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It's all in the delivery. - 88%

hells_unicorn, January 19th, 2017
Written based on this version: 1991, CD, Intense Records

There is an enduring misconception regarding thrash metal in the early 90s and the concept of "whiffle thrash" being interchangeable terms, either as a means of excusing the temporary destruction of said music by the recording industry a few years later, or as a means of criticizing the incorporation of comedic and political lyrics into the style. Naturally the latter rationale is a bit problematic since one would have to put Nuclear Assault's Game Over and S.O.D.'s Speak English Or Die into the whiffle thrash category. More often than not, the intersection of half-assed thrash metal and the elements in question are more a matter of coincidence, though perhaps a common one at that particular time when looking at the output of Sacred Reich and Death Angel during the latter days of thrash's original run. But whatever the level of quality or seriousness associated with the lyrics, the dividing line between neck-ruining thrash mayhem and the more plastic pretender that cropped up a bit later is entirely a musical one.

Deliverance was in something of a dubious position in 1991 when opting to throw some pizza and non-alcoholic beer into the mix with their Christian lyrical message, inviting the usual quandary of people accusing you of never being serious because you crack a few jokes here and there (somehow Bill Hicks and George Carlin got a pass on this one), but their third studio foray What A Joke actually manages to buck the trend while embracing it at the same time. Few are free from their lyrical mockery, be it profiteering doomsday preachers, goofy fundamentalists who hate metal because of the sound, skeptics/atheists, the Roman Catholic church, American politicians, or even the whole of American society. Naturally they've opted to mock just about every type of person who wouldn't likely be at one of their live performances, so the approach is a tad safe and insular, though nevertheless eloquent and effective when compared to much of the marble-mouthed rambling that can infect politically charged or humor-based thrash lyrics.

The stylistic approach here is an exaggerated level of hardcore-infused Bay Area madness where the riffs are usually fast and frenetic to the point of near ridiculousness, or otherwise a punchy set of groovy hay-makers reminiscent of latter day Metallica. Granted, for all the speed and aggression, this doesn't really have the sort of evil and dissonant character that would be associated with Slayer, though shorter speeders like "Prophet Of Idiocy" and "Attack" match the fastness level of much of what is heard on Reign In Blood. Such a comparison, apart from maybe the slower intro riff on "It's The Beat" that incorporates a Slayer-like dissonant harmony (probably to mock some of the ignorant bible thumpers who pegged these guys as Satanists for playing power chords), betrays a shallow understanding of the style where everything sounds the same because it's fast. A more apt comparison would be some of the iconic works of the more mainline Bay Area style such as Testament, Vio-Lence, Exodus and fellow L.A. Christian thrashers Tourniquet.

Naturally an album of the early 90s doesn't get by being fast and frenetic the whole time, though this one cooks a good bit faster than a number of contemporary offerings by the bigger names. Perhaps the most musically nuanced and intricate of the bunch is the technical foray "Pseudo Intellectual", which has a riff set dynamic and elaborate enough to pass for something off Twisted Into Form, although presented in more of a Testament flavor and introduced with a similarly creepy atmospheric intro to the ones that were common on The New Order. Not too far behind is the more mixed up speeder "A Product Of Society", which blazes away a good bit after the Eternal Nightmare model, but also mixes in some crushing mid-paced goodness not all that far off from what made Victims Of Deception a formidable swansong for the original thrash movement. Even when things maintain a more slowed down and groovy character as on the title song or the generally mid-paced thrash reinterpretation of Sabbath's "After Forever", the punch factor is consistently maintained.

It's not quite a perfect affair, as the Persian Flaw that sort of drags things down is the pacing due to clustering a few too many comical novelty songs out of the S.O.D. and Suicidal Tendencies playbook in the middle of the album. Some of these comical quips such as "Purgatory Sandwich With Mustard" work fairly well given that the riff set is generally on point and the lyrical content is a mere punchline at the tail end, whereas the smattering of 3 to 40 second ditties make for a disjointed set of segues between the actual meat and potatoes of the album. This is less so a problem of too many actual cringe moments, as Jimmy Brown's higher end shouts and general similarity to John Connelly work well in this capacity, but more having just a few too many of these for an entire album and not placing them in their most strategically effective place in the track list.

Perhaps it is something of a cop-out to say that this album is an acquired taste and therefore not for everyone, particularly those falling into any of the groups that are at the wrong end of Brown and company's biting sarcasm, but it's about as hard to separate the lyrics from the music here as it would be from a Sacred Reich album (definitely possible, but not for most). It plays well to people like me since I generally agree with the message (except for the one on "Chipped Beef", way too much bread and butter there dude) and I tend to put quality of execution ahead from originality when it comes to thrash metal. From a standpoint of mere stylistic execution, this is about as close to Grade A thrash metal in 1991 as they come, but many of the better albums to come out of the metal scene have been highly divisive, and this one is no exception.

Christianity Is Not Funny - 30%

Empyreal, July 18th, 2010

What’s worse than a bunch of Christians making uninteresting thrash metal with shitty attempts at humor mixed in? I honestly have no idea. But that’s what Deliverance has given us on their third album What a Joke. Veritable proof that not everything from the golden days of metal was, well, actually golden, Deliverance mostly do not deliver anything of worth. They were a third rate thrash band back in the late 80s and early 90s, and What a Joke doesn’t show any signs of correcting that statement. How bad is this pile of condescension and botched up humor? Let’s find out!

The first thing you’ll notice about this is the fact that it starts off with an intro with a guy complaining that they have to record another album for the label. Well, there you go! That’s the explanation for this whole thing right there. They just threw this together in five minutes when they realized they had spent too much time slaving away over their Bibles and had to make an album to keep their label contract. It makes this whole thing so much easier to understand when you factor that in, I tell you. Then we get our first taste of the actual music with “Prophet of Idiocy,” and I have to wonder again how hard they were even trying. I mean honestly, guys, couldn’t you have at least put a little effort into it?

This is just so…weak. It’s clear that they know what thrash sounds like, but did they really listen to enough of it? Based on this first song, I think they probably just stopped listening to Reign in Blood as soon as the lyrics came in. This is a very poor, neutered Slayer rip off with some attempts at being epic like latter day 80s Metallica. The riffing is really one dimensional and bland, and the vocals are a featureless yammer that doesn’t conjure up even one iota of energy. There isn’t really a lot to talk about with this, as songs like “Prophet of Idiocy” and “Pseudo-Intellectual” don’t really have much in the way of substance at all. They chug along amicably enough, but there aren’t many memorable moments at all.

This music is just annoying, like a little yappy dog at your ankles. There’s no bite or ferocity to this, and it never convinces me for a second that I should believe anything they say. Like on “Psuedo-Intellectual,” where they start off with a fairly decent acoustic intro, but then it drags on for a little too long, and when two minutes of the stodgy chugging from the guitars are up, you feel like you’ve heard all that the song has to offer. The title track has some captivating moments, but they always segue back into a horribly dull, plunking groove that makes me want to fall asleep. “Product of Society” has a pretty cool solo, but the vocal lines are awkward and the chorus seems like it’s actively trying to be as un-catchy as possible.

There’s really no depth to this music – it is merely a background vehicle to carry the awful, pretentious lyrical musings.

Yes, the lyrics…it honestly begs the question of when do you cross the border from simply playing music to get your ideals across into being completely ridiculous. This album does a pretty good job of showing me where that line is. What a Joke is not an album dedicated to expressing any kind of religious affection, but rather to putting down anyone who opposes them. Most of the lyrics on here are very insecure, overtly macho-man posturing against anyone who does not believe what they believe. It sets up this generic atheistic strawman to mock atheism in the most obnoxious way possible – look at the spoken word sections of the title track in which they ‘answer questions’ about the denial of Christianity. It’s so obnoxiously blatant and over the top that you wonder if these people ever even go outside their homes. They’re as far removed from the real world as…well, any radical Christians, really.

you say the bible contradicts itself
I ask you, show me where, you never can
next time think twice, before you speak your tripe
you've been silenced by the scriptures
ha that's what I thought

Yeah, I like making baseless accusations against a side that doesn’t even get to counter-argue back, too. Fucking heinous. Can you believe they actually put a voice over in the title track that has that “God doesn’t believe in atheists” slogan paraded out like they actually think it’s intelligent? I don’t even know how to respond to the idiocy on display…in fact, I think the album is actually making me dumber as I listen to it!

And it gets worse! Because when they’re not writing seven minute odes to Christianity and making fun of atheists, they’re drawing from the well of cheap-ass hardcore and writing thirty-second songs with a few seconds of blasting and shouting, with super-goofy lyrics about cheeseburgers and mustard and ordering fast food and all sorts of dumb shit. If you’re not even going to take your own music seriously, why should the rest of us do that with all of your oh-so-righteous Christian beliefs that the other half of the album is filled with? Pitiful. And they have a Black Sabbath cover inserted randomly into the middle of the album – done very poorly – and also a cover of the classic Christmas song Silent Night…which is completely pointless and lame. Did they just put together the track listing blindfolded?

Man, this is shit! The music is bland and derivative, the vocals suck, the lyrics are either insultingly pretentious or insultingly idiotic and the whole thing just screams ‘why haven’t the members of this band been killed yet?’ This whole thing is just bad. You'll have your standard idiots trying to be open-minded and telling you to ignore this band's lyrics, but no, the music isn't good either. If the best riffs on your thrash album come from a Black Sabbath song, I think you need to hang up your instruments and do something else. Unbelievably lame and retarded music.

Fairly Decent Xian Thrash - 65%

corviderrant, July 26th, 2006

As I've mentioned in a review or two in these parts, in the early 90s I went through a mercifully short flirtation with christianity for personal reasons that ended with me running in the opposite direction. This was one of the bands I listened to in that time.

Ultraboris coined the term "wiffle thrash" for bands like this, and I am inclined to partially agree with him here in describing this band. While the album starts off promisingly (musically, that is) with the scalding tandem of "Prophet of Idiocy" and "Pseudo-Intellectual", it gets bogged down in too many silly joke songs a la Anthrax like "Chipped Beef" and "Cheeseburger Maker Du", and the metallized version of "Silent Night" that keep the album from really hitting its stride. They do, however, throw in a good cover of Black Sabbath's "After Forever", not surprising given Deliverance's strong christian outlook in their original material's lyrics that is, as per usual with bands of this sort, very heavy-handed and obvious.

To cover that briefly, Deliverance come off as sarcastic, closed minded, and entirely too self-righteous in their delivery (no pun intended) of their lyrics--typically modern christians, in other words. Which is a shame, because much of the music on hand here is not bad at all. And the silliness of about a third of the material makes them seem foolish instead of light-hearted. It sabotages any serious intent they had when recording this album.

Again, that's a shame, because when Deliverance buckle down, get serious and get thrashing they do a good job. Certainly serviceable, if nothing else. The leads by George Ochoa are uniformly excellent, especially on the title track when he unfolds an impressive solo that really takes you on a trip. The drummer does a good job too at all tempos, pounding out the beats with flair and rock solid time. And vocalist/guitarist Jimmy Brown really lets rip when he mans the mic. The aforementioned tandem of "Prophet of Idiocy" and "Pseudo-Intellectual" are good examples of what he's like when he gets going--a lusty shouting delivery with lots of lungpower and attitude to back it up. His clean singing is not bad either, as illustrated by the title track (I'll forgive him the opening lines about how he disagrees with gay folks' lifestyle, even). All wrapped in a clear production that is slightly flat and overcompressed as was the trend at the time--this is a letdown as it detracts from the power of the music.

While I totally disagree with their outlook (as would most anybody with a brain and common sense would, IMO), this is still nonetheless not too bad an bad album at all. If they'd binned the excessively silly songs, and if they'd beefed up the production quite a bit, this would've gotten a better rating, honestly. It was that and the lyrical content that got major points deleted from this review. That aside, it's worth a listen or three if you can get past the lyrics.