DFW Music News

Q&A: Death Angel's Mark Osegueda Talks Unlikely Collaborations, Band Name Regrets

From 1982 to 1991, there probably wasn't a more interesting metal act than California's Death Angel.

Not only did the band consist of five Filipinos, but they didn't stick to any standard metal blueprint either. Despite the serious moniker, Death Angel displayed a musical variety and sense of humor missing from most bands in the genre.

Sadly, a horrific auto accident sowed the seeds for the band dissolution. But after a decade hiatus, Death Angel was reborn in 2001. Since then, albeit with a slightly different line-up, Death Angel hasn't looked back. And tonight, the band stops in Dallas for a show at Trees.

In advance of that show, we recently caught up with Death Angel vocalist Mark Osegueda. Speaking from a tour stop in Rochester, New York, he was gracious enough to speak to DC9 about a variety of topics, including the band's 2009 effort, Relentless Retribution. Like all of the band's albums, Retribution featured a diverse sound that resists easy caparisons to any other metal acts. See our full Q&A with Osequeda after the jump.

On your new album, you do an unlikely collaboration with Rodrigo y Gabriela. How did that come about?
That came about because [guitarist] Rob [Cavestany] was a big fan of theirs and kept going to see their shows. He told me we should contact them because they were big metal fans. Rob went backstage after one of their shows and hit it off with them pretty well. He told Rodrigo that we were recording a new record and the guy wanted to be a part of it. We got lucky because they wrote an individual piece just for our album.

Is the song you collaborate with them on, "Claws in So Deep," your "Stairway to Heaven?"
[Laughs]. Well put. I've never thought of it that way. I couldn't put it in the league of that just yet, but we think our song will stand the test of time. The song has grown on a lot of people since the album came out. I think a lot of people have fallen in love with that song.

In the past, you've talked about regretting having the name Death Angel because so many people associate it with the death metal genre. Does it still bother you some 20 years later?
Back in the day, it was more about being pigeonholed in the whole death metal thing, which was the polar opposite of what we were. We respect the bands in the death metal genre, but we didn't belong in that category. It was definitely wrong.

Do you think your sound is too diverse to be commercially successful?
That all depends. I think that maybe we pushed the envelope a bit during the Frolic in the Park era, but I think now that the diversity makes us stand apart. I think it will work in our favor. We're not going too far out there. We have our vision of what we want the band to sound like and that will always be different from what other bands are doing.  

You guys have a strong sense of humor running throughout your music. Is such missing from most metal bands?
I know there are a lot of metal bands that take themselves too seriously. In thrash, that's not usually the case. We are pretty much a bunch of lighthearted guys. When we play, we get to take out our aggressions. Over time, the subject matter of our songs has gotten a lot more serious and I think that reflects the times in general.

Why did you decide to reform the band in 2001?
It was only to be for a one-off show. We hadn't been a band for nearly a decade. We were doing a benefit for cancer research. We had turned down so many festivals, but we finally found the right cause. We had such a great time that it kind of snowballed into a full-on reunion.

Did you ever consider not using Death Angel as the name?
No. We knew we weren't going to use the same five guys, but the sound and the songs were going to be the same.

Why not bring rhythm guitarist Gus Pepe back?
He was approached, but we knew his answer would be no. He was living in the Philippines and he had moved away from playing music.

You and lead guitarist Rob Cavestany are cousins. Is it tough being in a band so long with a relative?
That all depends as well. I've been in bands with some relatives and it was very difficult. I've played with some relatives and it was a great experience. It is wonderful being in a band with Rob.

Are you guys the only thrash metal band led by two guys from the Philippines?
You have no control where you are born. You are from where you are from, but our background has never influenced our style of music.

How is the response when you play the Philippines?
It's great. We are going back very soon. We will play at a festival. The reception there is always wonderful.

Death Angel performs with Lazarus A.D., Early Man, Bonded by Blood and Hexen tonight at Trees.

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Darryl Smyers
Contact: Darryl Smyers