dB HoF No. 124
Release date: April 23, 1987
Most of us were busy keeping our Trapper Keepers shut and our pencils sharpened when the members of Death Angel were woodshedding in drummer Andy Galeon’s garage and recording a legendary demo with none other than Kirk Hammett. Let that sink in. Whatever pretend chaos that embroiled our young minds at the time couldn’t have compared to what Death Angel were doing. They were but San Franciscan teenagers—Gus Pepa, the oldest, was 19, while Galeon, the youngest, was 14—when they recorded The Ultra-Violence. Unsurprisingly, they didn’t know the legal labyrinth that was their Enigma Records contract. What mattered most to Death Angel was the tangibility of The Ultra-Violence.
As a product of stupefyingly tolerant parental units, Death Angel ventured headlong into the unknown. Before The Ultra-Violence, they played in New York City—on invite from the Cro-Mags. They would mix with the hard-partying dudes in Exodus. Death Angel, pre-Enigma, would jump in a van with fellow Bay Area gods Possessed for a blood-splattered show in Los Angeles. They sometimes blended in, their youth betraying them on various occasions. But what made up for everything was their music. The Kirk Hammett-produced Kill as One demo shocked the tape-trading underground ocean to ocean. On stage, Death Angel took no prisoners. They were tighter than Kerry King’s curls. Their reputation preceded them wherever they set foot.
The Ultra-Violence is a marvel. Produced by Death Angel and glam rocker Davy Vain over three fucking days, the album was a direct reflection of the Bay Area and its red-hot scene. It was at once violent and aggressive, skillful and energetic. The sum of Rob Cavestany, Dennis Pepa and Osegueda’s influences and inspirations, tracks like “Thrashers,” “Voracious Souls,” “Mistress of Pain” and “Kill as One” were immediately identifiable, yet profoundly unique. Death Angel borrowed from all—Metallica, Mercyful Fate, Rush, etc.—but sounded like none. To this day, “Evil Priest” and “Final Death” destroy. They’re cut from the same Golden Era cloth that made thrash metal not just a global movement, but an inimitable lifestyle.
With age-defying skills, vicious 10-minute jams, an unprecedented live reputation and, of course, fucking elephant skin, Decibel welcomes Death Angel to the Hall. Thrashers rule! Posers die!
- Chris Dick
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