My introduction to death metal came when I was in, like, ninth grade, and it came in pretty much the most appropriate place I can think of: in church. During a Sunday night youth group meeting, my friend Joseph showed up with two CD’s he’d borrowed from an older kid we went to school with. The first, and the one that was most immediately catchy, was Six Feet Under’s Warpath. The vocals were deep and harsh, but the music wasn’t that far removed from some of the more mainstream metal I’d already enjoyed. I bonded with it instantly. The second CD had to be handled very carefully to ensure no one else at the church saw it, as its cover would’ve landed us in some serious deep shit exorcism territory; it was Deicide’s Once Upon The Cross. Now, I’d love to say I heard it and it spoke to me on some deep, meaningful level, but on first listen, that wasn’t the case. The first time I saw that album cover, and the first time I heard that opening track coming out of those Discman headphones, it scared the living shit out of me. I didn’t know how to reconcile that conflict between the part of me that loved music and the part of me that was a burgeoning horror movie fan. But as disturbed as I was, I was also transfixed. It wasn’t too much later that I really connected with the band, and before I’d graduated high school, had begun enjoying their entire back catalog.
Deicide’s had their share of conflict over the years. Legendary spats with Roadrunner Records, the contemptuous divide between two factions of the original band, the rushed contractual strain that led to their greatest misstep, In Torment In Hell. Eventually, singer/bassist Glen Benton and drummer/composer Steve Asheim ousted brother guitarists Eric and Brian Hoffman, picking up ex-Cannibal Corpse axeman Jack Owen and the legendary Ralph Santolla and continuing the legacy the band built with their early releases. A lot of the damage In Torment In Hell did to the band’s reputation still hasn’t been undone in the hearts of older fans, and that’s a shame; every record they’ve released since then has been consistently strong. In The Minds of Evil, the band’s most recent album and the first to feature guitarist Kevin Quirion, contains some of the most memorable stuff they’ve ever produced (that title track goes SO. HARD.), and we’re just about due for a new release. This week, Criminally Slept-On takes a look at some of Deicide’s most underrated tunes. If you’re one of the people who’s not given their newer material a genuine shot, take this chance to check it out. Deicide is still very much going strong, and these are some of my favorite slept-on tracks to prove it.
1) “Kill The Light of Christ”
The penultimate track from 2013’s In The Minds of Evil is one of the record’s most melodic. With earlier Deicide closers/closer combos, there’s not always the sense of closure a lot of traditional death metal bands like to give at the end of an album (I’m thinking of the bruising finality of Cannibal Corpse’s “Beyond The Cemetery” or Carcass’s “Forensic Clinicism/The Sanguine Article”). On their latest release, however, the ending combination of “Kill The Light of Christ” and “End The Wrath of God” takes the record out in epic fashion. I think it’d almost feel more complete if the two tracks were switched in the album sequence. “End The Wrath of God” gets some live play, but “Kill…” has stronger hooks and a more traditional structure. I’d love to hear this one live.
2) “To Hell With God”
While this is the most memorable song on the album of the same name, I think this entire record kinda slipped under everyone’s radar. It’s the most awkward Deicide opener ever, with dissonant, almost playful notes plucked in odd succession for a brief moment before we’re treated to the classic Deicide bludgeoning we’ve come to expect in the way these dudes open records. There’s a lot of similarities between To Hell With God and what I consider the band’s true comeback album, The Stench of Redemption. It makes sense to credit Owen, Santolla and Quirion with the band’s more melodic instrumental take on recent output, but a quick glance at the liner notes reveals the bulk of the songwriting is done by drummer Steve Asheim. This is one of his most memorable tracks, not just for his quirky sense of melody, but for his ability to incorporate some really catchy spots for Benton’s vocals. That repetition of the title near the end of the song is just killer.
3) “Angel of Agony”
For me, Till Death Do Us Part is the low point in the post-Hoffman era of the band, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have some gems. Speaking of the Hoffmans, near the end of their tenure in Deicide, there were a lot of complaints that the band’s focus on more groove-oriented material had softened their brutality. I don’t think the groove element is where the band lost steam, but I’ll get to that later. “Angel of Agony,” however, is a newer Deicide track for anybody who thinks their shred died after Legion. This song’s blasting is relentless, and the riffs are just as frantic and catchy as anything from the first three records. Not too many tracks from Till Death Do Us Part have gotten much love on stage during recent tours, but maybe they’ll bust them back out eventually. “Angel of Agony” would be a great place to start.