The Stench of Redemption
t’s been a wild ride for Deicide ever since singer/bassist Glen Benton stormed into the office of Monte Conner, Roadrunner Records A&R man, slammed down the demo of his band (then called Amon), and said, "Sign us, you fucking asshole!" He left before Conner had a chance to get off the phone. But Conner listened to the demo and liked Benton's unearthly "demon scream," which layered high-pitched shrieks over guttural death growls. The band signed to Roadrunner, changed its name to Deicide, and unleashed its self-titled debut in 1990. The album took the metal world by storm with its raw, wrathful energy and blasphemous lyrics (Benton, a practicing Satanist, is famous for the upside-down cross he burned into his own forehead). Legion and Once Upon the Cross followed, boasting improved chops and songwriting, respectively. By the mid-'90s, Deicide was a key player in Florida's influential death metal scene, which included bands like Death, Obituary, and Morbid Angel.
However, dissatisfaction with Roadrunner led Deicide to issue a trio of undistinguished albums. Though competent, Serpents of the Light, Insineratehymn, and In Torment, In Hell were short, faceless, and felt like contractual obligations. Controversy also dogged the group. In its early days, Benton was notorious for dousing crowds with chilled animal entrails, and an interview that documented him shooting a squirrel on his property led to bomb threats from animal rights groups. Tension within the band also hampered its creativity. Guitarists and brothers Eric and Brian Hoffman locked horns with Benton over professionalism and royalties, as drummer Steve Asheim played mediator.
Benton found an outlet in Rhode Island death metal group Vital Remains, doing vocals for 2003's Dechristianize. The album was a death metal classic; the guitars were heavily melodic, a quality Deicide had lacked, and Benton's vocals had renewed malevolence. Deicide left Roadrunner and signed to Earache, which reenergized the band. 2004's Scars of the Crucifix was hard-hitting, with hints of melody, but tensions between the Hoffmans and Benton proved too much. The brothers left, replaced by Jack Owen of Cannibal Corpse and Ralph Santolla, ex-Iced Earth.
This new lineup has done wonders for the band. The Stench of Redemption is unapologetically melodic and no less brutal for it. Santolla (who, ironically, is Catholic) and Owen imbue the songs with epic, majestic harmonies. The title track has a neoclassical chord progression that seemingly descends into the depths of hell. Santolla then erupts into a fluid, soaring solo. He's the virtuoso here, but those familiar with Owen's atonal playing in Cannibal Corpse will be shocked to hear him match Santolla in speed and melody. Asheim, the band's primary music writer, feeds his guitarists massive, memorable riffs and girds them with flawless drumming. Benton's demon scream has never sounded more diabolical; imagine Regan from The Exorcist fronting a band. "Homage for Satan" is a thrash throwdown worthy of Reign in Blood—it's that good. "Not of This Earth" is aptly named, with an otherworldly solo by Santolla over thundering triplets. And "The Lord's Sedition" has rare clean tones that settle into a harmonic minor march before yielding to a perfect hailstorm of blastbeats. These songs are fiery additions to hell's hymnal—their Satanic majesties request, indeed.