Death Angel is one of my favourite bands of all-time. I remember seeing people around Toronto wearing their shirts, not sure of who they were and yet intuitively knowing that was my band, kinda like when you see someone across a crowded room and sparks fly. I went and bought their only album out at the time, 1987's Ultra-Violence. Metallica was epic; Slayer was evil; but this was the rawest most obnoxious piece of metal I had ever heard up 'til then. It remains in my top 10 metal albums of all-time. Through countless listens, it has the unshakable ability to be as fresh and bone-crushing as the day I first heard it, despite them laughing at my sorry ass when I first met them at 16 years old.
When you're young and dumb, awkward and shy, getting laughed at can stick in your craw a little bit or worse get embedded in your psyche. A big reason a lot of kids got into heavy metal, before it got streamlined into the worldwide popular movement it is today, was due to its outsider appeal. So, when Death Angel had just released a follow-up album, Frolic Through The Park, I went to the autograph session at The Record Peddler in Toronto and endured singer, Mark Osegueda, and drummer, Andy Galeon's outburst of laughter when they took one look at me. I was probably asking for it since I was the only one in line dumb enough to show up in their school uniform, tie included. I did feel like a dork but Mark and Andy's open guffaw confirmed it. I meekly gathered up their signatures and replayed the event in my mind all the way home on the subway.
Steadfast fandom best describes me when it comes to Death Angel. Regardless of their teasing, I stayed with them through thick and thin, holding a vigil through their 14-year absence, all the way to their reformation and subsequent return with 2004's Art Of Dying. I've cheered on every successive album like it was my own. It was easy to do when superb albums like Act 3 got released but still, shouldn't there be a ribbon one gets for such loyalty?
Flash forward to 2004 in Helsinki, Finland when I walked into the lobby of the hotel we were staying at only to find out our promoter had to head immediately back to the airport to pick up Death Angel, who were staying at the same hotel. Instead of succumbing to an immediate heart attack, I opted to camp out in the lobby like some One Direction fan and awaited their arrival for almost two hours. As luck would have it, we ended up hanging out in a club across the street until 4 am that night. Still, imitating moss growing on a wall while creepily ogling the Death Angel quintet can hardly be called "hanging out." They acknowledged me with polite "heys" and head nods, as more of a safety precaution due to my creepy leering, but I was too busy proudly texting friends back home as it was happening to notice.
Over the past nine years, that night has sprouted into genuine friendship. I have to constantly pinch myself whenever an email from one of the guys hits my inbox and whatever I'm doing is immediately made to wait as I painstakingly craft my reply. Getting invited to sing "Bored" with them on stage for Hellfest in France back in 2008 and "Thrashers" at a recent Toronto show was the equivalent of winning an MTV Lost Weekend contest or a visit from Ed McMahon with a winning sweepstakes ticket. To say I was "stoked" would be a towering understatement.
In 2010, the band released their sixth and most devastating album to date -- Relentless Retribution, a 12-song salvo of foaming rage rarely heard from bands half their age. It was an impressive middle finger that turned heads, dropped jaws, soiled pants and immediately vaunted them into their rightful status of respected elder statesman of the metal militia. As much I was extremely happy for their success, I couldn't help but sneer at johnny-come-latelys with an "I told you so" under my breath.
Now, with The Dream Calls For Blood, released on October 11 of this year, the band have returned to silence the naysayers for a seventh time. If "Relentless Retribution" showcased their ability to bludgeon, this latest album proves its their modus operandi. With each track as skull crushing as the next, it's quite comforting to know the masters will never be outdone by the students. I can't help but listen to it with a smile on my face, pleased at myself, most of all, for hitting a bullseye after I decided to champion their star when I was just a wee pipsqueak.
To this day, the band have an overarching presence in my life. Whenever I sit down to write one of these Huff Post columns or pick up my guitar to write a rock riff, my autographed Death Angel "Frolic" band promo photo hangs framed above my work desk at home as motivation. They were one of the bands I can count on two hands that played a big part in doing what I do today and their inability to falter in my eyes is still a huge inspiration to me.
However, one must be careful of what is wished for because despite my job taking me all over the world to play music, the disappointing repercussion is I'll be missing their Toronto show on November 4 due to my own band's demanding tour schedule. Missing a show might be a small price to pay for most but when it comes to Death Angel and me it ain't that easy. You see, we got history.
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