Quite a few of 2006’s highly anticipated metal releases have been somewhat disappointing. But most metalheads know that an extreme music album may take time to fully absorb, so I never gave up on listening to those C.D.’s, and even though some of them still aren’t completely up to my expectations, several of them have proven to be a lot better than I initially thought. This was the case with this year’s Cannibal Corpse, Zyklon and Napalm Death albums, but my opinion has most notably changed about Deicide’s new one.
Typically, a metal band will begin their career recording aggressive, offensive albums, and over time, the members age and their music softens. Glen Benton is pushing forty years old (he’s spent nineteen of those years fronting this iconic death metal quartet), but it appears he never got the music industry’s memo saying he should think about “selling out” and retiring soon. This year’s “The Stench Of Redemption” is the most uncompromisingly heavy and best work he has put to wax since 1992’s sophomoric “Legion.” And despite undergoing their first ever lineup change (guitarists Jack Owen and Ralph Santolla were eventually recruited after original members Eric and Brian Hoffman exited in 2004), Deicide sound like they actually had some fun when making this album. By no means does that mean that they’ve loosened up or started to take it easy, it just means they have rarely sounded this energetic, natural, and unrestrained.
“The Stench” begins as an immensely brutal album, and it only becomes more brutal as it plays — these are nine tracks of bludgeoning, skull-crushing destruction. Since the album is practically devoid of variety, not every individual song on here is memorable, but Deicide didn’t become the legendary band they are today by including those things in their music, so maybe that’s what Vital Remains is for. And being a little predictable sometimes can be easily overlooked when one realizes that metal doesn’t get much more cohesive, committed, and inspired than this album. Glen’s vocals and lyrics haven’t matured or improved much, but the musicianship on display here is nothing short of jaw-dropping. Steve Asheim’s earthquake drumming is excellent as usual, and the guitar work is virtuosic–the solos are epic and technical, the leads are thrashy and infectious, and the riffs are absolutely amazing. In fact, these are some of the best riffs any band (death metal or otherwise) has produced this side of the Eighties!
As soon as the first song (the title track) begins, the album’s floodgates immediately burst open and the listener is engulfed in speaker shredding riffs, two long, ripping solos, and smashing blast beats. Insanely fast (almost dizzying) songs like “Desecration,” “Crucified For The Innocence,” “Walk With The Devil In Dreams You Behold,” and “Not Of This World” feature “Reign In Blood”-style tempos and scorching interplay between the smoke-inducing, buzzsaw guitar leads and walloping, jackhammer drums. “Homage To Satan” is also Slayer reminiscent in that it works up a massive amount of energy and momentum through a series of dogfight riffs and speed-of-light solos. Lastly, “Death To Jesus,” which is highlighted by Deicide’s best guitar solo to date, is also worth noting, and so is the album closer, “Black Night,” an unusual Deep Purple cover which begins with a great stop-start give and take between the guitars and drums.
In sum, “The Stench Of Redemption” comes up short in the surprises and diversity departments, but it’s sure to grow on you and sound less monotonous and more intricate and meticulous with every listen. “The Stench” definitely won’t interest anybody who isn’t already a devoted follower, but at this point in their career, Glen and Co. probably couldn’t care less about a bigger fan base. The fact of the matter is, an album like this isn’t for everyone, but almost all music fans already know that if it’s extreme metal you crave, you simply cannot go wrong with Deicide.