By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — With roots dating back to the primordial days of the Bay Area thrash-metal revolution during the early ’80s, local heroes Death Angel have long been representatives of one of San Francisco’s most indelible musical movements. Formed in 1982 by a group of Filipino cousins living in Daly City, the band featuring Rob Cavestany (lead guitar, backing vocals), Dennis Pepa (lead vocals, bass), Gus Pepa (rhythm guitar), and Andy Galeon (drums) initially drew influence on Iron Maiden and other newer British metal bands just rising to prominence.
By the time cousin Mark Osegueda had taken over as lead singer in 1984, the young musicians were devout followers of the new thrash-metal sound championed by Bay Area icons Metallica and Exodus as well as SoCal counterparts Slayer and Megadeth (who Death Angel opened for with a show that marked Osegueda’s debut stage appearance). A demo produced by Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett would garner the quintet local radio airplay and a much wider fan base thanks to tape trading among rabid thrash-metal fans looking for the latest sounds.
Death Angel would score a deal with Enigma Records and released their pulverizing 1987 debut album The Ultra-Violence that exhibited a complex sound that belied the young band’s relative inexperience (Galeon was only 14 when they recorded the effort). A second album — Frolic in the Park — followed before the leading lights of the second wave of thrash metal had their contract acquired by Geffen Records. The highly polished 1990 album Act III and major touring plans as the opening act on the huge Clash of the Titans Tour with Slayer, Megadeth and Exodus had the band poised for bigger things, but a touring van accident critically injured Galeon and left the band in limbo as he took a full year to recover. After Osegueda left to pursue a career outside of music, the band was dropped by the label and imploded.
The remaining members would continue making music, first working in a more alternative-rock direction as The Organization before bringing Osegueda back into the fold in 1998 to front the new group The Swarm. It wasn’t until Death Angel reunited for Thrash of the Titans, the legendary 2001 benefit concert for Testament singer Chuck Billy that also featured historic reunion performances by Bay Area bands Exodus, Heathen, Forbidden Evil and Vio-lence, that the group returned to full-time activity.
Releasing its first new effort in 14 years with The Art of Dying in 2004, Death Angel has remained a consistent presence on the international touring circuit ever since. While founding members Dennis Pepa and Galeon would depart near the end of the decade, the current line-up filled out by veteran drummer Will Carroll (formerly with Old Grandad, Hammers of Misfortune and Vicious Rumors) and bassist Damien Sisson (ex Scarecrow and Potential Threat) continues to put out compelling new thrash-metal classics including 2016’s furious effort, The Evil Divide.
While the band limited touring activity this year to focus on writing and recording their next album this past fall, they still managed to play a number of festivals and join fellow Bay Area greats Exodus and German thrashers Sodom for a run of dates that just ended last week. Death Angel also collaborated on a different kind of release, working with Oakland brewery Ale Industries to craft the band’s Caster of Shame IPA that was celebrated with a tasting party in November.
The beer will be available on tap when the beloved SF band returns to Slim’s for two nights this weekend, presenting it’s fifth annual “Another Death Angel Christmas Show” at the venue. This year, the group will get support from rising SF thrashers War Bison and celebrated SoCal metal crew Night Demon on Friday, with technical LA thrashers Exmortus and local stoner metal favorites Floating Goats performing Saturday.
5th Annual Another Death Angel Christmas Show
Friday and Saturday, Dec. 21-22, 8 p.m. $25 (Saturday sold out)