Let’s talk about cult bands for a moment. Were you ever find the actual Book ov Heavy Metal and look up the word “cult,” there on the sacred parchment would be a photo of Virginia’s death/thrash warriors, Deceased flipping you the bird as they spill cheap beer on their ragged denim war vests. These metal lifers have been banging away with abandon since the 1980s, always with limited notoriety, though one of a kind frontman King Fowley has been everywhere on the festival circuit playing with October 31 or anyone else who has extra brewskis. Their career peaked with 1997s Fearless Undead Machines, which showcased the most sophisticated version of the band’s chaotic blend of death, thrash and traditional metal. Since then they’ve only managed to release 3 full-lengths1, the last being 2011s highly entertaining Surreal Overdose. Spotty release schedule aside, a new Deceased album is always a treat because of what the band brings to the table. To say they go all in doesn’t do their style justice. This is a band that throws everything against the wall and doesn’t wait to see what sticks before throwing everything again harder. Early speed and thrash ideas exists alongside classic metal themes as raw proto-death akin to Venom and Possessed coats the whole enterprise in an oily toxic sludge. They’re kind of the older brother act to Desaster and often sound like a more melodic Autopsy. This is a band so fookin’ metal they were born with both lead and mercury poisoning, and that’s metal, kids.
Surprise, surprise, these slobbering old school cretins haven’t changed a bit since we last heard them. Opener “Mrs. Alladyce” hammers you with 7-plus minutes of manic thrash with Fowley’s trademark pseudo-death rasps and roars. An ode to the cult classic horror film Burnt Offerings, the song rips and tears along in that rowdy, heedlessly unhinged way that always made Deceased so endearing. It sounds like the oops baby of an illicit Sodom and Motörhead tryst who was subsequently abandoned in a sewer and grew up eating rats and bugs. Fowley sounds like he’s having a major breakdown and the guitars run the entire emotional gamut from mindless rage to irrational anger. It’s soupy, sloppy and tons of hyper-kinetic fun. “A Palpation’s Warning” is a berserk thrasher with spiraling guitar solos ripped from Agent Steel or Holy Terror albums and vocals straight from a padded, double bolted cell.
The album high point is the back-to-back gruesome twosome of “To Serve the Insane” and “The Shivers,” both mega-aggressive burners with more energy than you’ll be able to safely absorb. These cuts highlight Deceased at their lunatic best, writing fast, but memorable tunes crammed full of odd quirks and ticks, like the melodic guitar leads that almost don’t fit with the elbow throwing, tooth loosening thrash. The commitment to excess really works here, as do the very Agent Steel-esque riffs that populate “The Shivers, and the Motörhead influence in both songs is especially tasty. Hell, even the 13-plus minutes of “Germ of Distorted Lore” works well despite the ridiculous length due to a plethora of wild, fist-pumping riffs and hair-raising solos.
And that brings us to the biggest issue with Ghostly White – the song lengths. Deceased can write wildly entertaining, hyperactive music, and while they’ve featured long songs in the past, they really seem to have lost their ability to self-edit here. Nearly every song runs 1-3 minutes too long, which ultimately saps some of the fun out the tunes and the album itself, which at 50 minutes, could have been tightened up. Even my favorite cuts like “The Shivers” could easily drop 2 minutes and be the better for it. Even excess must come in moderation it seems.
Musically, Ghostly White benefits enormously from the guitar tandem of Mike Smith and Shane Fuegel. They bring everything to the grave party from 80s speed and thrash riffs to loads of traditional metal ideas, all of which are stewed in a witch’s cauldron and baked in a crematorium. Without their crazed and dynamic axe attack, this just wouldn’t feel as lively and fun. As always, King Fowley is a love or hate vocal talent. His exuberantly maniacal roars, rasps and screams are everywhere, and though he can overdo it, his Neanderthal charisma usually overcomes his technical shortcomings.
This is not quite as triumphant as Surreal Overdose, mostly due the bloated song lengths, but it’s great to hear Deceased doing their wacky shtick again, and there’s a cosmic ass-ton of fun to be had. Ghostly White is easily the most metal album of 2018 if nothing else, as well as one of the most mindlessly entertaining releases you’ll encounter this year. Welcome back from the dead, Deceased. The metal meat grinder just wasn’t as much fun without you freaks. Up the tombstones!
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Hells Headbangers
Website: the-true-deceased.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/DECEASED-UP-THE-TOMBSTONES-OFFICIAL
Releases Worldwide: November 16th, 2018