Clubhouse Music Venue
February 19, 2011
It took me 24 years to finally see Death Angel perform live, but all things considered, it was well worth the wait. If any show is capable of whetting one's appetite for this April's Big 4 extravaganza in Indio, California, this was it. The Bay Area thrash veterans put on a show to remember in front of a raucous crowd at the Clubhouse last night.
The sizable crowd was already raring to go by the time LA thrashers Bonded by Blood took the stage shortly after 9:30 p.m. Before BxB had finished their second song, a huge circle pit had erupted in the middle of the floor and fans were already stage diving. The band played an energetic 30-minute set that culminated with their soon-to-be-legendary cover of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' theme song.
Wisconsin's Lazarus A.D. followed, keeping the crowd primed with another half-hour set of melodic neo-thrash. In spite of some slightly disquieting, A7X-ish overtones on their latest album, Black Rivers Flow, Lazarus A.D. sounded solid live. The glossy sheen of their new album was stripped away to reveal a band that is still very much thrash at heart, which should come as some consolation to fans questioning the band's latest direction.
Despite the two strong performances that preceded them, Death Angel quickly proved that they were not to be upstaged on this night. Over the course of a 90-minute set, the band played such classics as "Evil Priest," "Mistress of Pain" and "Thrashers" from their 1987 debut, The Ultra-Violence, as well as numerous tracks from the three albums they've released since reforming in 2001.
Perhaps most surprising, though, was Death Angel's refusal to shy away from the more experimental material from their second and third albums. "Veil of Deception," from 1990's Act III, was a melodic departure from the straightforward thrash that had ruled the night thus far, but the highlight of the night came later in the set. In the middle of their 1988 funk metal near-hit "Bored," the band broke into a cover of Black Sabbath's "Heaven and Hell" - a touching tribute to the late Ronnie James Dio that doubled as an excuse for vocalist Mark Osegueda to show off his still-formidable pipes.
It's still hard to believe that the members of Death Angel were all in their teens when The Ultra-Violence came out nearly a quarter-century ago. Only two original members remain -- Osegueda and guitarist Rob Cavestany -- but even as they settle into their role as members of thrash metal's old guard, Death Angel is a band that still has a lot to offer metalheads of all ages. Far from being a retro novelty act, Death Angel are as vital today as they were 24 years ago, which bodes well for both their future and the future of the current thrash revival. Here's hoping the Big 4 bring the same passion to their show this April...
Last Night: Death Angel at the Clubhouse
Personal Bias: I owned the first three Death Angel releases on cassette.
The Crowd: Me x 400.
Overheard: It's a metal show. If you can overhear shit, you're probably not standing close enough to the stage.
Random Notebook Dump: Briefly spoke to show promoter Tony Toledo of Mosh Pit Army, but he quickly excused himself to jump back into the pit. Now that's dedication.