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Deceased – Ghostly White

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.