Tonight is Death Angel’s first UK show since the release, in May of last year, of their eighth studio album ‘The Evil Divide’, and it’s one which couldn’t come soon enough.
After a couple of recent and brilliant old school thrash gigs courtesy of Acid Reign and Sacred Reich I can only be more excited about seeing Death Angel. Unlike the other two legends I’ve never seen these Bay Area thrashers and I’m here with great memories of their first three albums. However, I’m aware that since reforming in 2001 after a ten year absence, they have produced a further five albums and continued to perform live.
It’s nearly 10pm before Death Angel hit the stage, but when they do it’s with ferocious energy. To begin with, ‘The Ultra-Violence’ – what an album that was – its awesome ten minute instrumental title track, so no surprise we only get the first sixty seconds. But no matter, because lead guitarist Rob Cavestany wastes no time with the opening onslaught of ‘Evil Priest’, another mega-thrasher from the same 1987 debut disc.
A swift switch to ‘Claws In So Deep’ from 2010’s ‘Relentless Retribution’ is far more elaborate, but does well to highlight the path of progression and maturity which Death Angel have travelled. Taken from the first album to feature the current line-up, it’s a riff ridden, wrecking ball of a track which sees Cavestany and rhythm guitarist Ted Aguilar joining each other for the somewhat unconventional backing vocals.
Mark Osegueda, supping from a bottle of Bombay Sapphire, dives straight onto the buzzing atmosphere inside the ‘Little Civic’. Thanking the crowd for their attendance and a great night of metal brought by the three supporting bands. “Are you ready for some metal from Death Angel?” he enquires. The Slade Rooms may not be entirely at capacity, but you wouldn’t think it, certainly not from the massive reception the vocalist receives.
“Here’s a song from the new record” Osegueda informs us, as ‘Father of Lies’ continues a set of furious rhythms and relentless surging riffs. The front man possesses an unwavering vocal and a frenetic physical energy which is matched by his cohorts. Blasting through ‘Caster of Shame’ and ‘Thrown to the Wolves’ then comes an older treat – ‘Seemingly Endless Time’ from the 1990 album ‘Act III’ – no doubt bringing back memories of MTV’s Headbangers Ball for plenty of tonight’s audience.
Death Angel provide a blistering performance, along with Osegueda doing a great job of firing up the Wolverhampton crowd in-between ‘Breakaway’ and ‘Lost’ from the latest album. Talking about the metal community, pride and the bands appreciation, he gives thanks for the years of energy and inspiration, promising Wolverhampton that they will be back.
A cover of Sabbath’s ‘Falling Off the Edge of the World’ brings us back to the debut album and ‘Kill As One’ – the title track from the 1985 demo tape produced by Metallica’s Kirk Hammett. It’s metal thrashing madness, with the four standing members lined-up across the front of stage, headbanging as if their lives depended on it.
To finish, it’s ‘The Moth’ and a palpable feeling that this return is over far too quickly. In truth it is, but what can you do with a four band billing and an 11 o’clock curfew? For me, I’m out to buy the back catalogue and I’ll definitely be back to see Death Angel again. It is true, once in a while a band is able to exceed all expectations and define the boundaries of a genre, and that’s exactly what Death Angel have done, and continue to do.
Review & Photography: Steve Johnston