San Francisco’s Death Angel are a product of the bustling Bay Area thrash metal scene of the ’80s. Combining serious guitar crunch and speed with technical expertise, they create complex thrash filled with time changes and tricky arrangements, and are considered to be one of the “big eight” of the genre, alongside Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax, Testament, Exodus, and Overkill. Emerging in 1982, the group found underground success with their first two albums — 1987’s The Ultra-Violence and 1988’s Frolic Through the Park — before dipping their feet into the mainstream with their 1989 major-label debut Act III. They ceased operations in the early ’90s, but re-formed in 2001 and continued to tour and record, releasing neck-snapping LPs like The Art of Dying(2004), The Dream Calls for Blood (2013), the Grammy-nominated Humanicide (2019), and the concert album Bastard Tracks (2021), with guitarist Rob Cavestany serving as the only constant member.
Death Angel weren’t just a band, they were family. Formed in the early ’80s by cousins Mark Osegueda(vocals), Rob Cavestany (lead guitar), Gus Pepa (rhythm guitar), Dennis Pepa (bass), and Andy Galeon(drums), the group was also precocious; the bandmembers recorded their 1986 Kirk Hammett-produced “Kill as One” demo while still in their teens. In fact, drummer Galeon was only 14 when Death Angel issued their first album, 1987’s astoundingly mature The Ultra-Violence on Enigma Records. The following year’s sophomore Frolic Through the Park offered a few slight refinements, most notably in the uncharacteristically humorous and accessible single “Bored.”
Signing with the Geffen Records hit factory the following year seemed like the next step toward certain stardom, and Death Angel left nothing to chance with their third album, 1990’s superlative career highlight Act III. But despite benefiting from more sophisticated songwriting, greatly improved production, and an extensive world tour to support it, Act III somehow fell short of both band and label expectations. Fall from Grace, a hastily assembled live album released by Enigma later that year, proved both ill-timed and morbidly prophetic, when Death Angel were involved in a horrific tour bus crash in Arizona. Galeon was severely injured, undergoing a year of rehab during which Osegueda decided to quit music and move to New York. As for the remaining members of Death Angel, following Galeon‘s recovery they re-named themselves the Organization and released two albums in the early ’90s through Metal Blade — Cavestany also handled vocal duties — before breaking up in 1995.
Numerous projects followed until 2001 (most notably Cavestany, Osegueda, and Galeon‘s late-’90s group Swarm), when Death Angel reconvened to perform at a San Francisco benefit concert for cancer-stricken Testamentsinger Chuck Billy. This, in turn, led to sporadic European festival appearances and U.S. club tours that encouraged the classic Death Angel formation to reunite more permanently. Signing with Nuclear Blast and bringing in new rhythm guitarist Ted Aguilar, the band released its long-awaited fourth album, The Art of Dying, in 2004. The Archives & Artifacts box set arrived in 2005, collecting a few out of print albums and rarities, and was followed in 2008 by Killing Season, a collection of all-new tracks recorded at Dave Grohl‘s Studio 606.
Shortly after the release of Killing Season, bassist Pepa left the band, replaced by Sammy Diosdado, an active player in the Bay Area hardcore scene at the time. Just months later, drummer Galeon also left the group, leaving Cavestany the only remaining founding member. Galeon was replaced on tour with drummer Will Carroll and work began on 2010’s full-length effort, Relentless Retribution. The group followed it in 2013 with The Dream Calls for Blood, which peaked at number 72 on the Billboard 200. In May 2016 they dropped their hard-hitting eighth studio long-player The Evil Divide, followed in 2019 by the uncompromising Humanicide. The latter album’s title track was nominated for a Grammy for Best Metal Performance. 2020 saw the release of the digital EP Under Pressure, and in 2021 Death Angel issued the concert LP Bastard Tracks, which featured songs that the band has rarely performed live.