend. From here it was an amazing feeling playing live and then we started getting offers to play and so we went on from there and played some shows. The Dynamo gig was the thing that led into bigger things. After this we got approached by labels and Nuclear Blast convinced us to record actually. We did start to write but we didn’t have a plan but with Nuclear Blast in support we just went for it.”
Looking at your history and back catalogue, as we have outlined here, there are two distinct stages in the evolution of Death Angel, and ultimately two distinct core bands. What do you see as the common denominator between the two parts of your history, obviously apart from Mark and yourself?
“The common link would be a combination of things really. A desire to play music and create with the absolute love of what we do. All of that combined with the amazing fans that were still there and supporting us and they have kept us going. So really the love of playing and creating music and the fans that support us.”
The last time I saw Death Angel was touring Australia with Kreator in 2014 and I was so impressed with your performance and I really felt that Death Angel were the band of the night. What has this current line-up, now some six years established, done to the live Death Angel sound?
“We just keep getting tighter on stage and as people. We are partners who are building our relationship and the vibe is there and we hang out outside of the band and this has unified our sound. It is a real joy to play with these guys you know. I think we all acknowledge this and don’t take it for granted. It is rare to have this so we are going to take it and make the most of it while we can.”
The Ultra-Violence now over twenty nine years old, being released on the 23rd of April 1987, was recorded when all members of the band were under the age of twenty, so to 2016 and seven studio albums later, what does this album represent for you?
“Oh it still represents the roots of this band and the sound. It is the foundation upon everything has been built since. It was still one of the most proudest moments in my life holding this album in my hands. You know we could never have existed without it, it gave us everything thereafter. I still love this album and so do our fans. It means everything to me as a member of Death Angel and as a musician.”
To finish Rob, are there any plans for Death Angel to tour Australia on the back of The Evil Divide?
“Absolutely! We don’t have any dates at this stage but it is in the plans and I hope to be down there by the end of year. We love playing in Australia, people down there are so good to us!! I can’t wait to come back and play the new album live.”
This is now the third time that I have been fortunate enough to interview Mr Rob Cavestany, and he hasn’t changed in the slightest. Despite Death Angel’s growing momentum and success, leading to the release of The Evil Divide this month, he is the same hungry and committed Death Angel guitarist that he has always been. The Evil Divide sees the band build on the release of The Dream Calls for Blood and cements their place at the top of the thrash metal genre. Let’s hope that Rob is accurate in his words and the band gets down to Australia again soon.
Interview By Mark Sneddon