Haunted by the rising shared intensity of early 80’s hardcore punk, British heavy metal and the coming red tides of thrash and death metal countrywide, Deceased brought their own mutated form of supernatural thrash metal to Arlington, Virginia in 1984 and they’ve persisted for well over thirty years since. I know folks hold ‘The Evil Side of Religion’ (1986) demo in high regard but for my own taste their most inspired and lasting creation in the 80’s was the ‘Birth By Radiation’ (1989) demo. Sharp but bloody death/thrash riffs received a push in a more precise direction beyond their Death Strike and Insanity styled inception. From that point the fans are fairly die-hard but the horde splits between the classic death metal debut of ‘Luck of the Corpse’ (1991) and the more representative style of extreme thrash/melodic heavy metal that would more or less take shape on ‘Fearless Undead Machines’ (1997). Though they’d found their signature sound a decade deep into the project’s life it would be ‘As the Weird Travel On’ (2005) that truly perfected it.
Deceased‘s full-lengths from that point on have appeared hard-fought and always in the throes of tragic death or side-project distraction (see: October 31), at least from the outside looking in. This time around the latest album, ‘Ghostly White’, was preceded by the death of drummer Dave Castillo who’d provided drums on ‘As the Weird Travel On’ as well as the third October 31 record ‘No Survivors’. From my ‘casual fan’ perspective the band hadn’t really skipped a beat because I honestly hadn’t heard anything but compilation releases from the band since 2006. The same way Celtic Frost‘s finer moments mixed black, thrash, and doom metal into their own nuclear event, so glows the radiation emanating off of Deceased‘s traditional heavy metal informed extreme thrash sound that has been steadily drained of once prominent melodic death metal influences.
If you’ve shown up expecting a direct follow-up to the critically well received ‘Surreal Overdose’ (2011) and its polished blackened death production values you might find the sound of ‘Ghostly White’ toned down somewhat closer to ‘Fearless Undead Machines’ (pre-remaster). I’d say the tone of the album resembles a less polished ‘As the Weird Travel On’ in general and that’d be echoed in terms of songwriting as well. Unless the connections from my ears to my brain are clogged, I hear quite a bit more of Mike Smith‘s guitar ideas this time around whereas ‘Surreal Overdose’ seemed to have received more of kick in the pants thanks to Shane Fuegel (ex-Biovore); Otherwise I’d just figure they’re working better together in general, though there are some lackluster moments here and there. What kicks off with an epic punch of “Mrs. Allardyce” drops fantastically towards the nearly fourteen minutes of “Germ of Distorted Lore” as the rest of Side A creates a span of songs are solid and noteworthy stuff from a band with a hard-earned legacy. From that point the record drags its ass through a few clunky experiments (see: “Pale Surroundings”) that leave the last third of the album flat.
In describing King Fowley‘s vocals since ‘Fearless Undead Machines’ I’ve always thought of his approach as somewhere in between Jerry A (Poison Idea) and early Abomination era Paul Speckmann. He’s doing his own thing, which I generally enjoy, but comes pretty close to overdoing it on ‘Ghostly White’ with a prominent performance that is often overbearing in the mix. Though I appreciate the loud and clear narrative of the record I lost some of the finer lead guitar work beneath it, especially on “Germ of Distorted Lore”. These are relatively small annoyances that built over several listens but the overall record is undeniably one of their stronger spins. I’d probably made it through 5-6 listens when I’d generally started ‘checking out’ mentally as the tracklist reached a peak of repetition with “Germ of Distorted Lore”, a song that acts as a pivot point for some of the best and worst elements of the album. The record lost its stickiness from that point and I found myself thinking more about ‘Fearless Undead Machines’ and ‘As the Weird Travel On’ instead.
‘Ghostly White’ is a fine record from Deceased that should be up to par with most anyone’s expectations from the band at this point. Their sound is distinct, their metal is heavy, and the majority of the record is up their with the band’s best material no matter which record you favor most. It didn’t really resonant with me after a handful of listens and upon closer inspection a slim third of the record didn’t work for me, so I can only moderately recommend it. For preview the intro of “Mrs. Allardyce” is perfection and the classic speed metal riffs of “To Serve the Insane” should speak to the right sort of listener immediately.
Charging terror, striking fears. 3.5/5.0
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