Dennis Pepa

REVIEW: Death Angel – Act III (1990)

ACT IIIDEATH ANGEL – Act III (1990 Geffen)

I am no stranger to Death Angel.  In the 80’s, I knew them as that thrash band from San Francisco, that grew up listening to Love Gun.  I also thought they were a bit too heavy for my hemispheres.  Whatever “too heavy” means, anyway.  Then I received a review request, from Uncle Meat.  “I want this man to review Act III by Death Angel .   I think it’s a good’er.”

Very vintage Anthrax-like is “Seemingly Endless Time”, and excellently produced by Max Norman too.  The vocals are in the Belladonna range, and the pace is rangingly fast, while paradoxically grooving heavily.  However you want to describe it, it’ll slam you right in the face.  It’s that whole Bay area thrash vibe, honed to a killing edge.  The chorus has an Ozzy-like melodic power.  Then, “Stop” chugs like the heavier side of Testament.  Mark Osegueda has a versatile voice, at times recalling young James Hetfied.  There are plenty of time changes and surprises on this track, enough to challenge the meek.

Speaking of surprises, I didn’t expect the acoustic guitar opening “Veil of Deception”.  Singer Mark Osegueda really gets to show off his pipes on this one, but it’s the guitar duo of Rob Cavestany and Gus Pepa that really impress with their ability and diversity.  Then, “The Organization” (also the name of their next Osegueda-less band) is bone-shaking fast and heavy.  There are still the slithering guitars and melodic vocals to sink your teeth into.  This is top notch metal.  Andy Galeon lays down some complicated beats for “Discontinued” on which he has a writing credit.  It’s Dennis Pepa’s funky bass that reminds me of where guys like Mike Muir were going with thrash.

I remember the ballad “A Room With a View” being played on MuchMusic in ’91, so it is familiar.  Ballads seemed to be working for bands like Metallica and Testament at the time, but it seems more fitting for a diverse album like Act III.  Layers of vocals make it special, as does the acoustic guitar solo.  “Stagnant” opens bright and slow, but shortly an avalanche of menacing guitars is upon us.  This transforms into a funky assault that sounds like 90’s stoner rock.  Then “EX-TC” is old-style screaming thrash, as is “Disturbing the Peace”.  The final track, “Falling Asleep” is anything but sleepy.  It returns to the chugging that works so well for head banging.

I understand now why Death Angel was so critically acclaimed back in the 80’s.  Their ability and musical intelligence was off the charts.  Too bad they were one of the bands that didn’t survive the 90’s.  I’m glad I had the chance to check out this thrash metal cornerstone.  The Devil’s metal indeed!

4/5 stars

All songs written by Rob Cavestany, except where noted.

  1. “Seemingly Endless Time” – 3:49
  2. “Stop” (Cavestany, Mark Osegueda) – 5:10
  3. “Veil of Deception” – 2:35
  4. “The Organization” (Cavestany, Andy Galeon) – 4:16
  5. “Discontinued” (Cavestany, Galeon, Gus Pepa, Dennis Pepa) – 5:50
  6. “A Room with a View” – 4:42
  7. “Stagnant” (Cavestany, Galeon) – 5:33
  8. “EX-TC” (Cavestany, Osegueda) – 3:06
  9. “Disturbing the Peace” – 3:53
  10. “Falling Asleep” – 5:54

Credits and art from Wikipedia.