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Few bands can lay claim to not have a single weak record in their discography. Arlington, Virginia death/thrash/heavy metal survivalists Deceased have been underground luminaries all the way back to their demo days, although the world at large would only come to know them with their 1991 debut “Luck Of the Corpse” on Relapse Records. It’s a nothing short of a miracle that King Fowley and his men have been able to release eight albums. Deceased, after all, is not your everyday death metal band. Their career, now in its third decade, has been cursed by an ungodly amount of bad luck and personal tragedy of about every sort. No wonder then that the release of a new Deceased album is only a sporadic, and nigh-on universally acclaimed, event whenever life allows it to happen. “Ghostly White” is the Virginians first new record since 2011’s superb “Surreal Overdose” and was overshadowed by the accidental passing of longtime drummer Dave Castillo while vacationing with his family in his native El Salvador. Castillo also figured into October 31 and had been with Deceased since 2004. “Ghostly White” seems like an appropriate tribute to a fallen colleague as well for a band still haunted by spectres of the past.

Along with Cannibal Corpse, Death, Impetigo, Mortician, Necrophagia, and Repulsion, Deceased were among the pioneering acts to combine the formative death metal sound with horror cinema. On “Luck Of the Corpse” Fowley expressed his love for camp horror, but things took a turn for the mysterious on “The Blueprints For Madness”. “Fearless Undead Machines” was a conceptual effort based upon the original trilogy of Dead movies from late Pennsylvania filmmaker George A. Romero (with an added dose of science-fiction). From “Supernatural Addiction” Fowley explored horror and science-fiction literature from Edgar Allan Poe, Richard Matheson, or Oscar Brand. Deceased continued with that literary approach on “As the Weird Travel On” and “Surreal Overdose”. Ghosts have always been part and parcel with Deceased but “Ghostly White” is the first instance wherein they form the basis for an entire record. Two decades removed from “Fearless Undead Machines” is the culmination of an evolution the Virginians commenced with their legendary 1997 offering. Not only that, in light of Castillo’s all-too-soon passing the title takes on a whole new meaning. “Ghostly White” is a more than loving tribute to their fallen bandmate, drummer, and friend.

Not that Deceased hasn’t been busy ever since aligning themselves with underground specialist label Hells Headbangers for the LP version of “Surreal Overdose”. In 2015 King and his men released two compilations. First there was "Cadaver Traditions", a double-disc effort that combined the band’s out-of-print classic metal cover album “Zombie Hymns” from 2002, as well as 2004’s “Rotten to the Core” that saw Deceased covering their favorite hardcore/punk tunes with a whopping 17 tracks of previously unreleased material as a bonus. Second, the band’s classic “Birth by Radiation” and “Nuclear Exorcist” demos, from 1988 and 1989, respectively were re-issued in the form of the "Demos from the Grave" compilation. In these times of oversaturation and a near-inpenetrable amount of product, a band like Deceased is a rarity. Here’s a band that has lived by the old adage of “quality over quantity”. Over a thirty year career they’ve amassed a respectable discography, but it can hardly be called excessive. Every album has that hard to pinpoint timeless quality. It certainly helps that each is bereft of any modern influence, irrespective of when and by whom it was released. The strength lies in Deceased’s immense songwriting skill that draws from several decades worth of metal history, knowledge, and years of collective experience. Like the best bands in the genre Deceased has their own sound, one that few have dared imitate.

Fowley has always been exceptionally gifted as a lyricist and at least since “As the Weird Travel On” he has taken great pains to diversify and branch out thematically. Over the years his ability to weave a compelling narrative has only increased and “Ghostly White” is everything that “Fearless Undead Machines” was while casting a wider net and spanning a number of ethereal – and material subjects. Now moreso than ever is that manifest on “Ghostly White” as it covers the expected amount of classic horror movies and literature, but also some surprisingly real subjects. The record opens with ‘Mrs. Allardyce’, a song dedicated to the unseen antagonist from Dan Curtis' Burnt Offerings (1976) and the original Robert Marasco novel upon which it was based. It then storms into the most ambitious Deceased epic in recent memory with the absolutely gargantuan 13-minute colossus ‘Germ of Distorted Lore’. ‘Germ of Distorted Lore’ is about many things, but primarily about campfire tales and their function, or how mankind fabricates horror stories in folklore to deal with the fear of the unknown or the not-yet explained. It’s easily Deceased’s own ‘Rhyme Of the Ancient Mariner’. Over the years Deceased has had several brushes with illness and death, and ‘A Palpitation’s Warning’ is just about that. Related to that ‘Endless Well’ criticizes the boundless mendacity and greed of the pharmaceutical industry, their complicity in substance abuse and addiction, and the surrounding culture of (self) medication that gives rise to said dependencies in the first place. 'The Shivers' is about David Cronenberg's Shivers (1975) and ‘Thoughts From a Leaking Brain’ was inspired by the gothic horror literature of Edgar Allan Poe. ‘Pale Surroundings’ (an excellent contender for possible album title in and of itself) is about John Hancock’s Let's Scare Jessica to Death (1971), one of the revered American gothic horrors set in contemporary times.

While there’s still some merit to labeling Deceased as a death metal band they have, most certainly in the last decade and a half or so, proven again and again that they are, and have been, transcending the boundaries of the genre from whence for many years now. Just like now defunct Arlington, Texas epic doom metal combo Solitude Aeturnus there has always been (or at least since 1995’s “The Blueprints For Madness”, for those who keep track of such things) a traditional metal component that has only become more prominent and pronounced as the years wore on. Since that time – and as records as “Supernatural Addiction”, “As the Weird Travel On” and “Surreal Overdose” have aptly demonstrated – Deceased is a thrash/heavy metal act first and everything else (especially death metal) a far and distant second. Before anything else “Ghostly White” is another jewel in Deceased’s already studded crown and all the evidence that good things come to those who wait. Many metal bands often like to talk about integrity but Deceased have been quietly building up a catalog of stellar records that many envy and even fewer can match. Always a niche band, and forever outside of popular taste, “Ghostly White” evinces that age hasn’t dulled Deceased. Instead it has only served to strengthen their resolve. Hail King and his men! May the Night of the Deceased be everlasting.

“Choronzonic Chaos Gods” is the last Centurian album of the original line-up that included future Severe Torture members Seth van de Loo (vocals), and Patrick Boleij (bass guitar). Despite the somewhat misleading imagery and album title, only a few of the tracks actually deal with the Thelemic Chaos Magick subject thematically. It is a rejuvenation of the classic 90s Morbid Angel and Deicide death metal sound. It was the Dutch equivalent of the South American – and Florida death metal sound in many ways.

Centurian, the spiritual successor to speed/thrash metal unit Inquisitor, sounds very inspired by, and is a contemporary interpretation of, “Abominations Of Desolation” Morbid Angel, “Legion” era Deicide, and early Krisiun (“Black Force Domain” specifically). The spirit of Inquisitor, in terms of music as much as lyrics, still looms over Centurian on this record as it is far thrashier than any of its future output. This becomes especially apparent in tracks as ‘The Law Of Burning’ or ‘Let Jesus Bleed’. Centurian would abandon the last vestiges of its thrash metal past on the following album. ‘In the Name Of Chaos’ is an early example of what direction the band would take on “Liber ZarZax”.

centurian-choronzoniclineupCarrying the band musically are drummer Wim Van der Valk and lead guitarist Rob Oorthuis. Rounding out the line-up are Seth van de Loo (vocals), and Patrick Boleij (bass guitar) – while both deliver exemplary performances, they were hardly what defined Centurian. Van de Loo’s vocals are an approximation of Monstrosity frontman Jason Avery, and Boleij’s bass licks are more felt than heard, a fault that would thankfully be remedied with his own more Cannibal Corpse inspired project Severe Torture. The true highlights of the songs are the frantic leads/solos of guitarist Rob Oorthuis. The lead work reflects the Morbid Angel and Krisiun influence. Unlike their Brazilian peers Centurian is dynamically richer and, on this record in particular, also far thrashier.

‘Damned and Dead’ is a re-working of ‘Outro’ that appeared on the “Of Purest Fire” demo/EP. ‘Hail Caligula!!!’ samples the impalement scene from the 1982 exploitation peplum/sword-and-sandal cheapie “Caligula, the Untold Story” by legendary Italian shlockmeister Aristide Massaccesi (popularly known internationally under his pseudonym Joe D’Amato). Only ‘In the Name Of Chaos’ deals with the band’s Chaos theme that would feature prominently on this album’s much-lauded successor. The only conceptual shortcoming is that Chaos concept is hardly explored beyond the peripheral. “Liber ZarZax” would, at least in part, rectify this mishap – but the majority of Centurian’s lyrics continue to revolve around protest of organized religion. However seeing how the Chaos theme features so prominently in the visuals one is hardpressed not to notice how few times the record actually bothers to deal with said subject.

For the last time the band recorded at Q.S.A. Studio with Vincent Dijkers producing, and it isn’t hard to hear why. Dijkers’ work behind the console is adequate for what it intends to achieve but it by and large remains a glorified and much bass-heavier demo production. Despite its shortcomings the production fits the music. The guitars, rhythm as well as lead, are crunchy and vibrant, while the bass guitar is felt more than it is heard. Only the drums sounded better on the band’s 1997 “Of Purest Fire” demo. On almost all fronts the album was an improved over the demo. “Choronzonic Chaos Gods” was the second of three Centurian records with very similar artwork. This album’s artwork was painted in the blood of lead guitarist/co-founder Rob Oorthuis to spiritually charge the album. It is rather interesting in retrospect that regional death metal combo Zi Xul and its members are mentioned in the album’s thanklist.

“Choronzonic Chaos Gods” was released on American black metal specialist label imprint Full Moon Productions in 1999, and duly re-issued in 2014 by American underground specialist label Hells Headbangers Records to capitalize on the band’s reactivation. As far as contemporary death metal goes Centurian, along with Rebaelliun, were among its better examples. What sets Centurian apart from its imitators was the underlying thrash – and speed metal foundation, and the surprisingly dynamic writing within a high-speed framework. The stellar lead playing would also rapidly become a lost art among younger bands in the genre, especially in the more brutal subset of the genre. Even with the conceptual and productional shortcomings “Choronzonic Chaos Gods” is a very accomplished and contemporary rejuvenation of the classic Florida death metal sound as pioneered by genre pillars Deicide and Morbid Angel.