Released: 2006, Earache Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Much hoopla has surrounded the Deicide camp since the release of their last album, 2004’s SCARS OF THE CRUCIFIX. What was seen by many—myself included—as a welcome return to form was actually a front of a band dissolving under its own weight. Guitarists Eric and Brian Hoffman were butting heads with vocalist/bassist Glen Benton constantly, splitting the band into two camps with drummer Steve Asheim in the middle acting as mediator. Mid-tour, the Hoffman brothers quit/got fired (depends which side you are on) and were quickly replaced by former Cannibal Corpse guitarist Jack Owen and later ex-Death/Iced Earth six-stringer, Ralph Santolla (Vital Remains’ Dave Suzuki filled in for a few dates on the European tour). What this lineup has created on THE STENCH OF REDEMPTION is nothing short of phenomenal. The most immediate difference is the vastly improved guitar work. Owen and Santolla are simply on fire here, crafting spell-binding solos and powerhouse riffs that have not been heard on a Deicide album in years (or, arguably, ever). Also, Asheim and Benton drop the constant blastbeats here and there and get into a groove that is a welcome addition to the band’s sound. THE STENCH OF REDEMPTION is still an undeniably heavy and evil-sounding platter that will not disappoint Deicide loyalists however breaking up the monotony that plagued INSINERATEHYMN and IN TORMENT IN HELL was a wise move. Rising like a phoenix and barely escaping the “where are they now” file, Deicide has given fans their strongest outing since their mighty debut…sixteen years ago!
The title track thunders along with all the infernal damnation that fans have come to expect—Benton’s double-tracked roars/screams acting as Satanic incantations, Asheim’s relentless blasting and the sizzling, intertwined guitars. This formula has worked well for Deicide since 1990…so why change it? The Hoffman’s were rumored to be lazy and unskilled with their instruments and Benton has claimed that it was actually Santolla who wrote and instructed the brothers on how to play their leads over the past few years. Even though Santolla was teaching them, the obvious limitations were there but with the teacher taking over from the student, the riffs and leads come flying out of the songs. Santolla (and to a lesser extent, Owen I suspect, whose playing has never dazzled) is finally allowed to flourish and on tracks like “Walk With The Devil In Dreams You Behold,” “Homage For Satan” and “Crucified For The Innocence,” the improvements are immediately apparent. Melodies, serpentine solos and just downright enjoyably imposing riffs are everywhere. Asheim, who has always been the premier songwriter in the band, is proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks. Songs swing with a melodic groove (“Walk With The Devil In Dreams You Behold”) or a slow-building intro (“The Lord’s Sedition”) rather just go straight for the jugular. Lyrically, there are no surprises in Benton’s blasphemous rants (“Hell is your Heaven/Jesus ripped apart,” etc.) and if you didn’t like his vocals before, you certainly won’t like ‘em now, either, however, if there is one constant in the music of Deicide, it is Benton’s gruff bellows and shrieks and that is what many find appealing. The curious cover of Deep Purple’s “Black Night” may raise a few eyebrows initially but the nearly unrecognizable version laid out here has certainly been tailor-made for Deicide. The only similarity to the original is the intro riff and even it would take a pretty strong knowledge of the classic version to pick it out.
For all the doubting fans that SCARS OF THE CRUCIFIX didn’t win back, THE STENCH OF REDEMPTION will certainly assuage any fears that Deicide has forgotten how to rip things up. What will surprise many, however, is that Deicide seems to be successfully reinventing itself as a musically viable act. Sure, LEGION and ONCE UPON THE CROSS are unforgiving slabs of death metal lore and Asheim is blindingly-fast, Benton is evil incarnate and so on, but did anyone ever really get wow-ed by the playing on said albums? Times have changed and with the rich riffing and screaming solos provided by Santolla and Owen seemingly lighting a hellacious blaze under the backsides of Asheim and Benton, Deicide has once again become a force to be reckoned with. Hoffmans be damned, for vengeance it seems belongs to Deicide.
KILLER KUTS: “The Stench of Redemption,” “Crucified For The Innocence,” “Homage For Satan,” “Not of This Earth,” “The Lord’s Sedition”