Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Deceased - As the Weird Travel On (2005)

This wouldn't be the first time a Deceased record has grown on me. While 1997's Fearless Undead Machines elicited positive thoughts on its first spin, that's an effort that I have continued to appreciate in increased capacity for almost two decades now. And lo, sandwiched between my two favorite albums to involve King Fowley, Surreal Overdose and Supernatural Addiction, lies another underrated gem of which I am also responsible for some degree of neglect, As the Weird Travel On, which faithfully carries forward the band's great legacy of entwining speed, heavy, and death metal aesthetics into a confident and consistent exhibition of cult horror worship that is as true to its musical sources as its literary and cinematic inspirations, while remaining completely underground with a 'cool factor' temperature that makes the flesh of the undead seem balmy by comparison. I brought up Fearless Undead Machines, because looking back retroactively at the Virginians' ouvre since that particular evolution is to behold one of the best streaks by an American metal band since the 80s...

Not to fault the first two Deceased full-lengths, which are both good as developmental milestones, but this is a style I can NEVER grow sick of, a seamless integration of the legit sounds I explored as a teenager, where the riffing and structure of various metal strains had become more complicated in terms of both aggression and melody. Not to say that they're 'technical' by any means. Their tracks tend to dwell around the 6-8 minute range, with substantial amounts of riffs and tempo shifts that are persistently catchy. Marginally predictable in some cases, but always leading to something that pops with your ears, like a great, shifting rhythm hook galloping away beneath a lead, or a very tasteful and sparse use of a keyboard to accent some gloomy moonlit vista that erupts from the frothing, shambling speed metal mob converging upon it. Mark Adams and Mike Smith are 'classically' trained axemen in that they have an encyclopedic knowledge of 80s A-, B- and C- tier heavy, power and speed metal, with a healthy dosing of the youthful fits of energy that thrash and crossover brought; but they play a lot of this stuff even faster, to a level of extremity that even some jaded Morbid Angel fan might appreciate.

The drums are perfect on this album, a cavalcade of firm, fiery hard rock rhythms that can easily burst into any intensified technique the hypertension of "A Witness to Suspiria" requires. As the Weird Travel On bears distinction because it's an album where King Fowley himself stepped away from that duty, bringing over Dave Castillo who was also working with his other project October 31, and the man simply doesn't cock it up. Les Snyder's bass lines don't always seem to strike out much terrain on their own, but they really round out the record with a great, audible tone which anchors the lightning that Adams and Smith have let off the leash in both the speed/thrash metal undercurrents and the spastic Maiden-esque leads and harmonies, which are yet another selling point of this album because, while conventional in approach, they are without exception memorable or at the very least perfectly fit to the tracks surrounding them. Deceased even manage to incorporate a bit of dissonant Voivod riffing on a track or two to help round out the record from sounding too straightforward, a trait they used on some of the earlier releases but hadn't reared its head so much on the two albums preceding this.

In sum, As the Weird Travel On is wall-to-wall, shoulder-to-shoulder metal bliss which doesn't age any more than the psychological and corporeal late-night horror cinema that inspires it. Narrative lyrics that describe their ghastly scenes and situations with perspectives both external and internal, melded to the polished but salacious melodic speed death which plays like no other band I can name. Sure, there is DNA planted here by anyone from Rigor Mortis to Iron Maiden, but Fowley and company retain so much of the medium's genuine pulse and translate into such a coherent picture without ever coming off as excessively studio-driven or as trendy as their Swedish counterparts had become by the early 00s. Asked a decade ago, I would have probably ranked this behind its two predecessors, but I have no choice now but say that this is every bit as good as Fearless Undead Machines, and nearly on the plane of its followup. It's also a little more energetic and high speed than either of those, another great salve for those souls needing soothing for their kitsch horror addictions or reminiscences of Halloweens lost, willing to take that injection in both the fight and flight of heavy fucking metal.

Verdict: Win [8.75/10] (prepare for the abbatoir)

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