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Nick Menza's shocking death stopped a stunning metal supergroup

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The world of heavy metal was reduced to shock in late May with the tragic passing of ex-Megadeth drummer Nick Menza.

Nick Menza

Nick Menza - Facebook

Megadeth continues to be one of the brightest bands to emerge from the Bay Area thrash scene of the 1980s; an era which also gave birth to – alongside the likes of Metallica, Exodus and Testament – metal veterans Death Angel.

So when interviewing the band’s guitarist and founding member Rob Cavestany, it seemed only natural to ask him to say a few words about the recently lost Menza: his impact, his skill and his legacy.

No-one will anticipate his response.

Rust in Peace is a huge album,” Rob begins, discussing the pioneering Megadeth record with which Menza made his debut in 1990.

“For me, that’s definitely the Megadeth album that hits home. In the ‘80s, there was the huge rivalry between Megadeth and Metallica. With us being in the Bay Area, we had an allegiance to Metallica: we were friends with them, [guitarist] Kirk Hammett produced our Kill as One demo, so we were definitely taking sides with Metallica. And because of that, it affects the way that you listen to someone’s music sometimes. So I didn’t fully accept Megadeth because of these juvenile feelings that I had at the time.

“And the thing is that during the course of [Death Angel’s seventh album] The Dream Calls for Blood, it was [producer] Jason Suecof that really introduced me to Rust in Peace. That’s his bible, his best thrash album.

“And he just couldn’t believe that I didn’t worship that album like I did the Metallica albums. He made me re-listen to it and discover the insane musicianship and killer songs that were on that album. It did do so for me, in fact it really influenced my guitar playing and took it to another level. So I really have to give credit to Jason for reintroducing me and opening my eyes to that era of Megadeth.”

But Rob’s connection with Menza was about to extend far beyond just being a fan of his work.

“This is actually the first time I’m going to tell this story in public whatsoever: while we were about to go into the studio to record [Death Angel’s brand new album] The Evil Divide – somewhere around September/October – Nick Menza contacted me personally. And I’d never known him personally before.

“He contacted me about doing a project: he and [ex-Megadeth guitarist] Chris Poland wanted to do a project with me and they wanted to write with me. I was just blown away, I was shocked, I was like ‘Holy shit!’

“I was having these conversations with Nick, but the thing is that we were right about to go into the studio to do the album and I was like ‘Man, this just isn’t good timing, I need all my focus on Death Angel. I cannot compromise a moment of it.’

“And they wanted to wait for me. He was sending me demos of music that they were writing and they wanted me to contribute to it and I had to say ‘I just can’t right now.’

“He was persistent to the point where it was like ‘Well just come down to LA so we can jam together!’ I was insanely honoured and flattered that he wanted to work with me, but I couldn’t do it at that time. I was in pre-production, I couldn’t come off that course.

“And that was it. It just never happened.

“We’re not going on-tour till September, so I planned to see what was going on with those guys. So when I heard that news, on multiple levels, it was heart-breaking for me. Thinking about the conversations with Nick and what we were gonna do, it’s such a confusing and emotional thing for me. It’s very sad.

“And no-one knew! I barely even told the guys in my band because I didn’t want them to trip out and start thinking that I was getting side-tracked. I’ve hardly told anyone about that because it was just between us: me and Nick and Chris Poland.

“It was quite intimidating, because those guys are insane musicians and Chris Poland’s guitar playing is just insanity! So I’m like ‘Me?! I’m not even in your calibre of musicianship!’ But they seemed to think so and they wanted me in there, contributing to the writing. It was just a huge honour and I’ll always treasure that. I’m just devastated I never had the chance to see what was up with that.”

Rob also says that the demos he did receive – the only taste of this potential supergroup that ever made it to tape – “fucking blew my mind!”

“I didn’t know what to expect, but it massively exceeded anything I did expect. I was excited to get in on it, the guitar playing from Chris was crazy! I was just like ‘I can’t play with these guys!’

“I was excited and nervous but I definitely had it in the back of my mind to see what was up with it.

“But it’s just that I’m loyal to my band; these guys count on me, they’re loyal to me as well and I’m not going to compromise the mothership for a side-project. I had to put that on the shelf and I’m glad I did because I needed all my focus for this album. That’s the most important thing. I don’t regret it, but it makes you sit there and have these thoughts: it freaked me out!”

The loss of Nick Menza was already doubtlessly tragic to metal fans worldwide, but the loss of this promising new supergroup (MegaDeath Angel?) only makes things all the more saddening.

Death Angel’s new album, The Evil Divide, will be available physically and digitally on 27th May via Nuclear Blast Records. Read our review of the album here.

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