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Diabolic – Supreme Evil

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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.