RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (KVEO) — Putting out any music recording is a big deal for artists.
It’s a way to show listeners what you’re all about and leave behind a piece of work that will last forever in the annals of the enormous archive of music the world has to offer.
The right release can push a band into the spotlight and make all of their efforts finally pay off.
These efforts are amplified on a band’s first record when their ideas are fresh, and releasing that album becomes a life milestone.
For Archangel A.D., putting out album number one was a mission more than five years in the making.
Getting to this point has been a tumultuous task for the group as they’ve dealt with shady concert promoters, lineup changes, a band name change, and an array of other problems, but the finished product has made the journey getting there even sweeter.
The Edinburg thrash metal band was formed in 2015 by Matt Karr, guitarist, and Ed Vera, drummer, while they were in high school at the age of 16.
“Ed’s parents told him he could have an Xbox One or a drum set,” joked Karr. “He chose the drum set and then we started the band.”
Karr and Vera shuffled through several band names in their initial time together before settling on Archangel based on a church pamphlet Matt picked up.
The pair grouped up with a vocalist and another guitarist while they learned songs together in Karr’s garage.
Archangel’s original vocalist left the group and they were left with a void to fill at the position.
Like many people in need of odd services, they turned to Craigslist for a young vocalist and bassist that could play their brand of metal.
At the same time, a UTRGV music major was searching to join a band as a vocalist and took a chance look at Craigslist listings.
“Their ad said they were looking for someone under the age of 20 and I was 19,” reminisced Justin Lopez, the band’s vocalist and bassist.
Following Lopez’s insertion into Archangel, their original guitarist replaced himself with Jake Garcia, who soon showed himself to be the guitar virtuoso the band was looking for.
Archangel practiced with this lineup for a few months before landing their first gigs playing in the RGV playing songs by Metallica, Judas Priest, Megadeth, along with some of their first originals.
It was around this time the band discovered that there were other groups that went by the name Archangel and they were forced to alter their moniker.
Instead of changing the name completely, they added A.D. to become Archangel A.D.
“Our plan is to one day get big enough to where we can trademark the Archangel name,” said Lopez.
With the new name and a solidified lineup, Archangel A.D. took on the RGV and played concerts almost every weekend of 2016.
It was during this time they learned to not trust everyone in the music scene. The band described a rough situation where a local concert promoter ripped them off on several occasions and others took advantage of their services by not paying them for concerts.
“That was our ‘welcome to the music scene’ phase,” said Garcia. “We learned who we could and could not trust at that time.”
After two years of constant gigging, Archangel A.D. released their first official music in June 2018 with Warband.
The 6-track EP is an elecrifying blast of aggression that any fan of thrash metal will enjoy with the band taking influences from Metallica, Megadeth, Forbidden, Judas Priest, Candlemass, and a slew of other metal bands.
Archangel A.D. toured Texas and attracted a lot of listeners across the state to hear their brand of thrash metal.
A photoshoot the band did at Whataburger for Warband even got shared on Instagram by the restaurant chain. The group cited the Texas-founded establishment as a favorite after-concert meal spot.
Following the 2018 tour, Karr left the band for personal reasons and was replaced by San Benito native Roman Torres, who formerly played drums in another local band but was skilled enough to take over guitar duties in Archangel A.D.
The group then set their sights on producing their first album but scheduling issues delayed any momentum the band had.
In between the release of Warband and when they finally got to work on their debut record, Lopez and Vera graduated from UTRGV, and Garcia and Torres took on full-time jobs that occupied most of their time.
“We couldn’t just go spend two weeks playing in Jake’s garage like when we were in school,” said Lopez. “It was tough transitioning to that but we were still determined to get this record out.”
The band hit the studio in early 2021 following a year of inactivity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recorded across a few months at Red Barn Studio in Mission, Casus Belli is the product of a band destined for greatness.
Casus Belli opens with “Bet on Death,” a speedy, catchy jam of a song that gets this record chugging in the right direction for any thrasher.
Things stay the same on “Casus Belli” before the tempo slows down a bit on “Beacons,” a doom-filled track where Lopez shows off his raspy voice.
“Celestion” blasts things back into style as Vera shows off how hard he can get his drumming to sound.
The album’s sixth song, “Sangre de las Montañas,” is a folky spanish song with hints of flamenco that helps the band build a theme of writing a completely off-character song for their albums.
The track works to bridge the album from the catchier thrash first half to the darker, heavier, and more experimental second half with “Demonolith” showing off a sludge metal side of the band.
But as slow and decriped attitude on that song is immediately wiped away with the blazing guitar riffs Garcia and Torres lay down on “Blasphemer.”
“Door to the Moon” slows things way down to a slighty psychadelic rock mood before ending on a distorted instrumental piece that blasts into the album’s final track “The Coming of the West Wind.”
The album’s opus is a 10-minute collection that sums up everywhere this band stretched their muscle on this album. Elements of death, doom, heavy, thrash, and progressive metal are featured on this banger of a song.
Overall, Casus Belli is a solid debut produced excellently enough to capture the rawness of this RGV metal band.
Archangel A.D. released the record on Friday, July 23 through their label Horsemen Records and have seen an outpoor of support from fans and metal sites across the globe.
Now with this album out, the band look to continue writing and get back to playing concerts consistently.
However, they’ll have to do it without one of their founding members.
Vera got accepted into the University of North Texas’s medical school and can no longer play in the band. The group worked Casus Belli as a sendoff for Ed as well as their debut.
But instead of finding a new member to join on drums, they decided to move Torres to play drums and will have Karr rejoin the band to secure Archangel A.D. as a four-piece.
Each of the members have high hopes about Archangel A.D. and are excited to build off the momentum of this debut album.
The Rio Grande Valley is full of musical talent that deserves exposure. If you know a musician or band who should be featured on RGV Sounds, email KVEO-DigitalDesk@nexstar.tv.