By Andrew Bansal
Over the last 12 years, San Francisco Bay Area thrash veterans Death Angel have come back into active prominence stronger than any other band on this planet, and are firing on all cylinders, hungrier and more menacing than ever. Their eighth studio album ‘The Evil Divide’ releases on May 27th 2016 via Nuclear Blast Records, and sees them not only retain their reputation but enhance it further with some hard-hitting yet diverse tunes. The band has been announced as the opening act on a Fall 2016 U.S. tour with Slayer and Anthrax, and are poised to destroy stages with material new and old. Vocalist Mark Osegueda recently spoke to Metal Assault to discuss the new album in detail. Enjoy the conversation below.
Mark, it’s great to have you again on Metal Assault. It’s always good news for all of us and all the fans to hear about a new Death Angel album. ‘The Evil Divide’ is ready for release. For this album, what were going through during the creative process, and how easy or difficult was it this time?
You know, it actually came along pretty well and a lot easier than some of the other albums prior, because I think me and Rob being the principal songwriters now, we’ve got it down to a point where we’re very comfortable and we’ve grown as songwriters together. We’ve worked very well off each other. So, this one came along a lot more naturally and more organically, structure-wise, and we also brought that organic quality into the production and our vision of the sound of the record. As far as what I was going through, lyrically I usually write about things that anger me, and obviously this is a perfect platform to do it in, a thrash band. Also, right now, may be because it’s election year or whatnot, but I think politically the world stands more divisive than ever, in an ugly way. So, I didn’t really have to look far for fuel to the fire for this one.
Right, and the title ‘The Evil Divide’ makes perfect sense for the lyrical topic of the album.
Wholeheartedly. It’s one of the driving forces. This is probably the most political record I’ve ever written.
I thought the last two albums ‘The Dream Calls For Blood’ and ‘Relentless Retribution’ were almost like they both came from the same session. ‘The Dream Calls For Blood’ was almost a sequel to the previous one. Is this new album more of a standout in that sense, or is it still a continuation of what you were going for on those records?
It’s absolutely a standout on its own. Originally when we started writing, we thought it was going to be kind of like an end of a trilogy because we did liken ‘The Dream Calls For Blood’ and ‘Relentless Retribution’ almost as like evil step sisters, to a certain degree (laughs). But when we first went into the writing for ‘The Evil Divide’, me and Rob realized that musically, lyrically and with everything, this one just stood on its own. So we went with that and went with our gut feeling. That’s why we picked a different style of artwork too. This one has the body and legs to stand on its own, and it should, and we’re very comfortable with that decision.
You’re right, the cover art is different from the other two which had a similar theme. What was the concept behind this cover art?
It’s just a lot more stark and that’s what we wanted. We came up with it because the first song off of the record is called ‘The Moth’, and it basically has all the positive and negative aspects to it. A moth’s life is so short, and often they fly to flames because they’re drawn to it. In a sense it’s like, you have one life, you have one shot, so you might as well live life to the fullest in the short amount of time that we exist. But at the same time, a moth can be perceived as absolutely ignorant and a follower. There are followers and leaders in this world, and right now there seems to be a lot of moth-like brained individuals out there that aren’t making their minds up for themselves, and basing their opinions on life and other people, people that aren’t particularly of their race or religion or anything, and judging them in a negative aspect, which I think is one of the most damaging things about human nature. Right now it’s more prevalent than it has been in decades.
I think you’re right about that. I observe and experience it every day. So, this is the eighth album even though the band has been around for more than three decades, but it’s the fifth album since 2004, so if you look at it that way, the band has been prolific since the comeback. That must be a good feeling.
Oh yeah, we’re more comfortable than we’ve ever have been. People are always harping back to the original Death Angel ‘Mark 1’ lineup, and of course that era had to happen and I’m glad it did, and it’s a fantastic era, obviously, because it solidified us as a band. But I think then there were so many different writers and everyone was writing songs at that point, so a lot of our albums weren’t as cohesive. Now the fact that me and Rob are principal songwriters and work so well off each other, I think our records are more cohesive from beginning to end, specially ‘The Evil Divide’. It’s just a much more solid statement.
Even though the albums you’ve released in the last few years has come out every two or three years, but in the meanwhile you’ve always been playing shows around the world. That has to be a big factor for your creative inspiration because you’re not just sitting around and then all of a sudden you have to write a record.
(Laughs) Absolutely. The reason we got into music in the first place is because we love the energy of live music, whether it be performing or going to shows to watch. Performing is just the most creative thing about being in a band, and one thing we’ve always taken great pride in our live performance. We take that into aspect when we’re writing music and definitely because of our touring, we’ve been writing a lot more. As soon as we get off the road, and even some of the songwriting starts on the road, we’re taking that energy of the live feeling from the shows and putting that into the songwriting. It’s kind of hard to harness that energy, but we’re getting a lot better ta it (laughs).
Plus the other thing is, I think you guys have been hitting the right balance in terms of how much touring to do in each territory. It’s not like you’re coming around every two or three months. Every time you come to town, people want to see you. That’s important for you and for the fans.
That’s the goal. Don’t get me wrong, if it was up to me we’d be on the road constantly, but I absolutely understand because we do want it to be a special event when we come, no matter what. We want it to be that for people in the crowd and people who enjoy us, because as I said, the most magical thing in the world for us is to be on stage, performing, feeding off the energy of the crowd and giving them energy to feed off of.
I’ve noticed over the past few albums that you only do one headline tour per album cycle, or at least that’s the case in the States. Does that make you enjoy it more as opposed to headlining all the time? You’re supporting more often than headlining here in the States.
Yeah! It is great to headline because we get to play a more well-rounded set for our core fans, but also the beauty of supporting is great because we’re touring with bands that are larger than us and playing in front of many people who may have seen our name or seen our logo but never gave us a shot. They get to see us, and I think the best way to be introduced to us is seeing us live. The great thing about supporting larger bands is the challenge of winning over their crowd. Right now our track record seems to be going pretty well and we hope to keep doing that, and of course still doing headlining shows to play longer sets for our core fans is key.
Over the last couple of years the band has also started the tradition of Christmas headline shows in Los Angeles and San Francisco. How did that idea come up? I think it’s awesome because not a lot of bands play around that time and it’s a good market to tap into.
I love it. It’s something that we thought of a few years ago. Oddly enough, it was inspired by the Beatles. They used to do it in their younger days, and we thought, what a great idea! We are a West Coast band but we love everywhere. We do know that most people travel around that time, so many people are visiting their families. We’re a California band for sure and it’s great to play in San Francisco and LA and give fans who are visiting their friends and families in California a special show. We always make the sets very special. When we get up there we’re not trying to be the heaviest, toughest band at those shows. We try to show people a good time and I think they realize that when they come to this kind of a show, it’s going to be a great, fun night, not your typical thrash metal show (laughs). But it is very thrash and everyone comes with a great attitude. We loosen up the set and make it more well-rounded, and it’s a great time.
And lastly, one thing about the band is, you’re able to stay thrash but still keep it interesting. Most older bands that started out in the early ’80s, a lot of them, specially the ones that got bigger, they kind of discarded the thrash style almost completely. Does that inspire you to stay thrash because there are not many older bands that do it anymore?
(Laughs) Oh yes, absolutely. That’s inspired us, and you know, one thing that’s always in my mind is, as much as me and Rob have grown as songwriters and are much more comfortable together and it’s much more cohesive, there’s never a time when I’m in the studio or on stage and I don’t feel like I have something to prove. So, there is that and I still feel like I’m far from achieving the goals that I want to with this band. I’m still hungry, if not hungrier than ever. The more time goes past that I haven’t reached those goals, it makes me more voracious about reaching them.
So, do you foresee this band continuing on for as long as possible, may be even a couple more decades?
I plan on doing this as long as my body will let me. The only time I would retire is when my body simply wouldn’t let me do it any longer. Right now, it carries me through rough days and beautiful days. Music has become my life’s blood and my inspiration. Music is my everything.
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Death Angel U.S. tour dates with Slayer & Anthrax:
9 Jacob’s Pavilion, Cleveland, OH
10 Freedom Hill Amphitheatre, Detroit, MI
12 Sound Academy, Toronto, ON
13 Metropolis, Montreal, QC
15 Stage AE, Pittsburgh, PA
20 Egyptian Room, Indianapolis, IN
22 The Pageant, St. Louis, MO
24 San Manuel Amphitheater, San Bernardino, CA
27 Hard Rock Live, Orlando, FL
28 Fillmore, Miami, FL
30 Horseshoe Casino Tunica, Tunica, MS
3 Norva, Norfolk, VA
5 Tabernacle, Atlanta, GA
7 Gas Monkey Live, Dallas, TX
8 ACL at the Moody Theatre, Austin, TX
10 Fillmore, Denver, CO
11 The Complex, Salt Lake City, UT
13 The Wilma Theatre, Missoula, MT
17 ENMAX Center, Lethbridge, AB
19 South Okanagan Events Centre, Penticton, BC
20 Abbotsford Centre, Abbotsford, BC
23 Reno Events Center, Reno, NV
27 El Paso County Coliseum, El Paso, TX