Death Angel are one of my favorite thrash bands, especially now that I’m older. For some reason I appreciate their music now more than I did as a teenager, so when the opportunity to interview singer Mark Osegueda presented itself just before the new album’s release, I pounced immediately. I just had to know what makes him and the whole band tick. He was very nice to me, and we had quite a few laughs. Turns out we share the same favorite song on new album The Dream Calls For Blood. Read on to see which one:
Amps: We’re two weeks away from the record. How’s everybody feeling about it?
Mark: The buzz in the whole Death Angel camp is at an all-time peak for us. I’m going back to the 80’s and everything. It’s just electric. The response to this record from those who’ve heard it has been off the Richter, it’s been insane. Complete positivity. The press is the best we’ve gotten since The Ultra-Violence or Act III, and we’ve been rehearsing four, five days a week. And you can just see everyone’s faces in the rehearsal room, all lit up. This stuff is gonna come across so good live! We’re ready. We’re hungry and we’re ready.
Amps: You’re going to be here at South By So What at the end of October. Will you be back next year doing a full set?
Mark: That’s the goal. We plan on touring the hell out of this record, it’s something that we’re extremely proud of and we wanna get it out there and reach as many people as possible.
Amps: You need to tour the hell out of Texas. You know what the metalheads are like down here, we’re insane!
Mark: Oh, absolutely insane! We love it!
Amps: When were the majority of the songs written, because you guys toured for awhile. On the road?
Mark: For the first time a Death Angel record, the entire record was written on the road. Rob (Cavestany) wrote all the riffs while we were on tour because the extensive run we did for Relentless Retribution was pretty much three years straight of touring. When we got back, the gap between releases would have been way too long if we did things the way we normally do. The record wouldn’t have been out till next year, and we just couldn’t have that. We wanted to strike while the iron was hot, so we had to write on the road this time. Ironically, as we’ve said that for years since we’ve reformed, but all we ever came up with were a couple of riffs, then next thing you know we’re back home writing a record.
But time wouldn’t allow that, so Rob brought a little mobile studio with him everywhere we went and he was in the back of the bus writing, or downstairs, and backstage, and he just kept coming up with these riffs and structures, and the guys would jam ‘em out during soundcheck. And they started coming up with songs. They’d get the basic structure, record it, and he’d send me a file of it to listen to alone. I gotta be alone when I write lyrics. I lock myself in my room and just come up with it. All the record was written on the road except the lyrics. They were written in San Francisco and Florida.
Amps: The new songs (“The Dream Calls For Blood”, “Caster of Shame”, and now “Fallen”). I love that you guys released them through social media first. “Caster of Shame” is my absolute favorite by the way.
Mark: Nice! That’s kind of my baby, right there. “Caster of Shame” is the one I was rooting for the whole time!
Amps: These are very aggressive songs, almost like a continuation of the intensity from the last record. Is that a fair assessment?
Mark: Absolutely to say the least. I think it’s the most aggressive record we’ve done since The Ultra-Violence, and Relentless Retribution. When we set out to writing this one, we knew that Retribution and this one were gonna be sisters, with this one pretty much being the more wicked of the two evil sisters. And we knew that. And the thing is Rob’s playing has gotten more and more technical, it’s been amazing. But the fuel behind it was writing on the road, I think. He’d get backstage after a show and his adrenaline is still on 10, and he’d be fired up from the crowd, and that just fueled the fire!
At the tail end of the three years touring we re-released The Ultra –Violence for the 25th Anniversary and then toured for that, and then we went to record, and our adrenaline and aggression level was BEYOND 10 so it was perfect for the studio to capture that vibe.
Amps: I’LL SAY!! JEEZUS!! (Mark starts laughing) I put it on yesterday, locked my office door and just went to town. This is a rough and tough record, man. This is window-breakin’ music. Not that I’m condoning that!
Mark: That’s it, that’s it. And it’s funny that you say that about “Caster of Shame” because when I was writing the lyrics and melody for it, I was like, “I wanna write a song that gives me the same feeling I had when I first heard “Battery” by Metallica!” That song where, when someone puts it on I’m invincible (laughing)!! I remember when I first heard it, I was like, “JEEZUS CHRIST!! I WANNA HIT SOMETHIN’!” Hopefully “Caster” brings that out in some people as well!
Amps: You’ve been at this a long time, and you’ve got a very unique, aggressive vocal style. Any tricks to keep the voice in shape?
Mark: You know, I’m lucky that I have a very resilient system in general. And I took a lot of voice training in the 80’s. Two different techniques, and I took the best bits of each, and of course I do a bunch of things wrong! I had to refocus on everything again on this tour for Relentless Retribution, because the amount of touring we did, and the style of singing I did on that album was definitely more aggressive, and I had to relearn things. There were some rough times on this tour, the first year-and-a-half I was having some trouble, and had to do a reassessment. I came up with some newer techniques so by the last year of that tour I really nailed it. I think people are gonna be really pleased when they hear us live this time out. Oh, and thank you, by the way!
Amps: You’re welcome! So again, damn near three years on the road…what do you do to stay sane out there?
Mark: It absolutely gets nuts. It’s questionable if I am sane (laughs). You’re either cut out for it or you’re not. I am absolutely cut out for it and I always have been. You can tell really fast the people who aren’t cut out for the road and the changes in life. The road is not a forgiving place, especially when people start having families, it’s ruthless. I’ve seen it happen time and time again. And for me what keeps me sane is how much I love playing live. I get that gratification from doing what I love most in the world. It keeps me sane. But then, my sanity has been questioned since I was a child (both of us laughing)!
Amps: I wanted to ask you, since you guys are thrash pioneers. As far as these newer bands that are part of the “thrash revival”, what do you think of bands like Havok carrying the torch?
Mark: I love the old school style of thrash, and I know that these people were affected by the same music I was affected by for the same reasons, and I think that’s why it’s amazing. I think Havok does it absolutely right. They’re doing it ABSOLUTELY RIGHT. I’m also fond of Suicidal Angels from Greece, they also do it great. And everyone follows their own little path, whether they play Slayer-style, or early Exodus-style, because they’re finding their own little niche within that, and that’s the beauty of this music. It is thrash, but there is variety to it, and there’s melody, and technicality behind it, and it doesn’t ever lose its soul. And I love that.
Amps: Mark, do you mind if I tell the guys in Havok what you said? I think they’d love that.
Mark: Yeah!! Not only that, but give’ em my best, I love those guys! I think they’re spectacular. They’re definitely in my top 2 of this generation’s thrash bands.
Amps: What’s in your CD player?
Mark: That’s an odd one for me, cause I like everything from Billie Holliday to Slayer to Patsy Cline to Sabbath. I listen to pop, I love Lana Del Ray, but I also love the Cro-Mags. I truly am like a sponge. As long as there’s soul and emotion behind it, I dig it. If it moves me, I’m there. I’m too damn old to worry if people think I’m cool or not!
Amps: What would you like to say to the Death Angel fans, old AND new?
Mark: Well, to the new I’d say that our years of persistence and perseverance are paying off, and I’m really proud of The Dream Calls For Blood. I think it’s our strongest release to date, and everyone should check it out. And people from the old school to the new school, you should definitely come check us out live, because it’s gonna be a brutal live set, and they won’t be let down.
Update: Death Angel played South By So What and totally killed! Their set was only five songs, but in that short time they left a trail of scorched earth, and when they come back to Dallas, I will be there!