Deceased - _As the Weird Travel On_
(Thrash Corner Records, 2005)
by: T. DePalma (9.5 out of 10)
"Why do you think they write stuff like that?"

"Like that?" I pointed off to the stereo. There was a CD from a small Chicago outfit named The Raunchous Brothers playing in the background; violent, racist and misogynistic as all hell. I had thrown it on in a lull to test the sensibilities of my guest.

"Not just this, but why do bands write shock in general? Gore and things, like all the death metal you listen to."

The Brothers are more of an old-school thrash and heavy metal band, but their extreme points of view were enough to spark conversation into other areas. This in itself is a reason "why", but only partially. In a brief and somewhat haughty reply, I offered "Well, why do some people make horror movies? Of course, a lot of this seems just to shock, but as far as death metal, the more intelligent bands I think contextualize awareness of mortality through music."

"Yeah, okay. They just like horror movies."

Incredulity is often the end result of trying to explain death metal beyond it being "fucking crazy, hail Satan". Casual listeners apprised of only Cannibal Corpse and Deicide (like my guest) are no more accepting of a "serious" answer than mainstream folks that laugh at the vocals. The dysgenic turn to metalcore in the last five years hasn't helped either. I trust that you, the Reader, have already made up your mind about all this before, but the questions of intent and potential are so entwined to our present subject's work that I couldn't help the anecdote.

In this context, the horror analogy is completely relevant. What George Romero and Rod Sterling brought to media through their respective work on "The Twilight Zone", and the "Dead" trilogy, Deceased sought to bring out in death metal -- concepts that used our fascination with the macabre as a backdrop for dramatic expositions about society, science and humanity involved in both conjuring and confronting our demise. To expose our primitiveness obscured by modern living. In twenty years, Deceased has been consistent not only in sound but concept, whatever the details, mordantly detailing the psychological impact of approaching death. However, this time the terminus that the proverbial "You and I" retreat from is not an army of post-modern Frankenstein monsters, killer dolls or psychic vampires. The agent of our demise is a formless, ineffable entity. It's any moment in time. _As the Weird Travel On_ approaches the end minus fictional decorations. And with good reason...

Since releasing the _Behind the Mourner's Veil_ EP three years prior, Deceased has undergone a string of setbacks that threatened the existence, not just of the band, but of vocalist / drummer King Fowley. Following the death of his mother in 2002, Fowley sought medical attention for continued pain and swelling in his right leg with a sudden shortness of breath. After finding nothing medically out of the ordinary, Fowley went back on the road playing shows with his side-project October 31. About a week later he returned to the hospital with pain and a fever, soon diagnosed as a blood clot that began in the leg and had spread to his lungs, causing irreparable harm to his respiratory system. His right lung, King explained in 2003, had "gone without oxygen for too long and was now dead". He noted that no particular reason was given as to why this occurred in the first place. While recovering, the band released a myriad of novelty releases (the early demos pressed on CD, a punk covers album and select studio cuts from _Fearless Undead Machines_ and _Supernatural Addiction_) and began working on the new record. Then in 2004, Fowley suffered what's been called a mild stroke due to a blood clot in the brain -- "about the size of a walnut". Because of these problems, King Fowley is no longer able to play drums, and so the band has recruited Dave Castillo to join the band on the kit for these eight new tracks of acerbic death/thrash.

First things first, the vocals on this album are absolutely monstrous. For pure style and volume, this is the most powerful they've ever sounded. While they're consequently much more diffuse, King can still extend his growls to communicate each line appropriately with the flow of the track and lyrics. You'd hardly guess he's been through any trouble at all. Until you begin reading. Emotive without becoming lachrymose and so vividly honest in approaching the subject, the booklet offers suffocating expressions of anxiety, gloom and mortality. "The Kept":

"The fears I fear yet never have I made the change
For years and years yet every day it ends the same
Lost Touch lost time I'm growing older not so wise
Mature, naïve, and every day it ends the same."

Yet a number of tracks uphold hopeful affirmations of life within the demented implosion and manage to improve on areas they've delved into before (compare "The Funeral Parlours Secret" to "A Reproduction of Tragedy"). Appreciation of the lyrics does not hinge on the knowledge of Fowley's near un-doing, but it does help contextualize things. Like the album's vague mechanism of doom. There is no spectral vengeance, no retribution from beyond, only the ongoing degenerating of mental and physical life ("For every birth one day there is goodbye"). And while these aren't the most stylish words Deceased have penned, they exhibit a strong atmosphere of confusion and fear with a palpable sense of reality.

"Missing Pulse now passed away tainted senses find demise
Pulse beat prisoner with the stare production
Halted and comprised"

This composite section of "Missing a Pulse", which gives such a perfect image of Tom Araya singing when read in silence, actually precedes a break that is total _Reign in Blood_ worship before shifting back into the main verse line. Again and again we find Deceased touching on their permanent influences more directly in skillful nods that don't detract from the unity of each track. Style explosions which blend the lyrical rhythm of Slayer, melodic D.R.I. thrashcore, racing pull-offs and Razor-meets-Maiden twin guitar melodies. Even a brief venture in the country-horror territory of the Coffinshakers appears with the intro to "A Craving Illness". There's seldom a missing piece to these songs in terms of a hook or break that compels you to return, that makes every minute worth listening, or that doesn't build so smoothly into that riff or chorus with fantastic leads. Similar to what they've always done, Mark Adam and Mike Smith play to their strengths using often simple rhythms to underline the music, providing a huge amount of atmosphere (probably more so than ever in the closing track "Fright") within these brief accompaniments.

"Clinging always to my mind, living always in my mind
Why wait the final outcome, I know it's here for me
The Fork is waiting in the road"

Cogent, styled and determined, this album is raging not only a will to live but to overcome everything within it; except the impossible: death, master of all, which is here honored and respected on par with life, achieving a sophisticated balance within. At a time when much of the music press focuses on the swarm of reunions and comebacks within the genre -- which to this reviewer, have nearly all been unfruitful -- here is a band that has never sunken into the dramatic bullshit of breakups and burnouts; almost because they've been consistent and focused on their craft, they've been slightly overlooked so far this year. But this is an album that defines what it's all about; and a feeling of transition, what with the small forays into new styles to compliment what they've already perfected, hints at new turns ahead. Highly recommended.


(article published 12/8/2005)

9/2/2005 T DePalma Deceased: Weird Tales Vol. 1
9/14/1997 D Schinzel Deceased: Night of the Deceased
5/25/2000 P Schwarz 9 Deceased - Supernatural Addiction
8/12/1997 D Schinzel 9 Deceased - Fearless Undead Machines
8/12/1997 D Schinzel Deceased / Black Army Jacket / DeathKids Better Late Than Never
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