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Deicide is one of the original Tampa death metal bands. Their career is one filled with exciting highs and depressing lows. In the first part of its career Deicide seemed destined for superstardom thanks to its solid line-up and two promising early albums. “Deicide”, the band’s debut from 1990, was stylistically derivative even for its time yet its unbridled aggression ensured its place in the annals of extreme metal history. A rushjob at behest of Roadrunner Records, the self-titled debut has Deicide in its purest form, unconcerned with industry pressure and free of the conflicts that would come to define the lamentable middle - and latter stages of the Hoffman era. “Deicide” is seething with pure unfettered blasphemous rage.

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What would later be known as Deicide started in earnest in 1985 as an earlier formation dubbed Carnage. Carnage was formulated by lead guitar playing siblings Eric and Brian Hoffman with drummer Steve Asheim (who had relocated from New Jersey to Tampa, Florida to join the combo), and played covers of Slayer, Exodus, Celtic Frost, and Dark Angel songs. Upon the joining of singer Glen Benton (who replaced Joe Bafile from thrash metal outfit Degradation) Carnage gained notoriety in the nascent Tampa, Florida scene thanks to its graphic and intense live performances which saw the band sacrificing mannequins filled with animal intestines, and had frontman Glen Benton splattered in blood in what he suitably had dubbed “god deflecting” battle armor.

Carnage disbanded in 1986 as the band started to write original material. The combo re-emerged in 1987 as formative death metal band Amon. Even though they took their name from the Egyptian pantheon, none of the lyrics had any relation to Egyptian antiquity and/or mythology. Amon quickly wrote enough material for two crudely recorded and self-distributed demo tapes - the second of which was recorded at the prestigious Morrisound facility with local sound guru Scott Burns producing - that created enough of a buzz nationally to pique the interest from Roadrunner Records. It was at the behest of Roadrunner Records (that there were bands called Amon in the Czech Republic and Switzerland at the time was a plausible reason too) that Amon in turn changed name to the more fitting Deicide, the act of killing a divine being, prior to cutting its label debut record.

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Frontman Glen Benton, a showman of the purest blood, was born in Niagara Falls, New York and raised in Tampa, Florida. In an act of youthful indiscretion he branded an inverted cross in his forehead after seeing Brian Hoffman do the same on his arm. More savvy than people give him credit for Benton, who runs the operational - and business aspect of the band with Asheim, would make increasingly outlandish statements in the press in order to drum up publicity whenever there was an album to be promoted. In tradition of British proto-metallers Venom, Benton realized that his Satanic rhetoric was an asset, and thus started to make a series of larger-than-life statements in the press. The band’s profile and mystique grew as Benton’s statements grew in outlandishness. The metal press, true to its sensationalistic and hobbyist nature, was all too eager and willing to indulge him.

“Deicide” was the first of a seven-album deal with Roadrunner Records. As with any debut it had the band in its purest form. All four members contributed to the writing process, and each of them was hungry, determined and enthusiastic. Half of the album consists of songs that directly betray its inspirations, the other half already hint at what direction its next album would etch toward. The debut has some of the most churning primal riffing and fiery soloing on any of the classic four Deicide records. One or two of the more technically refined tracks, especially cuts as ‘Sacrificial Suicide’ and ‘Carnage in the Temple Of the Damned’, are stylistic precursors to the band’s only rightful classic “Legion”.

The album comprises almost entirely of re-recorded tracks from the 1987 “Feasting the Beast” and the 1989 “Sacrificial” demo tapes when the band still was called Amon. ‘Oblivious to Evil’ was known as ‘Oblivious to Nothing’ in its original incarnation. That the album is bookended by the sound of a vault door speaks volumes of the band’s awareness that it was recycling old material. Only ‘Deicide’ and ‘Mephistopheles’ were written specifically for the session. Most of Deicide’s material is redolent of “Seven Churches” Possessed, and Death (“Scream Bloody Gore” and “Leprosy” in particular). The sheer force that Deicide brought to the proceedings made them legends in their own right. The percussive propulsion of Steve Asheim coupled with the fiery lead trade-offs from the Hoffman brothers, Eric and Brian, only added to the intensity.

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As the purest and most unrestrained of all Deicide's output there’s no shortage of absolutely spectacular musicianship. Frontman Glen Benton is memorable mostly for his ferocity. It are drummer Steve Asheim and lead guitar siblings Eric and Brian Hoffman that are the true stars of the record. The stand-out solos can be heard on ‘Sacrificial Suicide’, ‘Oblivious to Evil’, ‘Blaspherereion’, ‘Carnage in the Temple Of the Damned’, ‘Mephistopheles’, and ‘Day Of Darkness’. The album is custodian to Benton’s most versatile, passionate and bestial vocal performance, even though pitch shifters and harmonizers were used on some tracks.

The debut stands as one of Deicide’s most diverse offerings, lyrically. ‘Lunatic Of God’s Creation’ glorifies the life and work of serial killer, cult leader, and latter day pop icon Charles Manson. ‘Dead by Dawn’ details the plot of the Sam Raimi horror flick “The Evil Dead II”, and is clearly inspired by “Scream Bloody Gore” era Death musically. ‘Carnage in the Temple Of the Damned’ is about Guyana cultist Jim Jones. ‘Crucifixion’, a portmanteau of 'crucifixion' and 'fixation', details the regressive fundamentalist Christian mindset that admires blood, suffering, agony, the drinking of their god's blood and the eating of his body.

“Deicide” was the first of many Deicide efforts to be recorded at death metal hit factory Morrisound Studio with sound guru Scott Burns handling the production. Burns was able to capture Deicide’s primal fury and give them the crunch that they required. It was a production band, nor studio, was able to recapture. “Deicide” has the crunchiest, most vibrant yet concrete guitar tone, and a massive, commanding drum production that allowed every little detail that Steve Asheim put in to be clearly heard. The sheer ferocity of the Deicide debut would inspire Buffalo, New York combo Malevolent Creation to its own brand of extremity. The lead trade-offs between the Hoffman siblings would be replicated in whole by Diabolic a decade later. Benton’s alternating vocal style of grunts/shrieks would become a convention in the genre.

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The story of Deicide is one of the most banal in metal history. After starting off with the promising self-titled debut, and following it up with the intensely savage, abstractly technical and loosely conceptual “Legion”, the band had delivered two classic death metal albums. It isn’t very surprising that the band fell into a rud afterwards, releasing competent but unremarkable records with the likes of “Once Upon the Cross” and “Serpents Of the Light” before finally descending into mediocrity and irrelevance. In 2004 the band briefly resurfaced with the so-so sounding “Scars Of the Crucifix”, after which an interpersonal meltdown split the ranks in half, exiting the Hoffman brothers.

amon-band2Since their unceremonious exit from their most known project, the Hoffmans set on to resurrect their original band, Amon. Only in 2007 would the Amon line-up consolidate, with the addition of vocalist/bassist Jesse Michael Jolly and drummer Mike Petrak.  “Liar In Wait”, the long awaited and eagerly anticipated debut, would finally see the light of day in 2012. With an incubation and gestation period this long, the question on any sane person’s mind is: was this album worth the wait – and are the brothers able to one up their former band mates in Deicide? The answer to that is twofold; yes they are and no, they aren’t.

For starters, Amon has an interesting concept in the sense that it deals with alien lifeforms, abstract cosmic themes and New World Order type subjects. The lyrics are interesting to read, and are leagues better than the Satanic claptrap that Deicide are still peddling. Now having said that, the record certainly isn’t without its faults. Given the brothers’ background and an album title as “Liar In Wait”, it isn’t really that hard to imagine that people come into this expecting a Deicide retread. While the comparison holds up musically, conceptually Amon is entirely its own entity. That is to say, it is for the most part. Tracks such ‘Liar In Wait’, ‘Spat Forth From the Darkness’ and ‘Lash Thy Tongue and Vomit Lies’ appear to be, at least in part, holdovers from the Deicide days. The lyrical focus is abstractly anti-religious with a light sci-fi angle. In fact, they are more closely tied to a Deicide track as ‘The Truth Above’ than to any other Amon originals.

From a musical perspective, Amon is what Deicide was in their better, more brighter days, albeit it in a decidedly low profile manner. The album was recorded at Redroom Recorders with producer Mark Prator (Iced Earth), and while it is far from terrible, it does lack that extra layer of gloss and smoothness you’d reasonably expect from musicians of this caliber. The thing is that the record sounds surprisingly good for an entirely self-financed product, but that’s about it. My biggest qualm with this record is that the guitar tone, for however heavy and thick it is, isn’t the clearest and extra clarity and definition would have helped a lot. The same could be said about Petrak’s drum tone. The kickdrums and cymbals sound good enough, but the snare drums and toms sound hollow and aren’t exactly the embodiment of a worthwhile drum production. At least they sound organic and natural, I’ll give them the credit due for getting that right.

Which brings me to the next point of the performances and writing. Brian and Eric noticeably have changed little in regards to their style. The most obvious influences are still Slayer and Possessed, but with Amon their palette has certainly broadened. In terms of leads/solos, the brothers are similar to neo-classical shredders such as Ralph Santolla, Dave Suzuki and John Li. In comparison to those they are surprisingly restraint and not nearly as overindulgent and excessive, which is a welcome breath of fresh air. I can’t say a lot about Jolly’s bass playing because it is inaudible most of the time. It would be interesting to hear him popping away, given the amount of strings his instrument has. Unfortunately he is buried deep beneath the all-encompassing guitars. Petrak’s work behind the kit is fairly non-descript and quite straightforward, he isn’t going to be mistaken for Inferno (Behemoth), Mike Smith (ex-Suffocation), Lee Harrison (Monstrosity), Alex Hernandez (ex-Immolation, Fallen Christ) or Leon Macey (Mithras) anytime soon. If anything, his brand of playing is closer related to Aantar Lee Coates from Tampa stalwarts Diabolic and Unholy Ghost fame.

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Although the cover artwork looks a budget version Doom clone, the design and lay-out are competent and well-handled. Each band member is represented by a unique sigil and the photography is stylish and without excess. Just like the artwork and presentation reek of ‘90s nostalgia, so does the music. Nothing ever comes as a surprise, and while the album is competent in its own right, it doesn’t really do much to advance the brothers’ status or profile. They play faster, and the leads/solos are more ambitious than the Deicide days – but how much is that saying exactly? That they got better? After 25 years they better be. In closing, “Liar In Wait” is exactly what you think it is. This is Tampa, Florida death metal with no strings attached and no new ideas to speak of.

This isn’t the second coming of “Legion” (more like a contemporary interpretation of “Serpents Of the Light”, if anything else) or a breakthrough record on the level of “Dechristianize”. No, far from it. If anything, this album merely consolidates the brothers’ work of the past, and gives them a platform to continue delivering the brand of extremity that they are known and loved for. The Hoffman brothers have proven that they still can deal the damage as good as, if not better, as the younger generation. The real question is: do we, and the scene in general, need them still?