I’m on the phone to Death Angel’s Ted Aguilar, trying extremely hard to maintain a professional stance and to restrain my inner fanboy from scaring him off. This is the band that was largely influential on my own musical journey after seeing them live with Armored Saint back in 2009. Ted’s own career in music had very similar beginnings, starting off as a keen Death Angel fan who followed the band on the road throughout the 1980s, and eventually being offered to perform in the band’s first reunion show in 2001 when original guitarist Gus Pepa was unavailable. Sounds like the storyline to any aspiring musician’s fantasy.
Listening to Ted’s voice on the phone, he sounds just as excited as I am about The Dream Calls for Blood, the newest Death Angel album since 2008’s Relentless Retribution. And so he should. After a three year gap between albums, the Bay Area thrashers have released yet another amazing record, raising the bar on everything else they’ve released in a career now spanning thirty years.
“Usually when we go about writing an album we never really talk about ‘We’ve gotta do this, we’ve gotta do that…’ We usually just write from the heart. However with this one we did talk about it; we love the way Relentless sounds, and we love the songs on it and everything, and we were talking about how we should make a sister album in a sense; or how Rob (Cavestany, guitars) would say “The evil, wicked step-sister to Relentless!”
The Dream Calls for Blood is exactly that, a much heavier and darker album than Death Angel’s last two recordings. Ted explains that the new album’s dark tones were largely influenced by the band’s experiences on the road over the last three years.
“We went through a similar thing with Relentless, having to lose two of our original members (founding drummer Andy Galleon and bassist Denis Pepa) and having to go through other things in life. Like, with being in a band and being away for so long, a lot of relationships you have with friends and loved ones kinda get lost or ruined, in a sense. It was an emotional time for us and a lot of the friends that we know. Having to be on the road for so long helped fuel the writing of this record.”
The band’s epic three-year run of touring saw them playing in many different parts of the world (except Australia, which Ted laments being “really bummed about”), including live debuts in South America, Southeast Asia, and a show in the Philippines.
“That was the second time we played [the Philippines]. Me, Rob and Mark have family there, and for me it was great to play in a country you have background in. The fans there were very receptive, and they were really awesome. But here’s the trip, we played a festival in Jakarta that was a weird experience. They had to push our set back because at a certain time; the music had to stop and the audience had to kneel down and pray which was a real trip-out, but good to experience at the same time. As soon as the metal came back on though, they went crazy!”
Throughout the American leg of Death Angel’s recent tour, the band got to share the stage with each of the Big Four, as well as many other Bay Area legends such as Testament. I ask Ted what it’s like to be playing the bigger stages around the world with the very same bands they neighboured with twenty-five years ago, and if there’s any sense of a comradeship amongst the Bay Area bands.
“Right now, yes. Everyone goes out to support each other, but even back then in the 1980s it was like a friendly competition. Now, everyone’s much older and wiser and just coming out to just do shows. [After the shows] everyone just wants to hang out; they’ll be talking about kids and family and all that sort of stuff. It’s more of an adult vibe, now!
Once the album is released in United States on October 15, Death Angel will be hitting the road once again for several weeks in US and Canada, followed by a month in Europe, and an appearance at the 70,000 Tonnes of Metal cruise early next year with Sabaton, Fear Factory and Soilwork. Upon the conclusion of the interview, Ted assures me of the band’s efforts in returning to our shores in the near future.
“We’re trying our best to get to Soundwave in Australia! We will come back for sure on this record, and when we do, it’s going to be one insane show. We’re just going to let it all out because we haven’t been down there in four years, and we just want to release all that music and energy to all our fans down there. We will be back!”