Skip to content

cover-diabolic04.jpg

 

Sometime after the release and touring campaign for “Vengeance Ascending” a schism occurred within the ranks of Diabolic. On one hand there was co-founder/lead guitarist Brian Malone, and the other the remaining three members (Coates, Ouellette, Mortellaro). Both camps carried on with each their own version of the band. Malone recruited Ed Webb (vocals, bass guitar), Eric Hersemann (lead guitar) and French drummer Gaël Barthélemy. The other three members formed Unholy Ghost together with Pessimist lead guitarist Kelly McLaunchlin. Of the two units the Malone-led Diabolic released its new album “Infinity Through Purification” in 2003, while the Unholy Ghost record arrived merely a year later. Which is the best? Least Worst Option looks at both.

diabolic2Making his debut is lead guitarist Eric Hersemann, and his influence is felt deeply through out the album. The winding song structures go through conflicting guitar lines, Malone’s patented slashing riffing and all tracks are full of dissonant rhythm sections and eerie circular melodies that add depth to the lead/solo trade-offs. Hersemann’s style is all over the writing and combined with Brian Malone’s more straightforward style it is the most ambitious, conceptual and musical, Diabolic record to date. Interesting is that Eric Hersemann would later leave this band to form his own band Gigan, which focused more on dissonance, weird rhythms and his signature melodies. The echoing spoken word part in ‘Internal Mental Cannibalism’ is something the band hadn’t attempted prior. Barthélemy’s drumming is also more fill oriented, and while blasts and cymbal crashes are the bread-and-butter of Diabolic here they are wrapped in a sort of musicality and technical flourish that the band would never be able to recapture. Webb’s vocal style is a lot more emotive and dynamic than Ouellette’s, although both are equal in terms of how average and substandard they sound. Webb is no Jon Vesano for one.

One of the things you’ll notice is that the tempo isn’t as breakneck as it once was. The band still plays ridiculously fast, but these fast parts are now the counterpart to the midpaced – and technical sections. The greater attention to flow and dynamics also makes the tracks of this album more listenable, whereas in the past most Diabolic songs would just mesh together with only the solos to individualize then. More integral to the songs than ever before are the leads/solos. Where in the past the band would just blast without a sense of direction or purpose, here the writing accommodates the solo’ing and the other way around. Everything has its purpose, and everything is there for a reason. Increased in importance also are the bass guitar lines, and while Malone is not revitalizing his band on that end, at least these popping and throbbing lines can be clearly heard now, which is a first for this band. For the most part the bass guitar doubles the guitars, but the interplay between the lively bass lines and the spirited drum performance from Gaël Barthélemy makes this the most interesting Diabolic release as far as the rhythm section is concerned. Everything is just more ambitious and intelligent.

The fourth Diabolic record is notable for just how much it breaks with tradition on all fronts. This album was recorded at Sonic Ranch Studios in El Paso, Texas (not at Diet Worms in Florida), it has artwork by Eric Pertl (not Joe Petagno) and while Malone’s riffing style is largely similar to the past “Infinity Through Purification” is the most technical, diverse and ambitious record the band had written – ever. Although vocalist Ed Webb is credited as bass guitarist, it was Brian Malone who laid the down the instrument while in the studio. The drumming style of Barthélemy is also radically different from the one of Coates. In fact, Barthélemy is far more elaborate, refined and technically accomplished than Coates ever was. It is truly unfortunate that this was Gaël Barthélemy’s only studio recording with this otherwise forgettable Tampa, Florida unit. The reaction to the album was lukewarm and mixed, which eventually led to the project being abandoned by founding member Malone. It would have been interesting to hear what this line-up could have crafted if they stayed together longer.

“Infinity Through Purification” is entirely different from the three albums that came before it. It is not surprising to note that this record split the fanbase and remains divisive to this day. Malone’s Diabolic eventually fell apart with Barthélemy returning to his home turf in France, Hersemann went on to join Hate Eternal and would front his own band Gigan a couple of years down the line. Ed Webb has in more recent years joined reformed Tampa death metal combo Massacre. Diabolic, again with Aantar Lee Coates behind the drumkit, reformed in 2006, and released a new album “Excisions Of Exorcisms” through Deathgasm Records to little fanfare, or critical acclaim in 2010. Due to ongoing personel problems the band is once again experiencing another bout of inactivity. It remains to be seen whether Diabolic manage to push out another record once the line-up solidifies again. It wouldn’t be surprising if they eventually decide to call it a day. This shouldn’t be considered a loss since Diabolic never was really good.

cover-diabolic01.jpg

 

Tampa, Florida outfit Diabolic was what you call a “stock” death metal band. There’s nothing truly bad about them, but they aren’t the prime example of the genre either.  Their work is enjoyable and crafted with a respectable amount of skill and dexterity, yet nothing of it is ever truly remarkable, or vital to the genre. Inspired in equal amount by Slayer, Deicide and Morbid Angel, for a moment in the early 2000s, they were poised to become underground hopefuls. For they had everything one could possibly want at the time: Morbid Angel riffs, plenty of blasts and truly demonic looking Joe Petagno artwork. Fate decided otherwise, and the band dissolved as soon as it had arrived, leaving three sub-classic records in its wake, and a fourth last-ditch effort to revive the brand.  “Supreme Evil” is the first of three “classic” era albums, and the only in this constellation.

Yet as derivative as it is, there’s something uniquely terrifying about “Supreme Evil”. This was released only a year after the band had formed. Seldom does a band sound this convincing and together on a debut record. This was far more hungry, violent and aggressive sounding than any of the key Florida bands of the time, be they Deicide or Morbid Angel, as most obvious and direct comparisons. If anything, Diabolic was never the most original or gifted band on the scene. What they did, they did with gusto, muscle and professionalism – but does functionality mean formidability? No, of course not! “Supreme Evil” steals from the best, but at least knows why it is stealing from the sources that it does. This debut album is also unique in the sense that it is the only classic era recording to feature vocalist Paul Ouellette on rhythm guitar duties.

The meat of this album consists of ‘Sacrament Of Fiends’, ‘Grave Warnings’, ‘View With Abhorrence’, ‘Dwelling Spirits’ and the title cut. These tracks are overall better composed, more engrossing and more ambitious than the rest of the tracks. Through out the record there are numerous excellent leads/solos, but the riffing tends to be of the watered down variety. It is all sufficiently groovy, but workable arrangements and some truly effective dynamics, but on the whole it is too mundane sounding to be called good. There are throwaway tracks, a good deal of them. ‘Insacred’, ‘Ancient Hatred’ and partly ‘Wicked Inclination’ are lowly cuts that don’t really add a lot to the band’s established sound, nor does their presence elevate this debut album in any perceivable way.  Add to that the hoarse David Vincent (circa “Altars Of Madness”) bark of rhythm guitarist Paul Ouellette, and the interchangeable riffing (outside of the solos) by Malone - only Ed Webb’s thundering bass guitar redeems the compositions somewhat, but it is not heard often enough to be truly of any merit outside of providing bottom end heaviness.

Diabolic is centered around its two central figureheads/co-founders, lead guitarist Brian Malone and drummer Aantar Lee Coates. In the band’s classic era, it is the songwriting alchemy between Malone and Coates provided the band with its most respected material. Taking cues from early thrash metal (Coates) as well as Florida death metal (Malone) Diabolic is both easy to get into, and not too demanding in terms of arrangements, technicality and overall architecture. Ultimately, this is both to the band’s strength as it is a detriment. Despite all the muscle, percussive propulsion and speed, there isn’t a lot of substance to these songs – and the band as a whole. Diabolic exist at a crossroads, not as outright hellish as Krisiun, nor as thrashy as Angelcorpse or as esoteric as Morbid Angel. There are influences of all three, but these add up to nothing in particular. The pieces fit, and there’s a wonderful old school aestethic to the record, but that’s all positive that can be said about it. It sounds good and it ticks the required boxes, but that’s where things end. Diabolic is only a sum of its parts, but nothing more sadly.

“Supreme Evil” isn’t a vital record, nor a very remarkable one. It is solid in what it does, and internally consistent in regards to its concept and architecture. Diabolic wears its influences proud on its sleeves, and never aspires to more than aping its more popular regional forces. Its derivateness is endearing, but not enough to carry the band to the next level. It is not hard to see why this band never truly took off, or reached greater heights of popularity or commercial success. Diabolic are solid, but not exceptionally gifted or talented. The music does not warrant a greater status than that of a solid, reliable and somewhat mediocre sounding third-tier Florida death metal band.