Released: 2006, Earache Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Floridian death metal pioneers Deicide finally took the plunge and laid out all their blasphemous heresy for fans to enjoy on their first DVD, WHEN LONDON BURNS. Filmed at The Mean Fiddler in London on November 29, 2004 (with “no overdubs or sleep,” according to the end credits), the band blasts through seventeen tracks in an hour and the action is captured by various cameras—stationery and hand-held—from around the venue. A few effects are used (split-screen mostly) but for the most part, the video presentation is fairly standard. For that matter, the setlist is no surprise either. With the exception of “Oblivious To Evil” and “Crucifixation,” this is the same set the band played eight months later here in Vancouver, albeit in different order. What is different, however, is the band line-up. Long-time followers of Deicide undoubtedly know the drama surrounding the firing/departure (depends whose side you take) of guitarists Eric and Brian Hoffman. Well, this show is the first without them. In their place is Jack Owen (ex-Cannibal Corpse) and Vital Remains’ Dave Suzuki, both of whom learned the entire setlist only two days prior! Considering the obstacles, the band is amazingly tight. Owen is his usual drab self but Suzuki really gets into the show, headbanging away, dropping sizzling solos and adding backing vocals (makes me wish he had joined the band rather than the similarly boring Ralph Santolla). Glen Benton keeps the stage banter to a minimum thankfully (a couple gems: “Stick your heads up your mother’s cunts”; “big tits and fish & chips…I love Great Britain”) and the fierce flow of classic death metal flows smoothly with Steve Asheim pummeling away behind everything.
Benton’s over-the-top personality may have earned him his share of critics but he is a very charismatic frontman and without question, one of the finest vocalists death metal has ever spawned. His repertoire of guttural growls and piercing shrieks are immediately recognizable and his visibly bulging neck muscles during “When Satan Rules His World” show he can still roar with amazing conviction. That track, along with “Scars of The Crucifix,” “Once Upon The Cross,” “Serpents of The Light” and “Dead By Dawn” are the show’s highlights. Suzuki delivers a spot-on rendition of the frantic fretboard abuse on “Scars of The Crucifix” and the frequent close-ups of Asheim’s battered cymbals throughout the set prove that despite almost twenty years of cranking out the blasphemy, these guys are still fiercely devoted to the music. End notes recall the Hoffman/Hoffman/Owen/Suzuki switch and also features a dedication to Asheim’s father, who passed away just before the tour kicked off. A documentary entitled “Behind The Scars” is also included but fans who own the 2-disc version of SCARS OF THE CRUCIFIX already own it. For those who don’t, it is a 35-minute look at the band and what they do during their off-time. Benton rides his Harley, Brian Hoffman has crazy tattoos (the huge Satan across his throat should dispel any thread of doubt that these guys are “poseurs”) and Asheim is a firearms enthusiast. There is some in-studio footage that is barely five minutes in total and it consists of Benton laying down vocal tracks at Morrisound in Tampa. The most interesting segment is courtesy of Brian, where he discusses the early history of the band and the extremes they went to get noticed.
For fans of Deicide, getting a live show of their heroes has been a long-time coming. Pity that something wasn’t previously documented with the Hoffman brothers (the 1998 live album, WHEN SATAN LIVES, excepted) but WHEN LONDON BURNS certainly fills the void. Benton’s dialogue is idiotic and pointless but the band more than makes up for it musically. The bulk of the songs are taken from Deicide’s self-titled 1990 debut and 1995’s ONCE UPON THE CROSS, so older fans will revel in that fact, however, the band’s crowning achievement—1992’s LEGION—only gets one song here. Nitpickers may notice subtle differences from the original guitar solos (c’mon, they had 48 hours notice!!) but considering the situation, this DVD is still an essential purchase for long-time fans of the band and serves as a solid introduction to new ones, as well.