A guide to Deceased

If there’s a single band that sums up what heavy metal and underground music is all about, Deceased surely takes that title. Forming in 1984 before death metal was even a thing, this Virginian band has been pumping out horrifying songs into the metal underground since. The core of their sound is quite obviously based in death/thrash metal, but they were never shy about incorporating heavy metal melodies and punk intensity (and ethos) into their songs. Over the course of their 30+ year existence, they’ve managed to release 7 LPs, a few EPs, several demos, and some choice compilations. I won’t be going into detail of all of these releases, but I’ll mention the cream of the crop in terms of their non album material here.

Full Lengths & Select EPs

Luck of the Corpse (1991)
deceased luck
After releasing five demos, Deceased finally got signed to a label, which was a new, unknown label called Relapse Records. After releasing a 7″ the same year, their debut record “Luck of the Corpse” dropped. Composed mostly of songs from their demo era, frontman King Fowley has not been shy about his dissatisfaction of this record due to its production. That being said, it is a hell of a debut – it is the most “pure” death metal sounding record in their discography. The songs are generally much faster than their demo versions, creeping into grindcore speeds and sounding like Repulsion’s east coast sibling. King also hasn’t developed his signature vocal style yet, and has a much lower death metal style of vocals here. Plenty of these tunes are still in their live set, a testament to how classic this record is.

13 Frightened Souls (EP, 1993)
deceased 13
Original guitarist Doug Souther left Deceased immediately after their debut LP, and Mike Smith was brought in. This was a huge turning point for Deceased’s sound, as Mike Smith helped harness the heavy metal lead work that the band would later be known for throughout the rest of their discography. They recorded this EP as a layover between albums. It features one new song (the title track), 3 songs from their demo era, and a Voivod cover. King’s drumming is absolutely bonkers on this recording, and is not to be missed. This EP was later re-released (with their debut album) on a compilation called “Corpses, Souls and other Strangeness” in the early 2000s.

The Blueprints for Madness (1995)
deceased blueprints
Deceased’s sound started to open up with their sophomore effort. Compared to their debut, their songwriting had grown much more complex, with longer songs to flex their instrumental prowess, and includes the addition of synthesizers for extra texture. Odd rhythms inspired by two classic Canadian bands, Rush and Voivod, can be found throughout the record, making their death/thrash sound more unique than ever. Mike Smith’s influence creeps its way in here with the heavy metal lead playing throughout the record, and it can be heard right from the get go with “Morbid Shape in Black.” The original release of this album sounds pretty amateur as it was self produced, but later re-releases have been remixed/remastered for an improved experience.

Fearless Undead Machines (1997)
deceased fearless
Wasting no time, Deceased unleashed their third LP just two years after the previous. Many fans consider this the album where Deceased settled into their signature sound. Lead guitar melodies were emphasized more so on this album, meshing flawlessly with their already established death/thrash sound. The production is professional and on point. Furthermore, the band committed fully to their horror themed lyrics by making this a concept album about zombies. King’s story telling ability is on vibrant display, even going as far as narrating parts rather than yelling/screaming the whole thing. This record is quite lengthy, clocking in at 68 minutes. But there’s plenty of gold to be found, and the songs are diverse enough that it doesn’t drag on. The track “Graphic Repulsion” right in the middle is some of their finest work!

Supernatural Addiction (2000)
deceased supernatural
At the turn of the millennium, Deceased put out their fourth record. As with each Deceased record, there are signs of maturity over the previous release. The most important, in this case, is the overall length. Clocking in a whole 20 minutes shorter than “Fearless Undead Machines,” I personally feel they executed this album in flawless fashion. There are some big melodic hooks here (“The Premonition” and “The Hanging Soldier” will be in your head for days), but they don’t sacrifice the speed or intensity that has always been the foundation of their sound. King once again knocks it out of the park with his horror themed lyrics, and instead of a concept album, each song is based off a different film or piece of literature.

Behind the Mourner’s Veil (EP, 2001)
deceased behind
Fans were treated to this EP just a year after “Supernatural Addiction.” This is no throwaway release either – with 7 tracks clocking in at 27 minutes, it’s a worthwhile release and features some absolute bangers. In addition to four cover songs, there are three original Deceased tunes that are just as strong as any of their LP material. The highlight is perhaps the final track, a 10 minute, five part epic about the West Memphis Three, a group of teenage murderers. This real life story is filled with Satanic themes and is perfect for a metal band like Deceased to write about.

As the Weird Travel On (2005)
deceased as the weird
Change was on the horizon for Deceased in the new millennium. King Fowley suffered a stroke which left him with nerve damage that affected his drumming. Dave Castillo, who was in October 31 with King, took over as a studio drummer (with Eric Mayes handling live drums). Despite this major change, Deceased’s fifth album is yet another classic banger. This was actually the first Deceased record I heard, as it was fairly new at the time, and I was instantly impressed with their ability to write heavy metal hooks within death metal songs. King wrote all the drum parts, and it certainly feels like the logical step after “Supernatural Addiction.” The songwriting here is spectacular, with a few tracks running around the 8 minute mark that never become boring or dull. Perhaps due to only performing vocals, some of the hooks are in King’s vocal deliveries (see “The Funeral Parlour’s Secret”). This was also Deceased’s first album to not be released by Relapse, but luckily the production didn’t suffer any setbacks with this move.

Surreal Overdose (2011)
deceased surreal
More big changes arrived for Deceased with the release of their sixth album. Original guitarist Mark Adams decided to step down from the band, and his fellow axeman Mike Smith stepped down from playing live shows (but still was involved in songwriting and recording). However, King made his return behind the drum kit for this record (which currently stands as his last release where he played drums). Voivod inspired riffs dominate this record, which worked well with the science fiction themes within the lyrics. New guitarist Shane Fuegel may have injected some new life into Deceased, as this record is fresh but true to everything Deceased stands for. They also released this album independently, which is kind of a surprising move for a band of their status, but nothing seems to stop Deceased.

Ghostly White (2018)
deceased ghostly
After seven long years, Deceased finally dropped their seventh album (after years of talking about it) on Hell’s Headbangers. Here we have another 8 song affair, this time a little longer than the previous two albums – one of the tracks exceeds 13 minutes, which is their longest song yet. Of course, there’s nothing to worry about here, as Deceased flawlessly performs their brand of horror filled metal like you’d expect them too. This album is still growing on me but it has managed to keep me coming back. The Voivod influence seems to be dialed back from the last LP in favour of more heavy metal melodies. King also gave the drum throne back to Dave Castillo for this record – unfortunately, Dave passed away just prior to the official release date. So crank this record in remembrance of a killer drummer. It is truly impressive that a band with career spanning over three decades still manages to stay true to their sound with new releases.

Select Compilations

Worship the Coffin (2009)
deceased worship
I didn’t want to break down all of Deceased’s demos, nor do I really want to go over all their compilations that put together various demo releases of theirs. However, this 2xCD demo compilation is worth mentioning. The first disc contains the unreleased “Luck of the Corpse” demo which is pretty poor quality, but in contrast has the amazing “Nuclear Exorcist” demo alongside a live set in Washington, DC from ’89. The “Nuclear Excorcist” demo alone is worth hunting down. Disc two contains the “Birth by Radiation” demo (which is pretty good), their debut demo “Evil Side of Religion”, plus two rehearsal tapes from ’84 & ’85. There’s some real history on this compilation. If you are on the hunt for Deceased demos, this is one of the better compilations of that material.

Cadaver Traditions (2015)
deceased cadaver
Ever heard of a compilation of compilations? Because that’s what this 2xCD set is. In the early 2000s, Deceased released two different cover compilations – Zombie Hymns (2002) and Rotten to the Core (2004). The former is comprised of metal covers, and the latter is punk covers, giving fans an opportunity to see the wide array of influences that have made Deceased such a unique band throughout their long career. There’s also an additional 17 tracks that were previously unreleased. From Iron Maiden, to Venom, to Cro-Mags, to DRI, and everything in between, Deceased crushes every performance on here.

I hope this article inspires some folks to really sink their teeth into Deceased. They are an important cornerstone of underground metal that has stood the test of time, doing things on their own terms and never succumbing to any trends. I fully recommend listening to their full lengths in chronological order if you’re new to this band, as you’ll really get to see their musical evolution and maturity from release to release. Up the tombstones!

So you’re into Gatecreeper…

As I get older, my tastes in music have expanded into territories I never thought I would get into. Conversely, I am more aware of what I don’t like, and that likely gives some the impression I am a crabby old man that hates everything. Recently, I saw the band Gatecreeper on a bill, and I feel like I was one of the few people there who wasn’t buying into the hype of this band. I did enjoy their s/t EP from a few years ago, but their debut full length leaves a lot to be desired. Yes, they’ve got great production and they’ve really nailed that HM-2 sound made famous by so many Swedish death metal bands in the early 90s. But where are the riffs? Obviously, Gatecreeper is made up by former hardcore kids who have discovered Entombed, but they’ve missed the point of what makes death metal so great – riffs! Yeah, they have a few parts that are cool, but much like a bad hardcore band, they’ve suffocated their songs with breakdown after breakdown, and that’s not death metal.

I’m probably coming off like quite a snob right now, but that’s not the intention of writing this. I have no problem with punks/hardcore kids getting into death metal. My favourite death metal bands tend to use punk beats. The reason I’m writing this is because I want to give some exposure to some Swedish death metal records that I think those getting into bands like Gatecreeper will enjoy. Some of these recommendations will be painfully obvious, and more seasoned death metal fans can probably add plenty other releases. Either way, I hope some readers find something worth listening to here.

Entombed
entombed
Previously known as Nihilist in their formative years, Entombed are pretty much seen as the band that ignited Sweden’s death metal movement. Taking influence from Autopsy, Carcass, and the blooming punk scene in Sweden, Entombed’s buzzsaw guitar tone has been a staple in metal audio production ever since. Their first two records Left Hand Path and Clandestine are certified classics, but don’t miss out on the Crawl EP (which features the singer of Nirvana 2002 on vocals).

Dismember
dismember
Another classic staple alongside Entombed, Dismember’s first two albums, Like an Everflowing Stream and Indecent & Obscene (and the Pieces EP) are totally worth your time. They have a lot of ties with Entombed (Nicke Andersson drew their logo, played the leads on the debut, among other things), and even used the same artist for the debut.

Carnage
carnage
Carnage and Dismember have a history that is intertwined together and feature a lot of the same members in each band. In fact, some of the songs on Dismember’s debut appeared on Carnage’s only album, Dark Recollections. Carnage was the brainchild of Mike Amott, who later moved to England and joined Carcass for a couple records. This is certainly one of the most savage albums to come out from the initial wave of Swedish DM.

Unleashed
unleashed

When the previously mentioned Nihilist broke up, the one member who was left out of Entombed formed his own band – Unleashed. Their debut, Where No Life Dwells certainly sounds like it came out of the same school as Entombed, but there’s a little more emphasis on heavy metal than punk in its base influence. Unleashed also sang about vikings/Norse mythology and were the first death metal band to explore such themes.

Edge of Sanity
edge of sanity
One of the more ambitious death metal acts to come out of Sweden, Edge of Sanity was fronted by Dan Swano who has performed and engineered an endless amount of records since. Edge of Sanity were never afraid of combining other influences into their music, which became more evident over time as they had some 80’s goth and 70’s progressive rock sounds come in. Nothing But Death Remains is a solid debut, Unorthodox and the Spectral Sorrows expanded on this, and their progressive songwriting came to its peak for Crimson, a 40 minute single song.

Grave
grave
Another long lasting band in Sweden that formed in the 80’s and are still going today. Their songs are simple and too the point but will knock you on your ass with their thick, heavy riffs drenched in buzzsaw tone. Into the Grave is the obvious classic but don’t forget its follow up, You’ll Never See.

Hypocrisy
hypocrisy
After spending time in Florida with the band Malevolent Creation, Peter Tagtgren returned to Sweden infected with the death metal bug. The first two albums, Penetralia and Osculum Obscenum, are more in the Floridan style of death metal than their peers in Sweden. With their third record, The Fourth Dimension, they took on science fiction themes, and incorporated a little more melody and doom into their music. Tagtgren is a popular audio engineer these days, and Hypocrisy is more of a melodic death metal band now, but the early stuff cannot be denied.

At The Gates
at the gates
Following the demise of Grotesque, At The Gates burst onto the scene with their complex style of melodic death metal that would later be simplified into a more accessible sound. Many state that along with Carcass, ATG were responsible for creating the melodic death metal sound. The Red In The Sky Is Ours and With Fear I Kiss The Burning Darkness are masterpieces of dual guitar work playing off each other in intricate form. Members have since gone onto a variety of metal and punk bands including some favourites like Disfear and Skitsystem.

Therion
therion
As the name suggests, Therion were influenced by the great Celtic Frost. They wrote some pretty epic death metal songs before becoming some lame symphonic metal band later in their career. Beyond Sanctorum is quite an ambitious album full of raw aggression and complex arrangements.

Carbonized
carbonized

Members of Therion also played in this band that started out as a grinding death metal band on their debut For the Security but then got really weird with their Voivod influenced follow up, Disharmonization.

Furbowl
furbowl
Strange band name, stranger music. Furbowl was founded by former Carnage vocalist Johan Liiva (who also later fronted Arch Enemy). Their music contains a lot of left field influences, from Swedish d-beat to 80’s industrial/goth sounds. Those Shredded Dreams is a strong debut that not enough people talk about, but will be sure to get stuck in your head with its catchy riffing and unique sounds.

Desultory
desultory
I’m sure you know I probably don’t care much for melodic death metal, but Desultory are one of those bands that is able to pull it off flawlessly. The guitar tone is an absolute chainsaw of agony. Into Eternity is my favourite album of theirs, but some will argue that Bitterness is better.

Necrony
necrony
Before Nasum existed, members were playing in a Carcass worship band called Necrony. They only managed to release one full length, Pathological Performances, in addition to some demos and an EP. Where Nasum was able to flawlessly execute Napalm Death style grindcore in their early days, Necrony absolutely slays here with their goregrind influenced death metal.

Nirvana 2002
nirvana 2002
You may be thinking “why is this band’s name so dumb?” Just shut up and check them out. Short lived band, Relapse put out a compilation about a decade ago consisting of their EPs and demos (including one a touch up on their big EP by Dan Swano himself).

Murder Squad
murder squad

Members of Dismember and Entombed came together to form an Autopsy cover band that eventually released their own original material. They put out two killer records, Unsane, Insane and Mentally Derranged and Ravenous, Murderous. Chris Reifert himself even makes a guest appearance on the sophomore.

Cruciferous – Naraka

Power trio hardcore band from Edmonton. Only a couple years old with a single demo prior, I recorded and mixed these tracks in July for their EP. Cody at Circle A Studios in Victoria mastered this and did a fine job as always. Check these veg-heads out.

Revelator – s/t Demo 2018

Brand new black/death metal band from Edmonton. Two of my very close friends asked me to mix their debut demo recently, and here it is on bandcamp. Tapes are available for preorder now (which I also did the layout for).

Highbernation – Demo

Keeping busy in 2018, here’s my third full piece of work this year – Highbernation’s debut demo. As the name suggests, they are a stoner doom band, heavily influenced by Sleep, Electric Wizard, etc. Recorded, mixed, and mastered by me.

Sacrificial Rites – s/t demo

I just completed work on the debut demo for new Edmonton band Sacrificial Rites. Featuring members of Mortillery/Narkotta, they play punky black/heavy metal. Recording, mixing, and mastering by me, I also did the solos on the last 3 tracks.

 

Jazz Cigarette – No Filter demo

Brand new rock n roll band from Edmonton featuring members of Messiahlator, Languid and the Dirtbags. Recorded/mixed/mastered by me during the early parts of February. For fans of AC/DC, Motorhead, and Thin Lizzy. Another fun session to work on.

Falsehood – s/t

My side band Falsehood have unleashed our debut self titled full length. This album was many years in the making, while the recording spanned from July 2016 to April 2017. I joined this band in 2015 with the intent to get their album out, and I am very pleased with the final result. I wrote none of the music here, but I took the reigns on both the audio production and design aspects. Give it a listen here, tapes are currently in production and are available for preorder via our Bandcamp. FFO: Bolt Thrower, His Hero Is Gone, Neurosis.

Feeding EP, Paroxysm mLP

Two more releases by bands I’ve recorded have surfaced since I’ve last posted. Both recordings took place last fall and both bands are from Edmonton

First, Feeding has a tape consisting of 5 tracks. Both the recording and mixing were done by me. Four of the tracks are really thrashy hardcore that breakdown into some sludgier areas, with the other track further exploring sludge tempos. I’ve recorded them again more recently, and their newer material has taken in some Entombed influence. More on that to come. Here’s their self titled EP:

Paroxysm are another new Edmonton band, but some members are certainly not new to the scene, as they have played in bands such as Iskra, Self Rule, etc. This mLP consists of 7 ripping crust songs that live up to the genre’s core value of combining metal influences (Bolt Thrower and Sacrilege come to mind) with politically charged lyrics that highlight human atrocities close to home. I only did the recording, mixing/mastering was handled by Cody Baresich at Circle A Studio in Victoria.

Demise – Endless Restraint

In October of 2016, I recorded this power trio hardcore band from Edmonton known as Demise. I’ve been friends with them for quite some time now, and we had quite an enjoyable time putting this recording together over the course of a weekend. The tape is available now from the band.