Deicide | ‘The Stench Of Redemption’
It’s difficult to emphasise just how important ‘The Stench Of Redemption’ is in the context of Deicide’s career, and listening to it one gets the impression that the foursome was only all too aware of the importance of this album.
Given the small success that was ‘Scars Of The Crucifix’, the question hanging over the band was whether they could maintain the upward trend, or would they sink back down into the mediocrity that characterised the middle part of their career.
No less relevant was the impact of the departure last year of the Hoffmans, and the mud slinging that followed, which called into question the very future of the band.
Many Deicide fans will unquestionably have been inclined to side with the more withdrawn brothers than the brash, raucous Benton, who has made many statements over the years, but has rarely been able to back them up with any real substance.
So, his claim last year that the Hoffmans were a stone around his and Steve Asheim’s necks, that they were holding Deicide back, was obviously greeted with more than a little scepticism.
To maintain any level of credibility amongst Deicide fans it was therefore imperative that they come up with the goods.
Happily, this time, he’s backed up all the talk, and he’s done so in the most convincing fashion possible.
Although the truth of this isn’t immediately evident.
The opener and title track is actually so unspectacular for the most part that any hopes of a return to form appear to have been dashed from the start.
A very fast and brutal beginning, very Deicide sounding, but ultimately boring.
After a minute, though, there’s a short flash of lead guitar, so subtle it might just have been imagined, before after about two minutes the song opens up, with a completely uncharacteristic emphasis on mood, and on lead guitar work.
‘Death To Jesus’ is more promising from the off, beginning with more lead guitar, before becoming quite typically Deicide, but at the same time revealing an emphasis on much richer structures, and greater variability than one has come to expect from the band.
‘Desecration’ then is another step up, again uncharacteristic of Deicide in many ways; it’s no longer simply all out speed and brutality, but includes slower parts, the creation of moods and tension, which ultimately serve to emphasise the brutality and heaviness.
Here and on numerous other occasions during ‘The Stench Of Redemption’ it becomes evident that the time spent with Vital Remains seems to have rubbed off a little on Benton.
The song writing is much more finely tuned than before, with huge attention given to smaller details and mixing things up.
Deicide fans need have no fear that they’ve watered their sound down, though, or that they’ve wimped out, because for all the greater dynamic, there’s absolutely no shortage of ferocity, at its height in ‘Homage To Satan’.
The absolute highlight, though, has to be the fantastic ‘Walk With The Devil In Dreams You Dread’, or the closer ‘The Lord’s Sedition’.
This last track stands out because it represents ‘The Stench Of Redemption’ in microcosm.
It is at once so typically Deicide, yet also everything that you would never have expected from the band.
For two and a half minutes it’s a slow instrumental; moody, all guitars, without a blastbeat or grunt anywhere, and as you expect it to fade out and the album to end, there’s an unexpected, utterly relentless surge of pace and fury, the most intense Death Metal, to pound the listener into the ground for one last time.
From start to finish, all forty (!) minutes of ‘The Stench Of Redemption’ might best be described as ‘vibrant’; a strange word to use in conjunction with Death Metal perhaps, but listening to the new, revamped Deicide it’s the one word that immediately springs to mind.
Deicide has never been so vibrant, so full of life, so warm, so gushing. The changed line up has clearly given Benton and Asheim a new lease of life.
It’s surely no coincidence that this is most evident in the guitar work, especially the leads, with Jack Owen and Ralph Santolla apparently only too eager to wipe from the minds of any sceptical Deicide fans the impression that there can be no Deicide without the Hoffmans.
They’ve demonstrated that they are the future for the band and then some, and although the odd fan may find the lead guitar work too pronounced, too melodic and so spectacularly over the top, it’s of a calibre never before heard on a Deicide album.
This is Deicide with an entirely new dimension; a rejuvenation that many will not have believed possible at this late stage in the band’s career.
And long may it continue.
Usually, when the Deicide mood creeps up on you, the dilemma is whether to go with the debut album or ‘Legion’.
Happily, a decade and a half later, Benton and co. have thrown a spanner in the works.
It’s still too early to tell whether ‘The Stench Of Redemption’ will have the staying power of a genre defining album like ‘Deicide’, but the early impressions are that it just might.
All those who’ve written Deicide off over the years – and not without justification – will now be forced to revise their opinions.
And most will do so with a giddy smile on their faces, because ‘The Stench…’ makes it so easy to accept having been wrong. It leaves no room for lingering doubts, and gives the sceptical fan a reason to rejoice in Deicide once more.
It’s just that good.
4.6 / 5 – DBM ::: 30/07/06