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A number of the Florida death metal old guard have come back with some of their strongest records in many years. Morbid Angel, Monstrosity, and now Deicide. For largely incomprehensible reasons Deicide has long been enshrined as a legend. Despite having been mired in mediocrity for about two decades Deicide is for some unfathomable reason still considered important irrespective of the great majority of their output being actively mediocre or even hostile to the listener. Deicide made a name for themselves through blood drenched early performances, the usage of “god-deflecting” armor and outlandish statements from their larger-than-life frontman Glen Benton. There’s no contesting that both “Deicide” and “Legion” are worth every accolade bestowed on them. The post-Hoffman years have yielded exactly one classic record with 2006's “The Stench Of Redemption”. However, “The Stench Of Redemption”, lest we forget, was little more than “Serpents Of the Light” with overly shredding and flowery solos courtesy of the late virtuoso Ralph Santolla and Jack Owen. The Sunshine State’s most enduring enfant terrible hasn’t been controversial nor incendiary to any degree in a long, long time. “Overtures Of Blasphemy”, their twelfth record overall, is largely similar to the albums surrounding it. Above all else Deicide has become shockingly efficient at producing consistent albums, even if they are seldom very inspired.

All things considered Deicide have done good for themselves. Granted the days of Deicide epitomizing the ultimate evil are long gone. The post-Hoffman years haven’t exactly been kind to them, nor have they been one of great innovation. Not that the Hoffman brothers have been faring any better on their own, mind. In comparison, Eric and Brian have since their departure in 2004 released “Liar In Wait” with their Amon in 2012. Amon played a grand total of 2 shows in 2017, their only 2 shows since reforming a decade prior. They also have been attempting to crowdfund a second album, campaigns that have proven unsuccessful. At least since 1995’s “Once Upon the Cross” Deicide has adopted an unbelievably streamlined and mercifully compact writing style that plays up to the rather limited abilities of its weakest, most iconic member. Glen Benton is a lot of things but he’s not a good performer. His abilities as a bass guitarist remain forever dubious and the wear-and-tear of 30 years of international touring and the irrevocable passage of time have taken their toll on his vocal cords. The voice of Legion these days sounds suspiciously like Max Cavalera. Since the joining of guitarist Kevin Quirion in 2008 that writing style has been pushed to its logical conclusion. “Overtures Of Blasphemy” is but a variation of “To Hell With God” and “In the Minds Of Evil”. Thankfully it is slightly more ambitious and marginally more hungry sounding.

That Deicide no longer possesses an inch of the character and zest they once held is a truism at this point. Truthfully, they should have split up years ago. Asheim would feel right at home in Malevolent Creation and Benton could finally stop pretending that he actually still cares. “Overtures Of Blasphemy” is better than the last two Deicide albums and far more enjoyable than the two Vital Remains albums on which Benton appeared, but how much does that say exactly? Not much. Somehow, some way Deicide has survived two career slumps on as much labels. While little more than an extension of “To Hell With God” and “In the Minds Of Evil” there’s a fire on “Overtures Of Blasphemy” that has been absent from the band’s output since “The Stench Of Redemption”. Deicide, age and overall redundancy notwithstanding, has found purpose and focus again, it seems. Not that this album will be going down the history books as vitally important or as a new classic anytime soon. Not much of what Deicide has released in the last decade qualifies as such. “Overtures Of Blasphemy” won’t be dethroning “The Stench Of Redemption” as a modern day classic in any shape or form. Deicide is not the band to expect any profound artistic statements from. In the modern age Deicide is all about efficiency instead of artistry. Deicide has elevated to functionality to an artform. “Overtures Of Blasphemy” is the embodiment of functionality, if nothing else.

Compared to their Gibsonton brethren in Obituary, Deicide’s latter-day output has a charm all its own. It possesses a mad thrashing energy that was largely absent in the twilight Hoffman – and Ralph Santolla years. The addition of Kevin Quirion allowed the melodic inclinations that the late Santolla introduced to become an integral part of the sound. Deicide’s third lead guitar tandem Kevin Quirion and Mark English might prove to be their most versatile. Neither Quirion nor English lose themselves in excessive showboating the way Ralph Santolla was often prone to. Stylistically “Overtures Of Blasphemy” shows a few overlaps with “Serpents Of the Light” in how bare-bones and minimal most of its songs are in terms of structure and length. 4 songs barely reach the 3-minute mark, the remainder barely cross the 3-minute mark. No song even reaches 4 minutes. The longest track on the record is ‘One with Satan’ that clocks in at an economic 3:47. Deicide hasn’t penned another ‘Homage For Satan’, ‘When Heaven Burns’, ‘Creatures Of Habit’ or ‘Kill the Christian’ and likely “Overtures Of Blasphemy” won’t yield any new classics. Which isn’t to say that “Overtures Of Blasphemy” isn’t catchy. It is. At 38 minutes it’s one of the longer Deicide offerings in recent memory. It swings, it thrashes and grooves in ways that only modern Deicide can. Will anybody remember this record in years to come? No, “Overtures Of Blasphemy” is barely a blip on the radar.

In the decade and a half since the Hoffman brothers were exiled Deicide has proven resilient and prolific in face of having somewhat of a revolving door in terms of guitarists. Never one to push their chosen genre forward Deicide has always been willing and able to follow whatever prevailing aesthetic trend of the day. “Overtures Of Blasphemy” sports a canvas from from Polish designer Zbigniew M. Bielak, famous for Dimmu Borgir’s “Eonian’”, and it’s significant for being the first in some 17 years to feature the long absent Trifixion. It’s a nice little touch that ultimately means nothing. In the 21st century Deicide has embraced its regressive tendencies and the limitations of Florida death metal as a style. They were one of the first to fall to the wayside when death metal experienced an evolutionary jump at the dawn of the millennium and now some 18 years later Deicide has made its robust, rudimentary approach its ultimate and only selling point. What is a band to do when they are no longer deemed controversial nor incendiary in the way that they used to? They settle into a comfortable groove. On “Overtures Of Blasphemy” Deicide is clearly comfortable with their station in life. In all honesty, we prefer this over some of the atrocities they committed to in the past.

The prospect of a new Amaranthe single is always reason for excitement, especially when it serves as a precursor to a new album. “Massive Addictive” and “Maximalism” were both great Eurodance records that largely coasted off the work of Britpop band Republica. Whereas Republica fully embraced their 80s wave-synthpop component on their “Speed Ballads” album, Amaranthe insists on its rock band setup, even though that is arguably their weakest and most redundant aspect. This advance single does nothing particularly novel with the sound that Amaranthe has been pushing for the last two records. It leans closer to “Massive Addictive” in terms of composition and is the recording debut for freshly-minted male singer Nils Molin who replaced Joacim "Jake E" Lundberg. Not that anybody comes to Amaranthe for the male singing. Amaranthe is all about Elize Ryd. Elize über alles…

‘365’ is the lead single and precursor to the new “Helix”. If the techno beats that serve as an opener are anything to go by you’d think that Amaranthe finally at long last abandoned the guitars and drums. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. Why Amaranthe still insists on a drummer is anybody’s guess as the standard 4/4 drumming could have been easily been replaced by computer beats by now. The sound effects in ‘365’ are something straight out of 90s Eurodance song (or a recent Dimmu Borgir album) and if it weren’t for the prevalent and apparently very necessary and completely vanilla groove riffs this would’ve been a straight up techno club banger. The highlight is, of course, doe-eyed Elize doing what she does best. Which is shaking her hips, singing, and engaging in the occassional spoken word and sultry whispering. It’s telling enough that ‘365’ is at its best when the guitars and drums are silent giving Ryd and the techno beats the space they require. Amaranthe has no need for male singers in two contrasting styles much in the same way their insistence on rock elements is redundant in lieu of the prominence of dance beats and electronics in their sound.

If past records are any indication for Amaranthe’s surge in popularity then it would be only just to acknowledge just how important Elize Ryd has been for the brand. Ryd was instrumental in Amaranthe changing from a stock symfo metal outfit into a full-blown Eurodance rock band. There’s no contesting that Olof Mörck is the creative force behind the entire operation but he’s practically invisible once Ryd takes centerstage. Amaranthe would have just been another modern rock band if it weren’t for her presence. On “Massive Addictive” Ryd took the forefront and hopefully “Helix” will capitalize on her considerable talents, both as a mascot and as a singer. Not only can Elize sing with the best of them, her outfits are always among the best too. There’s a good reason why she features as prominently in the music videos as she does. “Helix” returns to the band photography artwork from the early days after "Massive Addictive" and "Maximalism" opted for actual digital art. Amaranthe would be wise putting Ryd on the frontcover and finally leaving the last remnants of their rock band past behind. It’s now more clear than ever that Amaranthe wants to be an Eurodance-pop band and that’s okay. They shouldn’t in any way feel obligated to keep including duelling male vocals and standard rock instruments to please the old fanbase. ‘365’ is first and foremost a catchy pop song – and that’s when Amaranthe is at its best.

We will continue to cherish slim hope that Amaranthe, or Mörck rather, will come to their senses and realize the redundancy of their latent rock element. Amaranthe never was, is or will be, about riffs. Plenty of other bands are, but Amaranthe isn’t one of them. The switch to Eurodance was one of Mörck’s best creative decisions and the sooner he rids Amaranthe of every unnecessary instrument and band member, the bigger his band will become. The only thing keeping Amaranthe away from mainstream popularity and radio airplay is their insistence on heavy rock guitars and gruff vocals, both of which they don’t need in the first place. ‘365’ is a great enough teaser for the “Helix” album that will be released in October 2018.  We can’t shake the impression that Amaranthe would be an even much larger a band if they focused their efforts on and around Elize Ryd. If only Amaranthe themselves realized it, then they could arrange their efforts around her. It sort of makes you wonder when we're finally going to get that much overdue Elize Ryd solo album...