Despite its late release date, Deceased’s newest spooky death/heavy metal album is one for the count; fashionably late, right? Every day is Halloween around these parts, so this really just fits right in, especially during a time when us ghouls have to start fighting back against all these damn Santas popping up everywhere. Everyone vote for Deceased in the 2020 elections, I hear they’re trying to replace Old Claus with Satan in a fashionable hat, all you’ve got to do is switch a few letters around!
As the sole proprietor of the Metal Megalomania brand, I assume more roles than simply being the voice in your head. From website design to contacting labels, there’s a lot that goes on behind the beautiful display in front of you. I spend quite a fair chunk of time perusing through my inbox, filtering through the numerous music promos I receive on the daily. Since I don’t know every metal band in the world contrary to popular belief, I tend to accidentally skip through a lot of historical and otherwise important bands when deciding what to pickup for the site.
A red flag does however spring up when a band name like Deceased comes across my inbox. You can tell a death metal band is ancient from the complexity of their collective title. Think about it; all these sick freaks who founded this morbid music all operate under (insert morbid word here): Autopsy, Death (doesn’t get much simpler than that!), Entombed, Grave, Obituary, Pestilence, etc… They’ve all got simple names and, unsurprisingly, Deceased is lumped in with these primordial groups. I could sit here and try to justify these citations by talking about how death metal used to be much more primitive back in the ‘80s and how modern music has changed due to an increasingly complex social sphere or something like that, but to be honest, I think people are just running out of band names. All hail the young boys in Tomb Mold, Imperial Triumphant, and Coffin Rot.
Anyways, Deceased is an old band. Formed in 1985 in Virginia, they’re up there with the grey-haired lads in Morbid Angel and Suffocation who also hail from North America. For whatever reason I hadn’t heard of the group prior to Ghostly White, the album in question, despite their seemingly-seminal place within metal history. Better late than never!
Ghostly White fits right in with the current (albeit slightly stale as of the posting of this article, we’ll get to that later) Halloween frenzy. The prevalent themes deal with horror and ghosts, which arise right from the get-go with track titles like “The Shivers”, “To Serve the Insane”, and “Germ of Distorted Lore”. Furthermore, the collective musicality on the release just screams Fun Halloween. Vocalist King Fowley emits an initially-odd singing style that feels like something you’d hear if Frankenstein was the lead vocalist of a punk band. I will admit that at first I found his cumbersomely-brawny vocal style a little jarring, but it fits right into the mix after about half a song and I found myself enjoying his unique approach.
Finally, we’re introduced to the final element which contributes to this fun, spooky Halloween vibe the group’s got going on. The lead guitar work on this album is nothing short of phenomenal. There are so many citable instances of this feat, to which choosing becomes difficult due to numerosity. The opening track, “Mrs. Allardyce”, offers the lead guitarist a blank canvas to create his work. There are a number of underlying harmonies throughout the track that play under the vocals, percussion, and rhythm guitar which work together to create a thoroughly-eerie vibe. We also see some lovely guitar solos offered during the middle section of the track. Ultimately, this initial display successfully sets the tone for the rest of the album!
“Germ of Distorted Lore” follows, and stays with us for a good chunk of time. Clocking in at 13 minutes in length, the song better be enjoyed by all, especially considering its weighty placement on the tracklist. One also has to take into account that the opening song was a fairly long one as well, reaching over seven minutes itself, so our two openers collectively take up most of your lunch break. Death metal songs don’t usually go on this long, so I don’t really have anything to compare this one to aside from my personal enjoyment levels. Listen below.
The song is separated into a handful of significant sections which are transitioned oddly with a split second of silence followed by a subsequent song buildup. While each part carries its own individuality, they all borrow from the same recurring vocal and instrumental harmonies which remind the listener that they’re still listening to the same track. When these abrupt transitions occur I want to immediately say that these parts should have been separate songs in their entirety, but when allowed time to unravel, I find myself enjoying these portions. I will say that the last two-or-so minutes could be cut off from the song, as that portion does really feel like something extra tacked on for whatever reason.
I usually refrain from dedicating such a significant portion of my review to the first half of a record (or even the first two songs, at that) but I couldn’t simply ignore these two leviathans. To conclude this portion, I feel like these longer tracks succeed as they incorporate recurring musical themes which keep the listener aboard, and their playful and varied nature fits in with the album’s vibe. Quite an accomplishment!
The ultimate pay off falls alongside the next track, “A Palpitation’s Warning”. The listener comes hot off these last two tracks, used to their diverse ups-and-downs of the longer song structures, almost forgetting that they’re listening to a death metal album. “A Palpitation’s Warning” swoops in with great ferocity, delivering a blistering number, waking everyone up. This one-two punch is probably one of my favourite moments on the album, as the payoff is extremely satisfying. Heaviness is achieved with a juxtaposition of non-heaviness, which not many people seem to understand.
The album ultimately succeeds on a thematic and musical level, what with the goofy and lighthearted Halloween vibe. This thing is fairly catchy for a death metal album, and emphasizes the aforementioned vibe in the place of buzz-saw guitars and maniacal vocals. Now that I think about it, I would describe this album as a death/thrash/heavy metal album, what with the cleaner production and vocal style. It reminds me a lot of Vanik’s newest release, except with a little more death metal influence.
One of the highlights lies behind the conscious writing decision to properly meld the vocal and guitar sections together harmoniously. There are so many moments on Ghostly White which feature the vocalist singing the same harmonies as the guitar, which sounds great to the ears.
In terms of negativities, I feel like the album doesn’t do enough to vary itself from track to track. I quite enjoy the concluding number, with its epic vibe and whatnot, but clocking in at over 50 minutes, I can’t help but feel that a track could have been cut. I couldn’t volunteer a tribute, as there isn’t a poor outlier song to be found, but I can say that there simply isn’t enough variance. Secondly, the drums are very quiet in the mix and one has to really focus to listen to them, which is a fairly big disadvantage for a death metal album. I do feel like the band kind of pulled it off even with the lack of percussion presence, but it would be nice if they cranked them up a notch.
I will conclude on what I felt was a missed opportunity for Deceased. These guys have been singing about ghosts and goblins since 1985; they’re the kings of Halloween (okay, alongside Helloween and Acid Witch, perhaps). So why is this album dropping on November 16th when snow has fallen and the streets are lit by colourful Christmas lights? The weird thing is, the announcing of Ghostly White dates back to 2012, when Blabbermouth.net released information about the album; all the way back in 2012! With all that time to plan, I don’t understand why Deceased didn’t plan a special Halloween-centered release, as they could have totally conquered this year’s festive fright season. This year didn’t really see any major Halloween competition in terms of releases, aside from the Vanik release, mentioned earlier. I feel like the band missed a big impact and financial opportunity by delaying their release by a few weeks.
Nonetheless, Ghostly White is successful on a musical level, as it achieves what I feel was its main purpose. On top of that, I quite enjoy the album cover, with the bed in the middle of the woods and the ghosts and all that. I just wish this came out during the upcoming weeks of Halloween when it would have been a bit more relevant.
POST-WRITING EDIT: Unfortunately news that long-time Deceased drummer Dave Castilo passed away in between the writing of this article and its posting. My deepest condolences go out to Dave’s family and the members of Deceased.