If you’re an American or have become passingly familiar with the popular culture of the world’s most American nation, you’ll have heard of the long-running sketch comedy television program Saturday Night Live. If you’re a fan of the show or have become passingly familiar with its more famous moments, you’ll have already guessed that the reference being built to here involves the sketch dealing with the rather memorable percussion of Blue Oyster Cult‘s “Don’t Fear The Reaper.” In the sketch, Christopher Walken repeatedly demands a certain something from Will Ferrell. Deivos should have taken this to heart.
Theodicy bustles with riffs, brutal growls, blastbeats and all of the traditional trappings of brutal death. True, there are moments of mechanical-sounding electronics to split up the songs and provide a quantum of atmosphere, but deep down, Deivos haven’t made Theodicy in an attempt to challenge or revolutionize the genre. Except for one nagging detail. About 90 seconds into “Theodicy” you’ll catch a little hint. And then it arrives. Cowbell.
This is something of a genius idea, frankly. Given brutal death’s love of extremely metallic and “pong”-sounding snares, the cowbell fits into the genre’s sonic profile very well and provides some much-needed character. It’s incorporated well, but cautiously, into one or two riffs in “Theodicy” and shows up as flair again at several points in “El Shaddai,” but after the first two songs, Bessie seems to have wandered off the farm. Her loss leaves the band in shambles.
Now, this is one of those opening sentences where you ask, “where is this review headed?” because the sentence itself doesn’t matter at all; it appears to be only a long-winded and self-indulgent exercise in artless circumlocution, stubbornly refusing to end and usher in what must of course be an searing and informational account of Deivos‘s failure in a post-cowbell environment, and, unsurprisingly, that is entirely correct. But the previous sentence is also important because it gives the paragraph character, and it is essential to the reading experience because there is literally nothing else of interest that I can tell you about this album. Almost every song on Theodicy lasts six or seven minutes and goes absolutely fucking nowhere. It’s just boring brutal riff after boring brutal riff punctuated by obligatory bouts of shred and the occasional bass break. Transitions, dynamics, and ebb and flow are not just absent, but have been actively avoided. The between-song breaks are boring ways to cover fade-outs in songs that end in a fade-out because they have no structure, the riffs are invariably cobbled together without any apparent reason, and the creativity of the vocal delivery and lyricism is paralleled only by the current state of the pet rock industry.
As I write this, the only happiness I feel comes from the knowledge that I’m halfway through the album’s penultimate song for the last time and will soon be free to never listen to it again. Theodicy is as easy to enjoy in the moment as Das Kapital and as profound and interesting as a rushed final paper on the book by a drunken undergraduate. Films of slowly desiccating paint prove both more riveting and greater in artistic value. It makes elevator music look like a symphony. Forget about this album. It won’t be hard.