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supreme mediocrity - 60%

LeastWorstOption, September 2nd, 2014
Written based on this version: 2010, CD, Deathgasm Records

Seven years after the last Diabolic record the Tampa, Florida blast unit returned with what should have been the second Unholy Ghost album. With three quarters of the original Unholy Ghost line-up accounted for on “Excisions Of Exorcisms” it is a question of why this album sounds more generic and faceless than this band’s prime records. It seems as if the death metal world had passed Diabolic (and its assorted splinter projects) by in the years that they were inactive – and the band’s stubborn insistence on genre purity only pushes them further into irrelevance. What once was a mildly promising outfit is reduced to nothing more than a quickly overlooked footnote. Like the uninspired Joe Petagno painting that functions as its cover “Excisions Of Exorcisms” doesn’t so much break new ground as it stomps relentlessly on things it already did better many years before. This record shouldn’t been released under the Diabolic name.

Once again co-founder/lead guitarist Brian Malone is absent, and it begs the question why this was released as a Diabolic album in the first place. Taken at face value, or considered as an Unholy Ghost release, “Excisions Of Exorcisms” is a futile attempt from a second-tier band to remain relevant. Excessive in its brutality and speed Diabolic is once again on autopilot, and churn out in what graciously can be called the spiritual successor to “Vengeance Ascending”. Whereas Unholy Ghost used reject Diabolic riffs and song construction, this Diabolic (not really, but that’s a different discussion) uses reject Unholy Ghost riffs and song construction. Yes, this sounds exactly as the metaphor implies. Where “Vengeance Ascending” had the dignity of having Malone on board, this record has neither him nor long-time contributor Jerry Mortellaro – resulting in what can be mildly called a disappointment considering the experience of its membership. If nothing else it seems that the band here tried its hardest to copy what little magic they had in their original run, and in doing so rob the record of its spirit. Just looking at this record exudes the sort of familiarity that breeds the blackest of contempt. Every single thing Diabolic used in their original run has been soullessly copied and repurposed.

Culling from all three classic albums that preceded “Excisions Of Exorcisms” is a desperate bid to appeal to the nostalgia factor that has now befell the band. Since the last Diabolic album a lot has changed in the world of death metal, but going by the sound of this album apparently these Tampa residents are oblivious to the obvious. It still very much sounds like Diabolic, or Unholy Ghost – but neither in its prime. The album starts off with a schmaltzy “spooky” intro that very much tries to imitate the band’s first album “Supreme Evil”. Once the intro segues into the title track and from the onset it is rather obvious that this Diabolic is familiar but not exactly on the compositional level that we’ve grown accustomed to over the years. With the absence of Brian Malone comes the lack of pure death metal riffing, and “Excisions Of Exorcisms” is far more thrashy in that regard. Morbid Angel is still the major source of inspiration, but the record is more based in “Altars Of Madness” than, say, “Blessed Are the Sick” or “Covenant”. The chord progressions, riff placement and song structures are more thrashy in comparison to the three classic albums, and the compositional simplicity of “Supreme Evil” is combined with the directness and lack of ornamental grace that defined “Vengeance Ascending”.

The lead – and solo sections are the highlight in this barrage of stock blasts and growls. Guitarist duo Kelly McLauchlin and Jeff Parrish offer up some veritably exciting lead trade-offs, and both clearly have a very individual style of solo’ing. But this alone is not able to redeem this album from its generic songwriting choices and stock performances from the other members. Paul Ouellette (vocals, bass guitar) never was the greatest singer to begin with, but at least here he offers up a passionate, and very much early David Vincent inspired performance. Ouellette’s rasps and barks recall Morbid Angel’s seminal “Altars Of Madness” in terms of intensity and speed. Aantar Lee Coates (drums) is his usual self, and despite the years that have passed since his last label sanctioned outing there is very little evolution in his playing. There was a certain complexity about “Torrential Reign” that is absent here, and as a Diabolic record it spents a too much of its running time reminding us what Diabolic was about, instead of actually being Diabolic. It sounds as if the band realized they were no longer relevant, and thus decided to call upon the listeners’ nostalgia in order to remain appealing. “Excisions Of Exorcism” fails to recapture the magic of the preceding records, and offers nothing exciting in return.

The problem isn’t so much that the band isn’t trying, but that it appears to exist in a creative stasis. The presence of McLauchlin should, theoretically, have led to better riffs and overall song construction. Yet this is Diabolic, and not McLauchlin’s own Pessimist although McLauchlin shares writing credits on all songs, Coates’ creative marks are all over these daft cuts. ‘Entombed’ and ‘Evil In Disguise’ were written by McLauchlin, ‘Fragmented Kreation’ was written by Parrish and ‘Bloodwashed’ was written by Coates. The remainder of the songs were all co-written by these men. Making a serviceable debut here is the late Jeff Parrish, who seemed to be a fitting replacement for the absent Jerry Mortellaro as his riffing style is quite similar, but not quite on the same level. As in the past the lyrics are the usual incoherent Satanic praise, individualism, violence and self-empowerment gibberish mixed with the strangely socio-political themed ‘Evil In Disguise’, which is a red blooded patriotic hymn leveled against the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks. The track even namechecks the “Supreme Evil” song ‘Ancient Hatred’ in its lyrics. The lyrics aren’t particularly good, or worth remembering – but in general they are a lot better than most underground slam death metal – or most deathcore bands. Also accounted is the typical atmospheric interlude, on this album being the closer track ‘Infernal Darkness’, which was written by producer Juan ‘Punchy’ Gonzalez, and it very much is reminiscent of ‘The Inevitable’ from “Vengeance Ascending” and ‘The Apparition’ from Unholy Ghost’s sole album “Torrential Reign”. Despite the line-up differences and lesser quality material this should have, by all accounts, been an Unholy Ghost product as the links to classic era Diabolic are tangential at the very best.

Given the gaps of inactivity, bad luck and continual line-up problems it remains doubtful whether Diabolic will once again rise to the level of underground prominence they once held. Since the release of the album the band has parted ways (once again) with Ouellette and McLauchlin. In February 2013 lead guitarist Jeff Parrish passed away due to a heart attack, and it appears that Diabolic has a hard time holding on to a fully functional line-up. As such they will probably never be able to secure high-profile tours like they did in the band’s heyday in the early 2000s. The album does what it sets out to do, but like the band’s past prime material it is never exceptional except in its adherence to traditional genre tropes and conventions. The production is probably the best the band has experienced, but it cannot redeem the album in any meaningful way. Like the Joe Petagno artwork that serves as its front, it is merely a reminder of what once was the most promising death metal outfit in the Florida region. “Excisions Of Exorcisms” is an unremarkable return from a band that never was really special to begin with.

Review originally written for Least Worst Option -

Excellent Morbid Angel-influenced death metal - 70%

Roswell47, September 21st, 2010

Florida's Diabolic has always been an underdog in the death metal scene. Throughout its career the band has never quite been able to push it to the next level. Gaps of inactivity, label changes, and lineup problems (including a legal battle over rights to the band name) surely haven't helped matters. I have followed Diabolic to some extent ever since I read about the City of the Dead demo in Metal Maniacs back in 1997. (Or was it Illiterature? Remember that mag?) After shopping for a new label, Diabolic has found a home with Deathgasm Records and has returned with a new full-length entitled Excisions of Exorcisms. So will this new album help take Diabolic to the proverbial "next level?"

First off, for the uninitiated, Diabolic plays a brand of death metal that shares many traits with Morbid Angel and other bands of that sort (i.e.: Krisiun and Angelcorpse). This spans from Diabolic's overall sound all the way down to Excisions of Exorcism's Joe Petagno artwork and Juan "Punchy" Gonzalez production job. While there's no denying the similarities to said bands, that certainly doesn't mean that Excisions of Exorcisms isn't worth your time. Upon the first few listens, the songs may seem pretty unremarkable, but given time they each reveal their own simple power and catchiness. Most of the tracks on Excisions of Exorcisms are high octane blasts of satanic fury. "Fragmented Kreation" and "Venomous Habitations" are highlights in this regard. The higher tempo tracks feature blasting drums courtesy of founding member Aantar Coates that threaten to come off the rails and fly apart, yet never quite lose control. Morbid Angel-style guitar riffs and traded solo freak-outs are also abundant thanks to Kelly McLauchlin (also of Pessimist) and newcomer Jeff Parrish. Returning vocalist / bassist Paul Ouellette rounds out the lineup with a solid guttural vocal performance that recalls David Vincent's heyday. This is a very strong Diabolic lineup indeed. The guys also show that they know how to reduce the tempo and crush the listener near the end of Excisions of Exorcisms. "False Belief" and "Entombed" both slow the pace, and as a result they really stand out from the rest of the album. Besides the more moderate tempo, these tracks also feature some of the best riffs on this release. "False Belief" instills a sinister feeling of dread in the listener with its slow, suffocating riffs, while "Entombed" uses descending chords that will make you feel like you are actually about to "descend into your tomb." The whole album gives off a wicked vibe, but these tracks are two of the darkest.

Despite its strengths, I doubt that Excisions of Exorcisms will raise Diabolic's profile very much unless the band is able to play on high profile tours again like it did in the past. Excisions of Exorcisms isn't unique enough that it's going to make any kind of big splash on its own merits. Nevertheless, Diabolic are making kick-ass music that should please fans of Morbid Angel...especially if you are sick of waiting for Morbid Angel's "I" album to see the light of day. Old Diabolic fans will certainly enjoy this release. Excisions of Exorcisms may very well be the new high water mark for Diabolic. How you feel about the album will really depend on your attitude coming into it. You are either going to see Excisions of Exorcism as an album you have "already heard a million times before," or you will see it as a solid death metal release bulging with awesome songs. That's really up to you.

Originally written for

A hellfire handjob burns more than the rod - 68%

autothrall, June 17th, 2010

Florida's Diabolic might just be the perfect example of how 'too much of a good thing' can eventually lead to the marginalization of a band within a musical genre. Through the band's history, they have released some half decent, stock blasting death metal like Supreme Evil and Subterraneal Magnitude, but because of the saturation of such music in the 90s through the 21st century, they never really found the same market presence of their influences like Deicide and Morbid Angel. After a few years' hiatus in which the band released only a few EPs, they return here with their 5th full length Excisions of Exorcisms, which might as well be called 'Business as Usual', since it grasps straight at the band's primal, blasting old school horns and wrangles them into the present.

The central premise of this band has always been Aantar Lee Coates beating on his kit like an abusive stepfather while the guitars rip out pure, one track blasphemy in the vein of Vital Remains, Sinister, Immolation and Deicide. The band has a similar sound to Maryland's Pessimist, minus the black metal elements and that should come as no surprise here since Kelly McLauchlin is one of the guitar players here. The leads cut through with a carefully measured vitriol typified by the Florida forefathers, and for the most part the band simply doesn't feel like slowing or stopping.

That's a good thing here, because where the band does morph into sluggishness, i.e. "False Beliefs", there is often a little less impact. "Entombed" and "Fragmented Kreation" fare slightly better, as they mix tempos and offer some more palatable, grisly riffing. The faster fare, however, ala "Excision of Exorcisms", "Venomous Habitations" and "Evil in Disguise" is the true sacrificial heart of this recording, as they blast the listener into submission and force upon him the ebbing, gradual hypnotism of the guitar patterns. Being blunt here: aside from the occasional surprise and the ghastly flow of the leads, I did not find enough of the actual writing to bewitch me, and after a number of listens I feel content in abandoning the record back to the hellish ages from which it was spawned, possibly to visit once more if I'm ever in the need of some sheer blasting mayhem with little regard for nuance.

I doubt Excision of Exorcisms will stir up much further attention for this decade plus veteran, but it's a solid and grounded effort that maintains strict loyalty to the band's back catalog. The mix is great and the musicians sound unstoppable from an energy standpoint. Sadly, that just wasn't enough for me this time, and while I have no major complaints whatsoever, the music simply doesn't call to me like a lot of other old school death. Listeners new to the band would be better served by checking out their earliest efforts, which reek of a slightly superior evil atmosphere, but die hard adherents of the first four Diabolic records probably would not be disappointed by the infernal transgressions placed upon this particular altar


As subtle as a jackhammer - 75%

doomknocker, June 16th, 2010

Obscure-as-hell metal acts are, for the most part, good times, especially those who’ve been attempting to knock ‘em dead for decades on end. Whether it’s the B-movie madness of IMPALED and IRON CROSS, the never-say-die-and-I-don’t-mean-that-BLACK-SABBATH-album approach of HIRAX, or the glam rock with balls of steel insanity that is LIZZY BORDEN, there’s always at least SOMETHING to admire. That may not apply with this DIABOLIC group completely, as their blend of death and thrash metal coupled with virulent Satanism keeps them from as far from those old fogies as possible, yet I can’t help but feel it whenever I see their name popping up; they seem the type of band to keep prattling on no matter what, not unlike the groups mentioned above. It’s the obscurity that gets to me, I feel.

So with that in mind, I took a deep breath and plunged head-first into this recorded work (never a good thing to do with death metal lest that head’a yers gets lopped off)…

Right away this album should be able to satisfy that gnawing hunger for all things brutal, fast and blast-beaty, Through the use of a better, more modern production, DIABOLIC unleash their tried-and-true deathtastic metal with both guns blazing and with enough violent clarity to not need that distracting smoke screen to blur the vision of weak-kneed, half-baked ideas. This listener is able to take in all that this album has to offer, and what a smorgasbord it is; graduating with honors from the MORBID ANGEL/DEICIDE school of metallic blasphemy, this excursion known as “Excisions of Exorcism” simultaneously goes for both the throat and the guts with two fistfuls of brutality and wild abandon, where schizophrenic leads/soloing, thick layers of rhythmic hate, somewhat computerized (or at least overtly processed) percussion and unearthly growls rise from the most impure and shallow of graves and lay waste to ear drums and non-metal folk alike. Such cruelty works wonders in this workaweek world, with hopefully enough energy to beat little pansy scene kids into realizing the errors of their ways. This comes across best with the likes of “Venomous Habitations”, “Bloodwashed” and “Entombed”, espousing all that is as fiery and demonic as the cover art would attest.

All in all DIABOLIC again proves unsung supremacy within the hard-to-decipher death metal underworld. A recommended listen to anyone looking to contort the features of second-hand listeners and non-metal fans (that’s always worth a laugh once and again).