December 16, 2016
All photos by Raymond Ahner.
Traditions make the holidays special. They are what we look forward to and often are the occasions which reconnect us to friends and family during the holidays. One San Francisco holiday tradition that is trending up for festive bay area rockers is the annual ‘Another Death Angel Christmas’ show.
The festival coordinated by and featuring Bay Area OG thrashers Death Angel is hosted at Slim’s, another of San Francisco’s musical icons, and has grown year to year (now encompassing two days). This year the gathering is celebrating its 3rd year and shows no signs of slowing down. Slim’s was as packed as it has ever been, and combining the full house with the enormity of the rock that was set to erupt, it is a holiday miracle that the roof of the club did not blow.
Death Angel (Mark Osegueda – vocals, Rob Cavestany – guitars, Ted Aguilar – guitars, Will Carroll – drums, Damien Sisson – Bass), which has roots originally stretching back to rocking Daly City garages in 1982, is now a full-fledged global metal phenomenon. Not only have they greatly influenced the shape of Bay Area metal, but they have also put their mark on thrash metal as a genre. It is absolutely crazy to consider their path from Ruthie’s, The Stone, The Mab, and The Omni to play the most hallowed halls and festivals in the world.
As influential as Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, or any other metal band to stretch boundaries and ascend from the origins of thrash in the 80s, Death Angel has overcome a series of obstacles (accidents, lineup changes, and label issues) and evolved into a heavy metal titan with a career spanning four decades and nine albums. ‘Another Death Angel Christmas,’ besides celebrating the holidays is celebrating the band’s latest musical triumph….their 2016 release The Evil Divide.
On cue, the pit grew and circled like an out of control merry go-round….only leading with flailing fists, and shoulders. It was insanity up in front. Bodies (guys and girls) crashed into each other in a brutal mosh, and eventually a few floated up and on top of the crowd in front of the stage. Osegueda and Aguilar slapping hands with those that made it all the way to the barrier. This was all of course the metal equivalent of a holiday hug, and Osegueda framed it as such saying “Thanks for joining us to release some aggression in a positive way….during some crazy times.” The holiday festivities just took off from there as Death Angel weaved through their deep catalog and focusing on cuts from The Evil Divide.
Whether they were reaching way back to detonate ‘3rd Floor’ (Frolic Through The Park – 1988) or rocking the new material (‘Lost’ and ‘Let the Pieces Fall’ were particular high points), the crowd was with Death Angel every step of the way.
After taking a short break Mark returned to the stage and announced “this is traditionally where things get weird,” bottle in hand and cheers-ing the crowd. It was holiday fun from there on out with the band mixing in some drunken but well done covers. The rendition of the Beatles “Revolution” stood out with its heavy groove and was timely with its political framing.
Amazingly Death Angel keeps growing as a band…like a fine wine they keep getting appreciably better. Still hard-hitting, heavy, and technically masterful, they now have a veteran’s confidence about them, and the result is that they are like a polished, buffed-out machine.
Setting the holiday mood before Death Angel took over was Ghoul (from Oakland) who put on a very entertaining show that was portrayed almost like a hardcore thrash musical.
Ghoul (Digestor – guitar / vox, Dissector – guitar / vox, Cremator – bass, Fermentor – drums), who play with their heads covered by bloody burlap sacks, are musically hardcore thrash and have a stage presentation that is in the vein of GWAR.
They have an elaborately themed flow to their show, which nicely meshes with the dealings of a cast of oddball characters that include a Creepy Curio Shoppe owner, a Kill-bot, a Commandant, and other various swamp mutants. Check out their website to get the full back story. This is a fun band to check out if you get the chance….the presentation is a trip, and musically they rock.
Kicking things off on this evening were Dress the Dead, a spanking new project from former Spiral Arms/Forbidden guitarist Craig Locicero and former Haunted vocalist Peter Dolving. While some may have been expecting something similar to the members’ former projects, the band delivered a totally unique sound, perfectly combining metal with a groove. Dolving’s vocals fit in perfectly with the music, and although they only played a brief set, the crowd was definitely digging them. Hopefully they will return to a Bay Area stage much sooner than later.
Bottom line, the ‘Another Death Angel Christmas’ was by all measures a success, and according to the band and organizers the show will continue each December for as long as they are able. So put next year’s show on your 2017 calendar…start a new holiday tradition.
Setlist: Falling Off The Edge Of The World (Black Sabbath cover) | 3rd Floor | Mistress of Pain | Seemingly Endless Time | Claws in So Deep | The Moth | Revolution (The Beatles cover) | Lost | Let the Pieces Fall
For more information about Death Angel, check out their website.
Find out more about Ghoul here.
Dress the Dead:
Check out Dress the Dead on their website.