Deicide – Banished by Sin


When you think of Florida’s death metal pioneers, you think of Death, Morbid Angel and Obituary. Deicide emerged from the Tampa Bay scene a year after Slowly We Rot and Altars of Madness changed the face of extreme metal, and they also surfaced with a self-titled classic of their own produced by Scott Burns. Their 1992 Legion album was just as important and has many fans and critics willing to praise it as a desert island disc. Indeed, the band also achieved the rare feat of releasing an undisputed masterpiece in the next decade, when they returned in 2006 with The Stench of Redemption following the departure of their founding axemen, the Hoffman brothers.

But it was never just about the music with this band. Frontman, Glen Benton, seldom stayed out of the pages of the music press for most of the 1990s, whether it be the inverted crucifix he tattooed onto his forehead; his pledge to commit suicide at age 33; his shocking act of animal cruelty committed during an interview with NME; or the bombing of a Deicide show in Norway in 1992. Some death metal fans (like this reviewer) ignored them as controversialists demanding opprobrium from Conservative America. So, what better way to give them a chance than by hopping in at album number thirteen with an open mind?

Banished by Sin is comfortable with its formula and unconcerned with the reaction it will garner in the music press. This group started in a garage playing the music they wanted to hear, and that comes through in opener, ‘From Unknown Heights You Shall Fall’. Its galloping thrash metal intro of rapid guitars and whammy bar effects sets the scene for Benton to stop the proceedings with a terrific roar as if given that role by a casting director. There’s nothing wrong with this type of crunchy death metal built around Slayer riffs and triggered drums. They were once the scariest band in the world – now they sound like one of the most technical metal outfits in the world.

Like Cannibal Corpse, their reputation precedes them. Drill down into Deicide’s music, and it’s just as relevant to the air-guitar nerds as the people that follow it for darker reasons. ‘Doomed to Die’ is like a sharper version of the classic Morbid Angel era. Here, the use of dual vocals is barbaric, yet it leaves you with a predatory smile on your face. ‘Bury the Cross… with Your Christ’ is flawless death metal with the high-treble riffing of Dark Angel. This is how you use your fretboard to get the most of out of your instrument. There’s no deviation from the verse-bridge-chorus structure here, yet it never sounds stale. Vader are this band’s true contemporaries.

Deicide recognise the limitations of death metal when the genre believes that its listeners want unadulterated brutality – none of these songs exceed four minutes, nor should they. If this is more of the same, it’s a flavour that has its merits to the sceptical ear. You can’t accuse Deicide of a lack of passion. Could ‘Ritual Defied’ be a gateway into death metal for newbies, or a beacon that can help those that lost touch with the scene? Either way, it can help both parties steer clear of the derivative crap and dissonant nonsense that wants to be a sub-genre of jazz-fusion.

Only one criticism arises during this album – it offers no surprises (see ‘Failures of Your Dying Lord’ and ‘I Am I… a Curse of Death’). Would we be as enthusiastic if this was the debut LP from a new death metal band? No, we wouldn’t. Likewise, artists have so little room for manoeuvre in this genre to be creative with the rhythm of the vocal lines – that’s what makes it repetitive. ‘A Trinity of None’ (track ten) is the point where the malaise sets in, and the songs become more of a chore than a pleasure.

Death metal lost its vitality when it severed its roots to thrash metal – Deicide remind us that the Florida bands were a continuation of the Bay Area and Teutonic giants. There are plenty of finger-squirming moments of malevolent delight here. Indeed, closing track, ‘The Light Defeated’, is the nearest thing to an anthem. Compare this to the new Blaze of Perdition album – which one would you rather spin at full-volume with your car windows down?


Verdict


Release Date: 26/04/2024

Record Label: Reigning Phoenix Music

Standout tracks: From Unknown Heights You Shall Fall; Faithless; Ritual Defied

Suggested Further Listening: Sepultura – Beneath the Remains (1989), Vader – Revelations (2002), Jungle Rot – A Call to Arms (2022)