In a recent interview with Now Hear This, Inc., vocalist Mark Osegueda and guitarist Rob Cavestany of San Francisco Bay Area thrashers DEATH ANGEL described the making of their third album, 1990's "Act III". The LP was the band's first on major label Geffen, and featured more melodic and straightforward compositions compared to DEATH ANGEL's debut, "The Ultraviolence", and follow-up effort, "Frolic Through The Park". This rapid development was particularly noteworthy considering the members of DEATH ANGEL were much younger than some of their thrash metal contemporaries. Their time on a major label was short-lived — the band dissolved after a horrific 1991 bus crash that left then-drummer Andy Galeon seriously injured with a head injury and other damages that would require reconstructive surgery.
"We've pretty much sampled every possibility of what you can do right and what you can do wrong, especially what you can do wrong, but, luckily, we had a few moments of what you can do right, hence why we are still here and nominated for a Grammy," Rob said (hear audio below). "What you can do right is to work extremely hard. Every step of the way, we put our whole life into everything we were doing, even making a flyer for a show, just everything done as best and as hard as you can because you're that into it and you're proud of what you're trying to do and what you're going to put out there to people. And, that was emphasized along the way as we started to work with more professional-caliber people, better producers, better engineers, just dealing with people that showed you that how hard you thought you were working, that was a joke compared to how hard you really need to be working. We learned a lot. For instance, during our first two records, we thought we were working hard. We were writing our asses off, touring and playing as many shows as we possibly could. Again, we were young. We're still teenagers; we're not even 18 at this point in time. We don't really have the drive and any kind of life experience to know what we were supposed to do. We were doing it because we were so into it."
He continued: "One thing is, when we did sign to the major label and we went in to write and record our record 'Act III', it was a major lesson. We worked with a producer named Max Norman, and we were extremely excited to work with him being that he had produced two of our favorite records, 'Blizzard Of Ozz' and 'Diary Of A Madman' by Ozzy Osbourne, Ozzy's first two solo records, and the two albums that feature Randy Rhoads on guitar, who is an absolute hero of mine and everyone. He is very well respected and a big influence on many people, including us. We knew we had a chance to work with Max Norman on our record. That alone freaked us out because we realized we were about to work with this legendary guy. He and the label, they basically made us write. We were writing, I don't know, for six months straight or eight months nonstop. Easily. Maybe up to a year. We were used to, at this point, 'Okay, so the album will have ten songs. Here's ten songs. Let's go!' So, we wrote ten songs, had our demos, sent them to the label, sent them to the powers-that-be, then all of a sudden, we were told, 'Okay. That sounds pretty good. Let's hear some more.' We were like, 'Is that not enough?' They were like 'You guys are getting started.' We were like, 'All right.' We went back and wrote four more and gave them another four-song demo. We're like, 'Here's four more songs.' They're like, 'Okay. Getting warmer.' 'Getting warmer? What's wrong? What do you mean? That's more than enough.' They're like, 'You guys are just getting started.' Basically, we ended up writing 30 songs for that album. But, at the time, we were hating it. By that point, we were just, like, 'Screw all of you!' We were so pissed. We couldn't understand why we were being made to keep going back to the drawing board, searching, searching for what? 'Keep going!' Sure enough, at the end of the day, some of the better songs, I think, on that album, came in the fourth quarter of the writing."
"I guess we realized that the people that were telling us to do this, they knew what they were talking about," he added. "They were the pros. They were the label management, they were the management, they were the older people that had experience and just like your teachers in school or parents or whatever, you reluctantly give in, and say, 'Okay. I'll do my homework.' We were taking the word of the authority and going with it, and probably some slight sense of understanding of what they were talking about. We just didn't have the experience to push through it ourselves. We learned from it. We ended up making a really killer album and going through the experience. From that point on, that was major to me because I never needed that kind of whip-cracking again. After that, I realized, we realized, that's what you need to be working as hard as that."
According to Mark, "Act III" was "technically" the first album DEATH ANGEL "ever did pre-production on." He explained: "We never even heard what pre-production is. Once the songs were sorted out, then Max Norman flew up to San Francisco and started going through the songs with us and started weeding them out. We got to the ones that were going to be on the record, and we got down to those, then we started dissecting those songs. Then it became a whole other thing, re-arranging and dissecting: 'Maybe try this for four measures. Try this.' We always did want to be good songwriters, even though it's writing thrash metal. We still wanted to have good song structures. Max is one of the first people that really kind of roped our excitement in from being musicians and roped it into being palatable. Sometimes, you're a young musician, you're learning your instrument better and better. You want to flaunt that you've improved and that doesn't necessarily make for a better song because you're just flaunting, 'We can do this now!' I think we were a victim of that on our second record. When Max got involved for 'Act III', all of a sudden, our songwriting got a lot more structure and a lot more viable. It also left an impression on us, to a certain degree, there is a science to this. Don't get me wrong, it's the most soulful science in the world, but there is some science to it."
DEATH ANGEL was nominated for a Grammy Award for the title track of its latest studio album, "Humanicide". Released last May via Nuclear Blast, the disc saw DEATH ANGEL returning to producer and friend Jason Suecof (DEICIDE, TRIVIUM) of Audiohammer studios for the recording and mixing, along with the mastering of the legendary Ted Jensen (SLIPKNOT, PANTERA) of Sterling Sound, who added the final touches and brought it all to life, with artist Brent Elliott White (LAMB OF GOD, MEGADETH) providing the ominous cover artwork.