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I often find myself wondering how people 20 to 30 years down the line will view what is happening today in the world of heavy metal. Will this "era" be seen as a re-vitalization of metal, or perhaps a more stagnate period where bands didn't really know what the fuck they were doing? What about albums which felt little (to no) impact upon their release? Where will they fit into the catalog of their band's discography? Will they be seen as "duds", forgotten expressions of art which failed, and wilted upon being born, or will their impact be felt much later? It's hard to say, really.
Albums like this one, from the legendary Satanic death metal band Deicide, are examples of this. Here, we have an album which was released in 2008, and was much-hyped, being the follow-up to 2006's "The Stench of Redemption", which many felt "re-kindled" the fires that the band had supposedly smothered long ago. Instead of receiving critical acclaim, however, as one might expect, many fans were surprised and disappointed when they noticed that the song-writing which had become more prominent on it's predecessor, had become largely stunted, while the overall riff-variety dropped and left many of the songs feeling lifeless and boring. Breakdowns are rarely utilized at all, with the tracks blasting around at essentially the same pace for their entire length (which is especially bad because the songs are pretty long for Deicide). The signature death grunts of senior vocalist Glen Benton were noticeably weaker than ever, with his overall pronunciation (or lack thereof!) of his dry and rather "uninspired" lyrics (on this album), being a rather sad observation. Oh, and the lyrics themselves were certainly nothing to marvel at! While still firmly rooted in Satanism and Anti-Christianity, there is really no denying that the passion had dropped considerably. Where once his lyrics stood as a powerful and hateful condemnation of the evils of Christianity, here one can listen as he lets go his feelings of his ex-wife: "even God hates you...by the way, FUCK GOD, GOD IS DEAD".
However, despite all that, this is a good album. That's right, I like this. It may not stand up to the standard set by what the band were up to in the early 90's, but it certainly isn't the worst thing ever. Of course, the album is very flawed, but it is still in possession of a number of convincing death metal numbers, namely the excellent "Not As Long As We Both Shall Live" and the album closer (leaving out the pointless filler that serves as the album's "outro"), "Horror in the Halls of Stone", which is nothing short of epic. Other tracks, such as "Severed Ties", manage to capture the sheer brutality and outright aggression that was displayed so well on albums like "Serpents of the Light", and give it a bit more depth and atmosphere. The verse riff of "Severed Ties" is certainly one of the heaviest riffs the band has written in a very long time, but are sprinkled with bits of melody here and there to allow the music a bit more breathing room. That said, I must admit that I have mistaken this song for "Angel of Agony" many times on my CD player, and have on more than one occasion been surprised when Steve Asheim's badass melodic lead which appears at the very end of "Angel of Agony" didn't happen, and we were instead graced by one of Santolla's terrible leads.
I suppose the attraction here, is not that the music is particularly thought-provoking, or even really all that good. Instead, I would say that it's because this music is so completely ridiculous, so over the top in it's depiction of utter hatred, that it actually kind of works, and helps you overlook some of the album's obvious flaws. This is not an album to put in the CD player when you are in the mood to dissect and examine a piece of death metal magic, no, this is an album for when you feel the need to destroy a small part of the world given to you by God to express your hatred for him in purest form. It's big, loud, and stupid, and it's fun to sit down and blast when you're in the mood for something which is pissed off and doesn't care about anything.
I probably am not doing a very good job explaining why this is a good album. Well, like I said, there are two tracks on this album which break the mold and end up sounding great as hell. The first is "Not As Long As We Both Shall Live", which is one of the only tracks where the band's sound does not come across as particularly "over the top". Here, the band slows down when they need to, and displays their new-found melodic traits in one of the only places on this album where it really works. The melodies are catchy and interesting, and the riffs are memorable as hell. The other track is pretty much the other slow track on this album, the epic 6-minute "Horror in the Halls of Stone". This track sounds nothing like anything the band has done up to this point. It puts melody and atmosphere above brutality, settling down for a slower pace for most of it's length, and thus featuring some of the best melodic lines on the whole album. The chorus features a decidedly delicious lead which soars beneath the growls of Glen Benton. Because it's Deicide, the song does get fucking fast, but because the entire track isn't based at this pace, it doesn't grate on the ears (or the mind) like some of these tracks do.
All in all, you're not missing out if you don't buy this album. I understand why some people don't like it, and why it's been "forgotten" (left as nothing more than a casual mention of "the last Deicide album sucked" on metal forums across the internet). I, however, think that you should at least give it a shot. It's a fun little album, and at least the band are still putting records out, eh?