That might not be the first word an outsider would think of in the aftermath of a Death Angel show.
But there is no other word to sum up the feelings this past Wednesday night at The Wall in Taipei.
Death Angel killed it, and the world was full of love.
Local grinders Bazooka christened the evening with their heavy assault and a loyal legion of fans in tow. I'd heard good things about them from several friends, and was looking forward to their set. Whereas the stage arrangements left me feeling a little bad for them (the drum kit was squeezed in front of the Death Angel gear and allowed no room for the band to maneuver), all they really needed to do was rock, which they did. Riffs piled on riffs, heaviness got heavier. But I was too antsy, too impatient for one of my favorite bands ever, and my attention wavered. I last saw Death Angel play in the 1980's. Twenty-some years is a long wait. And I didn't want to wait anymore.
Touring Southeast Asia to promote their latest album, the intense & amazing Relentless Retribution, Death Angel descended from their mighty perch for their first foray into Taipei, and were met head-on with a ferocious welcome. I can't recall the last time I was surrounded by so many devil horns. God, it felt fantastic, and for the band, it appeared tenfold. Vocalist Mark Osegueda repeated throughout the night his genuine surprise and gratitude, which only begat more fists, more screams, more slamming, & more love - and upon receiving a fan's gift of the R.O.C. flag bearing the Death Angel logo, we replied with even more fists, screams, slamming, and love. Yeeeaaaahhhhhh!!!!!
Ripping through song after song, Death Angel deftly balanced the different eras of their somewhat tumultuous history. They kicked off their career with a thrash metal classic, 1987's The Ultra-Violence, yet never restricted themselves from expanding their sound. This musicality burned bright all night. The band played hungry and tight, relishing the fun, cringing and laughing with every failed crowd-surfer, headbanging and cheering as though they themselves were the audience and we were the show.
Moshing, slamming, surfing, banging, air guitars, sweat - it was all going on, gloriously en masse. I thought I'd be my happiest hearing the older songs, as the passing years have imbedded them deep within me. Mistress of Pain and Seemingly Endless Time remain excellent. But the new music is no less vicious - Relentless Revolution, River of Rapture, and This Hate absolutely fucking kill both on the album and most definitely live. Opponents At Sides is one of those songs that has to be heard live for it to fully reveal itself. Heavy in its own right, it became something more in my face. Much more. And my face, much less.
Osegueda has really come into his own. His vocal prowess is remarkable. He's quite capable of anything, and confidently & forcefully sang, growled, and spat across the stage, even adding a touch of soulfulness, as on Veil of Deception. I wasn't sure if and how they'd incorporate gentler songs like this, but it worked. There was no loss of momentum or energy.
Guitarist Rob Cavestany deserves more of our credit for being awesome, as he's written some of the deadliest riffs in my lifetime. When he tore into Bored, I caught myself shrieking like a schoolgirl. I laughed at myself, then hit the pit. It all repeated itself as The Ultra-Violence began: shriek, laugh, mosh. It's not that either of these songs were surprises on the set list, it's just that they are so fucking awesome, and to experience them in real-time was beyond fucking awesome.
Rounding out the lineup are longtime guitarist Ted Aguilar and newcomers Damien Sisson on bass and Will Carroll on drums. I've been told by many Taiwanese friends that the band's Asian heritage (they were originally an exclusively Filipino-American band of cousins) was a source of pride and inspiration for them growing up as metalheads. It felt like the only concern Wednesday night was not one of lineage, but of how many encores we could enjoy. Death Angel's present incarnation rocks just as hard as the classic lineup. No worries, all smiles.
Alas, the night eventually ended, poetically enough where it all started for Death Angel, with one of their first songs, the number that opened so many doors - Kill As One.
And they did.