Interview with guitarist Rob Cavestany | By Hutch
Metal Blade Records has announced the reissue of the first three Death Angel albums: 1987’s The Ultra-Violence, which was most people’s introduction to the legendary Bay Area thrash band; 1988’s Frolic through the Park, Death Angel’s classic sophomore album; and 1990’s Fall From Grace, their third EP and first live album. The thrash community are sure to embrace these revered records, which were released on Jan. 22. While the live album is reissued on CD only, The Ultra-Violence is on 180 gram white vinyl, and Frolic through the Park will be issued as a double LP on red vinyl. Guitarist and songwriter Rob Cavestany reflects on the band’s past, present, and future…
What does each record mean to you? What did they mean for Death Angel at the time?
The Ultra-Violence was our debut record, and when I held the album in my hands for the first time, it was the proudest moment of my life, a major accomplishment at our age. Especially in an era where home recording was basically nonexistent, so putting our vinyl on a record player and giving it a spin was legit! It put us on the map, and it also marked the start of a life on the road as we began to tour North America and Europe extensively.
Frolic through the Park represents us pushing the envelope of our style and abilities, which became a trademark of our sound. We felt we had grown so much as musicians and people from all we experienced supporting The Ultra-Violence on the road, working with “professionals” and so forth. Our musical tastes were expanding and developing rapidly in this era, and with all these influences combined, we churned out our sophomore effort. We had our first “hit” with the song “Bored,” which got lots of play on MTV.
What do they mean to you looking back now?
Looking back, they represent the foundation of our band’s existence. They hold fond memories of youth and an era when we didn’t know any better; a magical time! They remind me of a lot of good fun, skateboarding, laughter, and us basically learning how to be a band. Hell, we were basically learning how to play our instruments!
How do you feel they stand up today?
I feel they stand up tall and proud! [Laughs] Of course, they are my children, so I’m blinded by love. That said, I truly believe they represent the original Bay Area Thrash sound and style. They do, because they are. We were in the middle of it all as much as a band could be… We lived for it. We were so young and had so much energy, and you can literally hear it exploding out of your speakers.
The sonic quality of those records—we were working with a very modest budget—is easily apparent, but I’ve heard worse! The Ultra-Violence is regarded as a “must have” classic thrash album of near legendary proportions, [laughs], and that puppy was recorded in three days!
Considering our limitations, I think both of those albums rock. Whatever lacks in fidelity is made up for in vibe. It’s something that can never be recreated at this age. Not by anyone!
How do you feel about the sound on Fall From Grace? You have put out two other live albums since—how does this one stand up in comparison?
Fall From Grace was a bootleg that we knew nothing about when it was released. We had absolutely nothing to do with it, and my honest opinion is I don’t like it. However, I am glad it exists, as it’s an audio flashback of the band that can be experienced today; hardly any live material exists from that part of our history.
Sonically and performance-wise, it is crushed by our first official live album, Sonic German Beatdown, and then, both of those releases are brutally crushed by our most recent live record, The Bay Calls for Blood, which came out last year with our DVD “A Thrashumentary.”
There is no comparing the production, performance, and musicianship, which have each improved tenfold since the ‘80s. Still, the raw energy of Fall From Grace can’t be duplicated, and although rough around the edges, it’s cool to listen and relive the moment.
What was going on with the band in this era—personally and professionally?
During this era, the band was developing 100 miles an hour in every which way. We were so young, we were still developing as people! We were just kids. We still lived at our parents’ houses. Meanwhile, we had meetings with management, lawyers, record labels. We were recording albums in professional studios. We rehearsed and wrote nonstop and were already hitting the road for eight weeks at a time.
We began to detach from our lives at home, friends, and family, and began to get swallowed up by the “machine” of the music industry. There was actually a lot of pressure starting to build up, and boy, was it about to get really crazy with our next album…
Which songs from this era are your favorite to play?
To this day, “Evil Priest,” “Mistress of Pain,” “Voracious Souls,” “3rd Floor,” and “Bored” are often heard in our live set. I also love playing “Thrashers,” “Kill As One,” and “The Ultra-Violence,” and the crowd never seems to mind when we bust those songs out! On rare occasion, we play “Road Mutants” and “Guilty of Innocence,” and those are a blast too! Old school.