Death Angel are one of the biggest bands at Rock al Parque 2017. Oliver Pritchard gets the lowdown on lead guitarist Rob Cavestany’s preparations for Saturday.
In the Bay Area thrash scene that launched the career of so many bands, there was one that always stood out as a cult favourite. That band was Death Angel. After disbanding in 1991 for the best part of a decade, they reformed in 2001 and have been together ever since. Founder member Rob Cavestany took some time in between camping and flying to speak to us about their show at Rock al Parque 2017.
Death Angel were a very young band when they started, and Rob’s still got all the energy he had back then. Throughout the Skype interview he hardly stays still for a moment, often half out of the camera’s gaze. He talks excitedly about Canadian legends Rush, “You know, ‘A Passage to Bangkok’. The opening line is ‘Our first stop is in Bogotá.’” His face splits open into a wide grin as he tells me, “We keep tripping on that because, truly, our first stop is in Bogotá,” and he’s clearly delighted to be following in Rush’s lyrical steps.
We talk about starting so early in life. “People got a real kick out of it, us looking so young, it was such a trip. Shit, they were giving us beer backstage, you know. We learned quick…” I tell him that the festival is dry and his face falls for the first and only time in the chat. “Oh shit. Wow, OK…but in a way that’s kind of cool too because when you play late like this, at a festival after a long day, people have been drinking all day and they’re sparked out, they can’t explode with energy. So I kinda like it this way, it’s kinda cool. If I was in the audience I’d want a drink, but we’ll get a drink somehow.” He will, but the rest of us will be relying on dug up aguardiente that was buried and hidden weeks before.
Unlike many of their peers (I’m looking at you, Shitallica), Death Angel burned bright and burnt out, but never went old and comfortable. “That’s cause we couldn’t get big!” he exclaims with a laugh, “I mean, no, to each their own I guess”.
The band’s sound is noticeably more pure than their contemporaries, even now, and he explains, “Definitely, the hungriness, the struggle and challenge of trying to get somewhere with your music keeps you raw. Being filled with angst and despair and, you know, disappointment.” He continues, “You’re clawing your way up, and you probably feel a bit envious of the bands that have got bigger and have it a bit easier in life. On the one hand it’s a struggle to keep the band afloat and to keep going, on the other it’s giving you the fuel to keep creating this angst-fuelled music.”
Getting even more passionate, he leans forward and yells, “It’s the blues! It’s the blues but in a real aggressive way.” Despite being behind a skype screen and thousands of miles away, I rock back, such is is the force of his outburst. I mention that a fellow journalist could only stand about a minute of ‘The Ultra-Violence’ before complaining she was stressed out. “Oh yeah, that’ll stress you out alright,” he agrees. “You’re hearing the hearts and minds and souls of teenage angst right there.”
Better news yet: a lot of that old stuff is going to be blasting out on Saturday night. I tell him that bogotanos fucking love Death Angel and old school pure thrash shredding. His response is emphatic as another big grin spreads across his face, “Oh shiit, really? That’s great, nice to hear, that’s really upping the level of excitement for me. It’s going to be amazing. When I was creating the setlist, I put in a lot of old school stuff. We threw in a lot more older songs, you know, real thrash.”
He’s genuinely excited about the trip, and clearly can’t wait to be on stage. “I am especially (energetic) right now, because we’re 24 hours from the flight. But generally, I’m an up and energetic kinda person.” No shit, Sherlock.
Cavestany’s done his research too, telling me about last year’s Bogotá Post articles that he read online, and talking about last time they played Manizales. “South America in general interests me a lot. It’s rare for us to be there, so it feels much more exotic. It’s this forbidden land. They’re very passionate. I’m really looking forward to that intense energy and that vibe. And I know they love their metal, and oldschool metal too, and we haven’t played in a while.”
“I’m a really passionate guy, so I relate to that. I notice we have a great slot too, we’re headlining our stage. Right before Lamb of God. We’ll rock the hell out of that second stage, man.”
And he’s not wrong. If they bring even half the energy he has today to the festival, it’ll be an intense show. Make sure you’re there, and be ready for severe fucking whiplash the next day. You have been warned.
Death Angel will be playing on the Bio Stage at 8.10pm on Saturday July 1.