Deicide – Once Upon The Cross

Rather than a progressive trek downwards from their origins, I always saw Deicide’s output as dramatically hit or miss, regardless of the time period where each album was created. ‘Once Upon The Cross’ appears to me to be the most archtypical Deicide album; unfortunately, it’s also the most generic. While this LP does capture the ‘Deicide sound’ quite effectively, it fails to generate anything else except recognition of a pattern in the listener. The whole album operates at one pace, one structure, one idea, but it lacks the sonic power to drive home such a concept. There’s just not much here.

At face value, you would think that everything would work out: high speed riffing, percussive, savage drumming, brutal vocals, and a single-minded obsession with all things opposed to the followers of Yaweh. But the flaw is in the delivery; the riffs all sound deeply similar, as well as the lyrics, the binary blasting/double bass drumming, it all forms one constant sound that never uses dynamics to change its tone. Glen Benton’s lyrics are as silly as ever, depending upon catchy turns of phrase that are too few and far between to make the listener do more than roll their eyes. There just doesn’t seem to be a point to any of the music except for the obvious ‘Christianity… gaaaaay’ pandering of Benton.

The production really doesn’t help it. Overly flat and plain, it maintains none of the (theoretical) fervor of the music. There’s too much in mids and not enough at extreme ends of the sonic scale, making it sound like any other rock album more than a true death metal release. Performances from each member are similarly listless: despite the ‘intensity’ of solos or lyrics, they seem to be phoned in and not really felt. Glen Benton is probably the weakest point here: his delivery of the lyrics is (oddly enough) too clear, and not brutal or low enough to show any conviction. This is the central problem of ‘Once Upon The Cross’; the songs are never given a chance to shine on their own because they’re all so similar and sterile.

It’s not even that the material is bad: one can easily see how the material here comes alive in different circumstances, such as ‘When Satan Rules His World’ on the band’s later live album. But here, that song is droning and inconsequential instead of threatening and dark like it would be in the live setting. This is a genuine tragedy, as the music here is played so passionately and capably in nearly any other situation. While others say this album is one of the highlights of Deicide’s career, I think just the opposite: while not as bad as certain other albums, it is certainly the least memorable.

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~ by noktorn on March 20, 2007.

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