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Deicide - Once Upon the Cross
Review: After a frustrating response to their highly technical second album, Deicide resurrected the simple driving aspects of their music in a even sparser form which hammers home a violence of its own vengeance on the gelatin mentality of servitude. Their first album, Deicide, attracted people for its rhythmic vibrance and anger as well as its simplified speed/death metal structures and Satanic lyrics, and "Once Upon the Cross" continues this tradition with intricate song architectures that decrypt to relentless elemental phrases.
This album invents an almost-new style of music, with powerful rhythmic riffs made from simple components joined into the most violent record yet heard in death metal, in that it is more minimalist and more theatric than most metal of its age. On this album, Deicide is closer to mainstream music than ever before, yet within a technique and compositional attitude of ferocity and hatred.
Riffs are clean-cut and simple, heavy strumming with coherent response from the drumkit. Songs follow verse-chorus loops, which is at first disappointing, but eventually appreciated as the ambient effect of this much musical violence settles into the listener. As usual, lyrics are a series of finely articulated catch phrases strung together with casual words for rhythmic use; Benton shouts the vocals hoarsely over the roar of his band, not quite able to do a death vocal but perfectly able to throw emphasis into the phrases he wants heard.
The godly release that Deicide was (an eternal landmark) has not been matched, but a new direction brings new powers and some interesting lyrics, although the propagandistic stance of "Kill the Christian" ("Rip up their Bible before it's too late") shows how defensively angry Deicide have become. In cadence with muffled strumming to be followed by an unleashed blast of tremelo chords reducing to a central tone, Benton gutpukes his lyrics in a hoarse shout to incite counterrhythm in guitar and the exact but lightly playful drumming of mastermind Steve Asheim (who is credited for writing most of the album).
Lead guitars interweave atonally with the march of chords but exist as support and not augmentation; the rockstar solos of the first album are gone but so are the integral statements of each solo. As a construction of this new ideal, this album achieves an almost transcendental violent alienation, and for that adds a new style to the death metal lexicon, but for the listener its endurance will be lengthy for its tight rhythmic and structural songwriting.