Spawning from the Bay area thrash metal scene in the early 1980s, Death Angel’s marriage of aggression and melody was unique. The band gained a loyal following playing in the same clubs and stomping grounds as Metallica, Megadeth, Death, Slayer and Exodus. It was the newer, edgier underground band of the time. I know because I was a big fan. I remember trading my friend a bunch of cassettes for a copy of the band’s classic 1988 release, Frolic through the Park, and listening to its 1990 album, Act III, repeatedly in my bedroom on my boombox. It followed at a close second only behind Megadeth’s Rust in Peace. Yes, I’m old, but enough about me.
The band was experiencing its first real commercial success with Act III but broke up after the album’s tour. All but gone and forgotten, it eventually made a surprising return in 2004 with a new album, The Art of Dying, and a revamped lineup. In the years since, the band has remained active to the delight of thrash metal fans worldwide, touring and releasing album after album, each one stronger than the last. It’s next album, The Evil Divide, will be released May 27, 2016, on Nuclear Blast and is its third in five years, not including 2016 re-issues of Frolic through the Park and its 1990 live album, Fall from Grace.
Live Metal’s Jeff Maki recently talked with vocalist Mark Osegueda about the new record, the band’s evolution and more.
LIVE METAL: How’s it going, man? We actually talked before, way back in 2010 when you guys were releasing Relentless Retribution (read here). So now, in a blink of an eye, it’s six years later and here we are again.
MARK OSEGUEDA: (laughs) It’s funny how that works, right?
But in that “blink of an eye,” (Death Angel) has been super busy, releasing Relentless Retribution (2010), The Dream Calls for Blood (2013), the live album, The Bay Calls for Blood (2015), the Thrashumentary DVD (2015), and now The Evil Divide is coming out May 27, 2016. I noticed on the (official Death Angel) website that this period of the band’s discography from 2009 to the present is referred to as “The Evolution.” So how would you say that Death Angel has evolved over these last three albums now?
Basically, for Relentless Retribution, it was a new lineup for us—a new drummer and a new bassist with Will (Carroll) and Damien (Sisson). And with that record, we knew we had to make a statement because there were a lot of people who wrote us off at that point. And we knew we had to come out of the gates with something strong, and we wanted to get back to our thrash roots and just do a very visceral record. And that’s why we even picked (producer) Jason Suecof to work with at that time. And we came out with that record, and it garnered us a great deal of attention, which is great. It solidified our relationship with some core fans we had and brought bunch of new, younger fans to the record and to the band, as well. It was great.
With The Dream Calls for Blood, we were a lot more comfortable but still wanted a very aggressive record and very visceral, as well. We were just more comfortable working with Suecof, and we got in there (and made) a very angry record. (laughs)
I think with (The Evil Divide), we knew going into it that we were going to keep the aggressive nature, but the songwriting between me and (guitarist) Rob (Cavestany) has gotten a lot stronger. And I think with this one we really honed into our skills. It’s as aggressive as the last two, but it’s just got these subtleties in there that really define the Death Angel sound. And I think we’re more comfortable now more than ever with everyone’s playing, and the band is just a stronger unit. This record is just so cohesive, and we’re just really proud of it.
It’s hard because with the last two, we always almost considered them as an evil twin sisters kind of thing—Relentless Retribution and The Dream Calls for Blood. This one has its own legs, and that’s why this one is almost like the wicked mother that raised them. She’s wiser and has been through it.
You guys really seem like you’re having fun, and like you said, the band seems stronger than ever. But it almost seems like you guys have like a chip on your shoulders or something, or you’re making up for lost time with this plethora of releases coming out.
Well, we’re on a mission, you know? We haven’t achieved all of our goals yet, and we’ve seen bands that we’re friends with and bands that we’re contemporaries with reaching higher plateaus than us. So we still have a chip on our shoulder and something to prove, and we’ve yet to reach all of our goals. I’m gonna fuckin’ try hard as hell and be as hungry as I can until I reach those.
Great. Good to hear, man. So the new record seems like a pretty big deal. I noticed that there’s even a countdown clock on the website. But what exactly does “The Evil Divide” represent?
You know, right now I think it’s just a direct reflection of the state of the world. I don’t know if it’s because it’s an election year, but right now there’s just so much division, not just in the States, but worldwide. It’s bringing out just unnecessary hatred towards people who are undeserving of it and a lot of ignorance unfortunately. And it’s building walls between cultures that don’t belong there, and it’s something where no one has to go too far to actually see it happening. It’s like in our face more than ever, and to me, it’s probably the most disturbing and disgusting that the human race has been in many, many decades. And there’s no better fodder or subject matter for a metal band or a punk band to write about at the moment.
Now I don’t think it’s a concept album or anything, but do most of the tracks follow the same theme of The Evil Divide and the state of the world, or is there anything on there that would differ, like a more personal song or anything like that?
The lyrics I write are definitely about things that anger me, and a lot are about personal experiences, but I always try to keep a little ambiguity to it. That’s so people can embrace the song and put their own meaning to it if they’re going through it. If it affects them that way, then that’s beautiful. But I will say that this is definitely the most political record I’ve written, as well. There are a bunch of things that anger me, lyrically, for sure.
What would you say are some standout tracks on the new album and ones that you just can’t wait to get out there and play live?
I have so many—”The Moth,” “Lost,” “Hatred United, United Hate,” “Let the Pieces Fall.” You know, it’s just so hard. It’s a new baby, and I’m very, very proud of it. It’s a vicious baby.
OK, so yeah, that was like half the album. So basically the whole album.
(laughs) Yeah, yeah. It’s like a poisonous baby that’s teething.
I only see one tour date currently booked for the band, but I assume a tour announcement is coming.
Yeah, we’re working on dates right now as we speak, and we plan to be on the road, hopefully, within a week of the release.
You mentioned earlier how the band hadn’t yet achieved all of its goals. Being one of the original Bay area thrash bands, was there that one band that you truly admired and looked up to back then, and is there one that you admire and look up to now?
Definitely back then, Metallica was the one. They changed the course of the river, so to speak. I looked up to them in a huge, huge way back then. It’s just incredible—incredible. And as far as who I look up to until this day, I’d go with the same, definitely for the Bay area. And I’ll throw Slayer in there, as well. These are just bands that I absolutely have the utmost respect for.
I don’t know if “amazing” is the word, but it’s just really cool that all these bands from my youth are still around: Death Angel, Megadeth, Slayer, Overkill, Metallica, Testament. I don’t think so, but is this a result of there just not being as many quality bands out there today, or is it that you guys and these other bands are just so strong that they’re still around?
I think it’s just such a wonderful style of music to play. Everyone’s addicted to it, from the rush you get from creating it, and also getting to perform it live and the energy you get from the crowd and give to the crowd, there’s no feeling like it. So once you’re bitten by that bug, you want to keep that illness, so to speak. (laughs)
The great thing about it is its timelessness and its resurgence. And that resurgence has still yet to peak. You can tell because there’s younger bands doing thrash again, and it’s wonderful. It’s just going to make the genre grow and grow and grow.
And it’s not like the classic bands that are still around are completely living off of past glory either. The new Megadeth was fantastic, I’m sure the new Death Angel is going to be great, Testament has been firing on all cylinders. I just never would have imagined when I was 14 or 15 years old,sitting in my bedroom listening to Act III or Rust in Peace, that I’d be almost 40 years old talking with you about this stuff today. It’s crazy.
Yeah, I mean we’re all hungry, and that’s for sure. Speaking for us, we’re starving! (laughs)
That’s what I got, Mark. Did I miss anything?
No, again, just keep an eye out on May 27 for Death Angel and The Evil Divide on Nuclear Blast Records.